Hawaii Public Radio: UC student films doc about endangered bird
Digital Media Collaborative student documents plight of akikiki
Hawaii Public Radio spoke to a University of Cincinnati undergraduate student about her new documentary about the efforts to save an endangered bird.
UC College of Arts and Sciences student Ella Marcil returned to her home state of Hawaii this year to document the work of conservationists who are trying to save the akikiki, a bird endemic to Kauai where Marcil grew up.
Marcil, a digital media student, accompanied the Kauai Forest Bird Recovery Project as it scoured the top of the high-altitude Halehaha plateau more than 4,000 feet above sea level looking for the bird, a species of honeycreeper.
The little gray-and-white bird used to be a common backyard visitor across the island, Marcil said. But the introduction of avian malaria to the island began to devastate akikiki populations. Birds that lived at higher, colder elevations were safe for a while. But a warming climate on the island allowed mosquitoes to reach higher into the mountains where the malarial parasite has killed virtually every surviving bird.
"They don't have any immunity from avian malaria and drop like flies," Marcil told Hawaii Public Radio.
Marcil's film is titled “When Silence Becomes the Song,” a reference to the silence in woods that no longer have birdsong.
“You could hear the wind and nothing else. It was disheartening,” Marcil said.
Marcil returned to Kauai during a break in classes where she climbed up the Halehaha Plateau with researchers.
“The terrain is intense. You have to climb on your hands and knees to get under logs and there are sheer cliffs, so you have to make sure you don't fall,” Marcil said.
There she actually saw some of the last wild honeycreepers.
“My eyes were as big as saucers because at one point a bird was right next to me. I'm hoping I can project some of that passion and excitement onto the camera so people can get as excited as I am,” she said.
Marcil is still editing her documentary but hopes to share it at film festivals.
Featured image at top: Ella Marcil is a filmmaker in UC's Digital Media program. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand