Stones, bones and bugs.
These three words compose the subject matter--and the title--of a six-part series that debuts Monday on Newport Beach-based Community Cablevision's public access Channel 3.
The series represents the joint effort of the cable television company, which serves Irvine and parts of Newport Beach and Tustin, and the Natural History Foundation of Orange County, which maintains a museum and research facility in Newport Beach and holds one of the nation's largest collections of marine vertebrate fossils.
The first of the six 15-minute segments--airing at 6 p.m. Monday and repeating at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday--provides an introduction to Orange County natural history, while the remaining five focus on various aspects of that history: the county's archeological past, its rich fossil record and its present-day insects.
"Stones, Bones and Bugs" is the first video project for the Natural History Foundation and, according to foundation president Audrey Moe, is in keeping with the group's main purpose of educating county residents about their natural heritage.
"People in Orange County generally don't have the faintest idea about what is here in terms of archeology or paleontology," Moe said in an interview at the museum. "They're not aware of the prehistory of Orange County."
The Natural History Foundation was founded in 1974 to raise awareness of the county's natural resources and to promote their scientific preservation and interpretation. The group has led a nomadic existence in its 12-year life, however. The latest in a line of homes is the multipurpose room of closed Eastbluff Elementary School in Newport Beach. One of the foundation's main goals is the establishment of a permanent museum and research facility in the county.
The idea for the foundation's video project was hatched last January after Community Cablevision taped a short feature on the museum's insect exhibit. According to Moe, the cable company suggested doing the series as a community service.
Foundation members liked the idea, and Moe went on to coordinate the series with Muffi Mendelson, vice president of the foundation and the museum's exhibit director. The two decided on topics and lined up experts; Community Cablevision taped the segments in its studio, free of charge to the foundation. Curt Abdouch, the science programs coordinator for UC Irvine Extension, also helped produce the series.
The 15-minute interview-style segments were each shot in one continuous take, with no chance to go back and fix mistakes, so Moe and Mendelson built a mock set in the museum and rehearsed each show before the tapings. Despite the bare-bones production, both women say they are pleased with the final product.
The episodes include an overview of the county's natural history, hosted by Abdouch with guest George Callison, professor of biology at Cal State Long Beach; "Archeology, Part I," with guest Constance Cameron, museum curator at Cal State Fullerton; "Backyard Bugs," with Abdouch and guest Peter Bryant, professor of developmental and cell biology at UC Irvine and an avid amateur entomologist; and "Archeology, Part II," with Henry Koerper of Cypress College and Chris Drover of UC Irvine.
The final two episodes focus on the county's rich fossil trove: "Search for Ancient Skeletons," with Rod Raschke, staff paleontologist for the Natural History Museum of Orange County, and "Fossil Whales," with Dr. Lawrence Barnes, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
"Fossil Whales" was a last-minute addition to the lineup, made in the wake of the discovery in May near Dana Point of the complete fossilized remains of a 30-foot baleen whale. The rare find, uncovered at a residential development site, was originally marked for shipment to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County until county supervisors intervened to keep the fossils in Orange County.
Moe said the county's willingness to keep paleontological discoveries in Orange County, along with a 1977 county ordinance that requires developers to protect fossil finds, has been a big boost to the foundation. She hopes the video series, in addition to educating viewers about the county's natural history, will help feed the foundation's increasing visibility.
"This is the kind of thing we would like to continue to do," Moe said of the video series. The shows will probably be made available to other cable stations after the Community Cablevision run, and Moe said there are plans to circulate the tapes through county schools. "Since we are a countywide organization, it is important that these get shown other places in the county, not just locally," she said.