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Students learn the science of wildlife photography

30 May 2017

USC has recognised the importance of photography in scientific research by introducing an innovative course that teaches Animal Ecology students how to capture images of wildlife.

Students of USC’s new Photography for Animal Ecologists course recently took part in an intensive four-day workshop on Fraser Island to record images of its diverse animal species.

USC Lecturer in Animal Ecophysiology Dr Christofer Clemente said photographing animals in the wild for scientific purposes differed from general wildlife photography, where the emphasis was on visual appeal.

“There are many photographic courses and wildlife courses, however this USC subject is addressing the need for Animal Ecology students to take high quality photos for scientific purposes,” Dr Clemente said.

“Animal ecologists use photographs to document wildlife in their natural settings and convey information about their behaviour, health, habitats and anatomy.

“Despite images now being an essential element of almost all forms of scientific literature, from research papers and scientific journals to blogs and websites, most scientists do not receive any formal photographic training.”

He said the USC students were taught how to illustrate specific aspects of wildlife, such as anatomical features and habitats, while making the images visually engaging.

As well as image composition, camera operation and editing, they learned techniques for stalking timid animals in the wild and for observing and capturing animals in a safe and ethical manner.

The Fraser Island field trip was led by Dr Clemente and professional wildlife photographer and former zoologist Simon Pynt, who gave students real life advice and shared his experience of transitioning from zoology to professional photography.

Dr Clemente said that being immersed in wildlife photography for four consecutive days had an amazing effect on the participants.

“Simon and I were in awe as we witnessed the students go from taking average photos on the first day to producing spectacular images on the final day.”

He said a trip highlight was finding and photographing a striking black and white Jabiru.

“One student learned that this huge bird migrated through Fraser Island during this time, so she constructed a life-sized papier-mache imitation, about 1.5 metres high.

“The fake bird was placed on the ground as a decoy, and when a real Jabiru flew over to inspect it, the students were able to capture some incredible, close-up images.”

Students were based at USC’s Fraser Island Research and Learning Centre at Dilli Village during the field trip.

— Clare McKay

USC Animal Ecology students take part in photography field work on Fraser Island

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