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Aspiring wildlife filmmaker wraps up as co-host of children’s tv program


   

Clark dives with shark off the coast of the Bahamas. Clark dives with shark off the coast of the Bahamas. Photo by Stuart Cove’s Dive Bahamas


Feb. 15, 2014 – Clark DeHart of Blacksburg, Va., who graduated in December 2013 with a degree in wildlife science, is not only following his dream career in wildlife conservation filmmaking, he has also received two Telly Awards while a part of the multiple award winning children’s TV series “Aqua Kids.”

For the past three years, DeHart has been a part of co-hosting, filming, and taking photos for “Aqua Kids,” which is designed to educate kids with a conservation message. The show inspires young people to take an active role in protecting and preserving marine environments. DeHart also writes a travelogue for the show’s website.

“I believe that my generation…has both the responsibility and the resources to leave the legacy of a healthier, more sustainable planet.”

“Aqua Kids” was started by producer George Stover, who loves to scuba dive. Stover noticed the impacts that humans were having on reefs and knew that what happens up stream affects downstream — that all natural systems are connected.

Now in its ninth season, “Aqua Kids” has earned two Emmy Awards and 15 Telly Awards. The syndicated show, which reaches 92 percent of the nation’s audience, casts teenagers and young adults to help deliver its message through interaction and practical involvement, from protecting sea life by picking up litter to assisting with animal rescues.

After an episode aired on trash and the chain of littering in the Chesapeake Bay, young students from across the country wrote to the cast and crew expressing interest in organizing all types of events — from beach cleanups to schoolyard recycling drives.

When DeHart teamed up with “Aqua Kids,” he was able to draw on material from his college classes. “I need to acknowledge the benefit I gained from classes taught by various professors,” he noted. “David Jachowski’s class on conservation management for endangered species was a huge help, along with Carola Haas’ field biology class on habitats and identifying species, Marc Stern’s class on environmental education and how to motivate citizens to act, and Jim Parkhurst’s class on wetland ecology.”

DeHart, who started making films in high school, produced the short film “Only Time Will Tell,” which reveals the impact of invasive species on coral reefs in Hawaii and was shown at the 2013 Beneath the Waves Film Festival. Invasive algae are suffocating the reefs because non-native species have been introduced into the fragile Hawaiian ecosystem for use in modern food and cosmetic products.

“Large vacuums can remove some of algae but are not able to keep up with the proliferation,” DeHart explained. “Native urchins are also being used to help mitigate the spread of non-native algae. I believe that my generation, like none other in history, has both the responsibility and the resources to leave the legacy of a healthier, more sustainable planet.”

DeHart came to realize that filmmaking was the best way to reach the public with conservation sustainability messages. He got his start on television through an introduction from Jean Beasley, founder and director of the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Topsail, N.C. DeHart was visiting the center to shoot footage for a documentary on sea turtles, and “Aqua Kids” happened to be filming there at the same time.

“Along the way, the show has given me a chance to experience some amazing locales,” he said. “Episodes have been shot up and down the East Coast and across the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii.”

DeHart has enjoyed his time on “Aqua Kids” while facing the challenge of chronic fatigue syndrome, a debilitating medical condition characterized by persistent fatigue that does not improve with rest. Despite his condition, DeHart served as the president of the Virginia Tech student chapter of The Wildlife Society this past year and has worked to inspire other Virginia Tech students to get involved in protecting the environment.

In a fitting end to his time with the show, DeHart returned to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center, where he was given the honor of releasing an endangered sea turtle back into the wild.

Now that he has graduated, DeHart hopes to continue to motivate his peers. “Wildlife conservation gives me something significant to focus on and be passionate about,” he said. “My dream job would be to work for National Geographic.”


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