Following the Cranes: A Journalism Pop-up Class
University of Nebraska-Lincoln students took a field trip to central Nebraska to tell the story of one of Earth’s greatest migrations. The Sandhill Cranes Pop-up class is one of a series of classes that provide a short but intense experience for students.
Learn more about Crane Trust ›› https://cranetrust.org/;
See the Platte Basin Timelapse ›› http://plattebasintimelapse.com/;
Learn more about pop-up classes in the College of Journalism ›› https://journalism.unl.edu/pop-up
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[00:00:00.590]Their bodies mostly shrouded in mist,
[00:00:02.230]but their song, almost a hymn to the heavens.
[00:00:04.610]I felt intrusive--
[00:00:05.443]In a classroom at the University of Nebraska,
[00:00:07.620]Lincoln College of Journalism and Mass Communications,
[00:00:10.840]Lena Nelson recreates the experience
[00:00:13.132]of the Sandhill Crane Migration.
[00:00:16.000]She reads her essay allowed for her professors,
[00:00:18.450]Michael Farrell and Michael Forsberg.
[00:00:20.703]Lena's presentation is an assignment
[00:00:23.220]that was part of the Platte River Crane Experience
[00:00:25.790]Pop-Up Photography and Writing class.
[00:00:28.470]Her words and pictures transport us
[00:00:31.110]to an observation blind along the river.
[00:00:39.360]A tribute to the tradition that has gone on for centuries
[00:00:42.050]to the relationship between bird, sky, and river.
[00:00:44.937]The spiritual nature of the--
[00:00:46.060]In his feedback, Michael Forsberg says Lena's project
[00:00:49.290]beautifully captures the experience.
[00:00:51.687]That was sort of the feel of the day, wasn't it?
[00:00:55.770]And all those, yeah, it's like layers of gray.
[00:01:00.646]It's really lovely.
[00:01:02.670]Lena's project titled, Hymns of Grieving Hearts
[00:01:05.530]focuses on loss and the death of her grandmother,
[00:01:09.140]watching the birds shrouded in fog is spiritual for Lena.
[00:01:13.610]And it strikes a cord with Mike Farrell.
[00:01:16.450]Last week, on Friday was
[00:01:20.640]the 21st anniversary of when my family put
[00:01:24.960]my wife Catherine's ashes in the river.
[00:01:28.000]And so that was always, when I go see the cranes,
[00:01:32.060]I always have feelings like this,
[00:01:33.500]it's always very emotional,
[00:01:34.660]it's always about somebody who's not there anymore, and,
[00:01:39.464]I think you've captured that
[00:01:41.140]very nicely in what you've done here.
[00:01:47.640]For years, the crane migration was
[00:01:49.720]an important tradition for Mike, his wife, and kids.
[00:01:52.980]He and Catherine made one last trip as a couple.
[00:01:58.428]So we went up river together that summer,
[00:02:00.800]and while we were up river,
[00:02:02.370]she kinda came to terms with her own death,
[00:02:05.800]and asked that we remember her at crane season every year,
[00:02:11.440]and the memory of what we did with
[00:02:13.410]our family when our kids were younger.
[00:02:20.930]Every spring, thousands of cranes converge
[00:02:23.790]on the Platte River to refuel on their way north.
[00:02:27.280]The birds feed in the fields during the day,
[00:02:29.760]and rest in the river at night.
[00:02:31.860]The pop-up class is an opportunity
[00:02:34.170]to share an experience Michael Forsberg
[00:02:36.730]has witnessed over and over again.
[00:02:40.095]I've been photographing cranes on the Platte
[00:02:43.100]for about 25 years now.
[00:02:46.108]And missing them I always tell people
[00:02:48.920]it'd be like missing Christmas.
[00:02:50.850]It's something that gets inside of you
[00:02:53.020]and never let's you go.
[00:02:54.540]On this edition of Faculty 101,
[00:02:56.590]we take you along to witness one
[00:02:58.840]of earth's greatest migrations.
[00:03:01.253]And you'll find out what inspires
[00:03:03.670]professors Forsberg and Farrell to follow the cranes.
[00:03:07.742]Okay, you should switch partners now.
[00:03:10.160]To be able to inspire young people.
[00:03:12.371]Today is your finals.
[00:03:13.799]It's really rewarding.
[00:03:15.210]I love the students.
[00:03:17.200]Welcome to Faculty 101, life hacks,
[00:03:20.240]and success stories from Nebraska faculty.
[00:03:24.513]Y'all got everything?
