By CODY McGEHEE, Ranger Reporter:
A commitment to preserving wildlife is driving some area residents to develop a television series. About four years ago, West Texas A&M student Jessie Story changed her major from wildlife biology to mass communication and teamed up with Ray Matlack, professor of wildlife biology at WTAMU, to create the new show.
“After seeing some photos and a segment Dr. Matlack already had on KFDA called West Texas Wild on the morning show, we expanded on the concept,” said Story. “It started as an educational initiative to raise awareness of wildlife, while also being able to raise science literacy,” she said.
The two came up with a program that would be both educational and entertaining and then went to Panhandle PBS and pitched the idea of a documentary. Station executives responded by asking for a multi-part show, not just a single documentary. PPBS also helped Matlack and Story with a grant to get the production they named “Texas Wild” underway.
Ever since then, the “Texas Wild” team has been traveling through some of the state’s most interesting and beautiful terrain, capturing video of native wildlife. From caves to deserts to swamps, the duo has encountered everything from bugs to bobcats.
“Most wildlife shows are faked in the fact they are not actually shot on location or the animals are not wild and have been in captivity. “Texas Wild” is the real thing,” said Story.
So far the duo has produced 16 short segments that have aired on three different PBS stations, including Panhandle PBS. Many conservation-oriented groups such as The Texas Nature Conservancy and Texas Parks and Wildlife have also used the segments through social media, and the Region XVI School District has recently started incorporating the segments into its curriculum.
“We have accomplished our goal of expanding awareness,” said Story, noting people often ask how they can get involved in wildlife videography. Story advises them, “Drop your relationship, quit your job and pack a bag and meet me here, and I will take you along.” To date, no one has actually taken Story up on the offer. She said perhaps that is because “this does not pay much. In fact, she added, “we have had to learn how to write grant proposals so we can make sure our bills at home are paid.”
Currently the two are working on a complete documentary that they plan to complete in May of 2017 and air on Panhandle PBS. For more information on Texas Wild check out www.panhandlepbs.org.