WASHINGTON, D.C. (APRIL 4, 2023) –– Today, the National Geographic Society introduced the National Geographic Photo Ark Species Impact Initiative, a new conservation project inspired by and funded through the Photo Ark. It will support science-based, on-the-ground conservation projects chosen through a peer-reviewed grant process. The Society will also elevate the profile of the conservationists, their work, and their focal species as part of its amplification of the Photo Ark.
The inaugural Species Impact Initiative grant was awarded to George Gann, a conservationist with 40 years of experience and the founder, president, and chairman of the board of The Institute for Regional Conservation. As a National Geographic Explorer, Gann will use the funding for a habitat restoration project in Southern Florida’s pine rocklands ecosystem to protect and recover the federally endangered Miami tiger beetle (Cicindelidia floridana) and Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterfly (Strymon acis bartrami).
“I am deeply honored that the restoration of pine rocklands has been chosen for the inaugural Species Impact Initiative grant,” said Gann. “The number of rare species in this ecosystem is staggering and Photo Ark will help us communicate that science-based restoration is imperative. For many species, we are past the tipping point and must restore to conserve.”
The pine rocklands ecosystem is globally imperiled and historically home to 11 federally listed animals and 16 federally listed plants. Gann’s project will benefit not only the Miami tiger beetle and Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterfly, but other endangered species that share this ecosystem, like Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus)––which is among the more than 13,000 species already included in the Photo Ark.
“The Photo Ark gives animals the chance to be seen, and have their stories told while there’s still time to save them and their habitats. The time to act is now,” said Joel Sartore, National Geographic Explorer and founder of the Photo Ark. “I am grateful that the Photo Ark has inspired so many people over the years, and I am immensely proud of its ability to catalyze support for real, impactful conservation efforts like the Species Impact Initiative.”
The Photo Ark is a multi-year effort that aims to document every species living in the world’s zoos, aquariums, and wildlife sanctuaries––while raising awareness of and seeking solutions to some of the most pressing issues affecting wildlife and their habitats. Over the past 16 years, Sartore has shown that these studio-style portraits are an effective tool for raising awareness and support for conservation. One example is that of the Florida grasshopper sparrow, which was near extinction when Sartore photographed it in 2013 for the Photo Ark and a cover story with Audubon magazine. As a result, the federal government went from spending a few thousand dollars a year to document its demise to spending $1.2 million to begin a captive breeding program––which is successful today.
“The Photo Ark has demonstrated time and again the power of storytelling and science working together to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Joel’s photos capture people’s attention and help them deeply connect with animals large and small so that we are driven to protect all species on the planet,” said Ian Miller, the Society’s Chief Science and Innovation Officer. “As so many species around the world face the threat of extinction, there is no better time to take action, create empathy for nature, and empower others to protect our world’s biodiversity. The Society is proud to support George through the new Photo Ark Species Impact Initiative to move the needle on conservation.”
Although often overlooked, insects like the Miami tiger beetle and Bartram’s scrub-hairstreak butterfly are beautiful and fascinating––and vital to their ecosystems. Sartore’s latest book, Photo Ark Insects, highlights the importance of insects within different communities and the crucial balance they provide to our ecosystem and world population. Available today, Photo Ark Insects is both a celebration of insects and a call to action to protect these small but mighty creatures.