A mountain lion triggers a camera trap in a North Boulder neighborhood of Boulder, Colorado.
I took this photo as a personal project to document local wildlife in suburban settings. This photo ended up as a Photo of the Day pick with NationalGeographic.com. With the help of this photo, I was also able to get an assignment with Smithsonian Magazine on a story about the ecology of urban prairie dogs. A black-tailed prairie dog barks the all-clear from his burrow in suburban Boulder, Colo. Habitat fragmentation and extermination has helped decimate prairie dog numbers, and they are the frequent source of explosive debates for residents who live near them. Though they seem abundant in urban areas like Boulder and Denver, Colo., there is just an estimated 2 percent of prairie dogs left compared to numbers from 200 years ago. Black-tailed prairie dogs are now being considered for endangered species listing. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)
During the bison roundup, Fidel Sandoval, facilities manager for the Zapata Ranch, will wrangle bison through the complex network of shoots and corrals on the ranch. The more than 2,000 head of bison play an important role in keeping these lands healthy, and the sale of bison each year financially supports the ranch, which is taken care of by The Nature Conservancy. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
A chaos of gaping and tangled wire is proof that a fishing cat has broken in to this chicken coop. A few days earlier, the cat was found hiding under the foundations of the house. Fishing cats are often killed out of revenge for predation on chickens, such as the one pictured here. The anger is not over a loss of food, but the loss of prizefighting game cocks. Cockfighting is a popular sport in rural Thailand, and these chickens Mcan fetch anywhere between a few thousand to a million bhat in extreme cases depending on where and how good they fight, said one cockfight participant.
A dangerous mahogany tide rises in the Chesapeake Bay following a storm that dumped nearly five inches of rain and washed untold amounts of pollution into the bay around Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Virginia. Run-off is an insipient and oft-overlooked environmental threat, but the algal bloom is a symptom that can't be ignored. These blooks can happen quickly and lead to toxic conditions that raise the risk of illness and infection in humans, as well as anoxic conditions that can devastate marine wildlife.
Volunteers from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California, rescue a sea lion pup on Sunset Beach. He was the second of three rescues called in that day. So far more than 1,300 pups have stranded in Southern California. This pup was weak and lethargic, suffering from hypothermia. "Just so you know, this animal is in really bad shape," says volunteer rescue worker Priscilla Salazar. "It's probably not going to live." A local man sat with the pup for hours at one point running home to microwave towels to try and keep the pup warm.
A young manatee cruises through the waterways of Hunter Springs in Crystal River, FL. During winter, the manatees converge to the warm springs in this populated area, and must contend with heavy boat and recreational activity.
An endangered fishing cat trips a camera trap on a fish farm in southeastern Thailand. Fewer than 10,000 fishing cats remain in the world, shrimp farming, habitat loss and poaching being the main causes of their decline.
An antelope pauses while walking up the train tracks in Wamsutter, Wyom. Antelope must frequently contend with more human made barriers and hazards along their migration routes. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)
A mountain lion triggers a camera trap in a North Boulder neighborhood of Boulder, Colorado.
A crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis) crawls through the flap of a garbage bin after unsucessfully trying to pry it open at the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park visitor's center in Khao Daeng, Thailand.
A ferret is on the trail of food inside its enclosure at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in Carr, Colorado. Dinner in this instance consists of bits of thawing prairie dog. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
At its time in 2010, the Four Mile Canyon Fire in Boulder, Colo., was the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history, burning more than 160 homes. The fire started from an improperly extinguished firepit in a retired firefighter's backyard.
Fish pedicures are becoming an ever more popular spa attraction, especially in tourist meccas of Thailand and southeast Asia. These toothless specialist fish, called Doctor fish (Garra rufa), originate in hotsprings in Turkey and elsewhere in the Middle East, and are said to treat a number of skin ailments. Turkey has banned commercial export of the fish to stem overharvesting, while the practice itself has spurred worldwide concern over the spread of disease.
New captive-bred black-footed ferret arrivals spend about a week inside cages, which are set up to act like a burrow with attached nest boxes, before being released into an outdoor enclosure at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in Carr, Colorado. The cages provide the ferrets with transition time between arrival from their captive-breeding facility and exposure to the outdoors. They also serve as the place ferrets hang out while they wait for space to open up in a pen. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
A plains plateau lizard seeks shelter beneath a rock crevice along the Lumpy Ridge Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park. The lizard is a newly observed species for the park and the only known lizard found here. The species was found during the 2012 National Geographic BioBlitz.
Black-tailed prairie dogs are evolving an urban ecology different than their prairie brethren. These prairie dogs, while still the same species, are living in much higher densities, and practicing novel behaviors, such as swimming and tree climbing to make the most of pockets of urban habitat.
Mountain goats are so habituated to the hundreds of daily summer visitors to Mount Evans Colorado, that they will pose for pictures as you wait in line to use the restroom.
A pine tree secretes a waxy substance to trap invading pine beetles. When a tree becomes stressed during an attack, it will try to slow the invasion with waxy plugs. Environmental conditions, such as drought, can impact a tree's ability to manufacture enough wax. In this case, the open holes indicate that the tree's defenses were only partly successful. Wax that had trapped all the invaders would not have an open borehole.
Freshwater fish seek refuge and a meal from floating islands of algae in a freshwater spring of Ocalala National Forest ini Florida.
Mountain goats on Mount Evans in Colorado
A fox hangs out near the trailhead for 4th of July Trail in Colorado.
A monarch butterfly drinks from a prairie blazing star, a native tallgrass wildflower. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
I was on my way to the ATM, when I was surprised to see this baby Asian elephant standing in an alleyway in Phuket, Thailand. Tourists will pay money to have their picture taken with these elephants not knowing that there is a chance that the elephant is the product of poaching and animal abuse. To get these elephants, poachers will sedate wild baby elephants, kill the parents and smuggle the offspring to elephant camps where they are tamed and then sold into the tourism trade. Even if the elephants have papers saying they were born in captivity for the tourism trade, it's possible that the papers are fake. These practices in Phuket have recently made headlines in Thailand newspapers. I only had a split second to snap a photo of this animal and walk away before its owner noticed. My hope is that a photo like this will help make people think about the unnaturalness of this practice and be more aware of what they could be supporting by paying to have their photo taken with a cute elephant while on their next vacation.
With the fight for energy, comes the fight for water. The high, cold desert of western Wyoming is the site of intensive energy development in the United States, and water is in short supply here. Companies must truck in massive amounts of water to use in their operations. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)
A magpie lies dead on the side of the road as trucks whir past on I-70. The birds often scout the edges of the highway picking at roadkill and otherwise scavenging. Sometimes they end up in the same predicament as their meal.
A sunflower seastar in tidal pools off Shi Shi Beach in Washington's Olympic Peninsula. These seastars are the largest in the world, with diameters reaching up to 1 meter in length.
A wire from a telephone pole seems to be the highway of choice for a dusky langur as it makes its way back to the forested limestone cliffs of Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, Thailand.
Crab-eating macaques pillage piles of coconuts and pinapples dumped on the side of the road by park officials at Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. A truck whizzing by carries equipment for a shrimp farm in nearby Khao Daeng.
Veterinarians help a tiger with physical therapy kept at Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand. The tiger was found chained behind a gas station in southeastern Thailand and has been a favored resident at WFFT for close to 11 years. The tiger is so tame that he allows his handlers to treat him without use of any sedatives.
Ladybugs, (Coccinella septempunctata), swarm atop Green Mountain in Boulder, Colorado. They gather en masse in late summer to find mates and a good hibernation spot for the coming winter.
A slushy mud pit shows the destruction caused by the meeting of cows and water on national forest land in Escalante, Utah. This destruction is caused by a leaking trough set up by the forest service for the cattle. A diverted stream fills the trough.
La Jolla, California, can boast being a mecca for those wanting to get a closeup view of marine wildlife, but it also now holds distinction for the fishy stench that accompanies this wildlife haven. Smells at times can become overpowering due to recent laws that prohibit walking on the cliffs or cleaning of bird droppings from the rocks.
On the Roan Plateau you can find rock that burns. The Roan Plateau is the site of in-situ oil shale pilot projects.
A waterfall of runoff washed in a continuous torrent onto the beach at La Jolla, California.
Steam billows from Tri-State's Craig Station in Craig, Colo. The coal-fired power plant is a 1,311 megawatt station.
A black-footed ferret investigates the delectable trap just outside its burrow. The traps contain prairie dog bits. "It's like chocolate for ferrets," said Robyn Bortner, a biological science technician with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center in Carr, Colorado.Once trapped, the kits will head out to introduction sites, and make living in the wild a full-time, on their own endeavor. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Natural gas fields stretch across the top of the Roan Plateau near Rifle, Colo.
Path cut through forest for new pipelines on the Roan Plateau.
Green gentian (AKA Monument Plant) budding, this plant is rare in Colorado, and blooms once in its 20-80 year lifetime before dying. It can grow to more than 5 feet tall.
Volunteers at the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary show crane festival-goers some of a sandhill crane's favorite food.
Mountain goats on Mount Evans in Colorado
Chicken wire covers the entrances to prairie dog burrows in Highlands Ranch, just south of Denver. The wiring is a last ditch effort to passively persuade prairie dogs to shift their burrowing before it shifts into the residential community. If the passive methods are not succesful, authorities will come in to take lethal control of the colony.
A pair of young manatees cruiseHunter Springs in Crystal River, FL. The town has become a hub for manatee viewing, since the endangered species likes to bundle up at the warms springs in winter.
A fire restoration crewmember poses for a portrait during a break from clearing hazardous trees left behind by the Schultz Fire in Flagstaff, Arizona.
Harvester anthills can be upwards of 50 to 80 years old, and have been scientifically proven to help pave the way for healthier native plant populations. These anthills are so distinct, they can also be seen from space. A careless hoof can destroy decades worth of work by the ants. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Carbon and Nitrogen come together in this image of agriculture and energy production. Grounded by a sea of farm fields, steam billows from the triple smokestacks of the Craig Power Station in Craig, Colorado. This power station is the largest coal-fired power plant in Colorado, with a 1,304 megawatt capacity. Photo taken in spring 2010.
Every spring, half a million sandhill cranes, (Grus canadensis), converge on the banks of the Platte River in Nebraska, fueling up for a migration that spans from Mexico to Alaska. The sustenance that the river provides. along with the surrounding farmland gives the cranes what they need to survive the journey.
In-situ oil shale pilot project on Roan Plateau/Vermillion Basin
Tiny freshwater snails cling to the sides of an aquarium at the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary near Kearney, Nebraska. The snails are part of a display to educate visitors about food resources for the tens of thousands of sandhill cranes that pass through the area each spring.
Sandhill cranes scavenge bugs and seeds from piles of dung on Nebraska farmland.
I grab a moment to document the native seed collection process while volunteering for Wildland Restoration Volunteers. I got to help out with the restoration of a favored hiking spot to fight invasive species, and got a unique shot of conservation in action. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
A dam separates the plentiful waters of the Douro River in Spain from Portugal. Droughts in 2003 were a source of tension between the two countries.
