“Inspired by Nature” Exhibition

Currently on Exhibition in the Wegner Gallery in Environment Hall at the Nicholas School of the Environment at Duke University

9 Circuit Drive, Durham, NC 27708

Biodiversity is everything around us, all of nature, including ourselves. It is the living fabric of our lives—an intricate web of interrelationships that is vital to the maintenance of the world as we know it. Inspired by Nature invites you to connect with biodiversity and experience how we are inspired and transformed by this connection.

E.O. Wilson (1929–2021) has said, “There is no greater high than discovery.” By letting us see the world in ways we may not have perceived before, these photographs allow us to discover and enhance our collective experience of the beauty and wonder of our biodiverse planet. We hope these images create a deeper appreciation of the living world and inspire greater environmental stewardship. If we save the biosphere, we have the capacity to save the world.

Save the biosphere and you have the capacity to save the world. —E.O. Wilson (1929–2021)

Path to Yellowstone.

Path to Yellowstone. Photograph by Charles J. Smith.

Often called the American Serengeti, Yellowstone is the last place in the United States where a visitor can observe the full cast of keystone species playing their roles in the quest for survival and reproduction. Everyone is here; grizzly and black bears, bison, grey wolf, deer, elk, moose, pronghorn, eagle, osprey, cutthroat trout, and thousands of other supporting species, all discoverable to those who take the time to go and look.—Charles J. Smith

Northern Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas, California.

Northern Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas, California. Photograph by Charles J. Smith.

Capable of holding their breath for two hours and diving to over 5,000 feet, elephant seals have made a remarkable comeback through the Marine Mammal Protection Act. These animals were hunted for their oil and were thought to be extinct by 1880. But a small group of around 100 individuals survived in Baja California and were able to expand under legal protection. Today there are about 180,000.


The online gallery below shows the photographs in the exhibition, including accompanying stories to Charles J. Smith’s photographs.


Students from all over the country attended National Park Service/National Geographic BioBlitz events in 2013 and 2014. Together, they developed a sense of awe about the natural world as they worked together with volunteer scientists, teachers, and other community members to find and identify as many species of plants, animals, microbes, fungi, and other organisms as possible within the 24-hour event.

With our collaborative storytelling project, the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation captures students moments of transformative discovery at BioBlitz through interviews, documentary photography, and video and web-based projects. By sharing these stories, we aim to strengthen our individual and collective experience of the importance of our biological heritage, and to inform and inspire a grass-roots network of future environmental stewards.


Charles J. Smith is drawn to photograph the myriad of relationships of plants, animals, fungi, bacteria and, ultimately, people, in his wide travels. His photographs show us great beauty, but also the complex role of biodiversity as it plays out in nature.

Our collaborative storytelling project aims to capture the moment of personal discovery and transformation that occurs as young people connect with the natural world. Photographers Elena Rue and Christopher Sims captured students’ experiences as they explored nature and conducted fieldwork at BioBlitz events.

Collage of images from the Inspired by Nature reception of people talking.

Reception for “Inspired by Nature: Photographs from the E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation” during Biodiversity Days, April 24, 2015. Photographs by Christopher Sims.

Download the exhibition brochure and view all the photographs in the exhibition: high resolution brochure (19.9 MB) | low resolution brochure (1.9 MB)

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