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Screenshot of The Guardian article on the Living Planet Report. It's a newspaper with a photo of a group of seals on a beach and the headline Animal Populations Experience Decline of almost 70% since 1970, Report Reveals (10/13/22)

Screenshot of The Guardian article on the Living Planet Report (10/13/22)

By Frank Gallagher, NANPA Marketing, Communications & Blog Coordinator

Over the last fifty years, wildlife populations have declined by an average of almost 70%, according to a new report from the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London. The Living Planet Report, issued every other year, shows the declines accelerating. Last year the figure stood at 68% and in 2018 it was 60%.

Living planet

The report takes a deep look at about 32,000 populations representing more than 5,000 animal species across all the continents. Among the findings are that Latin America and the Caribbean had the steepest declines, partly due to accelerating deforestation. Populations of freshwater species fared the worst, having declined an average of 83% since the 1970s, due to habitat loss, pollution and migration barriers.

Western Europe and North America have had relatively slower population drops, around 20%. However, these continents have already suffered much of the ecological damage only now happening in lesser developed regions. For instance, Britain has already lost 50% of its historical biodiversity so a lower rate of decline from an already low base isn’t exactly good news.

The report speaks about a “broken relationship with nature” in which we’re seeing the “largest loss of life on earth since the time of the dinosaurs.” A spokesperson at the Zoological Society of London said “humanity is eroding the very foundations of life.”

Conservation photography & NANPA resources

It seems like every month brings a new report warning of dire consequences for the natural world. Between studies like this, worries of climate change, droughts and natural disasters, it’s easy to start feeling hopeless. But there are also opportunities for nature photographers to make a difference.

Conservation photographers all over the world are bringing stories about threats to wildlife and ecosystems to life with brilliant images that reach people’s emotions and inspire action. You don’t have to be Sir David Attenborough on television or Joel Sartore creating his PhotoArk to make a difference. Conservation photography can promote change at all levels, from national to neighborhood. And NANPA can help get you started.

Download NANPA’s free Conservation Photography handbook, a resource full of articles and tips on getting started or getting better in the field. It’s just one in a series of free handbooks NANPA offers on a variety of key nature photography topics.

Start or join a community science project. Whether you’re counting birds and butterflies or documenting invasive species, you can contribute to local nature knowledge. Community science (formerly known as citizen science) projects involve ordinary people, non-scientists, recording observations and data. There’s a global project monitoring the spread of garlic mustard, an invasive plant that crowds out native species. There’s one to track and monitor populations of bees. Whatever you like photographing, there’s probably a community science project for you. Check local parks, nature centers, and NANPA’s community science database.

You could also join an iNaturalist collection project. In an iNaturalist project, you upload images to the iNaturalist website or through the iNaturalist app. These field observations are vetted by experts and then used by researchers and the scientific community. You’re adding the data you’re collecting to scientific databases used for research by scientists all over the world. Think your photo of an native spring ephemeral flower is just a photo? Guess again! It could be helping scientists determine the distribution and health of that species. NANPA has several iNaturalist collection projects in process.

NANPA member Dani Davis shows how to use your photos to support scientific research in iNaturalist. (YouTube video)

Take a look at NANPA’s archive of webinars. For instance, Jaymie Heimbuch delivered several information packed webinars about how to start doing conservation photography. Find them in the webinar archive in the members’ section of NANPA’s website. Heimbuch also runs the Conservation Visual Storytellers Academy, where aspiring conservation photographers can take classes training them in the art of conservation photography.

Are you already involved in or planning a conservation photography project? You could be eligible for a NANPA Foundation grant. The Philip Hyde Conservation Grant (an anonymous donor doubled the amount this year to a total of $5,000) is to a NANPA member pursuing a peer-reviewed environmental project that aligns with NANPA’s and the NANPA Foundation’s missions. The $2,000 Jaynie Moore Green Scholarship Grant goes to a student specializing in the study of photography at an institution of higher education. Learn more about these grants in this article. Applications for both grants are accepted through October 31, 2022 so don’t wait!

Finally, you can search NANPA’s blog for Conservation-related stories for access to a wide variety of content on conservation photography and the role it can play in preserving and protecting life on earth.

If you’re engaged in a conservation photography project, let us know!

Together, we can make a difference.

Frank Gallagher is a landscape and nature photographer based in the Washington, DC, area who specializes in providing a wide range of photograph services to nonprofit organizations. He serves as NANPA’s Interim Marketing and Communications Coordinator and manages NANPA’s blog. He can be found online at frankgallagherphotography.com or on Instagram @frankgallagherfoto.