Industry is the backdrop for this marsh and flock of red-winged blackbirds in Boulder, Colo. And the marsh itself is the result of a gravel mining operation fallen silent. In the mid-1970s, these excavation pits filled with water, creating pockets of woodland, marshland and open prairie habitat. The area is now called Sawhill Ponds Wildlife Preserve, and is a great place to view local wildlife, while still remembering the industry that labors away at its borders. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)
A young marmot sits pretty atop Colorado's Mount Evans.
A juvenile ensatina salamander momentarily sees daylight while crawling on a log in old growth forest of Longbranch, Washington.
Steam rises from an evaporation pond at a new drilling site in the gas fields of Pinedale, Wyo.
Construction underway at a natural gas drill site in Pinedale, Wyo.
Severe drough in spring of 2003, led to massive wildfires in northeastern Portugal. Here a fire blooms over wind farms in the Tras-o-montes wilderness. Portugal had to borrow helicopters from Germany to help put out the blaze.
Canyon de Chelley is a one of the most sacred places for the Navajo people. It's been a source of spiritual strength, shelter, water and life, and at times has been threatened by proposed dams and invasive species. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)
A lizard basks on the rocks at Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Arizona.
A river otter swims up to the sun, pausing from his prowl for fish in the grasses of the Alexander Springs in Ocalala National Forest, Fl.
Mountains of trash wash up along the shores between fancy restaurants in Hua Hin Thailand.
A couple sandhill cranes march towards agricultural fields in Craig, Colo., to fuel up during their marathon migration in April, 2010. Their travels can take them from Mexico all the way to Siberia.
Given enough time, the light from one house emblazens its surroundings in the small town of Paonia, Colorado.
Marine biologist Ken Balcomb begins a necropsy on a rare Baird's beaked whale that washed up on shore. This deep sea whale feeds mostly on squid. The whale's neck had been snapped and ribs pulverized, indicating that it may have been struck by a ship.
Washington's Elwha Dam is at the center of the largest dam removal project in the world.
Smoke from the Fourmile Canyon Fire billows from the foothills of Boulder, Colo., Labor Day weekend 2010.
A storm cell forms over a farmhouse near Thunder Basin National Grasslands in Wyoming. This cloud was but the beginning of a thunderstorm that lasted the better part of three hours on a drive from Wyoming back to Colorado.
A pair of young manatees frolic just beyond a coast lined with beachfront houses in Hunter Springs in Crystal River, FL. The town has become a hub for manatee viewing, since the endangered species likes to bundle up at the warms springs in winter.
A young manatee pauses for a breath while cruising through Hunter Springs in Crystal River, FL. The town has become a hub for manatee viewing, since the endangered species likes to bundle up at the warms springs in winter.
Caddisflies might not win any beauty contests, but they sure know how to build a house with style. Caddisflies are specialists in underwater architecture, with each species fashioning a different kind of shelter out of objects in its environment.
CIRES researchers drill a hole through 2 foot thick ice in order to collect water samples that will be tested for water quality and evidence of pharmaceuticals. The project is part of a collaboration between the Cooperative Institute for Environmental Research, Denver Water, and the EPA.
CIRES researcher Jimmy McCutchan treks the backcountry of Rocky Mountain National Park to get to research sites where he will collect water samples to look at the affects of beetle kill on water quality. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
A Research assistant from The Caron Lab at University of Southern California samples water as part of a long-term study involving a network of research groups to keep track of seawater conditions along the coast. The Caron Lab especially looks for levels of domoic acid, a neurotoxin found in certain algal blooms. The waters of southern Califonria are seeing record levels of toxin this spring, though preliminary findings have ruled out domoic acid as any direct cause of the sea lion strandings.
Researchers at the Caron Lab at the University of Southern California test samples collected from adult sea lions and seawater for domoic acid, a powerful neurotoxin that comes from harmful algae. The pups are suffering from starvation, so any influence from the toxin would be indirect if at all, affecting the food source or adult sea lions.
A northern leopard frog heads back to freedom after being caught by ecologist Christine Prah. Prah, a seasonal researcher with the City of Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks department, is surveying for the presence of northern leopard frogs, a once common amphibian that is now being considered for listing as federally threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Boulder is one of the few places along the front range where these frogs can be found. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
CIRES researchers drill a hole through 2 foot thick ice in order to collect water samples that will be tested for water quality and evidence of pharmaceuticals. The project is part of a collaboration between the Cooperative Institute for Environmental Research, Denver Water, and the EPA.
Debra Parthree, a marine scientist with the Virginia Institute for Marine Science, has a job that takes guts. She studies the stomach contents of fish to find out what they eat and what might be happening with the wildlife in the food chain of the Chesapeake Bay. In particular, she's looking for menhaden, an oily fish who's numbers are getting more attention lately. Menhaden - an oily fish used in nutritional supplements, fertilizer, chicken feed and makeup - faces severe population pressure, as this fishery has largely remained unregulated by the Virginia office of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the state agency that manages it. Menhaden has so far been little studied, but new stock assessments that show the fish hovering around critical population sustainability levels are drawing more attention to the fish. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
CIRES researchers drill a hole through 2 foot thick ice in order to collect water samples that will be tested for water quality and evidence of pharmaceuticals. The project is part of a collaboration between the Cooperative Institute for Environmental Research, Denver Water, and the EPA.
Debra Parthree, a marine scientist with the Virginia Institute for Marine Science, has a job that takes guts. She studies the stomach contents of fish to find out what they eat and what might be happening with the wildlife in the food chain of the Chesapeake Bay. In particular, she's looking for menhaden, an oily fish who's numbers are getting more attention lately. Menhaden - an oily fish used in nutritional supplements, fertilizer, chicken feed and makeup - faces severe population pressure, as this fishery has largely remained unregulated by the Virginia office of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the state agency that manages it. Menhaden has so far been little studied, but new stock assessments that show the fish hovering around critical population sustainability levels are drawing more attention to the fish. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Herpetologist Neil Losin takes notes on a plateau lizard he found during the 2012 National Geographic BioBlitz. The lizard is the first of its kind to be found in the Rocky Mountain National Park.
Rick Adams, a bat biologist with University of Northern Colorado, sets up nets to capture flying bats. In an open meadow researchers assemble two tall poles that look much like field goal posts with a fine netting in between them. The nets must be perfectly straight and motionless, or else the bats will detect the nets and fly around them.
A fine mesh net in the darkness sits waiting to catch bats as they fly through an exclosure, an area protected from grazing, in Rocky Mountain National Park. If caught the biologists will collect data on the species of bat before releasing it back into the wild.
Dragonfly larvae prey on tadpoles of the northern leopard frog, a species of concern for Boulder County.
Biogeochemist Jimmy McCutchin works on an algae sample collected in Rocky Mountain National Park's wild basin. Scientists are collecting data on two big projects, one to look at the impacts of beetle kill on water quality, the other the consequences of fish introductions on lake biology.
Biogeochemist Jimmy McCutchin works on an algae sample collected in Rocky Mountain National Park's wild basin. Scientists are collecting data on two big projects, one to look at the impacts of beetle kill on water quality, the other the consequences of fish introductions on lake biology.
Data book for fish introduction study in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Scientists hoof it up steep slopes as the hike the backcountry out to research sites in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Backcountry research site in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Thse researchers have worked fly fishing into their scientific method. The technique allows them to catch a limited number of fish that help provide data for a study looking at the impacts of fish introductions on Rocky Mountain National Park lakes.
Thse researchers have worked fly fishing into their scientific method. The technique allows them to catch a limited number of fish that help provide data for a study looking at the impacts of fish introductions on Rocky Mountain National Park lakes.
Biologists collect zooplankton samples from lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park. They are looking for differences in lakes where fish have and have not been introduced.
A biologist prepares to take his inflatable boat out onto Lion Lake 2 in Rocky Mountain National Park. He will collect zooplankton samples from the boat in order to look at the impacts of fish introductions on lake ecosystems.
Biogeochemist Jimmy McCutchin works on an algae sample collected in Rocky Mountain National Park's wild basin. Scientists are collecting data on two big projects, one to look at the impacts of beetle kill on water quality, the other the consequences of fish introductions on lake biology.
Biogeochemist Jimmy McCutchin holds up a bottle containing zooplankton.
Zooplankton team in an 8 oz. sample bottle filled with water from a lake that has not seen fish introductions in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Biologist Christine Prah hunts for northern leopard frogs in Boulder, Colorado. The frogs are a species of concern in the county, and Boulder is one of the few places where the frogs can still be found in Colorado.
Biologist Christine Prah hunts for northern leopard frogs in Boulder, Colorado. The frogs are a species of concern in the county, and Boulder is one of the few places where the frogs can still be found in Colorado.
Biologist Christine Prah hunts for northern leopard frogs in Boulder, Colorado. The frogs are a species of concern in the county, and Boulder is one of the few places where the frogs can still be found in Colorado.
Biologist Tommy Detmer contemplates the terrain he's just traversed on his mission to sample water from backcountry lakes in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Recording habitat and hydrology data as part a Rocky Mountain National Park Water Quality Blitz.
Researchers Tommy Detmer (left) and Jimmy McCutchin (right) soak in a view of beetle killed trees in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Waxy plugs signal that this tree is fighting off a beetle attack.
Biogeochemist Jimmy McCutchin collects a water sample from a high alpine lake in Rocky Mountain National Park as part of an overarching water quality study.
The science keeps going as night falls. Biogeochemist Jimmy McCutchin makes notes on samples he's collected to look at the impacts of beetle kill on water quality in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Research site for a water quality study in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Researchers drag equipment across a frozen Lake Dillon. They will puncture the ice to collect water samples that will be tested for quality and the presence of pharmaceauticals. Lake Dillon provides drinking water to Denver.
CIRES researchers drill a hole through 2 foot thick ice in order to collect water samples that will be tested for water quality and evidence of pharmaceuticals. The project is part of a collaboration between the Cooperative Institute for Environmental Research, Denver Water, and the EPA.
CIRES researchers drill a hole through 2 foot thick ice in order to collect water samples that will be tested for water quality and evidence of pharmaceuticals. The project is part of a collaboration between the Cooperative Institute for Environmental Research, Denver Water, and the EPA.
CIRES researchers drill a hole through 2 foot thick ice in order to collect water samples that will be tested for water quality and evidence of pharmaceuticals. The project is part of a collaboration between the Cooperative Institute for Environmental Research, Denver Water, and the EPA.
CIRES researchers drill a hole through 2 foot thick ice in order to collect water samples that will be tested for water quality and evidence of pharmaceuticals. The project is part of a collaboration between the Cooperative Institute for Environmental Research, Denver Water, and the EPA.
Water samples collected from Lake Dillon, one of Denver's sources of drinking water.
A caddisfly larvae lies forever nestled in his little stone house. This particular caddisfly was collected almost 100 years ago, and I got to see him thanks to the help of researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This caddisfly built his case out of pebbles while submerged underwater -- no small feat for such a tiny creature. Caddisflies are a favored inspiration for fly fishermen, and in important indicator of water health. You want these guys to stick around. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
A pipette measure exact minute amounts of solution to samples for testing. This solution will react with the sample indicating the presence or absense of domoic acid, a powerful neurotoxin.
