Hid­den in Plain Sight

Canadian Wildlife - - FEATURES - By Matthew Ci­canese

Young pho­tog­ra­pher and ex­plorer Matthew Ci­canese’s images cap­ture in­vis­i­ble worlds filled with ex­otic wildlife and stun­ning land­scapes, all right un­der our noses. You just have to know how to see them

AsNa­tional Ge­o­graphic ex­plorer and pro­fes­sional doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­pher spe­cial­iz­ing in ex­treme close-ups of na­ture at its tini­est, Matthew Ci­canese’s work takes him all over the world. In Au­gust, he trav­elled to Haida Gwaii — his first trip to Canada. He came to work along­side Karen Golin­ski, who is a PHD and moss ex­pert work­ing at the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion’s Na­tional Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory in Washington, D.C., and also af­fil­i­ated with the Univer­sity of Bri­tish Columbia Herbar­ium. She was there search­ing for rare mosses to up­date sta­tus re­ports for the Com­mit­tee on the Sta­tus of En­dan­gered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). To­gether they spent 10 days ex­plor­ing peat bogs and small, iso­lated off­shore is­lands. They ex­pe­ri­enced the ex­tra­or­di­nary land­scapes and in­cred­i­ble bio­di­ver­sity that thrives there due to iso­la­tion, heavy rain­fall and mild tem­per­a­tures (and the fact they missed glacia­tion dur­ing the last ice age).

Of­ten re­ferred to as the “Gala­pa­gos of the North,” there are 150-plus is­lands with a to­tal land­mass of more than a mil­lion hectares that make up the Haida Gwaii ar­chi­pel­ago, across the He­cate Strait from the B.C. main­land. Its many un­usual en­demic plants and an­i­mals on land and sea are at least partly the ef­fect of the frigid nu­tri­ent-rich north­ern Pa­cific meet­ing warm off­shore cur­rents orig­i­nat­ing in Ja­pan. Gwaii Haanas Na­tional Park oc­cu­pies the south­ern third of the is­lands. The park is home to a UNESCO World Her­itage Site fea­tur­ing the old­est stand­ing totem poles in the world.

1. Bry­ol­o­gist Karen Golin­ski and her re­search as­sis­tant Spencer Goyette (far right) on the shore­line of Gra­ham Is­land, the largest in Haida Gwaii.

2. East Lime­stone Is­land has been stripped of grass by Sitka deer (in­tro­duced in the 1890s as game), al­low­ing a wide va­ri­ety of moss to flourish.

3. A wide-an­gle shot on East Lime­stone shows moss’s typ­i­cal lush cov­er­age. Wavy-leaved cot­ton moss, Pla­gio­the­cium un­du­late, is in the fore­ground.

4. Mov­ing in closer re­veals the is­land’s rich plant di­ver­sity, in­clud­ing alpine hair­cap (Polytrichas­trum alpinum) and fan moss (Rhi­zom­nium glabrescens).

5. This ex­treme close-up of fan moss shows its splash cups, tiny bowls on the shoots that use a drop’s force to in­crease fer­til­iza­tion.

6. A red vel­vet mite (Trom­bid­ium sp.) ex­plores the in­tri­cate leaves of badge moss (Pla­giom­nium in­signe), found through­out western North Amer­ica.

7. Shot very close up, alpine hair­cap evokes spi­ral gal­ax­ies in minia­ture. A com­mon moss, it is found in temperate to cool lat­i­tudes around the world.

8. Close up, Rhy­tidi­adel­phus loreus re­sem­bles a conif­er­ous for­est thou­sands of times larger. Known as lanky moss, it is found in North Amer­ica and Europe.

9. The spher­i­cal cap­sules in the heads of fat bog moss (Sphag­num pa­pil­lo­sum) each con­tain more than 150,000 spores that are ex­plo­sively dis­charged.

10. In her con­tin­u­ing search for rare mosses, bry­ol­o­gist Karen Golin­ski ex­am­ined hun­dreds of spec­i­mens dur­ing her Au­gust ex­pe­di­tion to Haida Gwaii.

11. A view of sporo­phytes on Splachum am­pul­laceum, bet­ter known as cruet dung moss be­cause in north­ern peat­lands it grows on the scat of large her­bi­vores.

12. Pay­dirt! Karen Golin­ski found this rare ex­am­ple of Dal­to­nia moss (Dal­to­nia splach­noides) on Moresby Is­land. It was last ob­served in Canada in 1971.

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Young pho­tog­ra­pher and ex­plorer Matthew Ci­canese, who is vis­ually im­paired, Halda Gwall last sum­mer In search of ex­otic moss. The images he vis­ited cre­ated cap­ture in­vis­i­ble worlds filled with ex­otic wildlife and stun­ning land­scapes, all right un­der...

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