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About Discovering Alabama

Alabama’s Coastal Paradise


Celebrate Alabama’s Coastal Paradise

with Three New Episodes of Discovering Alabama.

We hope you enjoyed the premiere. If you missed it,

we now have all three shows in our new Coastal Pardise area.

Just click on the image below

Let us know what you thought abut the shows.

Email – 


Click the image below to see the new Coastal Paradise section of our website. 
We have some great educational resources available for you there. 





Hi, I’m Doug Phillips. Welcome to Discovering Alabama, the original, Emmy awarded, documentary series about the rich natural history and heritage of Alabama. 2014 is a special year for us. We’re celebrating our 30th anniversary. That’s right, we’ve been on the air 30 years now. Thanks to all of you for your support, we couldn’t do it without you.

doug-turkeyAlabama contains a remarkable array of nature, forests, rivers, wildlands, and wildlife €“abundant across a diverse landscape from the mountains to the prairielands to the gulf coast. This natural heritage is closely linked with the state’s cultural heritage. Alabama’s wildlands were integral to the daily lives of Native Americans who often celebrated nature in their spiritual practices. By the 1800s, Alabama’s plentiful game, timberlands, water, and soils were the lure for waves of settlers seeking this bounty of nature as their hope for a new life. Today, Alabama’s natural wonders are sought for recreation and are promoted as attractions to entice tourism, expanding growth, and industrial development. Discovering Alabama explores the many interesting and changing relationships between Alabama’s lands and people, from the past to the present.

An important aim of Discovering Alabama is to document this information for the citizens, communities, and schools of the state. But another concern of Discovering Alabama is to highlight the state’s natural history in a context useful for planning. In looking to the future, we can sometimes benefit from the wisdom of the past. Native Americans knew well the meaning of the adage, “The nature of life is nature.” Discovering Alabama brings to you a remarkable realm of nature in hopes that this aspect of our heritage is aptly embraced and retained for generations yet to arrive.

You are invited to tune in to Alabama Public Television or contact us for video purchase, and join me as we Discover Alabama.

Happy outings,
Dr. Doug


 Click here to see the history of Discovering Alabama



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Take a gander at this lovely rare bird! This beautiful Merlin was brought to the Alabama Wildlife Center today with a broken wing. Merlins are a rarity for AWC as they spend only a small portion of ...

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Hello everyone, if you haven’t already, I thought you would like to read the two attached Discovering Alabama articles.

The first article, an editorial, ran Nov. 18 in the Tuscaloosa News and makes a good point. Here is a quote: “Phillips isn’t lacking in passion for preserving nature. But part of his effectiveness is that he’s avoided environmental extremism. People in Alabama are conservative in nature, but Phillips believes conservatives can embrace conservation.”

The second article, also from the Tuscaloosa News but the Nov. 16 Sunday issue, was an article entitled, Heart for Dixie. It was above the fold and the cover of the Today section. You cannot see this from the online version attached, but it featured 5 full color photographs and was an interesting account of the history of the show.

Happy holidays!


EDITORIAL: Phillips teaches us to explore Alabama

Published: Tuesday, November 18, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.

When people want to go to the beach, they usually think of Florida or perhaps Hawaii. When they want to vacation in the mountains, they go to Tennessee or North Carolina or maybe to Colorado. If they want to explore a river, they think of the Mississippi or the Colorado.

But if they live in Alabama, they never have to leave the state. It has more species than any other state because of its incredible variety of habitats. No wonder Doug Phillips has been able to keep fresh material coming for "Discovering Alabama" for 30 years.

When Phillips first proposed the idea of a television program about Alabama's natural wonders, some people wondered who would want to watch a show about this state. That's because a lot of people didn't understand about this state what Phillips knew. It is a unique treasure right under our very noses.

A lot more people understand that now, because of Phillips. University of Alabama President Judy Bonner called "Discovering Alabama" a valuable resource for teachers and schoolchildren across the state.
"The series gives us an opportunity to appreciate both the natural beauty of our state and the value of the land that we call home," Bonner said.

