CALM Welcomes Acclaimed National Geographic Photographer Joel Sartore

Thursday January 11, 2024

In February of 2023, CALM had the privilege of hosting Joel Sartore, an internationally celebrated photographer and conservationist, to take photos of some of CALM’s animals for his decades-long project with National Geographic. The project’s goals are to document every species in human care, inspire action through education, and help save wildlife by supporting on-the-ground conservation efforts. A year later, we are finally seeing the results of this collaboration.

Wrong Way arrived at CALM in 2008 as a young nestling.  Several attempts were made to release Wrong Way, but she continually flew back and landed on guests. Thus, she was named “Wrong Way” because she kept flying back instead of away from us.  Joel made his CALM animal selections based on the species he hadn’t yet photographed.  She was the first Western Scrub Jay he had the pleasure to meet and photograph.

During his visit to CALM, Sartore added several of our unique animals to the National Geographic Photo Ark. This included capturing the essence of diverse species such as Nubbins, the Antelope ground squirrel; Pocky, the pocket mouse; Tula, the deer mouse; Tina, the American porcupine; Wrong Way, the scrub jay; and Juniper and Beatrix, the mule deer. Observing his process was a captivating experience for all present, and his approachable demeanor made the photo shoot a collaborative and engaging event.

With over 15,000 at-risk species already photographed for Satore’s Photo Ark initiative, thousands more remain. In completing his goal, Satore aims to inspire action through education and support on-the-ground conservation endeavors, a testament to his enduring commitment to wildlife conservation. 

Nubbins, the antelope ground squirrel, arrived in 2013 to CALM. She had been caught in a trap by wildlife biologists. When they found her in the trap, the digits to both her front feet were damaged, so they brought her to CALM.  She was not a release candidate since she is missing almost all her front digits.

The CALM team felt so honored to have had our resident animals featured by a photographer of Sartore’s caliber,” said CALM Curator of Animals Sharon Adams. “He was so kind and patient and truly cared about the wildlife he was working with. He was also really interested in our little mice, which was cool because many people look over the smaller rodent species, but he recognized how special they are.” 

Sartore’s distinguished career includes his role as a National Geographic Explorer, speaker, author, educator, and conservationist. He is a frequent contributor to National Geographic magazine and was honored with the prestigious Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year award in 2018.

Beyond his contributions to National Geographic, Sartore’s work extends to various books, magazines, national broadcasts, and the PBS series “Rare: Portraits of the Animal Ark.” He is also a regular guest on the CBS Morning Show.

By Jennifer Bryan

By Jennifer Bryan

Jennifer Bryan joined Kern County Superintendent of Schools in 2021 as a Communications Specialist. As a creative and motivated marketing communications specialist, she has a special knack for storytelling and content creation. Born and raised in Kern County, Jennifer has worked in major industries within the region such as agriculture and oil and gas before she made the transition to education.