'Pollination' debuts at animal behavior film festival

Cornell’s latest Naturalist Outreach film, “Pollination: Trading Fertilization for Food,” made its national debut at the 2015 Animal Behavior Society Film Festival in Anchorage, Alaska, June 12.

Concurrently, a new video in the same series, “Winter Adaptations,” was released June 15 online on YouTube. In all, 23 videos have been made in the last three years, covering kid-friendly topics that educate about lizards, bats, whales, bees and other creatures. Five more videos are in development.

“We live in a world where understanding science is a necessity,” said Linda Rayor, senior lecturer in entomology, who along with collaborator Carol Jennings, director of Ithaca College’s Park Media Lab, produce the Naturalist Outreach series. “Our environment is at risk, kids are spending less time outside or exploring nature on their own. A good way for kids to value science and nature is to understand it,” she said.

Cornell and Ithaca College students create content, write the scripts, film and edit the videos. Funding for the films comes from Cornell Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) projects and the Park Media Lab. The 4-H program aims to grow the next generation of inventors, entrepreneurs and problem-solvers by enlightening them to real world science.

The film festival – part of the Animal Behavior Society annual meeting – featured films from around the world that reveal a wide array of animal actions.

In the pollination video, Mia Park, Ph.D. ’14, an assistant professor at the University of North Dakota, narrates how plants lure different animals with rewards like nectar and pollen to fertilize them. In the newly released “Winter Adaptations,” Sarah Armour ’14 explains how animals – from birds to furry creatures to insects – behave and survive harsh wintry conditions.

More than 150,000 people have seen the Naturalist Outreach videos. “Our videos are lively, engaging, active and vivid – just as nature and learning is meant to be,” Rayor said.

Also at the Anchorage meeting, the Animal Behavior Society presented Rayor with the Penny Bernstein Distinguished Teaching Award for her spider biology class, and her roles in Cornell’s Naturalist Outreach program and in the Department of Entomology’s annual Insectapalooza. The group said Rayor contributes significantly in teaching animal behavior to Cornell undergraduates and the general public and is “a talented, dynamic and inspiring teacher who draws in students with her style and then gives them an innovative and experiential course.”

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Joe Schwartz