When Priya Jaishanker, an audiovisual media specialist with the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, submitted her video, “Mission RareQuest,” to the 2017 RVA (Richmond) Environmental Film Festival, she had no idea it would be chosen for one of two runner-up awards.

She created the video, funded by the Virginia Native Plant Society, in collaboration with the Virginia Master Naturalist program to highlight the RareQuest project, in which over 80 citizen scientist volunteers worked to identify and collect data on rare bird, butterfly, and plant species.

Jaishanker followed Program Director Michelle Prysby and a RareQuest team in Shenandoah National Park as they searched for Rand’s goldenrod, a flowering native plant species in the same family as the sunflower. “The team of women I filmed with had a real passion for the environment,” she recalled. “It was a great experience.”

“The Virginia Master Naturalists provide a real service,” continued Jaishanker, who hopes the video can be used as a recruitment tool for the program. “All the data and photos they collect go to the Virginia Natural Heritage Program so they can use it to help conserve some of these rare species when they’re found.”

Jaishanker was pleasantly surprised that her video was chosen as a runner-up in the film festival. “This is the first time I’ve won an award where there’s a screening. I’m beyond thrilled,” she said.

Associate Professor John Munsell, Jaishanker’s supervisor, said, “The award speaks to the quality of her work and its benefit to our department, college, and programs. It also demonstrates how our focus resonates with artists like Priya who are passionate about the environment and keen on bringing their skillset to the overall effort.”

Watch Jaishanker’s video at virginiamasternaturalist.org/rarequest.