[00:03:27.267]Ready to go, okay.
[00:03:28.850]It's time to load up the vans and head west.
[00:03:31.960]The two Mike's, Farrell and Forsberg lead the way.
[00:03:35.591]And let's head on down the road.
[00:03:38.427]Maria Goller is working on her PhD in animal behavior,
[00:03:41.740]in her backpack--
[00:03:42.800]A couple layers (laughing),
[00:03:44.060]I didn't pack a lot, some hand warmers,
[00:03:47.090]my camera, my other lens, a tripod, water, some snacks,
[00:03:52.770]that's pretty much it.
[00:03:53.840]When Maria heard about the pop-up class,
[00:03:56.010]she jumped at the chance.
[00:03:57.860]I have realized my real passion is writing,
[00:04:01.070]and nature writing, and not so much science and biology,
[00:04:04.980]and you know, churning out data.
[00:04:07.778]Nebraska's unpredictable weather almost derailed the trip.
[00:04:12.620]We were up until two hours before we left,
[00:04:14.800]not sure if we were gonna leave or not,
[00:04:16.730]not because the birds weren't gonna be there necessarily,
[00:04:19.295]but because the roads were, maybe pretty sketchy, but--
[00:04:24.350]Yeah, we had a window of just two days there
[00:04:26.850]where we had halfway decent weather,
[00:04:28.470]it had been really crummy right up to before we left,
[00:04:31.450]and it got really crummy right after we got back,
[00:04:33.610]so we ended up with a little slice of opportunity.
[00:04:39.110]The weather clears, the roads are open,
[00:04:41.420]and the trip is on.
[00:04:43.890]I'm being a mom and taking a picture.
[00:04:48.067]Amy Struthers, interim dean of the College of Journalism
[00:04:50.040]and Mass Communications is there to see them off.
[00:04:53.570]Great, drive safely, see you soon!
[00:05:00.670]The Crane Experience Pop-Up Class
[00:05:02.700]is one of a series of classes offered during the year.
[00:05:05.970]Students earn one hour of class credit
[00:05:08.140]in a specific topic, such as telling stories with 360 video,
[00:05:12.420]or how to report on Nebraska courts.
[00:05:15.100]Dean Struthers says the concept allows the college
[00:05:17.930]to stay ahead of industry trends.
[00:05:20.620]In the context of higher ed,
[00:05:22.090]I think there's a lot of conversation
[00:05:23.580]right now about chunks of learning,
[00:05:26.040]in fact we hear about things called micro credentials,
[00:05:28.540]so certificates of completion for chunks of courses.
[00:05:31.940]So the notion of something smaller, like a burst,
[00:05:34.710]or an immersive experience I think is out there
[00:05:37.851]kind of in the atmosphere,
[00:05:39.820]but we decided to put the stake in the ground
[00:05:42.150]in spring of 2018 and actually do it,
[00:05:44.750]and test it, and pilot it.
[00:05:46.561]So within two weeks, we created five pop up classes
[00:05:50.130]that we offered that first semester
[00:05:51.610]that were really fun and exciting,
[00:05:53.500]and allowed us to test the concept.
[00:05:55.610]World class faculty lead the
[00:05:57.270]Crane Experience Pop-Up Class.
[00:05:59.290]Mike Forsberg is a photographer
[00:06:01.230]who's work has been featured in National Geographic.
[00:06:04.240]Mike Farrell produced award winning
[00:06:06.480]documentaries for public media.
[00:06:10.510]Together they are founders of the
[00:06:12.100]Platte Basin Time Lapse Project
[00:06:14.320]that uses multimedia content to tell the story of the basin
[00:06:17.960]from the Colorado Rockies to Nebraska's eastern border.
[00:06:21.640]Forsberg and Farrell also teach,
[00:06:24.030]but they made time for the Crane Experience.
[00:06:26.693]We know how difficult it is for people like,
[00:06:30.253]like Forsberg and Farrell to carve out time
[00:06:34.580]for a longterm project or class,
[00:06:37.467]but they can find time, and I'm so grateful that they did
[00:06:41.240]for a weekend immersive activity like this,
[00:06:43.860]and how much more immersive could it be then
[00:06:46.580]to be in a blind at night, probably with your feet
[00:06:50.610]emerged in some muck and water and mud?
[00:06:53.400]But being able to see this incredible phenomenon
[00:06:56.110]that is so Nebraska.
[00:07:03.980]This two day field trip to south central Nebraska
[00:07:07.960]starts at the Crane Trust Facility,
[00:07:10.090]where students can learn more about the birds.
