SHINING LIGHT ON ENVIRONMENTAL LEADERSHIP
Seneca Park Zoo holds a beloved place in our community’s heart, but few people are aware of the broader conservation efforts they lead. From committee management to grassroots awareness campaigns, The Cause Collaborative provided the resources, creativity, and strategy needed to firmly position the Zoo as a pivotal force in inspiring the community to care for and conserve wildlife and wild places.
Through their involvement with the Fast Forward Film Festival, we grew to understand that the Seneca Park Zoo was much more than a zoo — their mission is all about protecting the wildlife and conserving nature. Our relationship began when the Seneca Park Zoo Society expressed an interest in bringing One Cubic Foot to Rochester. Led by photographer and environmentalist, David Liittschwager, One Cubic Foot involves documenting everything that moves in and out of a single cubic foot frame set in nature within the equivalent of a 24-hour period, creating beautiful portraits of biodiversity.
The Cause Collaborative agreed that One Cubic Foot would be a valuable project to assess the health of the Genesee River, once declared one of the most polluted rivers in the United States. The river is being brought back to life through the efforts of many groups, and One Cubic Foot would help spotlight these efforts and the progress made. But bringing in Liittschwager would require significant funding and coordination.
We created and solicited members for the Community Advisory Board, bringing together like-minded organizations to support and help spread word of the initiative — so One Cubic Foot could not only happen, but come back year after year. This included facilitating meetings with partners and coming up with marketing and event strategies to spread awareness. In a local grassroots campaign, we created a giant representation of “one cubic foot” and brought it to summer festivals for attendees to interact with. A GoPro camera recorded everyone walking through, and a timelapse video helped spread awareness on social media.
The Zoo was able to host Liittschwager and launch One Cubic Foot — and the results were astounding. The project captured hundreds of never-before-documented species in the Genesee River (which David partnered with the Smithsonian Institute to barcode DNA for) and revealed that the river wasn’t as polluted as it once was.
The organization of the advisory board was vital to the success of the project, spreading awareness organically via word of mouth and PR. The project sold out events at the George Eastman Museum, with Liittschwager as the keynote discussing the river project, and at Rochester Contemporary Art Center, displaying biodiversity portraits from the river in early 2015.
By providing invaluable scientific information and baseline data regarding the plant and animal species living in the Genesee River, One Cubic Foot heightened awareness of water quality and other environmental issues. Since our assistance with launching the project, it is now part of the Zoo’s annual plan, and the team even took a group of Allendale Columbia students to Madagascar in 2017 to replicate the project.
One Cubic Foot and the Environmental Leadership Awards & Innovation Symposium continue to strengthen Seneca Park Zoo’s position as leading efforts in conservation and improving our community.