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Marine Conservation Film Series is Free at the Naro on April 18

The "Beneath the Waves: Shore Dive Series" of short films coming to the Naro Expanded Cinema on April 18 just may be the start of something big, says Old Dominion University marine biologist Mark Butler.

The event, which begins at 7:15 p.m. at the theater on Colley Avenue in Norfolk, is free and open to the public. It will feature about a dozen short films from the three-year-old Beneath the Waves Film Festival of the Benthic Ecology Meeting Society, one of the nation's most prominent groups of marine biologists.

Butler chaired the 2012 Benthic Ecology Meeting in Norfolk in March, which included this year's Beneath the Waves short film competition. To get the films before larger audiences, Butler and colleagues decided to take the show on the road.

"The Naro is our first stop. Then before the year is out we expect to show these films on big screens in at least three other states. Our goal is a nationwide tour for the films, and we'd like to have many of our venues in the heartland, away from the coasts, at theaters, exhibit halls, galleries and universities," Butler said.

"Our message is this: our oceans today are in the pillaged shape that our forests were a century ago. We need conservation for our oceans equivalent to the conservation movement that created our protected national forests."

The short films are the work of scientists, students and conservationists around the globe, and although they reflect unbound imagination they also share a common theme - the health of our oceans and marine life. Butler said the films are of high quality and use a wide range of techniques - from animation to gorgeous underwater videography - and that "a big theater screen is the best way to experience what the festival is about. Besides, I'll be there at the Naro as host to generate some discussion - kind of like the Ryan Seacrest of the film festival!"

The festival's films include prizewinning entries such as "Time Will Tell," a colorful and sobering entry from an 18-year-old Australian woman who has literally grown up diving among sharks on barrier reefs. The film succeeds in giving sharks the noble image they will need if peoples and governments worldwide are to band together to stop the creatures' startling decline over the past quarter century.

Another film expected to be in the lineup at the Naro is "R.I.P.," which provides vivid new evidence of how rip currents work and contends that traditional advice about how to swim out of a rip is flawed. Still another, "Gloop," is a clever depiction with a rhyming script of the price our oceans pay for humans' obsession with plastic utensils, containers and devices, which too often are thrown or blown into the water.

Austin Gallagher and Erica Staaterman, doctoral students at the University of Miami, are the founders and co-directors of the Beneath the Waves Film Festival. Both study marine fish biology and physiology; Gallagher tracks the movements of large coastal sharks using satellite telemetry, while Staaterman is investigating how coral reef fish larvae use sound to locate their coral reef habitat. Both have made numerous documentaries, including a short film by Gallagher on Southern California marine protected areas that was cited as influential in supporting the expansion of that marine protected area network.

This article was posted on: April 18, 2012

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