Phillips is a good part of why the show, which kicks off its 30th season Nov. 25 at 8 p.m. on Alabama Public Television, succeeds in making its point. It's a show with homespun charm. It isn't slick or packaged, but the quality is apparent. And when you hear Phillips' narrative, you can tell from his voice that he is from around here.

"On the show, I'm trying to convey the sense of reverence that I learned growing up," Phillips told The Tuscaloosa News. "Out there, I'm in my element. I can be me, and I can finish what I'm trying to say because I'm talking to the camera."

Phillips isn't lacking in passion for preserving nature. But part of his effectiveness is that he's avoided environmental extremism. People in Alabama are conservative by nature, but Phillips believes conservatives can embrace conservation.

Local treasures are all around us waiting to be discovered. Sometimes it takes a local treasure, like Doug Phillips, to help us find them.


And the full story...

Doug Phillips, creator and host of "Discovering Alabama," is launching the APT series' 30th season with a three-part series on the state's coast, airing beginning at 8 p.m. Nov. 25.

By Mark Hughes Cobb
Staff Writer

Published: Saturday, November 15, 2014 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, November 15, 2014 at 12:04 a.m.

A trailblazer, by definition, leaves marks. He bends things that don't wish to bend, becomes an irritant, albeit in service of leading the way, making it easier for others to follow.

Yet when the trailblazer, metaphorical, is a nature-lover, literal, he cuts paths with the highest regard for not just leaving things as they are, but helping others see the value in that preservation.
Doug Phillips cut a swath or two, three decades back, trying to open eyes and minds of Alabamians to native beauty, history and cultures, via teacher expeditions that led to the creation of the award-winning public television series "Discovering Alabama."

In the process, Phillips got fired from the University of Alabama, nearly lost the show entirely, and suffered threats from those who, erringly, appended "wacko" to "environmentalist" before he found funding and institutional support - getting rehired at UA - to create one of Alabama Public Television's most beloved, longest-lived and most-honored shows.

A new three-part series, "Alabama's Coastal Paradise," will premiere on APT at 8 p.m. Nov. 25, to celebrate the kickoff of 30 years of "Discovering Alabama."

With a laconic on-camera style, backed by a wealth of knowledge and love for the state's 22 million acres of forests, its life-vessels of waterways, its wetlands and wildlife, Phillips became the Mr. Rogers of Alabama, gently guiding generations into the amazingly diverse flora and fauna crawling, calling and chirping beyond our backyards.
And yet when he tried to get it started back in the early '80s, the question he heard most often was: "Who would be interested in a show about Alabama?"

Knuckleheads," he said, referring not to the answer, but the persons asking.

Happily, those who didn't think "Discovering Alabama" was a great idea were not long after gone, and Phillips says the show now is the show he wants, done the way he wants. He gives credit to more visionary leaders, such as current UA President Judy Bonner, who he said recognizes what the show has done and is doing for K-12 students who may someday rise to UA.

" 'Discovering Alabama' is a valuable resource for the state of Alabama and I have been a fan for many years," Bonner said in a statement. "Doug Phillips' television series has highlighted Alabama's natural diversity, history and resources for generations of schoolchildren as well as their teachers and all Alabamians.
"The series gives us an opportunity to appreciate both the natural beauty of our state and the value of the land that we call home."


Pinning down the exact start date of "Discovering Alabama" is tricky, due to its rough takeoff - "It's when I say it is," Phillips said, with a laugh - but it was in the early '80s when he was leading teacher expeditions into the wilds, pioneering the ideas of environmental education. The thought arose that, instead of a dozen or so at a time, he could reach hundreds or more with filmed journeys.
"But I wasn't gonna be the host. I'd be the adviser," Phillips said. "I was looking for some TV talent."

Producer Bill Connell brought his camera crew along on one of the teacher outings, intending to include Phillips' work in a wider context.