[00:07:12.700]But welcome, so this is our main campus,
[00:07:14.840]our headquarters of the Crane Trust, so.
[00:07:16.960]Before sundown, the students head for a blind by the river
[00:07:19.880]a small unheated building, where visitors can observe
[00:07:23.010]the birds flying in to roost overnight.
[00:07:25.432]The students spend the night at the Crane Trust,
[00:07:28.360]and before dawn the next day,
[00:07:30.170]they head back to the blind to photograph the cranes
[00:07:33.020]waking up and taking off from their sandbars
[00:07:35.440]to forage in nearby fields.
[00:07:39.404]Students in the class represent
[00:07:41.590]a variety of backgrounds and majors.
[00:07:44.090]My name's Aldi, I'm in called restoration science major.
[00:07:47.620]Majoring in animal science and fisheries and wildlife.
[00:07:50.760]A textiles design major.
[00:07:52.790]Broadcast production senior.
[00:07:56.040]It's bitter cold on this Friday in March,
[00:07:58.650]snow blankets the ground and crunches under foot
[00:08:01.820]as the students head for the blind.
[00:08:04.620]The blind itself is long, low, and narrow.
[00:08:08.500]The side facing the river is transparent acrylic plastic
[00:08:11.980]with small cutouts that can be
[00:08:13.480]opened to accommodate a camera lens.
[00:08:16.100]I'm unable to go along on the trip,
[00:08:18.120]but a Platte Basin Time Lapse staffer, Mariah Lungren,
[00:08:21.410]conducts interviews for the podcast and shoots video.
[00:08:25.030]I was watching the students
[00:08:26.170]and they all seemed very engaged.
[00:08:28.490]Very much in their own worlds.
[00:08:31.730]Mariah's video is eerie.
[00:08:34.320]The cranes fly in and alight on long spindly legs.
[00:08:38.230]Their dark bodies standing out against the snow and fog.
[00:08:41.900]They wade in the rushing water,
[00:08:43.940]then settle down on a snow covered sandbar,
[00:08:46.290]bending their long necks to hide from a biting wind.
[00:08:49.537]It was very monochromatic but that gave it
[00:08:52.490]a whole different vibe and feel,
[00:08:55.104]you know, it was very quiet and peaceful.
[00:09:00.916]Maria Goller, the PhD student we talked to earlier,
[00:09:05.020]says the experience never gets old.
[00:09:08.170]There are no words really to describe them.
[00:09:10.551]First time I saw them I kind of thought
[00:09:13.000]I'd been transported back into like prehistoric times,
[00:09:15.870]because they sound like dinosaurs
[00:09:17.720]and they just look so different from other birds.
[00:09:26.330]To avoid disturbing the birds,
[00:09:28.000]no flashlights or flash photography are permitted.
[00:09:31.000]But you can hear the muffled clicking of cameras
[00:09:33.910]as students begin to capture the experience.
[00:09:37.036](clicking and cawing)
[00:09:39.190]Professor Forsberg says students learn to accept
[00:09:42.260]and work with whatever nature provides.
[00:09:45.569]It's always foggy and it was cold, and it was dark.
[00:09:50.000]But that's these birds, you know?
[00:09:54.190]Get a lot of questions about,
[00:09:56.970]what do the birds do in a blizzard?
[00:09:58.500]Or what happens during a flight, it's like,
[00:10:00.790]look, they've been doing this for a lot longer
[00:10:03.390]than we've been paying attention.
[00:10:05.030]In fact, it probably feels quite normal (chuckling) to them.
[00:10:08.340]So you flip it around as a photographer,
[00:10:12.530]or a writer, or as you just lean into that,
[00:10:15.820]and you capture them where they're at in that atmosphere,
[00:10:22.520]which I think makes the images
[00:10:24.620]and the writing a lot more compelling.
[00:10:26.670]'Cause it's not a sunny day all the time.
[00:10:33.970]Forsberg and Farrell share a love for conservation.
[00:10:37.270]Through photography and video,
[00:10:38.770]they express the beauty they see around them,
[00:10:41.260]and the need to protect the
[00:10:42.530]natural world for future generations.
[00:10:45.650]But the two Mike's followed distinctly different paths.
[00:10:49.330]Professor Farrell grew up in Indianapolis.
[00:10:51.930]The closest thing to nature we saw was rats in the ally.
[00:10:54.810]Lived and worked in Chicago before moving to Lincoln
[00:10:57.630]to work for Nebraska Educational Television.
