Fairy shrimp may steal your heart

| November 6, 2012

You may or may not have heard of Brian La Fountain, but he is reported to be a funny guy. Unless you’re a deep-woods aficionado, the odds of knowing La Fountain are probably better than knowing the subject of his nature film, “Secret Pond: A Fairy Shrimp Documentary.” Sweet Briar College will screen the 30-minute film at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 12 in Murchison Lane Auditorium. La Fountain will be there to talk about it.

Fairy shrimp are tiny crustaceans that live in seasonal ponds. La Fountain gets a bit emotional about the creatures, which have enchanted him since he was a small boy — before he dabbled with a Hollywood acting career and before he became the “hilarious” (according to Forbes magazine) trail guide at Virginia’s Homestead Resort.

Having evolved into a naturalist and filmmaker, he pursued his boyhood fascination with fairy shrimp when he met Michael Hayslett, Sweet Briar’s naturalist-in-residence. Hayslett, who directs the Virginia Vernal Pools Program, guided La Fountain to the often hidden ponds where the elusive critters live so he could make the film. Hayslett also will be on hand for a discussion following the screening.

Vernal pools wax and wane with the seasons. Many dry up in the summer but in the spring they teem with a host of species that rely on them to reproduce each year.

Hayslett, a herpetologist by training, is an expert on and fierce protector of these delicate habitats. Their ephemeral nature makes them particularly vulnerable to human activity, such as development and farming, sometimes without the person knowing he or she is harming a wetland.

“Secret Pond” was created in part to raise awareness for their protection. Hayslett was a more than willing collaborator on the film he calls a “two-year labor of love” for La Fountain.

“The film does an exquisite job of portraying the miraculous life cycle of fragile fairy shrimp — conservation ambassadors for the remarkable ecosystems we know and love [as] vernal pools,” Hayslett said.

He notes that audience members report being surprisingly moved by the documentary, which was made at various locations around Virginia, including underwater footage.

“It has received oodles of comments from viewers about how the film draws you in emotionally and really makes you feel the story,” Hayslett said. “Brian’s documentary is an emotionally charged portrayal — with incredible high-definition images — of the microcosmic world of fairy shrimp.”

See a trailer for the film here. For more information, contact Mike Hayslett at [email protected] or (434) 381-6523.

Jennifer McManamay


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