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A Scientist Becomes a Photographer to Help Save Our Oceans

December 22, 2016

A Scientist Becomes a Photographer to Help Save Our Oceans

Beautiful photography.  Sharing passion through photography certainly has an impact.

by Beck Harlan on NationalGeographic.com

Doctor Enric Sala was working as a marine biologist when one day it dawned on him that he was “writing the obituary of the ocean.” He realized that his research alone wasn’t going to save the ecosystems he was so passionate about. So to the title of scientist he added a slew of new roles, including public relations expert, advocate, and photographer for his work with the Pristine Seas project.

Sala, who is now an explorer-in-residence for the National Geographic Society, initially pitched the idea of Pristine Seas to the Society in 2008. They’ve been dedicated to “exploring and protecting some of the last truly wild places in the ocean” ever since. To date, Pristine Seas has created seven marine protected areas (the most recent, Chile’s Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park, was declared on October 5, 2015) and protected over 2.5 million square kilometers of ocean.

I spoke with Sala about his transformation from scientist to photographer, his new book on the Pristine Seas project, and why he works so hard to share his infectious love of oceans with the world.


Sunlight streams through the water, backlighting a large gorgonian. These colonial animals bear branches formed by thousands of small polyps, each of which consists simply of a mouth, a small digestive pouch, and eight tentacles.

BECKY HARLAN: You play a lot of different roles in your work with Pristine Seas. How do you balance it all?

ENRIC SALA: It’s really fun, but I feel like I live a schizophrenic life going from the suit to the wet suit. I started as a marine biologist, and then I realized that I had to do much more and learn much more about other disciplines for the science to have an impact. It was really fun to learn about communications, media production, policy, and politics. I have a great team of people who do all that, but I think it’s very important for me to know a little bit of everything that is needed to translate the science into real conservation action.


The Pristine Seas team encountered a broad diversity of species in the Republic of Palau’s abundant waters, including this little goby camouflaged within the branches of a red coral.

The Republic of Palau claims the word ”pristine” as part of its official slogan. Underwater, healthy coral reefs thrive, and above, spectacular limestone islands lie covered in lush tropical jungle.


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