A Research assistant from The Caron Lab at University of Southern California samples water as part of a long-term study involving a network of research groups to keep track of seawater conditions along the coast. The Caron Lab especially looks for levels of domoic acid, a neurotoxin found in certain algal blooms. The waters of southern Califonria are seeing record levels of toxin this spring, though preliminary findings have ruled out domoic acid as any direct cause of the sea lion strandings.
A Research assistant from The Caron Lab at University of Southern California samples water as part of a long-term study involving a network of research groups to keep track of seawater conditions along the coast. The Caron Lab especially looks for levels of domoic acid, a neurotoxin found in certain algal blooms. The waters of southern Califonria are seeing record levels of toxin this spring, though preliminary findings have ruled out domoic acid as any direct cause of the sea lion strandings.
A vial contains serum from an adult sea lion. Researchers will run tests on it to see if it tests positive for domoic acid, a neurotoxin that comes from harmful algae. The Southern California coast has been seeing record levels of the toxin this spring.
A Research assistant from The Caron Lab at University of Southern California samples water as part of a long-term study involving a network of research groups to keep track of seawater conditions along the coast. The Caron Lab especially looks for levels of domoic acid, a neurotoxin found in certain algal blooms. The waters of southern Califonria are seeing record levels of toxin this spring, though preliminary findings have ruled out domoic acid as any direct cause of the sea lion strandings.
Vials containing seawater wait to be tested for domoic acid, a neurotoxin that comes from algae.
Researchers hit samples with the sonicator, a machine that uses high-frequency sound to break up particles so it mixes with the solution, enabling accurate testing.
A research assistant in the Caron Lab at the University of Southern California stores animal samples that include serum, bile, spinal fluid and amniotic fluid in a freezer after testing. The box labeled "PMMC" contains samples from adult sea lions at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
The Stations of the Cross Shrine sits atop a hilltop overlooking the town of San Luis, the oldest city in Colorado. The shrine, flanked with exquisitely rendered bronze statues and busts of saints offers a peaceful visit steeped in religious and Latino history. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Park Guide Jeff Rundell, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Hiking snow covered dunes at Colorado's Great Sand Dunes National Park.
Hot tubbing after a day of backcountry skiing at Colorado's Vagabond Ranch.
A stray cat ventures out from beneath railcars in Antonito, Colo. These cars were featured during the opening chase scene for "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade."
Herding ducks in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. These ducklings are on their way to camp overnight in an open field. The farmers set up temporary walls and camp with their herd.
Boys play with firecrackers in the back allies of Hua Hin, Thailand.
A storm sweeps across the dunes of Inch Strand near the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland.
Writer Morgan Heim, tests the height of grasses growing at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.
Snorkler, Ethan Welty, shares a look of amazement after two manatees swam within inches of him in Crystal River, Florida.
Javi the Dutch Shepherd takes five on the Ruffwear Highlands Bed while on a camping trip to Mount Yale near Buena Vista, CO. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Almond plantations in Portugal
During the bison roundup, Fidel Sandoval, facilities manager for the Zapata Ranch, will wrangle bison through the complex network of shoots and corrals on the ranch. The more than 2,000 head of bison play an important role in keeping these lands healthy, and the sale of bison each year financially supports the ranch, which is taken care of by The Nature Conservancy. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Just because it's winter, doesn't mean you have to stop hiking in the mountains near Red Feathers, Colo.
My friend, Amy Marquis, in the snow at Chautauqua Park in Boulder, Colo.
The ruins of an old house stand sentinel over the Douro River in northeastern Portugal.
Monument Valley, Utah
Tracks in the snow at Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.
Pigeons converge in Setubal, Portugal.
More than 2,000 head of buffalo graze on the grasslands of Zapata Ranch in Colorado's Sangre de Cristo Valley.
Buffalo spar on the Zapata Ranch in Colorado's Sangre de Cristo Valley.
Tourists mill about the cafe in Monument Valley, Utah.
The mountains of Conimbriga, Ireland
Two donkeys and a horse on The Burren, Ireland
The beach of Inch Strand in Ireland
Children getting out of school, clamber aboard tuk-tuks and enjoy their afternoon snacks in Hua Hin, Thailand.
A dinner of fish comes fresh in Hua Hin, Thailand.
Friendly manatees in Crystal River, Florida.
Friendly manatees in Crystal River, Florida.
Sandhill crane watching at the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary near Kearney, Nebraska.
View from a hide at the Rowe Audubon Sanctuary near Kearney, Nebraska.
Streaks in the sky mark the flight of sandhill cranes as they come in to roost on the Platte River near Kearney, Nebraska.
Kathy Faz, a National Park worker who leads educational tours in the Sangre de Cristo Valley, stands in front of the Trujillo Homestead, the first Latino homestead in the valley.
Beer at the San Luis Brewing Company doesn't come much more homespun than this. Everything from Ales to Stouts are brewed on the premises using local ingredients. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
A string of rosary beads hangs from a crucifix of Jesus outside the Stations of the Cross Shrine in San Luis, Colo.
A stream winds through Zapata Ranch in Colorado's Sangre de Cristo Valley.
Shiprock , New Mexico
Hua Hin, Thailand
A local fisherman casts his nets from the docks in Hua Hin, Thailand.
Fishermen mend nets after returning with the day's catch in Hua Hin, Thailand.
Shrines in Thailand, such as this one for Ganesha, can be found in unexpected places, such as atop a hotel in downtown Hua Hin.
Behind the bustle of tourism, two little girls play around the kitchen of a fancy restaurant on Hua Hin's waterfront.
Nighlife on the streets of Hua Hin, Thailand.
Good jazz and wine are had at the Black Cat, a bar slash lodge in Hua Hin, Thailand.
Women prepare jackfruit for market in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. This family will pick up any job that comes its way to parse together a living, but they have a good time doing it.
Fish farmer Lung Eaow holds up the day's catch as fellow farmers look on. The fish on these lands provide sustenance for man and fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) alike.
A fish farmer delivers stock to an organic shrimp farm in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. Separated by a net enclosure, fish are kept in the same pond as the shrimp. The fish do the job that chemical often do, clearing the water of unwanted algae.
Enjoying the breeze from a waterfront house in Khao Daeng, Thailand.
Frozen Zapata Falls, another main attraction near Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
Box turtles roam the prairie at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Bah Nu, a local farmer, works on restoring a lotus swamp in Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, Thailand.
Marine life congregates in a city of its own on the cliffs of La Jolla, California.
Buffalo graze in front of Great Sand Dunes National Park in the Sangre de Cristo Valley, Colo.
Buffalo on the Zapata Ranch, Sangre de Cristo Valley, Colo.
The remains of an old farmhouse on the Zapata Ranch in Colorado's Sangre de Cristo Valley.
An horno, a traditional oven, sits in the backyard of Joe Gallegos, brother - in - law to Felix Romero, who owns the oldest grocery store in Colorado. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Catching a cat nap in the sunshine of Pawnee National Grassland, Colo.
After scrambling to an elevation of roughly 13,700', Javi the Dutch Shepherd naps while his owner soaks in the view from Mount Yale near Buena Vista, CO. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Have dog will hike the trails of Penitente Canyon, Colorado.
Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona
Camping on Pawnee National Grasslands, Colo.
Heading to the pristine, uncrowded beaches of Carrapateira, Portugal, also a sought after surf haven.
A stream winds through the mountains along Colorado's Wigwam Trail in the Lost Creek Wilderness.
A one-room schoolhouse perches on the preserve property. This small building is where area children came for their gradeschool education.
Once almost extirpated from the prairie, a small herd of buffalo roams Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve near Strong City, Kans.. This herd of about 15 individuals was introduced to the preserve in 2009. Visitors can almost be guaranteed a sighting if they walk the Big Pasture trails. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Hiking with the dog on snow covered dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.
A monarch butterfly drinks from a prairie blazing star, a native tallgrass wildflower. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Easter parade in Huelva, Spain
Raptor feathers litter the ground along Fox Creek Trail in the Bottomlands of Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve.
Wild goldsturm set the prairie alight in the Bottomlands of Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Zamora, Spain
A species of prairie grasshopper (species unknown) clings to the tallgrass of Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas.
Amirante, Portugal
Wild horses graze in the salt marshes of El Rocio, Spain..
Setubal, Portugal
Hiking with the dog on snow covered dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado.
Roadtrip in western Spain
Amarante, Portugal
A cashier at a 7-Eleven helps add minutes to an international sim card in Hua Hin, Thailand.
Street traffic in Hua Hin, Thailand.
Tavira, Portugal
Women pick out the day's catch from fishing nets in Khao Daeng, Thailand.
Slow times at a massage parlor mean a little relaxation and fun for its staff in Hua Hin, Thailand.
The world changes color for snow-covered dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado.
An artist at work in his gallery in Hua Hin, Thailand.
Kachina dolls in the gift shop at Monument Valley, Utah.
The cushy digs awaiting skiiers as they approach vagabond ranch after three miles of hiking.
On a women's adventure to Vagabond Ranch outside of Colorado's Winter Park ski area, visitors snowshoe or ski into a set of luxurious cabins, and can spend their days splitting time between backcountry snowshoing/skiing and beers in the hot tub.
Snow covered dunes, Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
How do you catch a tiger for a National Geographic-worthy shot? Even when the tigers in question are used to people, it's not as easy as you'd think. Go behind-the-scenes with National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore as he photographs tigers for a story about World Zoos.
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Khai Toon, a recently collared male fishing cat pauses next to a spirit house in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. Spirit houses are shrines to the land's protective spirit. Landowners will leave food and other offerings to keep the spirit fed and encourage good luck. Khai Toon had been using it as a latrine. To camera trap, we used store-bought chicken bait under the supervision of and using the same methodology as the research team.
A fishing cat trips the trigger of a baited camera trap on a fish farm in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. Fewer than 3,000 fishing cats remain in the world.
Shrimp farms in Thailand, their bounty mostly headed for US and European dinner plates, are taking over the coastal wetlands that fishing cats call home.
Conservationist Namfon Cutter (right) and her assistant Ruj set a baited trap on a fish farm in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. Their hope is to catch a fishing cat that they can then collar to monitor its movements.
Ruj checks a trap to discover a female fishing cat has taken the bait.
Once a sedative has taken effect, conservationist Namfon Cutter and her team of local assistants must work fast to transfer the slumbering feline to the work station. They will perform health checks and collar the cat before releasing it back to the wild.
On a bed of the latest headlines, Ruj, a research assistant on fthe Fishing Cat Research and Conservation Project, affixes a radio collar to a young male fishing cat. If the collar stays on, the cat will reveal invaluable data on the movement of a species that has rarely been recorded.
At rest, the delicate size of the fishing cat is revealed. Ruj, a research assistant on the project, measures the pad of a foot and other parts of the body to collect rare morphological data on this endangered species.
Fishing cat fur is surprisingly course and wiry, with a downy undercoat. This combination allows the cat's fur to attain water-resistant properties, which help with temperature regulation when spending time in and out of the water. Spot patterns also help researchers identify individual cats.
Researchers check a sedated fishing cat's teeth for signs of age and well-being. This cat is thought to only be about 7-months old.
Tui, a local fish farmer collects his daily catch while a recently caught fishing cat slumbers in a cage beneath the blanket on the far left. Fishing cats have been raiding his traps, but despite this, Tui allows the researchers to study the fishing cats roaming his property, and even helps out with the research.
A radio-collar destined for one of the fishing cats that roam this network of fish and shrimp farms in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand.
A groggy female fishing cat allows Namfon Cutter to give her a little more sedative.
After collaring and health checks, biologist and conservationist Namfon Cutter transfers a still slumbering fishing cat to the "recovery" room. The cat will not be released until it has fully awakened from sedation.
Ruj's daughter, Mae, tries to listen to the receiver box for the radio-collar, not realizing that it has yet to be turned on. Children accompany most aspects of the fieldwork, and often help out where they are able.
Passanan "Namfon" Cutter, fishing cat conservationist and biologist
Earth is not quite 13, and dropped out of school in the 6th grade. He loves the fishing cat and shows up everyday to help out with fieldwork.
A single shrimp farm in Sam Roi Yod Thailand that one of the collared fishing cats has wandered into.
Namfon Cutter, and some of her student assistants listen carefully as they try to track a female fishing cat on a local shrimp farm. The collar is emitting a rapid, high-pitched beep, which either means the collar has come off, or the cat has died. When she first began tracking, almost all of her collared cats were killed by people in the area. Because these cats have moved into a cat-friendlier part of the region she remains hopeful.
Fears abate. Luckily, the collar is evidence of the fishing cat's escape artist skills. The cat managed to bite through the neoprene drop-off latch just 24 hours after being collared.
The fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is a species that has rarely been photographed in the wild. Being nocturnal and extremely shy, it's easy to see why. Fishing cats are listed as endangered on the IUCN Red List. Just days after this photo was taken, the land was destroyed to make room for a new shrimp farm.
A mobile water pump works overtime while shrimp farmers harvest the latest haul from an industrial scale shrimp farm. These farms are overtaking the land used by fishing cats and generations of subsistence farmers.
Shrimp farmers process the catch from one of the large industrial farms in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. The scale of farming is quickly swallowing fishing cat habitat and smaller subsistence farms.
A shrimp farmer shows off what he considers a giant shrimp. Catch is sorted by size categories and then sent to factories for packaging and shipment to the United States and Eurpoe.
A stretch of wetland in Sam Roi Yod that is also being freqented by a fishing cat. This spot is one of the trap sites, and in an area threatened by development.
Ruj, a research assistant on the Fishing Cat Research and Conservation Project, covers a recently set trap with grasses from the surrounding wetland. The covering will help camouflage the trap and keep the fishing cat cool once it's caught.
Fishing cat trap site.
Fishing cat trap site.
Fishing cat view of one of the trap sites.
Tui, a local fish farmer, looks on in dismay. At least two fishing cats are suspected in breaking into several of his fish traps. The research team will set up cameras and video to try and catch the cat in action.
Ruj, a research assistant on the Fishing Cat Research and Conservation project, gives biologist Passanan "Namfon" Cutter a ride out to the research site. Motorbikes are a favored form of transport, as it encourages a sense of community with the locals.
Ruj, a research assistant on the Fishing Cat Research and Conservation Project, investigates the death of a fishing cat near the entrance of Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park.
An old rice sack serves as a body bag for a dead fishing cat found by the side of the road near Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. The cat is on its way to a necropsy to find out how it died.
Ruj, a research assistant for the Fishing Cat Research and Conservation project, performs an impromptu necropsy on a fishing cat in his mother's back yard. The research team does not have access to lab facilities, and must make due parsing togething supplies from around the house. In this case palm leaves cut from plantation trees serve as the examination table.
The skull of a fishing cat is a rare site. This individual had been found shot and left dead on the side of the road near Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park in 2011. Now his bones and pelt are used in education and outreach.
With little funding, and the need to foster local stewardship for fishing cats, Namfon Cutter relies heavily on the help of local students for many aspects of her field research. Here, she shows students how to map GPS coordinates.
Student research assistants practice triangulating the location of a collared fishing cat. They will take these skills into the field to help track real fishing cats.
Namfon Cutter assists KeeRee a student helping out with field research on the fishing cats. Young people are the key to growing tolerance for the fishing cat in the community.
Fishing cats roam the marshes of Sam Roi Yod, Thailand, an agricultural hub.
Grasses taller than a man mark prime fishing cat habitat in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. Just days later this area was being excavated to make way for a new shrimp farm.
Lung Eaow, a local fish farmer helping out with fishing cat research, flashes a thumbs up that an animal has taken the bait at one of the researcher's camera traps.
A pipeline pumps water from the surrounding wetland into a freshly dug shrimp pond. Just days earlier, a new male fishing cat had been photographed at the site and tracks from at least one female and kitten were observed in the mud of the now gone fish pond.
Shrimp from a precedent-setting organic shrimp farm dry in the sun. While the advent of organic farms helps to curb some of farming's environmental impacts, it still eats up critical habitat for the fishing cat.
Less than a month after construction began, a new shrimp farm is near completion at the site of Passanan "Namfon" Cutter's fishing cat research. Shrimp farms are increasingly pushing endangered fishing cats to the margins of their habitat.
An industrial shrimp farm spews contaminated water back into the wetland and surrounding town in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. Untreated, farms pump a slurry of antibiotics, pesticides and ph balancers into the wetlands every month or two, then suck in a fresh batch. Once this happens, nearby subsistence farms can no longer be used.
Dead land frames the peaks of Khao Daeng. The brown scars of former shrimp farms leave the coast a wasteland once the land has been leached of its nutrients. This land is a land of mangroves and fishing cats, but both are being squeezed into tighter and tighter pockets as man races to supply the world's bellies with shrimp.
Bulldozers excavate a streambed as part of a process to build a small bridge and road for a new shrimp farm.
Ruj follows a local rice farmer who says he saw fishing cats in the area. If they find scat or tracks, Ruj will set up a camera trap to find out for sure whether a cat is around.
Two tiny fishing cat tracks indicated a cat has traveled into a shrimp farm in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. Just days after this photo was taken two fishing cats were captured and collared at this location.
Media is essential to a project like this one. Namfon and her team document everything using low-res night vision cameras. It has allowed them to record behaviors never before seen for fishing cats.
Ruj, a local research assistant on the Fishing Cat Research and Conservation Project, checks a camera trap at the research site. It looks as though he has only captured a photo of himself in this instance.
High School students accompany a trip to radio-track fishing cats around shrimp farms in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand.
Ruj, a local research assistant with the Fishing Cat Research and Conservation project, works with a local family who thinks a fishing cat is preying on their puppies. He will set up a surveillance camera to try and catch the culprit in action if it returns. If that happens, "fishing cat, dead," says Ruj.
A mangled fence is evidence that a fishing cat broke into a chicken coop beneath a local's house near Khao Daeng, Thailand. The cat was found sleeping under the porch by the homeowner. Fishing cats are often killed in retaliation for preying on domestic chickens. The chickens are used in cockfighting in Thailand, and can be worth a lot of money.
When this fishing cat was a kitten, he and his mother were run over by a plow while slumbering in a rice paddy. The mother ran off, leaving the kitten with a hurt paw. Now the cat, completely healed, lives in a small barren enclosure behind the house of a national park worker in Khao Daeng, Thailand.
Locals often kill fishing cats for preying on domestic chickens used in cockfighting, a popular pasttime in rural Thailand. Cutter's research showed domestic chicken was found in only one scat sample out of 194 collected during her study.
Locals often kill fishing cats for preying on domestic chickens used in cockfighting, a popular pasttime in rural Thailand.
Lung Eaow, a local fish farmer, helps out with the fishing cat research in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. He is almost like a guardian for the project, often setting aside his fishing duties to make sure everything is OK with the camera traps set up in the area.
Ruj, a local research assistant with the Fishing Cat Research and Conservation Project in Thailand, prepares a chicken bait for a camera trap as his daughter Mae looks on.
When a shrimp farm moves in, workers cut down everything in their midst.
Someone dumped the body of a dead fishing cat by the side of the road near Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park.
Ruj, a research assistant for the Fishing Cat Research and Conservation Project in Thailand, performs a necropsy on a dead fishing cat found near Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park. Evidence indicates someone shot the cat, a particularly disheartening turn of events, as the cat was found in an area where locals were supposedly growing more supportive of having the cats around.
Researchers measure and mark fishing cat scat to learn more about the cat's biology and behavior. The color of the scat provides clues to the cat's diet. In this case, the white color likely means the cat dined on fish.
Rip Ear, a wild male fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), triggers a camera trap hidden on a fish farm in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. A few years ago, researcher Passanan "Namfon" Cutter discovered a new and rather robust population of fishing cats living intertwined with a fishing village in southeast Thailand.
Searching for the fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) sometimes means camping out in fishing cat country to protect equipment from theft.
Fishing cat research assistant, Ruj, collects fishing cat scat in a new area of Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. This scat is more than just smelly business. The information it will yield can help biologists understand everything from cat size, sex and health to diet and DNA.
Vials contain fishing cat scat that will be sent to labs that can analyze the samples for things such as diet, health and even fishing cat DNA.
Ruj, smiles as he plays fishing cat while attaching a piece of chicken bait to the inside of a trap that they hope will help the team be able to collar a fishing cat.
Tui, a local fish farmer sets up a tarp to shade Namfon Cutter's impromptu research station on his fish farm in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand.
Envelopes pilfered from Ruj's daughter hold precious scientific cargo, fishing cat scat. The scat provides vital clues to the cat's diet, health, age, sex and even DNA.
The mountains of Khao Daeng overlook now defunct shrimp farms that were once mangrove forests and prime fishing cat habitat.
Remnants of mangrove forest still exist in fishing cat country. Here, a small grove of mangroves reflects in the waters near the headquarters for Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park in Thailand.
Rip Ear, a wild male fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), triggers a camera trap hidden on a fish farm in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. While we were there, Rip Ear showed up with a new scar across his eye. It's possible he is battling another male (also spotted in the area) as the land around him becomes more developed.
Rip Ear, a male fishing cat, trips a camera trap hidden on a shrimp farm in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. Fewer than 10,000 fishing cats remain, making it a globally endangered species according to the IUCN RedList.
Framed by a puzzle picture of Charlie Brown, Ruj works in the research "office" flipping through photos collected from the day's camera traps.
At their office desk, shoved against the wall of Ruj's bustling house. Namfon and Ruj are excited to find images of a fishing cat doing one of the things it does best, taking advantage of the water.
Collaring fishing cats is sometimes a relaxing affair. Here, Namfon Cutter, her assistant Ruj, and young helper Earth, lounge under the shade while waiting for a recently collared fishing cat to wake up from its slumber.
Studying an endangered species that frequents private land holds special challenges for research. Cutter must form relationships and gain permission from each landowner in the area just to track a cat. Some, such as fish farmer Lung Eaow, become lifelong friends.
Namfon Cutter, and her team of student research assistants. These boys show up almost every day after school and on weekends to help with her research.
When it comes to conservation of the fishing cat, one of the teams most recent and powerful tools is a small tablet loaded with photos and videos about the fishing cat. After a special community meeting to discuss the fishing cat research, locals enjoy a peek into the secret world of the endangered animal living in their backyards.
Ruj's daughter, Mae, holds a photo of Rip Ear, one of the fishing cats that she has helped track and care for. Rip Ear is fast becoming a bit of a local celebrity.
The night sky shines bright over the Honeycomb Buttes in Wyoming's Red Desert. Photo taken in July 2010.
The predominant feature of Adobe Town is its maze of hoodoos.

