It took countless hours high in the treetops for photographer Tim Laman and Cornell University ornithologist Ed Scholes to record the secret lives, bizarre displays, and dazzling courtship antics of these stunning birds.
Tim Laman is a wildlife photographer and field biologist. He credits
his childhood in Japan, where he spent a lot of time in the mountains
and at the ocean, for his strong interest in exploring nature, both
above and below water. According to his mother, his first publication
was in second grade, when a poem he wrote in Japanese about his pet
turtle won a competition and was published in the local newspaper. Since
then, Laman's interests have led him to various remote corners of the
world in pursuit of stories, photographs, and scientific data. He first
went to the rain forests of Borneo in 1987, and since then the
Asia-Pacific region, and especially the Indonesian archipelago, have
been a special focus of both his scientific research and photography.
pioneering research in the rain forest of Borneo, Laman made more than
500 climbs of giant trees to explore the canopy and study strangler fig
trees and their associated wildlife. This work led to his Ph.D. in
biology from Harvard, as well as his first National Geographic
magazine article in April 1997. Since then, he has pursued his passion
for exploring wild places and documenting little known and endangered
wildlife by becoming a regular contributor to National Geographic.
He has also published more than a dozen scientific articles related to
rain forest ecology and bird life and is a research associate in the
ornithology department at Harvard University.
motivation for going to Borneo was adventure and a curiosity about rain
forest life. This developed into a program of scientific research on
rain forest ecology, but after several years of doing rain forest
science, he became increasingly frustrated to be writing scientific
papers about a habitat that was being rapidly destroyed. He decided
photography and popular articles were a more effective means of
communicating the need to protect rain forest habitat, and turned his
energies in that direction. All of Laman's National Geographic
articles to date have had a conservation message, and he is proud to be a
member of the International League of Conservation Photographers.
was a time when Laman almost went to grad school in marine biology, and
he has maintained a fascination with coral reefs throughout his life.
He has recently completed several underwater assignments for National Geographic and GEO magazines. His story on mangroves in the February 2007 National Geographic bridged the underwater and forest worlds to bring attention to the threats facing this critically important habitat.
also continues to collaborate with his wife, Cheryl Knott, a professor
at Boston University, on orangutan research and conservation projects in
Borneo. The National Geographic Society has also been a major supporter
of Knott's research and conservation work on orangutans, and Laman and
Knott have produced two National Geographic magazine articles and a National Geographic children’s book on orangutans.
ongoing project on birds of paradise is his most ambitious to date. He
is attempting comprehensive coverage of this extraordinary family of
birds in the wild. They are the most spectacularly ornamented birds in
the world, but inhabit rugged and remote regions of New Guinea, where
they are an extreme challenge to locate and photograph in their dense
rain forest homes. So far he has done 12 months of fieldwork in the New
Guinea region over the past six years on this project. His feature story
on birds of paradise in the July 2007 National Geographic was
the first ever photographic treatment of its kind published in the
magazine. Laman continues to pursue his groundbreaking coverage on this
rich, though often frustrating subject with expeditions supported by the
National Geographic Expeditions Council, Conservation International,
and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
In 2009, Laman was honored
with the North American Nature Photography Association’s annual
Outstanding Nature Photographer Award. His photographs have also
received recognition in the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards
(1998, 2001, 2002, 2005), Pictures of the Year (1998), Nature’s Best
International Photographic Awards (2001, 2003, 2006, 2009), and Communication Arts (2003). His images have also appeared in National Geographic's 100 Best Photos and 100 Best Wildlife Photos special publications.
For more than a decade, Ed has been using digital video to study behavior and evolution of Birds of
Paradise in New Guinea. He is broadly interested in how behaviorally
mediated process, like sexual selection, influence large scale (i.e.
macroevolutionary) patterns of phenotypic evolution. His research
combines primary descriptive studies with phylogenetic ethology and
analyses of the structure and organization the extraordinary courtship
phenotypes for which the birds of paradise are renown. In his "day job"
Ed, is the Curator of Video in the Macaulay Library
at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology where he gets to combine his interest
in animal behavior with his passion for natural history collections.