Joel Sartore


Joel Sartore is a man on a mission, and he’s running out of time. Like Noah, he’s obsessed with building an ark – the Photo Ark — a groundbreaking effort to document species before they disappear, and to get people to care while there’s still time.

For nearly 15 years, the acclaimed National Geographic Society photographer has traveled the globe, using his creativity and skills to remind us of what we might soon be missing unless we act quickly to reverse this dangerous trend.

The idea came to him while at home with his family during his wife’s health crisis. Contemplating the fragility and brevity of life, he was haunted by the fact that the world could soon face the loss of half of all species. How could he communicate the desperate struggle being waged throughout the planet, the battle for preserving biodiversity? Sartore had an epiphany:

“Perhaps a series of portraits, made as simply and cleanly as possible, would give us all a chance to look animals directly in the eye and see that there’s beauty, grace, and intelligence in the other creatures we share the planet with.”

Thus, the Photo Ark was born. The aim is to use the power of photography to inspire people to help save at-risk species before it’s too late. The more than 28,000 images and videos contained within the Ark are stunning reminders of why we must all do our part to save these endangered animals and their habitats. Most important, to bring home the message that by saving the Earth’s species and landscapes we are saving our own humanity.

The veteran photographer’s iconic images and stories have appeared in National Geographic for almost 25 years. He also has contributed to many other publications, and is the author of four books. In addition, he and the Ark have been profiled in many national broadcasts, including a recent PBS series called “RARE: Creatures of the Photo Ark.

Sartore earned a degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He has received major recognition in his field, most notably the 2018 Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year Award.

A conversation among the three leaders of the Living Earth Collaborative will follow Sartore’s presentation. They are: Jonathan Losos, the William H. Danforth Professor of Biology in Arts & Sciences and Director, Living Earth Collaborative; Saint Louis Zoo president and CEO, Jeffrey Bonner; and Peter Wyse Jackson, president of the Missouri Botanical Garden and George Engelmann Professor of Botany at Washington University. The Living Earth Collaborative, a partnership between Washington University, the Saint Louis Zoo and the Missouri Botanical Garden, is dedicated to finding solutions to stem the loss of vast populations of flora and fauna.