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Judi Oyama

Chris Eckstrom

What do you do for a living?

  I'm living my dream! I'm a writer and videographer, and I travel the world with my husband, Frans Lanting, documenting and advocating for wildlife and the natural world. We produce work for National Geographic, for conservation organizations and for our own projects, and we run a studio and gallery on the Westside. Right now we're getting ready for our spring photo workshops. It's great—people come from all over the world to join us here for long weekends to study with Frans and photograph the natural beauty of our area—it's always a highlight of the year for us!

What would you be doing if you weren't doing that?

Wow, I can't imagine ... Growing up, my heroes were Jane Goodall, Harriet Tubman and Amelia Earhart—I wonder what else I could spin out of that combination?

What do you do in your free time?  

When I'm home, I do aerobic kickboxing at Toadal Fitness (Michael is a great instructor!); hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains; just took a cooking class with "India Joze" Schultz at New Leaf; I'm trying to squeeze in another painting workshop with the fabulous Mary Jo Koch in Bonny Doon, and this year, I've promised myself to surf again. I last surfed in my teens on the East Coast—but the surfing soul has never left me. I'm sure I can find a surfing coach somewhere in Santa Cruz ...

What brought you to Santa Cruz?

  Frans Lanting! He was living here when we met at National Geographic in Washington, D.C., and the choice was here or there. ... Was that a question?

What's your favorite street?

I have to say—Highway 1! It leads to all the best places.

Name something you're excited about.  

Working with mountain lions! Frans and I are just starting a new project to document lions in the Santa Cruz Mountains, in collaboration with the Puma Project research team at UCSC. It's important to understand these big cats so that we can find strategies to safely co-exist. I think this notion is part of a new era, and a new ethic, in our relationship with nature.

Name a pet peeve.

People who think it's too late to change the world. It's never too late! It's part of what drives every generation.

What are you reading?  

Temple Grandin—she is the amazing woman whose articulation of her own autism has given us new perspectives on the human brain, including her ability to connect with the minds of animals. I just finished Thinking in Pictures (wonderful!), and am now reading her newest book, Animals Make Us Human. I'm also reading Listening to Cougar and The Beast in the Garden, two compelling books about mountain lions. The Life and Times of Archy and Mehitabel is always on my bedside table

What's the most important thing you've learned in the last three years?

Restoration ecology can succeed beyond what we have thought possible. When you see what is happening with restoring clearcut tropical forests in Borneo and wetlands in southern Spain, or with the resurgence of wildlife in Namibia when local communities are empowered with managing their resources—it's truly inspiring.

Recent personal food trend? 

I love creating fresh vegetable soups in a blender, with whatever is in season at the farmers market, some sautéed onions, broth and herbs. I make a big pot and share with friends or freeze smaller portions for those times when you want something savory and delicious right now!

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