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Alumna Olivia Andrus Presents Diversified: The Florida Panther Story

Diversified: The Florida Panther Story title screen
Diversified: The Florida Panther Story, a short film produced by Olivia Andrus, which includes Dr. J. Andrew DeWoody among its cast, is making its rounds at the 2020-21 film festivals.
The short film discusses the decline of the Florida Panther population and the genetic introgression program, which was developed to try to save the species from extinction. DeWoody, professor of genetics with Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources, discusses genetic bottlenecking and how that can affect a species and conservation efforts, in the 12-minute film.

baby panther in forest

“The importance of genetic diversity in wildlife is a well-established principle in conservation biology,” DeWoody said of the importance of the project. “The lack of genetic diversity often contributes to the “extinction vortex” by reducing population productivity, which in turns shrinks population sizes, which increases inbreeding, which further reduces population productivity, and the cycle continues until populations are extirpated. Studies like those on the Florida panther—where the population was “genetically rescued” by translocating Texas panthers (and their more diverse genes)—have time and again validated this principle.”
Diversified was a finalist for Best Documentary Short at the Independent Short Awards in May. The film won the Best Student Web and New Media award at the IndieX Film Festival in July and also was a nominee for Best Documentary Short at IndieX. The piece also was a semi-finalist at the Phoenix International Short Film Festival.Olivia filming
Diversified was recently selected to appear in the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival in New York in October 2021.
Andrus is a 2015 Purdue alumna, having earned degrees in wildlife and film and video studies. She went on to Montana State University-Bozeman, where she is working toward a master’s degree in science and natural history filmmaking.
“When I was in undergraduate school at Purdue, one of the most interesting topics brought up in Dr. DeWoody's class was genetic bottlenecking,” Andrus explains of her reason for producing Diversified. “It fascinated me, especially because this phenomenon affected one of my favorite animals, cheetahs, so when I came to Montana State University I knew one of the topics I wanted to explore was genetic bottlenecking. As I did research for this film, Florida panthers were one of the few species in the United States that had a direct story about a genetic bottleneck decimating the population, placing them on the endangered species list. I chose Dr. DeWoody to speak on the subject because not only did he make a very dense topic clear and understandable, he also was passionate about how genetics should be looked at in depth when thinking about the conservation of all species.”
Prior to Diversified, Andrus directed three other documentary shorts: Seeing the Art (2018), Grounded (2019) and Beauty (2019). More about Andrus and her other work can be found on her FilmFreeway page.

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