Tag Archives: Conservation & Health Education

Artist Amy Harris Helps AoC

From Julie Ghrist

Allison, Lucy, and I are on our way to the Karanambu Trust and Eco-Lodge in Guyana, South America tomorrow for a week of activities with the local people in the North Rupununi region. Being invited and accompanined by Dr. Lucy Spelman, an AoC Board Member and active team member at the Karanambu Trust, is an honor. We are frantically putting together our supplies and education materials. Tomorrow morning is going to come quickly! Why even sleep tonight since we are leaving for our respective airports at 4:00am and still much to do?

With Amy Harris in Des Moines. Art of Conservation 2013Sitting with Amy Harris discussing animals, science, culture, and art.

I couldn’t have done all the prep work for the trip without the generous contribution from artist Amy Harris. Amy, an Iowa native, with a MFA and BFA in painting is a senior lecturer at Iowa State University’s College of Design. Amy loves drawing which is great because I asked her two weeks ago if she could create proportional drawings of the Giant River Otter, jaguar, Red Howler Monkey as well as straight on black and white outline drawings of these animals plus an arapaima fish and Red & Green Macaw. Her drawings are beautiful. I can hardly wait to meet the Amerindians of Guyana and work together with them with AoC’s one-health conservation education and health awareness activities. Truly a dream for me. Amy is expecting to see all of the photographs that Allison, Lucy, and I take of the children busy with the art activities.

Amy Harris with macaw drawing. Art of Conservation 2013This morning at Amy’s front door… picking up the last of the masks – the Red & Green Macaw.

To see Amy’s work please find her at Bent Edge Alchemy. Her work with fabric is beautiful. She tells me she had a lot of fun with these animal drawing exercises – I’m glad because she helped AoC in a BIG way!

Giant River Otter mask. Original drawing by artist Amy Harris. Art of Conservation. 2013Colored in Giant River Otter mask. Here we come Guyana!

Thank you Amy for your support. Once we return, we’ll share with you how you’ve helped touched minds, hearts, and imaginations in Guyana.

The job and everyday life-style of taking care of our animals, natural spaces, children, human & animal health is a joint effort by people of all disciplines. I hope that this is clearer to more people around the world. Artists, scientists, teachers, health professionals, tour operators, Moms and Dads, and on and on all need to be engaged in caring for our home, Earth.

November in NYC! Save the Date!

From Julie Ghrist

Hi Friends & Generous Supportors,
AoC is having an exhibition and fundraiser in New York City on Friday, 22 November 2013. Art of Conservation Board Member Cheryl Stockton has worked at Pratt Institute for many years and has secured a fantastic site at Pratt’s Manhattan CCPS Gallery. Please come by if you are in the city! Allison, Cheryl, Lucy Spelman, Andrew Walmsley and I will be there with board members, volunteers, photographers, musicians and incredibly special friends and colleagues. Details will follow as we get closer to the time, but feel free to contact us anytime at [email protected] Thank you, Julie

AoC Exhibition & Fundraiser New York November 2013

AoC Completes Six-Year Rwandan Program

From Julie Ghrist

Dear Friends,
In case our exciting transition news has not reached you yet I am posting it here. Art of Conservation and Conservation Heritage – Turambe work would not be possible without your support. Thank you, Julie


International nonprofit to extend one-health conservation education and awareness initiative worldwide; will launch a new program in Guyana next month

Art of Conservation (AoC) caps off six years of successful conservation education programming in Rwanda with the exciting announcement that its local staff are launching their own nonprofit, Conservation Heritage – Turambe (CHT). Turambe means “let us be sustainable” in Kinyarwanda. CHT will carry on independently of AoC by 2014.

Golden Monkey trek AoC Team. Art of Conservation 20132010 team trek to Golden Monkeys in Volcanoes National Park. Left to right: Olivier, Valerie, Innocent, Eric, Eusebe.

“The creation of CHT is incredibly exciting,” says Julie Ghrist, AoC Founder and Program Director. “When we launched our Rwandan program six years ago, we hoped to engage children in conservation, for the benefit of the mountain gorillas as well as for them, their communities, and the environment. We are so pleased to be able to leave a legacy in Rwanda, and AoC will help support the work of the new CHT organization as it develops.”

Eric & Eusebe at Nyange School, Rwanda. Hanging bird houses. Art of Conservation 2013Eusebe and Eric carrying ladder for hanging birdhouses. Nyange School.

The next step for AoC is to expand its programming beyond Rwanda. The Executive Team is actively researching potential locations and partners. “Our art-inspired lesson plans and leadership development programs have universal application,” says Ms. Hanes, Executive Director. “We are very grateful to all who supported our efforts in Rwanda and look forward to expanding AoC programs worldwide.”

Innocent Uwizeye. Art of Conservation. Nyange School 2013Innocent with lots of schoolchildren. Nyange School.

Next month, Ms. Ghrist will join AoC Executive Director Allison Hanes and AoC Board Member Dr. Lucy Spelman to launch a new AoC one-health conservation education and awareness program in Guyana, South America. AoC will partner with Karanambu Trust and Lodge and local communities in the North Rupununi region, a unique wetland/savanna ecosystem that is home to several endangered animals, including giant otters, giant river turtles, giant anteaters, jaguars, howler monkeys, and arapaima—a large freshwater fish.

More information contact [email protected]

Please stay involved with us!

Keep up-to-date on AoC and CHT activities and events by reading our blogs and news at www.art-of-conservation.org and please consider sharing your experience with your friends and family. For more information such as volunteering or to sign up to our monthly newsletter please email [email protected] You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, and Youtube.

Sports for Gorillas In Rwanda Is Great Thanks To John Terpkosh/NJTL

From Julie Ghrist

Art of Conservation recently received a remarkable gift of $1000 from National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) of Des Moines thanks to our supporter John Terpkosh.

Thank you John Terpkosh! Art of Conservation 2013Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club’s Coach Rachid installs a new tennis net thanks to NJTL.

Olivier Habimana, the president of Musanze District’s Ibirunga Tennis & Running Club, immediately put the generous grant money to the purchase and installation of a much needed new net. Funds left over has been allocated to the clubs monthly maintenance of water and electricity fees.

Thank you John for your continued support. I know first-hand how your goodness has benefited many individuals and communities.

Connecting With Friends & Colleagues at Zoos & Aquariums Committing to Conservation Conference

From Julie Ghrist

A few weeks ago Blank Park Zoo hosted the 2013 Zoos and Aquariums Committing to Conservation (ZACC) conference. The conference offered four days of presentations from people all over the world. I was pleased to have the opportunity to present an Art of Conservation poster entitled Evaluating the Impact of Conservation & Health Education Bordering Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.

John Lukas at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013John Lukas spoke about the serious work being done to save the okapi. I particularly loved this slide of his presentation… Education is the basis of Conservation.

One of the keynote speakers, President of Okapi Conservation Project in Epulu, Democratic Republic of Congo John Lukas, shared the dire situation of the okapi. Wars, illegal activity, and poor roads are a few of the obstacles facing his team in Epulu.

Martha & Julie at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Houston Zoo’s Martha Parker and I with AoC’s poster.

Martha Parker, from Houston Zoo and AoC Board Member along with Allison Hanes, Cheryl Stockton, and Andrew Walmsley helped me in all kinds of ways putting together the poster. It took time but was worth it. Thanks guys!

I’d like to thank Mark Vukovich, President & CEO of Blank Park Zoo and ZACC’s Steering Committee for putting on this great conference. Please enjoy the photos below. I wish I had pics of everyone… but it was a big crowd!

Regina Pfistermuller, Zoo Vienna at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Regina Pfistermuller from Zoo Vienna presents Flying with the Northern Bald Ibis: The adventure story of a conservation project. Is the bald ibis the ugliest of all rare birds? Perhaps not so pretty but worth saving!

Snow leopard at the market place ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Beautiful handmade work on sale from The Snow Leopard Trust at ZACC’s Marketplace.

