Livestreaming wetland centres

Category: Asia, Europe, News

Last updated: June 3rd, 2021

Digital video has become a method of staying in contact with local people. Some WLI members have been live streaming online to maintain their audiences.

WWF Hong Kong Mai Po

While the public couldn't get to Mai Po Wetland Centre, the education team stepped up with a cheerful video livestream.
Staff across the reserve used their phones to join a Zoom call, and the leader selected between them to send their full-screen image to a livestream. An educator in the office played a five minute pre-recorded video before handing over to another colleague outdoors, who was taking part with Zoom on their phone. They then walked into a birdwatching hide where another colleague was phone-scoping, meaning they had their phone connected to a telescope. This phone was also connected to the Zoom call. After showing the general scene on the first phone, they showed the birds up-close through the telescope. Then they went back to the office for fa fun wrap-up and Q&A with viewers. See an excerpt about 7 minutes into the third video on this page. And learn more about their Panda e-academy.

Live stream process: 1 host; 2 pre-recorded video; 3 live from phones in reserve & hide; 4 wrap-up by host
Live stream process: 1 host; 2 pre-recorded video; 3 live from phones in reserve & hide; 4 wrap-up by host

They also supported the WWF Birding Live in Asia in September, an hour long livestream that brought colleagues in eight locations in live, phone-scoping and cutting between the participants so that there was always a live bird on-screen.

Man in Tawian, bird in Philippines

Urdaibai Bird Center

Urdaibai Bird Center in the Basque Country already had a live webcam set up (see instructions here). In 2020, the pandemic shut their centre to visitors, so the centre manager, Edorta Unamuno went in alone. At a fixed time every day he would connect a microphone to the livestream and add a live voiceover to the views through the telescope, giving a talk reactive to the species that were present at the time. The daily schedule was too demanding but they still operate on Wednesdays, with separate talks in Castilian and Basque.

Screenshot of Facebook livestream

WWT Washington

This visitor centre in the northeast of England, UK is also closed to the public but is using Facebook to stream live wetland scenes to the public.

Some are themed on well-being: a gentle walk through the animal collection or wild reserve, taking in the sights and sounds of nature in their wetlands and woodlands. Some are focused on specific species such as Chilean flamingos or Asian short-clawed otters, where they head to an exhibit and keepers deliver a focused talk – something that they would previously do for visitors daily.

An important part of these live sessions is engaging and interacting with viewers: first responding to greetings that viewers type into the Facebook text box, and responding to their questions as they ask them.

The Marketing & Communications Manager there, Deborah Nolan, adds a technical tip for Facebook live video: to use an external microphone, first start the live stream, wait a few seconds, and only then plug in your external microphone.

Equipment

These examples show that once you have a basic minimum standard of technology, your knowledge and enthusiasm becomes more important than the equipment you use. You may already have enough equipment to do entertaining livestreams, provided you are happy using you own phone and have a signal in the wetland!

Many birders will already have an adaptor to attach a phone to a telescope. There are lots available, and WWT is even branding some to sell to visitors at the wetland centres.

At WWT Washington they use a mobile phone on 4G (in this case an iPhone XS Max) with a tripod and phone holder, an external microphone (Rode Videomic GO or Rode Videomic ME) with a Rode iPhone dual TRRS adaptor for multiple microphones – when the host talks to a colleague who is standing a safe distance away in a pond, for instance.

We have video resources on the WLI website, linking to live and pre-recorded content from WLI members. If you have started using live video, let us know how it is going!

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