-By Seth Patterson, Texas, USA: In nature, much like with ourselves, water is life. Wherever it is found in abundance, there is usually a great diversity of life. No where is this more evident than our planet’s tropical rain forests; biodiversity hotspots with greater species density than most other areas combined. However, while this is common knowledge, few of us will ever visit such areas and those that do will likely only experience a mere fraction of the species they harbor. More surprising to me, though, is how few realize the vast biodiversity that can be discovered in their own backyards. I’ve worked at Sabal Palm Sanctuary in Brownsville, Texas for nearly three years and have seen it cycle through the typically mild seasons of this subtropical region. I feel I have a fairly good knowledge of, and appreciation for, the rich diversity this relic forest has to offer, and yet I still find myself surprised when slight shifts cause big changes. Recently, tropical moisture has inundated the palm forest with over 16 inches of rain. The transformation from drought-stricken, stressed, and dying vegetation to lush, vibrant, and healthy forest was practically overnight. With this dramatic explosion of vegetative growth came an equally incredible variety of animals eager to take advantage of it.
Of course, when it comes to eating plants, caterpillars are king. The Lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas is home to over 300 species of butterfly and many times that of moths. One would think (and hope) that with such incredible diversity everyone from the region would be intimately aware of their existence and abundance. But truth be told, few of us can say we’ve seen more than a few dozen, a mere fraction of the nearly thousand species around us at all times. This unfortunate realization can be related to the fact that insects are quite small, very well adapted to hiding from large, lumbering animals (humans), and most people share a general lack of interest in their existence. Yet, the fascination stirred within a stranger as I present them with even a small sampling of these species, captured larger than life in such a detailed and intimate manner, is absolutely reassuring. It is my greatest hope that the photographs I take of this special occurrence will cause someone, somewhere to stop and take a second glance at that stick, a closer look at that leaf, or find a moment to appreciate that butterfly. To pause and linger, to look and listen. Life surrounds us at all times, we just have to take the time to treasure it!
-By Seth Patterson, Texas, USA