- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
"Weeping Rocks" will showcase the 50-year research of butterfly guru Art Shapiro, a UC Davis distinguished professor with the Department of Evolution and Ecology, College of Biological Sciences.
The full-length documentary will be produced by 2010 UC Davis alumna Jackii Chun.
As you may know, Shapiro has been studying the butterfly populations at 10 sites in Central California since 1972 and is drawing global attention. He maintains a research website, Art Shapiro's Butterfly Site, aka Art's Butterfly World, where you'll find his work on scores of butterflies, from those majestic monarchs, Danaus plexippus, to those not-so-majestic cabbage white butterflies, Pieris rapae, (larvae of the cabbage whites are pests of cucurbits).
Anderson relates that Weeping Rocks is in production and funds are being raised on Kickstarter. It could be released as soon as 2023.
"The documentary looks at climate change through scientific research of those who study insects," Anderson writes, adding that he "has been counting butterflies for 50 years. His long-term data points to disturbing decreases in butterfly abundance across California. The name of the film comes from a site in Nevada County that drips water constantly, producing a lush, tropical effect — and attracting butterflies."
The film's director, Karlis Bergs (his previous film, Threshold, focused on bees) told Anderson: "We use his research as the backbone of the story about insects and people who work with them. His story is [interspersed] with shorter segments on other researchers. It creates a bigger picture.”
Bergs, who met Shapiro in 2019 when he was a student at the California Institute of the Arts, remembers reading an article about him, got in touch with him, and began filming him on his sites. “He's an amazing man who is eager to share his knowledge with anyone who asks,” Bergs told Anderson.
That he is. We remember following Shapiro, huffing and puffing at times, up Gates Canyon in Vacaville on Jan. 25, 2014. It's one of his fixed routes at ten sites that range from the Sacramento River delta, through the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada mountains, and to the high desert of the western Great Basin. "The sites," Shapiro says, "represent the great biological, geological, and climatological diversity of central California."
The North American Butterfly Monitoring Network (NABA) website praises his work: "Art Shapiro began monitoring 10 transects in 1972 and has been conducting bi-weekly monitoring of those sites ever since. He also monitors an additional site as part of NABA's Seasonal Count Program! Art's program is the longest continually running butterfly monitoring project in the world, predating even the British Butterfly Monitoring Scheme."
Coming soon....Weeping Rocks, "revealing the urgency to save insect species through long-term scientific research."
It can't happen soon enough.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Have you seen the male Valley carpenter bee, that green-eyed blond fondly nicknamed "the teddy bear bee?" (Well, it does have that fuzzy-wuzzy look, and it being a male, has no stinger.)
The Valley carpenter bee, Xylocopa varipuncta, and other species that are featured in the newly published book, California Bees & Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists (Heyday Books), will literally come to life if folks come together and fund a documentary.
Plans call for Team Candiru, a small, not-for-profit natural history production company based in Bristol, England, to film the 45-minute documentary. They will partner with the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab, operated by Professor Gordon Frankie, lead author of the book.
Team Candiru specializes in "visually compelling, educational and scientifically accurate content," according to the good folks at the UC Berkeley Urban Bee Lab. They pointed out that the film will explore "the lives of the silent majority--the wild bees. They are diverse, numerous, fascinating, and beautiful. We will show in exquisite detail how they overcome life's challenges, finding mates and caring for their young before time runs out!"
California has some 1600 species of native bees. Like their cousins the honey bees, they also pollinate crops and flowering plants, but just aren't as well known.
The documentary is intended to extend information about the importance of native bees to thousands of schoolchildren, naturalists, gardeners, and researchers. The goal is to raise $99,000. The best part about Team Candiru is that their completed films are free for everyone's viewing pleasure and education. (See newlsetter on the UC Berkeley Urban lab website.)
Team Candiru is comprised of:
- James Dunbar is a camera operator who films insects, spiders and other small creatures. (See his portfolio on his website.) Dunbar holds a bachelor's degree, with honors, in zoology from the University of Glasgow, where he specialized in the behavior of insects. He received a master's degree in wildlife documentary production from the University of Salford, Manchester.
- Richard Mann, the second cameraman, specializes in time-lapse plant cinematography. He hails from Luxembourg and holds a bachelor's degree in wildlife and the media from the University of Cumbria and a master's degree in wildlife documentary production from the University of Salford.
- Hazel Waring is in charge of outreach, online media, and fundraising. She has a background in music and studied at the University of Sheffield, specializing in organizing scientific activities at local schools and museums. Her expertise includes the effects of climate change on plants.
- Dave Gillies is a composer, radio presenter and voice-over artist. He is responsible for the audio side of Team Candiru -- writing and performing the music, narrating, and adding the sound effects. He also presents a soundtrack radio show on futuremusic.fm.
Donors' names will be published on the Urban Lab website; on all promotional materials and venues; and will be listed in the film credits. Here's how you can help make the documentary a reality:
- Make a tax-deductible donation on the Heyday website (
Heyday Books is the fiscal sponsor). Everything counts, nothing is too small!
- Spread the word: send to all interested persons and share on Facebook and Twitter.
There's another way to get involved. The project organizers are seeking a name for the documentary. The subtitle will be California Bees and Blooms to tie in with the book. You can send catchy suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. They will announce the winner in their next newsletter.
As for California Bees and Blooms, it is the work of four scientists closely connected to UC Berkeley: UC Berkeley entomologist Gordon Frankie; native pollination specialist Robbin Thorp, distinguished emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis who holds a doctorate from UC Berkeley; photographer Rollin Coville of the Bay Area, who holds a doctorate in entomology from UC Berkeley, and Barbara Ertter of UC Berkeley, curator of Western North American Botany and Jepson Herbaria at UC Berkeley.