Princeton University astrophysicist Gaspar Bakos spends much of his time searching the galaxy for undiscovered planets, but here on Earth he's also an enthusiastic nature lover.
This passion is on display in a new short documentary, “Observatory,” which premieres virtually at the Princeton Environmental Film Festival on April 16 at 7pm. The film is the story of Bakos and his three school-age sons looking for something interesting to do in early 2020 after the pandemic shuts down much of society. For them, that “something to do,” is a $40 motion-activated wildlife camera, on which they initially record chipmunks eating nuts outside their Princeton home. Soon they move the camera to a small patch of woods and meet a cautious fox, and by the end of the film they are paddling to remote locations on Lake Carnegie while discovering beavers, mink and much more.
“This monitoring of wildlife, other than being a lot of fun, can be extremely useful,” Bakos explains. “I think it's important that we understand what wildlife is surrounding us, and co-existing with us, so that we can make the right decisions in constructing things, and just generally in how we behave.”
While the film highlights Bakos' best animal discoveries so far, his wildlife motioning efforts near Lake Carnegie are just getting started. With funding from the High Meadows Foundation Sustainability Fund, Bakos will soon install 18 additional wildlife cameras around the lake on University property, creating a visual record of local wildlife that will be shared publicly.
“Observatory,” which is 11 minutes long, was directed by Jared Flesher and produced by the Princeton University Office of Sustainability. A live question-and-answer session on Zoom with Bakos and Flesher will follow the screening on April 16.
How to watch: The Observatory premiere is free to watch starting at 7pm on Friday April 16, You can pre-register by clicking "pre-order now for free" on the screening website. Stick around for a live Q&A with astrophysicist Gaspar Bakos and filmmaker Jared Flesher at 7:15pm. If you haven't used Eventive before, you'll be asked to login by supplying an email address and password.