Into the Big Empty



The Big Empty, The Great American Desert, the Red Desert: These are just a few of the names given to the stretch of land covering much of southwestern Wyoming and part of Colorado. This 6 million acre landscape remains arguably the largest unfenced land left in the Lower 48.

But it might not remain so for much longer. The desert is a gold mine for energy. Oil and gas, uranium, open-pit coal mining, wind and oil shale have turned the desert into a checkbook for development.

The advantage of the desert's size is that there could be room for both. A proposed National Conservation Area would protect about a million acres of the desert, protecting a vital corridor for wildlife while allowing development that could support energy independence. That's if we can remember what the Red Desert means to us all.

Here, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid used the hoodoo canyons of Adobe Town as their hideout. Tens of thousands of pronghorn and wild horses migrate across the high steppe. In the North, the largest sand dune system in North America rolls from one end of the desert to the other, and if you're not careful, you may crunch fossils beneath your feet.

Annie Proulx, the author of Brokeback Mountain, famously said the Red Desert is a hard place to love. She is right. For most people, what they see of the desert as they zip along I-80 is a land that at first glance seems barren and flat and the same for as far as the eye can see.

My hope with these images is to peel back that veil a little bit. There's a lot more in the Big Empty than you might expect. Not just the physical, but that remembrence of things inherently human, that sense of adventure and challenge. It is a true remant of the Wild West, where there are no rules except whether you can survive against the elements.
When the sun sets over Wyoming's Red Desert, that's the cue for the evening primrose (Oenothera macrocarpa) to spread its petals wide to attract special night-loving insects. Come morning the flowers will have closed and turned pink, signalling the end of this flower's cycle. Photo taken July 2010.
The Red Desert is so understudied that an entomologist who spent 36 hours in the Red Desert became the world's leading expert on the desert's insects.
The Boar's Tusk is the remnant of an old volcano caldera. It is perhaps one of the most iconic landmarks within the Greater Red Desert, a six million acre high cold desert in southwestern Wyoming. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)
A flight over the Red Desert near Rock Springs, Wyom., Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2008, reveals the scale of the The Killpecker Dunes. These dunes are part of the largest active sand dune system in North America and second largest in the world, beat only by the massive Sahara Desert. The dunes here bury snow, which in summer leaks out creating pockets of desert wetlands that support countless birds and other animals. Early morning light is best for photographing the contours of this massive dune field. It took a few cups of coffee to get going before dawn, but it was worth skimping on sleep in order to catch the light. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)
The Red Desert is so understudied that an entomologist who spent 36 hours in the Red Desert became the world's leading expert on the desert's insects.
It's three strikes and get the heck out of the desert as a thunderstorm lowers over the Atlantic Rim in the Red Desert, Monday, June 16, 2008. Storms can arrive suddenly and violently here, but they can make for some spectacular displays. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)
A cluster of prickly pear cacti (Family Cactaceae) make a home in Wyoming's Red Desert at the edge of the Honeycomb Buttes. Photo taken July 2010.
Much of the rock in Adobe Town is really just sandstone, easily eroded or crumbled away.
A storm broods over Wyoming's Honeycomb Buttes in the Red Desert in July 2010. This high cold desert encompasses more than 6 million acres, about the size of Denali National Park, and remains the single largest unfenced expanse of land in the Lower 48. That may change as increasing pressures of energy development cross-section what has often been called the "Big Empty."
Pronghorn munch on sage brush in Wyoming's Red Desert. There are about 50,000 pronghorn in the Red Desert, also a key part of the migration route. Energy Development, habitat fragmentation and urban sprawl are key threats to pronghorn and the maintenance of their migration corridor.
An antelope pauses while walking up the train tracks in Wamsutter, Wyom. Antelope must frequently contend with more human made barriers and hazards along their migration routes. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)
A batch of sea lion pups crowd one of the rooms at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. "We once had 28 pups in one pen," says rescue volunteer Priscilla Salazar. "You couldn't see the floor." Since the strandings began, this small facility has rescued more than 300 of the more than 1,300 starving sea lion pups that have washed up in California since January. Researchers think the pups may have weaned early, and are not accessing sardines and anchovies they would normally eat. The reason for the fish disappearance is, as yet, a mystery.
Volunteers from the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, California, rescue a sea lion pup on Sunset Beach. He was the second of three rescues called in that day. So far more than 1,300 pups have stranded in Southern California. This pup was weak and lethargic, suffering from hypothermia. "Just so you know, this animal is in really bad shape," says volunteer rescue worker Priscilla Salazar. "It's probably not going to live." A local man sat with the pup for hours at one point running home to microwave towels to try and keep the pup warm.
Volunteer Priscilla Salazar cradles a starving sea lion pup on its way for feeding, as others crowd around animal care supervisor for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, Dean Gomersall. "You have to watch out," he says. "They will zombie around you."
Bowls of sardines checker the floor inside the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, Cali., each one designated for a specific sea lion pup being treated for malnourishment.
Workers grab a batch of bite sticks to facilitate tube feeding of especially weak sea lion pups.
While not a sea lion pup's favorite pasttime, tube feeding is critical to the pup's survival. This individual is so underweight and malnourished that its system could not handle eating solid food. The whole process takes just a minute, and then the pup can go back to playing at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, Cali..
A sea lion pup, struggling to swallow a fish, gets a little help from a rescue worker at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center.
A volunteer let's in a sea lion pup from the outside enclosure for its turn at breakfast. Rescue workers crack the door to shepard in a couple at a time. Otherwise, hungry pups will rush the feeding room.
Rescuers lay out bowls of anchovies and sardines for sea lion pups strong enough to eat solid food. Starvation seems to be driving this mass stranding event, though researcher are still unsure of why the pups can't find food. Scientists are investigating environmental condtions and fish patterns to find out more. "It doesn't seem like [bait fish] are around," says Dan Pondella, associate professor of Biology with Occidental College in Southern California. Though he doesn't know why the numbers are down. "We're out there all the time, and it doesn't seem like any unusual oceanographic phenomena are going on. It might just be a bad year for bait fish."
As one pup tube feeds, another seems to look at volunteer rescue worker, Priscilla Salazar, for permission to commence feeding from a bowl of sardines. The pups in the adjoining room show how many have already finished this round of feeding. The Pacific Marine Mammal Center has rescued more than 300 pups so far this year, around 50 of which are still at the center with more coming in every day.
"Wrap him up like a burrito," said a rescue center worker over the phone. "We've brought them back from worse before." After pulling into a strip mall featuring a tanning salon, chiropractor and bike shop, two volunteers prepare to wrap up a hypothermic sea lion pup in an emergency blanket. The pup is barely hanging on to life after a surfer found the pup shivering and stranded on a beach in Southern California.
"Wrap him up like a burrito," a Pacific Marine Mammal Rescue Center worker tells volunteer Priscilla Salazar (left) over the phone. "We've brought them back from worse before." In the parking lot of a strip mall featuring a tanning salon, chiropractor and bike shop, volunteers Salazar and Taylor Megginson wrap a hypothermic sea lion pup in an emergency blanket. The pup is barely hanging on to life after a surfer found the pup shivering and stranded on a beach in Southern California. "Can you imagine coming up to put air in your tires, and there's a sea lion in the parking lot?" says Megginson.
A wash down serves two purposes, a welcome shower for the pups and a clean room for them to hang out in. With so many pups to care for, rescue volunteers work non-stop, cycling between feeding and cleaning.
Starvation might be the only problem the sea lion pups are facing. Many also have abscesses and open sores on their faces and bodies. "It makes me sad when I keep thinking they're just babies," says rescue volunteer Priscilla Salazar. "They're like puppies, and they all have abscesses everywhere."
Pups that are a little stronger get to cut their teeth fishing from a bowl. Volunteers use towels to herd the pups into their respective corners, so each can get its fill.
A batch of sea lion pups crowd one of the rooms at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center after a feeding. Since the strandings began, this small facility has rescued more than 300 of the more than 1,300 starving sea lion pups. Researchers think the pups may have weaned early, and are not accessing sardines and anchovies they would normally feed on. The reason for the fish disappearance is, as yet, a mystery.
A board keeps a running roster of the sea lion pups in each pen at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. The pups seem to want to eat just about anything given the chance, in this case, the shoe of volunteer rescue worker Priscilla Salazar.
There are several stages to the pups' recovery, depending on how emaciated they are when they come in. Rescue workers must tube feed pups that are especially tiny and weak. Many weigh only 20-25 pounds, about half of what they should weigh at their age. After one to two weeks if the pup is doing well, it'll graduate to eating fish.
Volunteer rescue worker Priscilla Salazar checks for signs that a pup she rescued from Sunset Beach, Cali., is still alive. The pup was suffering from hypothermia and starvation, and for awhile had seemed to have stopped breathing. With a gentle nudge, the pup began to wheeze and gurgle. It was still alive. Salazar has a business degree, but she has long loved marine animals. "I took a marine mammal class. That's the only textbook I ever kept. I was like 18 and in high school," she says. Between shifts waiting tables, she volunteers at the rescue center, sometimes for 16 hours at a stretch when the strandings were at their peak.
Despite their best efforts, the the hypothermic sea lion pup did not survive. Pups that do arrive at the center stand much better chances than on their own, but sometimes even the best medical care isn't enough.
A park worker peeks through the glass as Pacific Marine Mammal Center volunteer Priscilla Salazar, pulls a sea lion pup from a crate in the drive through office of Doheny State Beach. in Dana Point, Cali. Park officials kept the pup safe until rescue workers could arrive. "I think we should name this one kiosk," remarked a volunteer back at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, Cali. Pups have turned up in all sorts of unexpected places. One was found in a flower pot, says Salazar. Another person brought one in in a tupperware container, something, Salazar says, no one should attempt to do.
Rescue workers encourage a new arrival to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center to exit its crate and hop over to the blanket for its check-in checkup.
Incoming pups are first weighed before going into the center for processing. Often pups measure in at about 25 lbs, only about half or less than half of what they should weigh at their age.
An exhausted pup rests at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, Cali.
Pups that feel up to it head outside for some playtime in the outdoor pool at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, Cali.
Pups hang out in an enclosure at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, Cali. More than 300 pups have come through PMMC throughout a mass stranding event that the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration calls an Unusual Mortality Event.
One of the recovering California sea lion pups at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Beach, Cali.
"Pat my head for luck," reads an unofficial mascot for the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. Sea lion pups can thank tireless volunteers and the locals who called in rescues for their chances of recovery.
Storm Drain Waves of the Chesapeake Bay break against the opening of a storm drain that runs from the Ocean View beachfront directly into the bay in Norfolk, Virginia. This is but one of several massive storm drains that line the beach every few hundred yards. After a big storm, you can stand near the end of the drain at low tide, and see the water and garbage gushing out, said Chesapeake Bay Foundation?s Chris Moore. (Photo/Morgan Heim)

Runaway Chesapeake



The Chesapeake Bay watershed is one of the most vital water resources in the United States, covering more than 64,000 square miles on the eastern seaboard from Pennsylvania to Virginia. The watershed also winds through some of the most densely populated areas in the country, bearing the effects of civilization's daily choices -- from sprinklers watering fertilized lawns to farms leaching massive amounts of animal and chemical run-off.

