■ BY SUE ERWIN
Photographer Mac Stone will be returning to Boca Grande to discuss a number of field projects he’s been working on this past year. He will be speaking at the Boca Grande Community Center at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, April 4 and will present “Dispatches from the Field: Stories from a Conservation Photographer.”
Stone will discuss America’s most endangered bird, the Florida grasshopper sparrow.
“My job is to take pressing issues that our wildlife are facing and make them into visual stories,” Stone said. “I try to make the stories global by sharing my photos, so that more people learn about these unique species.”
Stone said National Audubon Magazine published a story about the Florida grasshopper sparrow several years ago, explaining how dire the situation was getting. And last year there was a major population collapse.
“The funding for protecting these birds is really drying up – it’s really becoming very tragic,” Stone said.
He’ll also be talking about the “super bloom,” a natural phenomenon which occurs once in a decade in the desert of California.
“The entire desert floor is carpeted with wildflowers, and the caterpillars feed on them; it’s really an astonishing process.”
Finally, Stone will be discussing the history of Florida’s freshwater springs, the freshwater equivalent of coral reefs.
He grew up in Gainesville, which is the epicenter of the Florida natural springs system. After using them recreationally for tubing and snorkeling, he realized what a gem they are to the state, and that more emphasis should be placed on protecting them.
“We rely on these springs to provide us with clean drinking water,” he said.
This will be his second time coming to speak in Boca Grande.
Friends of Boca Grande Community Center Program Director Debbie Frank said he was first here in March 2015, speaking on his book, “Everglades: American’s Wetland.”
“He took audience members on a visual journey through the Everglades, to understand the natural beauty of this unique wetland, the diversity of its wildlife and speaking to the importance of wilderness conservation and the need to protect these amazing wetlands,” Frank said.
The Friends of Boca Grande became connected with Stone through the Florida Humanities Council, a nonprofit affiliate that facilitates important conversations among Floridians. Following his first visit to the island, the Friends of Boca Grande began taking small groups on a 2-day/1-night excursion to explore the Florida Everglades.
“Three years later the community interest remains, and the Friends continues to provide the educational trip,” she said. “We have kept in contact with Mac and learned about some of his new projects that are of appeal to the community.
Stone grew up exploring the springs, swamps, and hammocks of North Central Florida, and he developed a passion for photography at a young age. Through the years, his camera has carried him to some of the most remote and imperiled areas on this side of the globe. Through photography, Stone strives to start new conversations and expose the dynamic relationship between mankind and the natural world. When he is not photographing the bottomlands and backwoods of the southeastern U.S., Stone is a product tester for Columbia Sportswear.
For more information, visit macstonephoto.com.
The cost to attend the event is $35. To purchase tickets, contact the Friends of Boca Grande at 964-0827 or get them online at friendsofbocagrande.org/tickets.