Davidson uses photos to further local conservation

Sandhill crane
A picture of a sandhill crane taken by Kim Davidson, a photographer who has a passion for conservation and photos. (Photo by Kim Davidson)
Photo by Kim Davidson

For photography and conservation, Kim Davidson has two tips: take a lot of photos and find something you’re passionate about. Davidson combines both in her role with Alachua Conservation Trust (ACT). 

Davidson serves on the board of directors for Alachua Conservation Trust. She stepped into the role in 2015 and works to spread the word about conservation efforts through her photos.  

She took up a camera in high school but dropped it once college came.

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Kim Davidson
Courtesy of Kim Davidson Kim Davidson

After finishing medical school, Davidson came to Gainesville in 1989, planning to get additional medical training at UF before leaving. Instead, she stayed in Gainesville and worked as a physician at Alachua General Hospital and in private practice until retiring in 2017.  

She started snapping pictures again in 2011.  

“One of my family members gave us a camera years ago, and it just sat at the house for years. I picked it up one day and said ‘well, this will be fun,’” Davidson said.  

Davidson grew up with film photography and a dark room and now entered the realm of digital photography—a different animal she said. She took pictures at dog parks to begin, and dog park photography morphed into nature photography with the help from friends.  

Birds and mammals soon found themselves under the stare of Davidson’s lens, from Florida scrub-jays to bald eagles, whitetail deer and American alligators. 

Trips to Alaska and Iceland also helped expand her portfolio with grizzly bears and puffins.  

“All of its wonderful; it’s all varied, and it’s all different,” Davidson said of the different photography she’s done. “So, it just kind of depends on what’s out there at the time.” 

Davidson said she supported conservation before joining ACT but had not been involved.  

Incorporated in 1988, ACT began lobbying for conservation projects across 16 counties in North Central Florida. The trust has helped preserve more than 56,000 acres since then, including directly participating in buying 24,000 of those acres, according to the ACT website.  

Santa Fe River Preserve
Photo by Kim Davidson Santa Fe River Preserve

In Alachua County, projects under ACT include Prairie Creek Preserve, Fox Pen Preserve, Tuscawilla Preserve and the Historic Haile Homestead. Earlier in December, ACT announced the opening of another preserve along the Santa Fe River—a key conservation area.  

Davidson joined the board in 2015 and began using photography to show the public the trust’s work.  

Davidson captures the landscapes and wildlife across ACT’s thousands of acres of conservation land, and the trust uses the photos to accompany press releases, cover its website and even go to Tallahassee to support legislation.  

The role involves continual learning, she said, to tell the story of the current projects. Davidson said that’s the challenge of photography: dealing with always changing conditions to tell capture the story you’re trying to tell.  

“Each time I go out, even if you go to the same area but you see at a different time of day, different time of year, different weather conditions, it’s never the same,” Davidson said. “Kind of like snowflakes.” 

Davidson said the photos will hopefully provide an “emotional and visceral image” for the public to connect with the lands and projects of ACT.  

In addition to these projects, Davidson also donates works for ACT to use it its annual Conservation Stewards Awards and for the nonprofit 1,000 Friends of Florida to use in its newsletters. Promotions for the Wild Spaces Public Places referendums in 2016 and 2022 also features her photos.  

In the last decade, Davidson said she’s seen growth in the trust, from the number of staff or public interest. But it can be tricky to gauge.  

“I don’t know if it’s just that we’re reaching more conservation-minded people or more people are being drawn in to support conservation,” Davidson said.  

For those looking to start in conservation, Davidson said to find an animal or area close to home and begin doing the research. Study it, document it and then begin telling its story to raise awareness.  

“The key is really to try to reach those people who are busy with their everyday lives and haven’t prioritized or thought about what the importance is of nature and balancing things like that,” Davidson said. 

As for photography, Davidson said the digital nature allows lots of practice, with a cheap SD card holding thousands of photos. Plus, tutorials and free online courses give the information needed to improve. You don’t even need a dark room like Davidson had growing up.  

Snail kite
Photo by Kim Davidson Snail kite
Baby gators
Photo by Kim Davidson Baby gators
Barr Hammock Preserve
Photo by Kim Davidson Barr Hammock Preserve
Barred owls
Photo by Kim Davidson Barred owls
Fox Pen Connector
Photo by Kim Davidson Fox Pen Connector
Fox Pen Preserve
Photo by Kim Davidson Fox Pen Preserve
Nursing piebald deer
Photo by Kim Davidson Nursing piebald deer
Orange Lake Overlook Preserve
Photo by Kim Davidson Orange Lake Overlook Preserve
Prairie Creek Preserve
Photo by Kim Davidson Prairie Creek Preserve

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Deb Holt

Beautiful photos!