Michael Noonan came to us like Mary Poppins: One day he just showed up, as if blown to our doorstep by a favorable wind. He had recently moved to San Juan Island when, in January 2020, he appeared for our 2020 Swan Count, camera in hand.

Since then, he has donated his professional photography and videography skills to help us create more than 15 videos. These range from 60-second “Just a Minute” shorts to all of our (slightly longer) “Just a Moment” videos, as well as the award-winning “Through Her Eyes” virtual tour of False Bay, featuring Dr. Drew Harvell. Currently he’s at work on finishing a documentary about Garry oaks. An abridged version was shown at the Preservation Trust’s 42nd Annual Meeting, and a somewhat longer “editor’s cut” is coming out soon that will be entered into the Friday Harbor Film Festival.

Visit to Whale Rocks

Filming on Turtleback Mountain

Returning from Vendovi Island

Dr. Noonan retired in 2019 from a 40-year career as a professor of Psychology, Biology, and Animal Behavior at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY. At Canisius he taught, traveled, and created documentary films on forest ecology, elephants, chimpanzees, wolves, beluga whales, tigers and other big cats, birds of all feathers, and many other animal species all over the world. His photos and videos of wildlife and people have won laurels at prestigious national and international film festivals.

Nearly every day when he’s not traveling, Michael goes kayaking on the west side of San Juan Island and takes his camera with him. His Facebook followers can’t click “Like,” “Love,” and “Wow!” fast enough when he posts the amazing photographic results. He has allowed us to use many of these astounding images in our publications.

Through his generosity in sharing his professional skills and equipment with us, Michael has become an honorary member of our Communications and Outreach team. His smile and eyes light up when he’s excited, and he transfers that excitement to everyone around him. He has a gift for making others laugh and feel comfortable in front of the camera, bringing out storytelling talents that many of his subjects never knew they had.

Recalling his teaching years, Michael says: “I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to touch the lives of so many young people. That, through them, I may have been involved in curving the arc of mankind’s relationship with nature in a positive direction, is more gratifying than I can say.” We are lucky beyond words that he continues to “curve the arc” of peoples’ relationship with nature in a positive direction today with his immense contribution to conservation here in the San Juan Islands.