[00:11:00.230]Until I moved to Nebraska,
[00:11:01.370]I had never slept outside before,
[00:11:02.820]I didn't know any of this stuff existed,
[00:11:04.580]and I ended up with some friends,
[00:11:06.160]who had canoed the rivers and they started bringing me along
[00:11:10.270]and eventually I got to canoe every river in the state,
[00:11:12.770]and started to go see birds back in the 70's.
[00:11:15.610]And I never anticipated doing anything
[00:11:17.870]like this as a kid growing up.
[00:11:20.530]Michael Forsberg grew up in Nebraska,
[00:11:22.790]and fell in love with nature on family trips to Colorado.
[00:11:26.320]As a UNL student, he led trips for
[00:11:28.740]the outdoor adventures program.
[00:11:31.200]And I really never really looked at my home state
[00:11:35.250]or the great planes where I grew up
[00:11:37.770]as being beautiful until I started
[00:11:40.229]having those experiences in college
[00:11:42.910]where I got off the interstate and was able to turn around
[00:11:46.910]and see the beauty that is really here.
[00:11:49.710]Forsberg and Farrell believe wildlife
[00:11:51.890]and nature conservation are critical.
[00:11:54.660]The Platte River struggles to meet the demands
[00:11:56.980]of agriculture and municipal use
[00:11:59.390]in the face of extreme weather,
[00:12:01.130]global warming, and other factors.
[00:12:03.580]The Platte Basin Time Lapse Project
[00:12:05.520]is a way to tell the story.
[00:12:07.460]Here's Mike Farrell.
[00:12:09.050]When I say Platte Basin Time Lapse,
[00:12:10.700]I don't just mean a bunch of cameras taking pictures.
[00:12:16.330]I mean a living breathing system
[00:12:19.430]that has a spirit and a soul to it.
[00:12:21.910]Mike Forsberg says the project
[00:12:23.700]is the most important work of his life.
[00:12:26.170]And to leverage the power of photography today
[00:12:28.770]to move the needle forward in conservation, is,
[00:12:34.170]is maybe the most important thing
[00:12:36.610]that we can be doing right now.
[00:12:44.770]In the classroom,
[00:12:45.720]the two Mike's provide expertise behind the camera,
[00:12:48.970]tools for storytelling, and confidence.
[00:12:52.081]I like seeing the light go on.
[00:12:55.460]When these kids come up with something
[00:12:57.120]and it's meaningful to them, and they think,
[00:12:58.889]oh I could do it that way and it's good,
[00:13:03.400]and it means something to me?
[00:13:05.550]Then that's really amazing.
[00:13:07.120]Mariah Lungren was one of those students
[00:13:09.040]inspired by a digital imagery and storytelling class
[00:13:11.942]with Forsberg and Farrell, a class that launched her career.
[00:13:16.320]When I took the class with Mike and Mike,
[00:13:18.150]they opened up this whole other world for me.
[00:13:21.110]I was like wow, I can combine my love for ecology
[00:13:25.376]and natural resources and conservation
[00:13:28.120]also with my love for photography.
[00:13:36.820]Along the Platte River on this cold March day,
[00:13:39.730]a new world opens up for students.
[00:13:41.944]Isaiah Samanos is a broadcast production major
[00:13:45.480]who is seeing the cranes for the first time.
[00:13:48.110]He is honing his skills as a storyteller,
[00:13:51.030]with a goal of making documentaries.
[00:13:53.170]I think storytelling is something that's very important,
[00:13:57.140]something that we've been doing since the dawn of time,
[00:14:00.830]and it's something that is very powerful
[00:14:03.030]if you're able to hone your skill.
[00:14:05.570]A powerful tool for sharing the power of nature.
[00:14:18.983]That's it for Faculty 101.
[00:14:21.129]In the show notes we link to the Crane Trust
[00:14:23.630]and the Platte Basin time lapse project.
[00:14:26.247]Come on in!
[00:14:27.720]Next time on the podcast.
[00:14:29.550]If you were to dream what you hope your research will do--
[00:14:34.830]UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green takes over as guest host.
[00:14:38.310]Doctor Green talks to Angie Panere,
[00:14:40.440]who's groundbreaking research could
[00:14:42.380]change the way we treat disease.
[00:14:44.650]We want something that is changing people's lives.
[00:14:48.100]Faculty 101 is produced by the
[00:14:50.230]University of Nebraska Lincoln.
[00:14:59.474]I'm always amazed at the magic
[00:15:04.060]that the Platte River and these cranes give.
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