Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Trilobites, Ammonites & Mythology

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Paul Williams takes a quick look at a dose of mythology surrounding two of Britains most common fossils - the Trilobite and Ammonite, otherwise known as the Dudley Bug and the Petrified Snake.

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Tuesday, 27 February 2007

A Rough Guide to the Stegosaurus Plate & T-Rex Jaw

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Paul Williams takes a look at some interesting features of the Stegosaurus back plate and the Jaw and teeth of T-Rex.

Filmed and directed by Amanda Kear
Edited and presented by Paul Williams

A Rough Guide to Lyme Regis, 200 Million Years Ago

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In this video I explore some of the evidence that can be found on the beach at Lyme Regis on the South Coast of Britain. What does this reveal about the environment here 200 Million Years Ago? For further information on the geology and palaeontology of the Jurassic Coast see Dr Ian Wests excellent website.

Produced on a chilly day in February 2007.
Filmed and directed by Chris Howard
Edited and presented by Paul Williams

Tuesday, 20 February 2007

Five Ways to Save the World

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19th Feb, 9:00pm - 10:00pm, BBC2
1.4 Million, 5.8% Audience Share

RadioTimes: The five ways of the title are a series of silver-bullet solutions to the global-warming menace devised by brainstorming scientists. They are jaw-dropping in scale and amount to considerably more than just recycling your empty pinot grigio bottles. The problem is that the statistics are so mind-crushingly huge they are next to impossible to assimilate. For instance, one scientist's suggestion for a giant sunshade a million miles from Earth would involve 800,000 separate trips into space to assemble a thing that's 100,000km wide and made of 16 trillion glass discs. Other solutions include artificial trees (inspired by a school experiment by the scientist's daughter), giant plankton, a sulphur blanket and cloud cover. Who knows whether any are actually feasible. But all the experts are agreed: the global-warming nettle should be grasped now, while still manageable. Says one: "We need a panic button to stop the damage."

Monday, 12 February 2007

My Calendar

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Thursday, 1 February 2007

Making of 'Southern Right Whales of Argentina'

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Jan 17, 2007 Written by Chris Johnson for

The Making of “Southern Right Whales of Argentina”

Before filming or taking pictures of wildlife, it is important to do your research thoroughly, know the right seasons to go, and talk to the right people who are the experts in the field.

In 2005, Genevieve and I went to Argentina for the first time as tourists to see southern right whales. After spending some time there, this gave us the idea of doing film. Luckily, we met the some of the researcher studying the whales in the area and spent time observing different types of behaviors we could document. Over the next few months, we spent time figuring out how we could actually do it. Many films have been made about the unique wildlife of Peninsula Valdes, but we wanted to do something different - focus on the next generation Argentine researchers working to make a difference.

Peninsula Valdes, Argentina is a unique place. Southern right whales return each year to give birth, mate and rest in Golfo San Jose and Golfo Nuevo, before making the long migration back to feeding areas in the Southern Ocean. This occurs between the months of July and November. We chose to return the following year from early September to the end of October - the peak season for whale abundance.

When the tide is just right, in some places on the Peninsula, right whales come very close to shore with their calves.
This allows you to view, photograph and film whales sometimes only 10 meters away while standing on the beach. Also, filming and photographing from high above on the cliffs offers a truly spectacular view of the animals and their habitat, while spending time on the local whale watch boats affords its own brand of wonderfully diverse encounters - (see Genevieve’s
account of whale watching in Peninsula Valdes.

However, there is a downside to filming outdoors. As there is in all environments, Patagonia is exceptionally windy, dry and dusty. Sometimes the wind picks up and will not let up for days on end. Then, without warning, there is a window of opportunity when the wind unexpectedly shifts, and drops. What is predictable about the weather in Peninsula Valdes is that it is unpredictable. You have to be prepared to wait and be ready for just the right moment to film.

When you are trying to film whales in such challenging conditions, you have to wait for the right weather, but also the right light - all of this while hoping that you will be in the right place at the right time. A lot of it is luck. But, I believe you make you own luck by being out with the animals in their environment for as much time as possible - all without disturbing them.

From our previous experiences in Patagonia, and many long conversations with researchers, we created a shot list of behaviors that we wanted to capture from different perspectives. Because we were producing an educational documentary film about the ecology of southern right whales, we wanted to try to film as many behaviors as possible while documenting the scientific research being conducted.

In our list, we identified four areas from where we could obtain footage of southern right whales.

  • film from the cliffs - where researchers would observe them from.
  • film from the beach - outside of the research camp.
  • film with the researchers from a zodiac
  • film underwater

From this we created a plan. We had many meetings with researchers to try to work with their schedule to film in these areas, and to talk about the shots we needed to put together a great documentary.

When working with scientists while they are researching, it can be difficult to achieve a balance. Scientist are funded for a different purpose than what you are funded for. They have to conduct their research, and get results. That is what they are ‘in the field’ to do and often they are working in very challenging conditions themselves.
So while being patient with the animals is important, communicating with researchers is key to making things work for everyone while sometimes just not getting in the way. Planning, is essential, and an acceptance that you may not get everything you need when you want it, and to be ready when the opportunity arises, is vital. Patience is the key to making wildlife documentaries. A sense of humor also helps make it enjoyable for everyone around!

When it actually came time to film, we spent many, many hours in our rental car, driving 45 minutes back and forth between the research camp and where we stayed in the tiny town of Puerto Piramides. Often we saw the weather change in an hour, dropping to an acceptable sea state that meant we could go out on a zodiac to film, but then the light would be wrong, or it would be overcast with gray clouds, or the whales would be lying inactive at the surface resting. Peninsula Valdes is an important place for southern right whales to rest, so we filmed hours and hours of footage of resting whales!

For more from Chris visit

Wild Caribbean: Life's a breeze

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(BBC2, 9pm)
Between June and November every year, the West Indies take combination punches from mother nature -15 hurricanes hammered into the islands in the very bad year of 2005. This third film reveals that the reefs, as well as the land, feel the brunt, with lobsters skittering off to deeper waters when they sense the adverse weather approaching, leaving the coral to cling on for dear life. Devastation is invariably followed by regeneration, but is global warming upping the ante?
The Sunday Times - 28/01/2007

Wild Caribbean: Hurricane Hell

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BBC 2 9pm
1.8 million, 7.4% Audience Share

Prepare for terrifying footage of what happens when 'Caribbean heaven turns to Hurricane Hell'. After all the sundrenched earlier episodes this programme is a sobering reminder of what can happen in the West Indies during the notorious hurricane season (June-November) when the waves can reach 20 metres and the winds blow at up to 160mph.
From The Observer - 28/01/2007
Mike Bradley