In summer of 2010, I was part of a team of photographers from the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP) who partnered with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to draw attention to the issues and beauty of the Chesapeake Bay. The goal of this Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition or RAVE was to remind people of what the Chesapeake Bay means to us all, and build support for legislation that would help protect and preserve this lifeline to our livelihoods, our history and an incredible ecosystem.
Algal blooms flourish in the lower Chesapeake Bay following a storm that dumped nearly five inches of rain in some areas of Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Virginia. Here, rain, temperatures soaring above 100 degrees farenheit, and pollution made for ideal algal bloom conditions, Saturday, July 31, 2010. Nicknamed the Mahogany Tides, this algae can lead to toxic conditions if consumed, raising the risk of illness and infection, as well as blocking light needed by other marine creatures. As the algae dies, the organisms will also deplete oxygen levels, putting other wildlife at risk. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
The Chesapeake Bay is vital habitat for the Osprey. There are about 2,000 breeding pairs in the Chesapeake Bay, nearly a quarter of the North American population, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program's website. In the lower Chesapeake, you can find a pair nesting on just about any channel marker or piling. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Between a coal pier and a cargo loading dock, the Nixon family (son Jamie Nixon, left, father Pete Nixon, right) sorts the morning's catch of blue crabs, and sustains another day of their livelihood. Blue crabs have bounced back lately thanks to restoration efforts along the bay, but the success is tentative. A healthy watershed is still necessary to make sure the population doesn't crash again. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Pristine wetlands frame the mouth of the Nansemond River, a tributary of the James River near Suffolk, Virginia. This river is one of the most untouched areas in the Chesapeake Bay and a haven for wildlife and nature lovers alike. It is also the river where John Smith experienced some of his most famous encounters with Chief Powhatan. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Record setting temperatures and a pro-longed dry spell ended with a bang and a torrent. A severe thunderstorm barraged Virginia Beach and several places along the Hampton Roads with a month's worth of rain in about two hours. Some sections of Virginia Beach received nearly five inches of rain in that time, with several feet of flooding on roadways and ditches that couldn't adequately handle the load. This spot, along Virginia Beach's Shore Drive collected water that went knee high. Storms like this one are a major contributor to runoff that carries pollution of our lifestyles into the Bay. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Suburban sprawl, manicured lawns, and coils of pavement all act as runways and source points for runoff into rivers and streams. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Marsh Periwinkle A gentle wave to us is no small feat to endure for the marsh periwinkle snail. These critters feed on algae, bacteria and plant detritus in the water, and can be found in abundance along the beaches at Pleasure House Point in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Marsh Periwinkle A gentle wave to us is no small feat to endure for the marsh periwinkle snail. Here a lone snail grips strong to a shoreline rock in the Lynnhaven River, a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay. These critters feed on algae, bacteria and plant detritus in the water. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Researchers with the Elizabeth River Project haul in the day's catch to check the status of fish living in the Money Point wetland restoration area. This haul includes mummichogs, an important indicator species for the river. Nearly a hundred years of creosote pollution - the chemical used to preserve wood pilings and railroad ties - has left a river in need of severe repair. Nearly 50-60 percent of mummichog tested in this area show signs of being pre-cancerous, while about 20 percent test positive for full-blown cancer. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Joe Rieger with the Elizabeth River Project displays a croaker caught in a fish-friendly net at Money Point in Norfolk, Virginia. Money Point is the site of a massive restoration effort to cleanup creosote pollution, the chemical used to preserve wood pilings and railroad ties. These fish, including spot, needlefish and mummichog (an indicator species), are caught to help the scientists keep track of fish populations throughout the restoration process. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Oyster Roundup All grown up. Resident volunteers arrive at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Oyster Roundup to drop off the fruits of oysters gardening labor and pick up a new crop. When the volunteers get them, these oysters are the size of a fingernail, and over the course of a year grow into full-fledge adults. The oysters brought in today are destined for oyster reefs along Virginia Beach, Virginia?s, Lynnhaven River. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Volunteers, joined by Sandy Bodenhamer from Senator Warren's office (second fromn left), toss a fresh crop of oysters overboard in Lynnhaven Bay, Virginia Beach, Virginia. The oysters were raised by residents for the past year and will now help bulk up an existing oyster reef. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
What an oyster should look like. Chris Moore, science advocate for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, holds up a healthy cluster of oysters that has been growing on a restored reef in the Lynnhaven River, Virginia Beach, Virginia. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
An osprey takes flight over the Nansemond River in Virginia. The Nansemond River is regarded as one of the most pristine tributaries in the Chesapeake Bay watershed of Virginia, a status evident by its water quality and abundance of wildlife. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Pleasure House Point Once destined to become the Indigo Dunes condominium development, 122-acre Pleasure House Point instead remains the largest undeveloped area along the Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This area ? scattered with marsh islands, white beaches and thick woodland ? is at the center of a decade long effort to purchase the land for preservation as open space. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Trust for Public Land have worked together to organize the purchase of Pleasure House Point and raise the $13 million needed to buy the land from its current owners, Wells Fargo Bank. A portion of this property will become an environmental education center with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Turtles hang out on storm drains and logs surrounded by chip bags and other garbage in a pond behind the business campus near the Lynnhaven Mall in Virginia Beach, Virginia. These ponds serve as a microcosm of the garbage people dump on a daily basis. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Record setting temperatures and a pro-longed dry spell ended with a bang and a torrent. A severe thunderstorm barraged Virginia Beach and several places along the Hampton Roads with a month's worth of rain in about two hours. Some sections of Virginia Beach received nearly five inches of rain in that time, with several feet of flooding on roadways and ditches that couldn't adequately handle the load. This spot, along Virginia Beach's Shore Drive collected water that went knee high. Storms like this one are a major contributor to runoff that carries pollution of our lifestyles into the Bay. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
White Ibis A white ibis, a rare visitor to Virginia, perches on a piling in the Nansemond River. This bird is a tropical water bird that inhabits marshes in the Gulf and South, from North Carolina to Florida. There have only been a few sightings in the Chesapeake Bay, according to The Sibley Guide to Birds. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Lush forest along the middle peninsula region of the Chesapeake Bay. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
A large open pit mine, likely for concrete production, glares from an otherwise lush forest not far from Yorktown, Virginia.
A coal pile at the edge of the Elizabeth River with very little vegetative buffer separating runoff from the water. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Walter Priest, a NOAA biologist and working with the Elizabeth River Project, designed the wetland restoration taking place at Money Point in Norfolk, Virginia. Nearly a hundred years of creosote pollution - the chemical used to preserve wood pilings and railroad ties - has left the Elizaeth River in need of severe repair. Nearly 50-60 percent of mummichog tested in this area show signs of being pre-cancerous, while about 20 percent test positive for full-blown cancer. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Young Night Heron A young night heron explores the banks of the Lynnhaven River in search of a morning meal. This bird is an excellent indicator species for monitoring the health of an environment, largely due to its wide distribution and feeding behavior. Young night herons are especially good subjects, as they disgorge their stomachs when disturbed, making it easy to study their diets, according the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
View of First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach, VA (Photo/Morgan Heim)
A ghost crab makes a break for it under torchlight, heading for the sirens call of the surf at Bay's edge. Dusk heralds the time for ghost crabs to emerge from their sandy burrows and search the beaches for food, mates, and to lay their eggs. Take a walk along First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and your likely to see one after the other skittering away under beam of a headlamp. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
After spotting a telltale red tinge to the water in the Elizabeth River, Christopher Moore, science advocate with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, scoops up a water sample that will be later tested for the presence of algae. Adding a few drops of Lugol?s solution to the water helps the algae settle out of the water, so algal density can be determined. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
After spotting a telltale red tinge to the water in the Elizabeth River, Christopher Moore, science advocate with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, scoops up a water sample that will be later tested for the presence of algae. Adding a few drops of Lugol?s solution to the water helps the algae settle out of the water, so algal density can be determined. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Algal blooms flourish in the lower Chesapeake Bay following a storm that dumped nearly five inches of rain in some areas of Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Virginia. Here, rain, temperatures soaring above 100 degrees farenheit, and pollution made for ideal algal bloom conditions, Saturday, July 31, 2010. Nicknamed the Mahogany Tides, this algae can lead to toxic conditions if consumed, raising the risk of illness and infection, as well as blocking light needed by other marine creatures. As the algae dies, the organisms will also deplete oxygen levels, putting other wildlife at risk. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Wetlands near Norfolk, Virginia. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Elsie Creekmore, 90, shucks peas at her Creekmore's Place farmer's market in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Creekmore recently received an accommodation from the mayor for sustaining the longest running business in Virginia Beach. Roughly 85 percent of the produce sold at Creekmore's Place is locally grown, coming from within a 35 mile radius of Virginia Beach. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Veggies from Creekmore's Place Farmer's Market in Virginia Beach, Virginia, come with a home grown stamp of approval. Roughly 85 percent of the produce sold at Creekmore's Place is locally grown, coming from within a 35 mile radius of Virginia Beach. Elsie Creekmore, now in her nineties, recently received an accommodation from the mayor for sustaining the longest running business in Virginia Beach. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
A ghost crab makes a break for it under torchlight, heading for the sirens call of the surf at Bay's edge. Dusk heralds the time for ghost crabs to emerge from their sandy burrows and search the beaches for food, mates, and to lay their eggs. Take a walk along First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and your likely to see one after the other skittering away under beam of a headlamp. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
