The Biodiversity Project

More info/purchase image

It started simply enough with endangered amphibians. I read an essay on amphibian decline and knew I needed to do something to show these species to the world before they were gone forever.

How to Help 

Some support for the project is being provided by National Geographic and their Field Test blog. The zoos and rescue facilities I’ve worked at have all been incredibly generous with their time. One of the most important sources for funding, though, is individuals just like you.

If you like this work and want to see more of it, please consider purchasing a print from the Project.

Visit The Biodiversity Project on my website,  When you find a picture you like, there’s a “Buy This Print” button just to the right.  Click on that to start.

In the world of fine art photography, our prints are ridiculously cheap – 8 x 10s are $40 – and we do that because I want people to see these images and talk about the species they show.  A print above the right kitchen table can have just as much of an impact as one in a gallery.  You’ll get a signed archival print, and the proceeds will fund additional shoots.  National Geographic has supplied some of the funding, but it only goes so far.

On a typical shoot, I go through half a roll of background paper and a few yards of black velvet.  The sale of one 8×10 print covers the paper, and an 11 x 17 will supply me with velvet.  It’s not a lot, but multiply that by 50 shoots or a hundred and it really adds up.  We reuse what we can, but once a hippopotamus or chimp has had its way with background material, there’s not much else to be done with it.

Another way you can support the Biodiversity Project is by visiting and patronizing your local zoo.  Zoos and aquariums are vitally important to conservation today.  Not only do they fund and manage captive breeding programs, but they are increasingly involved in conservation of habitat in the wild.  Find an accredited zoo or aquarium in your area here.

Last but not least, learn more about your favorite animal.  A simple web search will likely lead you to the organizations working on its conservation.  Support them.  And share what you know with your friends and family.  The more people who are informed and who care, the better.

Click here to return to the Biodiversity Project gallery and pick a print.

Why Studio Portraits?

Well, first, some of the species in the project simply can’t be found in the wild any more. Another reason for this portrait style is that it gives equal weight to creatures big and small. Some of the frogs I’ve photographed are the size of a thumbnail, and this is a way for me to put them on equal footing with bigger animals like lions.

Which Species Do You Photograph?

Though I started with amphibians, as I went from place to place, I’d hear about other species in trouble — primates, reptiles, migratory birds, and more.  So now, I photograph anything that will hold still on a background long enough for me to take a picture.

For Updates:

Follow Joel’s Progress on National Geographic’s Field Test blog
Follow Joel on Twitter
Become a Fan on Facebook


About the author

Joel Sartore is a photographer, speaker, author, teacher, and a 20-year contributor to National Geographic magazine. His hallmarks are a sense of humor and a Midwestern work ethic.

Joel’s assignments have taken him to every continent and to the world’s most beautiful and challenging environments, from the High Arctic to the Antarctic. He is on a mission to document endangered species and landscapes in order to show a world worth saving.

His interest in nature started in childhood, when he learned about the very last passenger pigeon from one of his mother’s Time-Life picture books. He has since been chased by a wide variety of species including wolves, grizzlies, musk oxen, lions, elephants and polar bears.

His first National Geographic assignments introduced him to nature photography, and also allowed him to see human impact on the environment first-hand.

In his words, “It is folly to think that we can destroy one species and ecosystem after another and not affect humanity. When we save species, we’re actually saving ourselves.”

Joel has written several books including RARE: Portraits of America’s Endangered Species, Photographing Your Family, and Nebraska: Under a Big Red Sky. His most recent book is Let’s Be Reasonable, a collection of essays from the CBS Sunday Morning show. All of his books are available through his website or wherever books are sold.

In addition to the work he has done for National Geographic, Joel has contributed to Audubon Magazine, Geo, Time, Life, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated and numerous book projects. Joel and his work have been the subjects of several national broadcasts including National Geographic’s Explorer, the NBC Nightly News, NPR’s Weekend Edition and an hour-long PBS documentary, At Close Range. He is also a contributor on the CBS Sunday Morning Show with Charles Osgood.

Joel is always happy to return from his travels around the world to his home in Lincoln, Nebraska where he lives with his wife Kathy and their three children.