In our technology-driven world, wildlife photography can bring us face to face with the natural world and inspire us to pay more attention to the environment, says the Royal Ontario Museum's Dave Ireland.
Dozens of stunning images from the 2013 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition are going on display at the ROM and the Royal British Columbia Museum (beginning Saturday in Toronto and Nov. 29 in Victoria).
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The striking and dramatic winning shots (announced in mid-October) — including selections by young Canadian photographer Connor Stefanison of Vancouver — will be joined by other images from finalists. This year's competitors hailed from more than 90 countries around the globe.
Overall, the popular annual showcase features more than 100 fascinating photos displayed in sleek, backlit installations with commentary alongside.
"Wildlife photography has an amazing ability to inspire people to love nature," Ireland, ROM's managing director of biodiversity, told CBC News.
"If you love and respect nature you're going to go that extra mile to protect it and steward it."
In Toronto, the ROM's related programming includes workshops and a social media campaign calling on the public to share their best wildlife images — say a close-up snapped in your backyard or a picture from your summer canoe trip — on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #ROMWPY. Submissions will be displayed on special video screens alongside the competition's winners during the exhibit and on the websites of the ROM and Canadian Geographic.
"It's important to encourage youth to participate in nature conservation and biodiversity inquiry. There's a lot going on in the world these days and there's a lot of stimulus out there...[Young people] have many options they can participate in. Nature, for better or worse, doesn't seem to be a top priority with youth these days," Ireland said.
However, with exhibitions like the Wildlife Photographer of the Year show and its outreach programming, the goal is "to try and reengage youth in an appreciation of nature and therefore the next generation of nature protectors."