One thing you can do this Earth Day, in addition to taking action for the planet, is mark your calendar to celebrate it. From April 29-May 1, PBS Nature will air a three-night live event to salute spring. We asked Executive Producer Fred Kaufman what viewers can expect.
WCS: What is American Spring Live?
Fred Kaufman: It is a three-night live television event that looks at how spring triggers a variety of natural history behaviors that our viewers will enjoy and find fascinating. We will feature stories about birth, rebirth, hibernation, migration and pollination. We will also stream the shows live on Facebook and ask our audience to become citizen scientists where they can contribute to our understanding of nature in the United States.
WCS: Why is Nature doing this three-day live event?
Fred Kaufman: It is a new way to engage our audience with the natural world. Live television has more spontaneity and is less polished than our traditional documentaries. The pacing is different and anything could happen. There will be an energy that viewers will experience from a lamb birth, to cubs coming out of hibernation, to the suspense of being in the Everglades at night witnessing patrolling alligators.
WCS: Why are you putting such an emphasis on spring?
Fred Kaufman: Spring is nature’s great outdoor party! It is the season when so much is happening in the natural world so it just makes sense to feature it. In fact, so many of the great sequences that we film for our regular Nature episodes occur in spring.
WCS: Will the show focus on both plants and animals?
Fred Kaufman: Yes. Aside from a great variety of animals from lamb newborns to bear cubs, on the other end of the spectrum we talk about lilacs, sequoia trees (we will anchor the show from just outside Sequoia National Park in California) and, of course, pollination is a big theme in our third episode.
WCS: What are you hoping to inspire with this event?
Fred Kaufman: We hope to inspire viewers to be sensitive to their surroundings. The shows will be like taking a nature walk with the best scientists in the business. We are also hoping to inspire people to get involved in citizen science projects that can increase our knowledge in climate change and how that is affecting our country.
WCS: What are some of the highlights for you that we can look forward to?
Fred Kaufman: We plan to feature lamb births, bear cubs out of their dens, migrating shorebirds birds, bats roosting in Bracken Cave, Texas, nesting hummingbirds in Arizona, night insects in Gainesville, lilacs, sequoias, bobcats, bees, wolf pups, alligators, and much more.
WCS: What are some of the challenges of doing a live nature show?
Fred Kaufman: Weather is a big, unpredictable factor. As long as there are no lightning storms we’ll be ok.
WCS: What makes American spring unique compared to the rest of the world?
Fred Kaufman: Spring comes to America at different times because we are such a big land mass. No other country has so many ecosystems that get affected by spring. Spring travels from south to north and from low altitude to high. So, in New York City we could be enjoying a wonderful 70 degree afternoon, while in the Midwest there could be a blizzard.
WCS: Explain to us the citizen science component of this event.
Fred Kaufman: Scientists have created user-friendly projects that allow the general public to observe, make notations and enter the data online so we get a more complete picture of what is happening on our planet. There are hundreds of projects all over the world. You can go online to SciStarter.org and find a complete list. There simply are not enough scientists to record everything so we’re asking the public to help. Already we know about declining bird populations based on observations made by citizen scientists.
WCS: What actions do you recommend people take for nature after watching the show?
Fred Kaufman: Get involved in citizen science. Go on Nature’s Facebook page and join the discussion. Become good stewards of the natural world.