A cargo ship makes it's way out into the Chesapeake Bay from the Elizabeth River. This river is heavily trafficed as one of the top ten largest ports in the United States. Shipping brings goods and the not so good, including helping to spread invasive species and the pollution that comes with this being part of a highly industrialized area. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Norfolk Southern?s Lamberts Point Coal Pier 6 Coal dust coats the Elizabeth River, runoff from the Lamberts Point?s Pier 6 in Norfolk, Virginia. In September of 2005, this pier loaded its billionth ton of coal making it the largest transloading coal pier in the northern hemisphere, according to a PRNewswire story. Coal arriving at this pier comes from mining operations in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky primarily, and is destined for ports in five continents. This facility is capable of loading 8,000 tons of coal per hour. The amount of coal that has passed through this pier since it opened could form a train 104,000 miles long, according to the story, enough to circle the Earth four times. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Norfolk Southern?s Lamberts Point Coal Pier 6 Coal dust coats the Elizabeth River, runoff from the Lamberts Point?s Pier 6 in Norfolk, Virginia. In September of 2005, this pier loaded its billionth ton of coal making it the largest transloading coal pier in the northern hemisphere, according to a PRNewswire story. Coal arriving at this pier comes from mining operations in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky primarily, and is destined for ports in five continents. This facility is capable of loading 8,000 tons of coal per hour. The amount of coal that has passed through this pier since it opened could form a train 104,000 miles long, according to the story, enough to circle the Earth four times. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Researchers with the Elizabeth River Project haul in the day's catch to check the status of fish living in the Money Point wetland restoration area. This haul includes mummichogs, an important indicator species for the river. Nearly a hundred years of creosote pollution - the chemical used to preserve wood pilings and railroad ties - has left a river in need of severe repair. Nearly 50-60 percent of mummichog tested in this area show signs of being pre-cancerous, while about 20 percent test positive for full-blown cancer. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Oyster Roundup All grown up. Resident volunteers arrive at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Oyster Roundup to drop off the fruits of oysters gardening labor and pick up a new crop. When the volunteers get them, these oysters are the size of a fingernail, and over the course of a year grow into full-fledge adults. The oysters brought in today are destined for oyster reefs along Virginia Beach, Virginia?s, Lynnhaven River. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Runoff from the roof of a gas station in Virginia Beach, Virginia Record setting temperatures and a pro-longed dry spell ended with a bang and a torrent. A severe thunderstorm barraged Virginia Beach and several places along the Hampton Roads with a month's worth of rain in about two hours. Some sections of Virginia Beach received nearly five inches of rain in that time, with several feet of flooding on roadways and ditches that couldn't adequately handle the load. This spot, along Virginia Beach's Shore Drive collected water that went knee high. Storms like this one are a major contributor to runoff that carries pollution of our lifestyles into the Bay. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Even the places that are the closes to being saved need a helping hand. Here a trash pile of plastic and bottles (including an entire stove top) litters an area called Pleasure House Point in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This trash will get cleaned up luckily. Right now Pleasure House Point is in the final stages of being bought by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and its partners for protection. This spit of land remains the largest undeveloped section left of the Lynnhaven River, a major tributary to the Lower Chesapeake. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
A royal tern catches a little hang time on the Nansemond River near Suffolk, Virginia. This bird is an exceptionally rare visitor to this region, according the Sibley Guide to Birds, with only a handful of sightings. The Nansemond River is regarded as one of the most pristine tributaries in the Chesapeake Bay watershed of Virginia, a status evident by its water quality and abundance of wildlife. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Mimosa Tree, a pretty but invasive plant, at Pleasure House Point Once destined to become the Indigo Dunes condominium development, 122-acre Pleasure House Point instead remains the largest undeveloped area along the Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This area ? scattered with marsh islands, white beaches and thick woodland ? is at the center of a decade long effort to purchase the land for preservation as open space. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Trust for Public Land have worked together to organize the purchase of Pleasure House Point and raise the $13 million needed to buy the land from its current owners, Wells Fargo Bank. A portion of this property will become an environmental education center with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Steven Spurlock, a horticulture specialist with the Virginia Living Museum in Newport News, Virginia, conducts garden maintenance atop a green roof, Monday, July 26, 2010. Green or living roofs mitigate run-off by catching and filtering storm water, and they can help keep things cool on a hot day. Adding to the green appeal of this particular roof is its low maintenance nature, only requiring weeding about once a year, said Spurlock. These photos were taken as part of the Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition with the International League of Conservation Photographers and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. During a RAVE, a team of photographers fan out across a region to document environmental issues affecting the area in a short amount of time. For this assignment, photographer Morgan Heim has 10 days to document as many aspects as she can to illustrate the causes, impacts, mitigation and nature tied to runoff in the area. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
A green roof helps mitigate storm water run-off and keep things cool at Virginia Wesleyen College in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Green roofs are one of the latest innovations to help with water management and eco-friendly design, and help illustrate a solution for the focus of the Norfolk, Hampton Roads section of the Chesapeake Bay RAVE, runoff. At the college, scientists are monitoring the effects of the green roof on water managment and runoff. These photos were taken as part of the Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition with the International League of Conservation Photographers and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. During a RAVE, a team of photographers fan out across a region to document environmental issues affecting the area in a short amount of time. For this assignment, photographer Morgan Heim has 10 days to document as many aspects as she can to illustrate the causes, impacts, mitigation and nature tied to runoff in the area. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
The Omega Protein plant in Reedville, Virginia, marks the sole processing facility for the menhaden fishery on the East Coast. Thirteen out of 15 Atlantic states (Virginia being one of the exceptions) have banned the fishing practice used by Omega Protein - which uses spotter planes to find schools of fish whose locations are then relayed to teams of boats that rapidly circle the fish with nets. The bulk of fishing now takes place in the Chesapeak Bay, the menhaden's nursery. Menhaden - an oily fish used in nutritional supplements, fertilizer, chicken feed and makeup - faces severe population pressure, as this fishery has largely remained unregulated by the Virginia office of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the state agency that manages it. Menhaden has so far been little studied, but new stock assessments that show the fish hovering around critical population sustainability levels are drawing more attention to the fish. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Debra Parthree, a marine scientist with the Virginia Institute for Marine Science, has a job that takes guts. She studies the stomach contents of fish to find out what they eat and what might be happening with the wildlife in the food chain of the Chesapeake Bay. In particular, she's looking for menhaden, an oily fish who's numbers are getting more attention lately. Menhaden - an oily fish used in nutritional supplements, fertilizer, chicken feed and makeup - faces severe population pressure, as this fishery has largely remained unregulated by the Virginia office of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the state agency that manages it. Menhaden has so far been little studied, but new stock assessments that show the fish hovering around critical population sustainability levels are drawing more attention to the fish. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Debra Parthree, a marine scientist with the Virginia Institute for Marine Science, has a job that takes guts. She studies the stomach contents of fish to find out what they eat and what might be happening with the wildlife in the food chain of the Chesapeake Bay. In particular, she's looking for menhaden, an oily fish who's numbers are getting more attention lately. Menhaden - an oily fish used in nutritional supplements, fertilizer, chicken feed and makeup - faces severe population pressure, as this fishery has largely remained unregulated by the Virginia office of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, the state agency that manages it. Menhaden has so far been little studied, but new stock assessments that show the fish hovering around critical population sustainability levels are drawing more attention to the fish. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Traffic cruises over the Elizabeth River in Norfolk, Virginia. Dirt, oil and other emissions can filter down from the grating directly into the river, but that's not the only way automobiles contribute to pollution. Every vehicle on every road contributes to runoff of pollution into the Chesapeake Bay's waterways, and often traffic along the Lower Chesapeake includes bumper to bumper congestion. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
From yard to watershed A running sprinkler and green grass leading to a sheer concrete bulkhead exemplifies one of the main routes of residential pollution runoff. Here there is no buffer of tall grass, trees or other vegetation to help absorb water and prevent chemicals from washing directly into the river. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
The East Beach development in Norfolk, Virginia, incorporates storm runoff mitigation into its building plans. Streets slope inward to help direct water flow; homes are built to maximize density while leaving room for more green space, which helps filter storm runoff before it reaches waterways. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Writing Spider Fans of Charlotte?s Web would be familiar with this woodland resident. A writing spider waits in its stabilimentum line, the bright zig-zag running down the middle of the web. There are several theories about why the spiders build this line. It?s possible the stibilimentum helps stabilize the web. Another idea is that this line acts like safety strips on a glass door that can warn approaching birds of the web?s presence. And some research indicates that the line mimics flowers by reflecting UV light in a similar fashion, luring insects to their doom. This spider was found along the Elizabeth River Nature and Canoe Trail in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Egrets have made a set of trees in one Virginia Beach neighborhood their rookery. Here,they browse through someone's yard. These birds have managed to take over trees in a highly urbanized section of Virginia Beach, Virginia. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Black Rat Snake A black rat snake slithers through the underbrush at the Elizabeth River Nature and Canoe Trail in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This non-venomous snake can grow to five feet in length and is an able swimmer. This common though shy snake will release a foul musky smell when threatened. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Turtles hang out on storm drains and logs surrounded by chip bags and other garbage in a pond behind the business campus near the Lynnhaven Mall in Virginia Beach, Virginia. These ponds serve as a microcosm of the garbage people dump on a daily basis. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
What look like piles of LEGO(R)s are containiers of goods coming in to the Port of Virginia. This is one day on the Elizabeth River, with the Port of Virginia being the ninth largest port in the United States. This picture is mainly meant to convey the volume of goods moving in and out of this port. The ships and trucks transporting these containers, not to mention the resources that went into making whatever products they hold all have impacts on the environment. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
The Chesapeake Bay is vital habitat for the Osprey. There are about 2,000 breeding pairs in the Chesapeake Bay, nearly a quarter of the North American population, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program's website. In the lower Chesapeake, you can find a pair nesting on just about any channel marker or piling. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
The picture of what a wetland should be. Here a healthy buffer of grass marsh lines the banks of the Nansemond River near Suffolk, Virginia. The Nansemond River is regarded as one of the most pristine tributaries in the Chesapeake Bay watershed of Virginia, a status evident by its water quality and abundance of wildlife. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
A healthy wetland, part of First Landing State Park, along the Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Pleasure House Point Once destined to become the Indigo Dunes condominium development, 122-acre Pleasure House Point instead remains the largest undeveloped area along the Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This area ? scattered with marsh islands, white beaches and thick woodland ? is at the center of a decade long effort to purchase the land for preservation as open space. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Trust for Public Land have worked together to organize the purchase of Pleasure House Point and raise the $13 million needed to buy the land from its current owners, Wells Fargo Bank. A portion of this property will become an environmental education center with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Dark streaks mark the path of a growing algae bloom in the waters around Northrop Grumman shipyard in Newport News, Virginia, Tuesday, July 27, 2010. Algae crop up in many areas throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, often in response to warm waters and pollution. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
The East Beach development in Norfolk, Virginia, incorporates storm runoff mitigation into its building plans. Streets slope inward to help direct water flow; homes are built to maximize density while leaving room for more green space, which helps filter storm runoff before it reaches waterways. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
A great blue heron takes flight over Lynnhaven Bay in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This bird is a popular if noisy backyard visitor, and thrives on the fish that make the bay their home. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
A sign marks fishing prohibited along the beaches of Pleasure House Point in Virginia Beach, Virginia. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)

