About Us

Our team

The IDEA Lab team has been helping scientists fine-tune their research presentations for more than two decades, through a campus-wide imaging support service that is nearly unique among research universities. They have also developed specialized imaging techniques, in some cases becoming part of the research team itself. They have also learned how to translate complex scientific concepts for a popular audience and have done so with creativity and great skill, leading to numerous awards for feature length and short form video productions and still photography. Their long relationships with researchers featured in the documentaries means that they have the depth of understanding needed to tell nuanced and insightful stories.

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Our video production projects began in 2004 with The Clover Springs Reach, about stream restoration in Arizona’s high country. This was followed by a series of short research videos between 2005 and 2007, most of which are still being broadcast.

The films
Northern Arizona University’s top researchers are involved in discoveries that have immediate relevance to some of the most pressing issues of our time. We have launched a documentary film series about these discoveries, making science more accessible to curious people of all ages. We focus on topics that have global relevance, featuring broad-based collaboration throughout the US and abroad.

Our first full length documentary, 2012’s A Thousand Invisible Cords, presents a new ecological concept—ecosystem genetics—which ties the composition and health of whole ecosystems to the genetics of a single species. Educational modules and tools are being developed to compliment the film.

A Thousand Invisible Cords has been very successful. It’s had more than 700 broadcasts on 160 PBS stations across the country, including the largest PBS markets of New York, Los Angeles, Denver, San Francisco, Boston, and Phoenix; has reached more than 70% of households in the U.S.; and is still showing during prime time in several large cities across the country a year after its release. It was translated into French and Spanish, and has been shown to sold-out venues in Australia, Chile, New Zealand, and France.

The movie received excellent reviews, most notably from environmentalist Bill McKibben, who said, “If you ever doubted that everything really was tied together, take a look at this film. A reminder of just how careful we should be!”

Producer/Director

Dan Boone has been part of the IDEA Lab team at Northern Arizona University (NAU) for 23 years, serving as head of the imaging department for 15 of those years. Throughout his association with NAU, he has helped researchers communicate their very important, but sometimes complex, ideas to a popular audience. His innovative imaging techniques have sometimes become part of the research itself, such as his visual representations of Pluto for NASA, his original imaging techniques to increase legibility of a 13th-century papyrus, and his high-speed photography for capturing animal behavior. His...

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First Assistant Director and Line Producer

Ryan Belnap has been part of the IDEA Lab team for eight years. His award-winning photographs have been exhibited nationally and internationally, and they have appeared in dozens of publications, including the book and exhibit What Has Passed and What Remains, Oral Histories of Arizona’s Changing Landscapes. Belnap has made significant contributions to several IDEA Lab video productions, including 2012’s A Thousand Invisible Cords. His extensive experience with cameras has enabled him to fabricate custom camera equipment for special projects. In addition, he has strong...

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Composer

Lucciana Costa is a Los Angeles composer and songwriter hailing from Ann Arbor, Michigan. She has been a performing artist for more than 15 years. Costa has two studio releases (Last Chance for a Pony and Structurally Sound) and has contributed to numerous albums as a pianist, dobro player, and vocalist. She was nominated "Best New Artist of 2009" by the University of Western Ontario’s radio station, CHRW, and was selected for 2012’s Best of Radio Reddit, with proceeds going to VH1's Save the Music Foundation. Costa has worked on numerous film projects, including A...

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Narrator and 3-D Animations

Victor Leshyk has been translating scientific concepts into stunning visual imagery for more than 15 years, with illustrations gracing the covers of such publications as Nature, Genome Research, and Science News, as well as the pages of Science magazine. His images have appeared in presentations to the U.S. Congress, national parks, and public exhibits, including works for the world’s largest exhibit-design firm and for some of the major natural history museums in the Southwest. With a lifelong love of both biology and illustration, his deep understanding of both...

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Writer

Peter Friederici is a freelance journalist whose work focuses on science and the environment. His articles and essays appear regularly in such periodicals as Audubon, High Country News, Orion, and InsideClimate News, and they have been anthologized in such collections as The Best American Spiritual Writing. He is the author of several books, including Nature's Restoration (Island Press, 2006) and What Has Passed and What Remains: Oral Histories of Northern Arizona's Changing Landscapes (University of Arizona Press, 2010). In 2008 his investigative cover...

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