Published: Dec. 22, 2017
A photo of Professor Sharon Collinge from the film

Art and science are often considered opposite ends of the neurological spectrum, but when they come together, the results can be amazing. On Jan. 6, two CU Boulder researchers are being recognized for their art-science collaboration at the prestigious Raw Science Film Festival in Santa Barbara, California.

The collaboration began when Sharon Collinge, professor in environmental studies and former director of the Environmental Studies Program, connected with Kika Tuff, a 2016 PhD graduate from CU Boulder’s Ecology and Evolutionary Biology program and founder of Impact Media Lab, about commemorating her long-term study on vernal pool ecosystems in California. Impact Media Lab is a creative agency that brings compelling storytelling and design to science communication.

“I approached Kika with the idea of making a film that would capture the essence of my 20-year field research program,” Collinge explains. “Because the project was coming to an end, I wanted to celebrate it with a beautiful and powerful video that would communicate the value and wonder of the research to a broader audience.”

Among many things, Collinge’s work explores how to conserve and restore vernal pool ecosystems. Vernal pools are temporary wetlands found in many Mediterranean climates, including California. They are important biological reservoirs for amphibian and invertebrate species and support a unique collection of native plants. 

Vernal pools were once widespread along the Pacific coast and Central Valley of California, but, due to urban expansion and agricultural development, most habitat has been destroyed. It is estimated that only 3 to 10 percent of pools remain, and many vernal pool endemics are now legally protected.

To make the film, Tuff and her team, including CU graduate Matt Talarico, followed Collinge to California to document the last field season at the site. Their resulting film, titled In Search of Honey Bloom, is a poignant tribute to Collinge’s work and the future of vernal pool ecosystems.

“The experience helped me to see the beauty and magic of the scientific research that I do and helped me to share this with a wide range of people, including friends and family who knew few of the details,” Collinge says. “The video really helped them to appreciate and understand the value of the research.”

In Search of Honey Bloom won the category for “Amateur Documentary, <10 minutes long” at the 2017 Raw Science Film Festival, which honors films on science and technology worldwide. Categories include fiction and non-fiction for both students and professionals. To learn more about the film festival and/or attend the film screening in Santa Barbara, visit the website.