Living things on Earth are dying at rates unprecedented during human existence, in the planet’s sixth mass extinction. Some see it as cause for despair.

Others aren’t so sure, and they point to past conservation success stories as evidence that we can save species — if we take action.

One example is a marvelous hue-rich waterfowl, the wood duck, which was driven near extinction before government legislation and individual action saved the bird.

In this video produced by Ensia Mentor Program participant Regina Caggiano, viewers will see a striking representation of the wood duck in all its colorful glory as it fades away — before learning the story of this feathered beauty’s remarkable comeback. Caggiano, a high school student from Simsbury, Connecticut, developed the “living canvas” concept as a way to visually depict the decline and reemergence of a threatened species. She crafted the acrylic painting over three weeks, then incorporated it into this video production.

Caggiano wants her project to highlight hope for conservation. “It’s not meant to be, ‘People can sit back and problems in the environment will take care of themselves,’ because that’s not true,” she says. But with concerted collective and individual action, we might find a way to reconstruct the complete and vibrant picture of life around us. View Ensia homepage

Regina Caggiano produced this video as a participant in the Ensia Mentor Program. A senior at Simsbury High School in northern Connecticut, she has a passion for ecology and environmental journalism. Her writing has been previously published in Crash Test Magazine, 805 Literary Journal and the Claremont Review. Her mentor for the piece was wildlife artist Kathy Goff.