May 6: Letter to the Editor

Dear Editor,

Big Bend Conservation Alliance recently held a series of workshops for students throughout the tri-county area. The program was in conjunction with the Museum of the Big Bend’s upcoming exhibition, At Night, a photography show which will spotlight one of our greatest natural resources — the dark sky — while also building awareness about light pollution and its disruption of wildlife and ecological balances.

Workshops focused on teaching students about cell phone photography in low-light conditions and one might wonder what this has to do with dark skies. We learned quickly — you need some light to capture a photograph at night, but lighting is used in an intentional way to help illuminate a certain subject. In our work to help protect dark skies, we most often shield light to intentionally shine the light down to the ground where we need it most, rather than let it leak upward, which creates light pollution in the night sky. Turns out, low-light photography could help us illustrate the concepts of shielding lights for dark sky preservation quite easily.

We are indebted to the Chinati Education Department for partnering with us on this project. Their contribution can’t be underestimated with longstanding professional ties throughout the region that helped us connect to educators and the deep knowledge to understand what would make the best experience for teachers and students. Thank you, Michael Roch and Molly Bondy. Thanks, too, to Stephen Hummel at the McDonald Observatory for  helping conceptualize this program.

Thank you to all the teachers, students, coordinators, and volunteers in Marfa, Presidio, Fort Davis, Alpine, Marathon, Valentine and Terlingua who helped make this a reality — Oscar Aguero, Juan Avila, Andrea Barajas, John Bixby, Alexa Briones, Maria Carrasco, Mirtha Carrasco, Dara Cavness, Debbie Engle, Romina Escalante, Saul Garcia, Fonda Ghiardi, Alexis Gonzales, Gwin Grimes, Angel Hernandez, Angel Hernandez Jr., Sophia Hernandez, Alexa Jasso, Rachel Maxwell, Jill Miller, Jennifer Pena, Romaldo Pena, Zaley Porter, Adele Powers, Arly Quiroz, Bianca Quiroz, Reagan Reed, Ever Renteria, Fernanda Rodriguez, Ulises Rodriguez, Sam Salgado, Laila Salido and Betina Willmon.

And to Jim Martinez, Jim Fissel and Betty Moore, who provided our instructor, Steve Geoff from Odessa College, with housing in Marfa and Terlingua. This was an unbudgeted, last-minute program; we couldn’t have done it without these donations.

Come see student work at the exhibition! At Night opens at the Museum of the Big Bend on June 11 and will run through September 5.

Shelley Bernstein

Executive Director

Big Bend Conservation Alliance