Edward Lewis at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Dr. Edward Louis, Jr. from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium gave a great talk about incentivizing community-based reforestation efforts in Madagascar. Look closely, that’s him in the book he is holding along with Russell Mittermeier and lemurs. Love those lemurs and so thankful I have had a chance to see them in the wild in Madagascar.

Peter Riger hosting ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Peter Riger, an AoC hero because he believed in AoC’s work in the first years and has been a supporter, holds a piece of paper with vegetarian on it.

Bengt Holst at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Bengt Holst of Copenhagen Zoo presented one of the most provocative talks regarding the palm companies in Borneo and Sumatra. He and his colleagues are advising with a major palm production company to teach and insist on better practices, hence saving the orangutan and other species from extinction.

Frands Carlsen at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Bengt Holst’s colleague, Frands Carlsen, of Zoo Copenhagen supporting important conservation work in SE Asia.

Miriam & Alejandro at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Miriam Monterroso and Alejandro Morales from Arcas gave us news on their great conservation work in Guatemala. Please expect a visit from me soon!

With Joel Sartore at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Joel Sartore, another keynote speaker, is the founder of The Photo Ark, a multi-year documentary project to save species and habitat. My niece Lizzy and her friend Riley are pictured to the right of Mr. Sartore. RARE is a beautiful book and his stories are enthralling.

Susie at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Conservation Fusion’s Susie McGuire hands down makes learning fun. Her education work in Madagascar helps create diverse partnerships to help endangered species.

Jeff from PIC at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013A nice friend, Jeff from Partners in Conservation adds Rwanda handicrafts to the Marketplace.

Samson at ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013I felt at home meeting Samson at the Ice Breaker at the Iowa State Historical Building. Samson is from Uganda and receives counsel from the wonderful Beth Kaplain from Antioch University and Rwanda”s National University. He is charged and ready to go with conservation work.

Jeff Flocken IFAW keynote ZACC. Art of Conservation 2013Opening the conference was Jeff Flocken of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. When you think of the plight polar bears, lions, whales, and so many other species are facing, you got to thank Jeff for his advocation for animals. Please continue Jeff.

Again, thank you Blank Park Zoo for hosting this great conference and to ZACC’s Steering Committee.

For The Birds

From Julie Ghrist

We have spent many evenings and weekends recently painting birdhouses which were built at the AoC office. Because of limited classroom time our students didn’t get the opportunity to decorate the houses themselves, maybe next time.

Preparing a nice bird house. Art of Conservation 2013A student prepares a birdhouse by putting grasses inside.

This is truly an experiment! Birdhouses are nowhere to be seen in these parts of Northern Rwanda. My team and I think it’s a worthwhile experience nevertheless.

Hanging bird houses. Art of Conservation 2013Students look for perfect branches to hang their houses.

After lively discussions, we made our way outside to the school woodlots we’ve established over the years.

In the trees. Art of Conservation 2013With a GoPro on his head, a student reaches for more birdhouses from below.

A ladder was propped up against trees as well as a little climbing – whatever the mode of ascension – the school playgrounds and woodlots started looking so beautiful with the new houses.

Hanging bird houses. Art of Conservation 2013Little Lititia, in the foreground, is not an AoC student but seems to be with us always!

Tapping Into Splendid Imagination Before Planting Trees

From Julie Ghrist

In June, Allison and Cheryl (AoC’s ED and Board Member respectively) arrived from the US while photographer friend Andrew joined us in Rwanda from the UK. All travelers were willing and able to help the team in all ways possible. Our first afternoon together was at the office and included practicing our ‘becoming trees’ exercise. Cheryl practices movement with dedication so with Valerie the two were the most exquisitely inspirational teachers for this exercise.

Becoming trees at Art of Conservation 2013At the office, Valerie guides us in a creative exercise of imagining we are trees.

In the classroom, asked to find space in a rather crowded classroom Cheryl and Valerie guide the children in various stages of a tree. Beginning as a seed to imagining our toes are the roots and our skin the bark to our fingers leaves fluttering in the wind. Our arms are strong branches which monkeys, gorillas, and insects can move upon.

Becoming trees at Art of Conservation 2013Cheryl and Valerie inspire children to consider themselves as a seed in the ground to a grown tree.

Fully energized the children race out of the classroom to plant trees.

Fun lessons. Art of Conservation 2013Students bring along bat and monkey puppets, spiders, and more to plant trees.

Week One Visit to Art of Conservation

From Allison Hanes

Two full days of travel and three plane rides later I arrive late Tuesday June 4th in Kigali, Rwanda with Art of Conservation (AoC) board member Cheryl Stockton and photographer friend/colleague Andrew Walmsley. The first thing I notice off the plane is that distinct musky yet floral smell of Africa! It’s nice to be back to East Africa after two years. We travel by car up and around in mountains about an hour to Musanze welcomed by new friends, including four friendly dogs at The Garden House, a friend’s bed and breakfast nearby Art of Conservation. On our beds are beautiful paper maché gorilla masks made by the Rwandan AoC team and our full exciting itinerary for the month ahead.

The following morning after a proper African breakfast, Julie starts out our trip and adventure in Rwanda by picking us up and taking us to the Art of Conservation compound just a few streets away. Again we receive a warm welcome by Julie’s dogs, new friends, neighbors and staff. The tour is impressive, including a beautiful flower and vegetable garden with giant corn stalks, composting site, rain water collection tank, array of recycled bird feeders and birdhouses, art studio and several common areas filled with beautiful artwork.

Art of Conservation garden. June 2013Art of Conservation garden.

Bird house painting at Art of Conservation June 2013Bird houses in the works being painted and varnished by AoC staff and friends.

We make introductions. I share Ghirardelli chocolates from San Francisco and Cheryl “I Love NY” shirts for the staff. We instantly adore our smiling kind new friends.

Cheryl with team and new I Love You t-shirts. Art of Conservation June 2013Olivier, Cheryl, Eusebe, Valerie, Eric and Innocent full of smiles.

Allison and team with chocolate. Art of Conservation 2013Eric, Valerie and myself enjoying San Francisco Ghiradelli chocolates.

We unpack and layout our photography gear organizing lenses and learning all about our new toys, which some of us particularly myself, are yet to play with. Nikon, Canon, Apple and GoPro equipment overflow the table and we immediately start flicking through manuals and dialing in settings ready for our early morning trek to the mountain gorillas.

Enough equipment? Art of Conservation 2013Do you think we have enough equipment?

Thursday morning we are up before sunrise ready to hike up Volcanoes National Park. Cheryl, Julie and myself trek to the furthest gorilla family, Susa, which has three silverbacks. My previous experience of tracking gorillas for three months in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda proved useful in preparing me for the day ahead but I still found the trek not to be all that easy. The high-altitude was very noticeable especially since we had limited time to acclimatize. However, we made it to the group without any trouble and I managed to handle Andrew’s special 300mm f2.8 lens for the hour-long session. You can tell by my shots and GoPro filming comments that the equipment was heavy! I was still able to get some great shots and had a wonderful time. It was one of the best gorilla treks I have experienced, particularly because I could share the experience with new friends and colleagues.

Trekking gorillas. Art of Conservation 2013In the forest with Julie.

Furry mountain gorillas. AoC 2013Rwandan gorillas are much furrier than the Ugandan population because of the higher elevation and cooler climate.

We had a grand time and our guide “D” joined us in our celebration dinner at Muhabura Restaurant. Julie always likes to celebrate after a good day of gorilla trekking and we are full of laughs. Each day I feel luckier to work with such inspiring, talented, hard working and fun colleagues.

Friday we get right into meetings and prepare for week two classes. I’ve noticed pretty much everyday at AoC we find ourselves singing, dancing and acting! I’m learning so many new things here in Rwanda. We also paint birdhouses with Eric and Eusebe and end the evening with a party in AoC’s garden and bungalow. Julie’s friend Alberto cooks us up a feast and Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project (MGVP) friends and colleagues join us to make another great close to the night.

Group meeting in bingalow. Art of Conservation 2013Let the work begin.