Thai Cockfighting



I began by taking photos of a basket covered by some brightly colored fabric. I could see the lines of the basket and the faint silhouette of a fighting chicken. Then to my surprise, a man reached over and pulled the covering away. He was proud, and wanted to show off his prize.

There are practices abhorrent to most people, cockfighting being one of them. The sport is largely banned throughout Europe and much of the United States. To those who do support the sport, the presence of a camera wielding outsider may still not be a friendly sight. So it was with trepidation that I first began photographing a cockfight in rural Thailand as part of a larger story about endangered fishing cats. Cats are often killed for preying on chickens, prizefighting chickens that are worth a lot of money.

Before I knew it, rather than being bullied out of the area, men were shouting and waving for me to get in the ring. In Thailand, the cockfight is something that is culturally acceptable to many. It is a "king's" sport taken up by the common man. And in Thailand, there is a movement to legitimize the sport, using a stricter referee system and banning knives, razors and other modified blades from being strapped to the chickens' feet. There are rituals for preparation and lineages to protect. There is even a cockfighting "Olympics" in Southeast Asia that draws fighters and fans from around the world.

I will never come to accept a sport like this as something justifiable. I found myself doing my best to block my emotions as I documented the events unfolding before me. The people I met were not mean or evil. They seemed normal. They did not see what they were doing as something wrong. Shooting this cockfight taught me valuable lessons about photographing the story for a bigger purpose and remaining open to a culture different from my own. If I had judged, I would not be welcome, and sometimes that is more important than how I feel.



A jeering crowd shouts as two gamecocks battle it out in the arena of a cockfight in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. Fishing cats are often killed out of revenge for predation on chickens. The anger is not over a loss of food, but the loss of prizefighting game cocks. Cockfighting is a popular sport in rural Thailand, and these chickens can fetch anywhere between a few thousand to a million bhat in extreme cases depending on where and how good they fight, said one cockfight participant.
A chaos of gaping and tangled wire is proof that a fishing cat has broken in to this chicken coop. A few days earlier, the cat was found hiding under the foundations of the house. Fishing cats are often killed out of revenge for predation on chickens, such as the one pictured here. The anger is not over a loss of food, but the loss of prizefighting game cocks. Cockfighting is a popular sport in rural Thailand, and these chickens Mcan fetch anywhere between a few thousand to a million bhat in extreme cases depending on where and how good they fight, said one cockfight participant.
A jeering crowd shouts as two gamecocks battle it out in the arena of a cockfight in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. Fishing cats are often killed out of revenge for predation on chickens. The anger is not over a loss of food, but the loss of prizefighting game cocks. Cockfighting is a popular sport in rural Thailand, and these chickens can fetch anywhere between a few thousand to a million bhat in extreme cases depending on where and how good they fight, said one cockfight participant.
A jeering crowd shouts as two gamecocks battle it out in the arena of a cockfight in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. Fishing cats are often killed out of revenge for predation on chickens. The anger is not over a loss of food, but the loss of prizefighting game cocks. Cockfighting is a popular sport in rural Thailand, and these chickens can fetch anywhere between a few thousand to a million bhat in extreme cases depending on where and how good they fight, said one cockfight participant.
A jeering crowd shouts as two gamecocks battle it out in the arena of a cockfight in Sam Roi Yod, Thailand. Fishing cats are often killed out of revenge for predation on chickens. The anger is not over a loss of food, but the loss of prizefighting game cocks. Cockfighting is a popular sport in rural Thailand, and these chickens can fetch anywhere between a few thousand to a million bhat in extreme cases depending on where and how good they fight, said one cockfight participant.
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Nature Needs Half

Did you know that despite all the development that is out there in the world, more than 41 percent of the planet is still considered wild?

Nature Needs Half is an idea, a way of living that supports healthy nature and healthy people. In a nutshell, Nature Needs Half is a challenge to be bold with conservation.

The idea is to protect at least half of the planet, land and sea, in an interconnected way to support nature around the world. Nature Needs Half was launched by The WILD Foundation, but is a concept that belongs to everyone. Reaching this goal isn't about separating people from nature. It's about finding the myriad ways that nature is a part of our lives, and then figuring out how to make room for both.

In Boulder, my home town, the county has protected about 68 percent of its natural areas. So in partnership with WILD, I set out to document just exactly what that means. In part, it means we can do it. Nature Needs Half also means new responsibilities regarding what we give and receive from our environment. May Boulder's story be an inspiration no matter where on this little blue planet you happen to live.
I took this photo as a personal project to document local wildlife in suburban settings. This photo ended up as a Photo of the Day pick with NationalGeographic.com. With the help of this photo, I was also able to get an assignment with Smithsonian Magazine on a story about the ecology of urban prairie dogs. A black-tailed prairie dog barks the all-clear from his burrow in suburban Boulder, Colo. Habitat fragmentation and extermination has helped decimate prairie dog numbers, and they are the frequent source of explosive debates for residents who live near them. Though they seem abundant in urban areas like Boulder and Denver, Colo., there is just an estimated 2 percent of prairie dogs left compared to numbers from 200 years ago. Black-tailed prairie dogs are now being considered for endangered species listing. (Photo/Morgan E. Heim)
A northern leopard frog heads back to freedom after being caught by ecologist Christine Prah. Prah, a seasonal researcher with the City of Boulder's Open Space and Mountain Parks department, is surveying for the presence of northern leopard frogs, a once common amphibian that is now being considered for listing as federally threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Boulder is one of the few places along the front range where these frogs can be found. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
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Biologists survey for northern leopard frogs in Boulder County. Christine Prah, a researcher with the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks surveys likely leopard frog habitat in Boulder, Colorado. Boulder is one of the few places along the front range where you can still find this once common amphibian. Active natural area protection has helped preserve vestiges of key habitat for this species. Though even here, the frog is at risk. Invasive species, habitat loss, pressures from cattle grazing and disease are putting the squeeze on northern leopard frogs survivability. (Photo/Morgan Heim)
Biologists survey for northern leopard frogs in Boulder County. Christine Prah, a researcher with the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks surveys likely leopard frog habitat in Boulder, Colorado. Boulder is one of the few places along the front range where you can still find this once common amphibian. Active natural area protection has helped preserve vestiges of key habitat for this species. Though even here, the frog is at risk. Invasive species, habitat loss, pressures from cattle grazing and disease are putting the squeeze on northern leopard frogs survivability. (Photo/Morgan Heim)

4 FRI

Starting June 20, 2010, the Schultz fire ravaged Coconino National Forest just outside Flagstaff, Ariz., endangering wildlife and people alike. Investigators determined the blaze likely sparked from an unattended campfire. More than 15,000 acres burned and 750 homes evacuated. As firefighters extinguished the flames and rains moved in, mudslides became a threat. People lost their homes.

The following media is from a partnership with the Grand Canyon Trust to train staff on storytelling in connection to their Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) . Over the course of three days, we put together a suite of multimedia pieces to help tell the story of forest fire and fire restoration in Arizona.
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To Graze or Not to Graze

One of the roles tasked to the U.S. Forest Service is to manage cattle grazing on National Forest land. In Escalante, Utah, the Grand Canyon Trust is studying the effects of cattle grazing on public lands and working towards solutions that will help lessen the impacts of overgrazing.

During a three day workshop, I trained staff on how to document these impacts, so that they could better communicate just what's at stake. The images that follow are a comparative study of what the land looks like when subjected to intense grazing pressure, and what the land could be, if given time to recover.
Harvester anthills can be upwards of 50 to 80 years old, and have been scientifically proven to help pave the way for healthier native plant populations. These anthills are so distinct, they can also be seen from space. A careless hoof can destroy decades worth of work by the ants. (Photo/Morgan Heim)

Bio

Morgan lives for stories about wildlife, and strives to find creative, emotive and truthful ways to share our connections with the animal kingdom.

With a background in zoology (BS) and environmental journalism (MA), she employs photographic techniques ranging from aerials to camera traps, photojournalism and film in her quest to share stories that matter. Morgan is an Associate Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers, (iLCP), trustee of The WILD Foundation, and her work has appeared in such outlets as Smithsonian, National Parks, National Geographic NewsWatch, and BBC Wildlife.

Her project, CAT in WATER, founded with Joanna Nasar, has garnered international attention and conservation support for the fishing cats of Thailand, including funds to rent habitat and promote empowerment of local communities. She recently completed a 10-part film series called “Our Future Forests: Beyond Bark Beetles,” about the impacts of the bark beetle epidemic in Wyoming and Colorado. This was a project of the U.S. Forest Service and the University of Wyoming’s Ruckelshaus Institute, and is being used around the West to raise awareness about how to live in a changing forest.

In 2014, Morgan formed OK, Possum! Productions with six of her environmental journalism colleagues, a collective dedicated to producing honest, artistic and unexpected visual media packages about living with wildlife.

When she’s not working on assignment, you can find her with her nose stuck in a book, (zombie novels), playing video games, (also zombie-related), or out on the trail with her husband and their tree-climbing dog, Javier.


RECENT ACCOMPLISHMENTS

- TEDx Vail Women 2013 - Speaker "Fishing Cats &
the Foolish Girl's Guide to Success"
- Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of
the Year - Finalist (2014) Photojournalist
Category
- Missouri Photo Workshop 64 - Student
- Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of
the Year - Finalist (2013, 2012)



Represented by Tandem Stills + Motion

Clients & Partners

PUBLICATIONS

BBC Wildlife
High Country News
Smithsonian
National Parks
Nature Conservancy
Preservation
National Geographic News Watch
Discovery Channel's Planet Green
National Wildlife
Time Life photo books
Outdoor Photographer
Elevation Outdoors
The Huffington Post
NPR

NON-PROFITS

The WILD Foundation
Rocky Mountain Wild
Grand Canyon Trust
Earth Vision Trust
International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP)
International League of Conservation Writers (ILCW)
Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ)
North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA)
Journalism & Women Symposium (JAWS)
GigaPan Fine Outreach for Science

Workshops

Whether you're a non-profit wanting to bolster your staff's communications skill set, or are a group of enthusiasts wanting to learn more about how to be a conservation photographer, I can help you learn how to be more effective with your messaging.

I offer tailored multi-day workshops depending on your needs that range from learning basic photo technique to collecting audio, photo and video that will give you what you need to tell better stories. The goal of these workshops is to help engage your constituency and increase your fundraising potential.

Click through to see an example of a workshop format. And let me know if you would like to set something up. Together, we can give your communications packages a little extra boost.

Morgan Heim


Boulder, CO


P / 206-619-4482

E / moheim@gmail.com

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