"I said, 'Well, instead of shooting a little bit, why don't we shoot a lotta bit?' " Phillips said. Those first few filmed courses turned into the beginning sequence of six episodes of "Discovering Alabama."
The response to the show was tremendous, from viewers and from APT.

Then he got fired.

"I probably failed to convey my concept well enough, to put together the funding for it to succeed," Phillips said. But beyond that, he said that he was told that the university did not want, was not going to have, an environmental program. It would detract from attracting business, he said he was told.

"I wasn't a 'radical environmentalist,' but I understood the lunacy that was blooming in California, and I was guilty by association," he said.
"I will plead guilty to bearing a strong passion for Alabama's outdoors and the environment."

"Discovering Alabama" was never intended to whoop out on the wacko fringe, though, but to root itself in education and conservation.
"Conservation being the better word in Alabama than environment," he said. "I've always thought that conservatives should believe in conservation."

And of course the eye-opening bit was to showcase the remarkable heritage and diversity of the region, from powdery sand beaches to pine forests, swamps, mountains and on and on. It plays not only into kids' natural curiosity about their world, but into virtually every area of school curriculum: math, science, history, social studies and more, Phillips said.

"It's the story of the relationship of man to his environment, across time," he said. Phillips' own environmental story started in Blount County, north of Jefferson, as a boy exploring mountains on one side, and Locust Fork River on the other, becoming aware of his Creek Indian heritage about the time the family moved to Birmingham. That was a shock, shifting to a more urban world, seeing how many used and treated life. But like many critters, he adapted, becoming an exceptional student and athlete, attending West Point before returning home to earn his doctorate at UA.

After losing the education job at UA, he went to Troy State for a while, and continued to talk up this little show of his, still in embryonic state. Funding came through from Mobil Oil, and the Alabama Department of Conservation, and a threat to be hired by Auburn helped bring him back to UA.

"I own some acreage here, and I was homesick for Tuscaloosa," he said.

Though he originally didn't intend to be the on-camera face of "Discovering Alabama," it's a role he's settled into.
"On the show, I'm trying to convey the same sense of reverence for nature that I learned growing up," he said. "Out there, I'm in my element. I can be me, and I can finish what I'm trying to say, because I'm talking to a camera."

In addition to leadership from Bonner, which helps provide salaries, office and a small staff, Phillips said writer, director and producer Roger Reid has helped bring the show to new heights, winning Emmys and improving the overall quality.

"For a few years, I didn't script it. I just did an outline, then told the crew where to meet me," Phillips said.

As "Discovering Alabama" grew in popularity and clout, it extended to teacher guides, support of Forever Wild initiatives, an extensive resource in the website, books by Phillips including "Discovering Alabama Forests" and "Discovering Alabama Wetlands," creation of the Alabama Natural Heritage Program, the state's first natural resource research and data management program aimed at assisting economic planning, environmental protection and educational enrichment, and more.

Though funding in a time of recession is always year-to-year, and the show still has no studios of its own nor a lavish budget, with UA's and sponsors' support, and that of his staff and co-workers, Phillips thinks he can continue "Discovering Alabama" for as long as he's able to roam his beloved outdoors.

"I would like to say I am honored and flattered by the many people who have come to follow the show. And I would like to thank them for their love of this state," he said.

Copyright 2014 Tuscaloosa News
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We can't say it enough. Thanks to all of you for your continued support. We wouldn't exist without help from our viewers and special friends. Fact is, we do need your help to keep putting out great programs. If you would like to donate to Discovering Alabama (we are a non-profit so it's a deductible donation) we would really be grateful to you. As we have moved into high definition and surround sound, we've discovered that high quality = high cost.

Your tax-deductible contribution will help continue the quest of exploring this remarkable land and sharing its many wonders with students, teachers, and viewers like you. Here's that link if you would like to give us a little support.

You'll find a telephone number and a mailing address there as well if you don't want to use the online contribution method provided. Please Like and Share this post and feel free to add your comment to it.
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