Saturday we all meet at the tennis courts. One of AoC’s most significant programs is the Ibirunga Tennis and Running Club. Olivier was recently nominated president and Valerie treasurer. AoC murals, plants and flowers decorate the grounds. The nets look like they have had their run and I am happy to know that by the end of the month through a USTA grant the club will have two brand new nets!

Tennis with Art of Conservation 2013Julie runs tennis drills and exercise with the children. I pick up a racquet after several years.

Cheryl guiding yoga at the courts.  Art of Conservation 2013Cheryl cools us down leading us in a yoga session and then I get to play a good high-energy game of tennis with Johnny, one of the best tennis players in the community.

Ibirunga Tennis & Running ClubThese kids fill you with joy and energy!

After a great workout I quickly take a shower and we head off to find our Batwa friend or as Rwandans now call her – “marginalized indigenous woman.” However, the dramatic driving adventure in search of Marie Rose is unsuccessful and instead we follow Art of Conservation’s dear friend and partner Cecil to her village for dancing. We bring sacks for rice, beans and a jerry can of banana beer. Cecil is a very special woman that Art of Conservation has been working with for years and is famous throughout Rwanda. To learn more about her Saving the Forests Briquette Initiative read here.

Sunday we are still full of energy editing photos, working and preparing for the remaining few weeks. Monday is our first day of classes at one of our two local schools and the fun has just begun!

Singing for Gorillas – 2013 Children’s Performance Preparations at Art of Conservation

From Julie Ghrist

Art of Conservation is preparing for our 2013 children’s performances with music written and recorded by musicians Kaiser Cartel. Please watch our video below, thanks!

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Preparations for 2013 children’s performances at Art of Conservation

Will You Join Us? AoC at 2013 ZACC Conference Hosted By Blank Park Zoo

From Julie Ghrist

I am really looking forward to participating in the 2013 Zoos and Aquariums: Committing to Conservation conference hosted by the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines, Iowa, July 8th through July 12th. AoC Board Member Martha Petre Parker and I will be presenting our poster entitled Evaluating The Impact of Conservation and Health Education Bordering Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. Since AoC’s inception, my team and I have given our students both pre- and post-questionnaires. We’ve been able to discern a lot from the findings and tweak our evaluation methods in relationship to our evolving understanding of the field of conservation and unique culture considerations. Our poster will show evaluation data from our most recent collection of information of 2012 – 2013.

Please join me at the conference. Blank Park Zoo and ZACC are making it easy to sign up for some or all conference activities. I would love to see Des Moines friends and you’ll have a chance to meet exceptional people doing important work around the world.

Innocent teaching. New round tables delivered to AoC classrooms. Art of Conservation 2013AoC’s teacher Innocent inspiring students. Brand new round tables gifted by AoC makes for improved sharing and group work.

If you want to pick up the phone for more information, call Jessie Lowry who is the Conservation Coordinator at Blank Park Zoo at 515-974-2612. Or click here for on-line registration.

Some of the highlighted events taking place during the conference: Icebreaker with a Photo Contest, Movie Night, Zoo Day, Zoo Brew, book signing by Jeff Flocken and Joel Sartore, and Pre & Post Conference trips highlighting the Midwest.

PLUS, Art of Conservation is having a reception after the conference (Sara’s house!) on Friday evening (if you choose not to go to the baseball game – which is a lot fun, by the way!). Details to follow soon.

About ZACC: Committing to Conservation –
This biennial conference provides opportunities for zoo and aquarium personnel and field researchers to meet and develop partnerships that benefit wildlife and wild places around the globe. The informal nature of the conference creates a positive atmosphere for networking and inspires collaborative action. Joining the ZACC conference keynote speaker roster is John Lukas. John Lukas is active in international conservation, the president of White Oak Conservation Center, Inc. and the founding member and president of the International Rhino Foundation.

ZACC Mission Statement –
The mission of the Zoos and Aquariums: Committing to Conservation (ZACC) conference is to encourage and promote increased involvement of zoos and aquariums in support of field conservation – locally, nationally and internationally.

I hope to see you in July! Please come out and support Blank Park Zoo, outstanding conservation field work, and of course Art of Conservation! Thank you, Julie