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Melissa Groo is a conservation photographer and writer. She seeks to tell the stories of the natural world through images and words. It is her mission to inspire conservation of the animals she is privileged to witness, and the habitat crucial to their survival.

All of Melissa’s photographs are taken in the wild (unless otherwise captioned), without any baiting, playback, or lures of any kind (excepting her backyard bird feeder). She doesn’t’ believe that wild animals should ever have to perform for a photo. She tries her best to disrupt her subjects as little as possible, and places the welfare of the animal first.

Professional Memberships & Affiliations

Melissa is a Sony Artisan of Imagery, an Associate Fellow with the International League of Conservation Photographers, and advisor to the National Audubon Society on photography content and ethics. She’s a contributing editor to Audubon magazine.

She’s a leading voice and consultant on ethics in wildlife photography. Along with bird expert Kenn Kaufman, she created National Audubon Society’s landmark Guide to Ethical Bird Photography and Videography. She’s advised national and international organizations, publications, and photo contests on best practices in wildlife photography. She serves on the Ethics Committee for the International League of Conservation Photography and the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA). From 2014-2018, she was Chair of NANPA’s Ethics Committee. She has written on the issue of ethics in wildlife photography for National Geographic (How to Photograph Wildlife Ethically), among other publications. Her interest in ethics is grounded in the ecology of wild animals, and empathy for the myriad challenges they face in the age of the Anthropocene. See her Statement on Ethics or view a collection of her writings on ethics here.

In 2020, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology released “Bird Photography with Melissa Groo,” an online masterclass in beginning bird photography. It comprises almost 40 videos featuring her instruction. Melissa’s association with the Lab dates back to when she worked in the Bioacoustics Research Department from 2000-2005 on elephant communication, as Research Assistant for scientist Katy Payne on The Elephant Listening Project. She spent field seasons in the rainforest of central Africa studying forest elephants in the wild, where she learned to listen deeply and watch closely.

She works on assignment for magazines, traveling far afield to cover stories on particular species. A selection of her magazine stories include: for Audubon mag, American flamingos in the Bahamas and the White Ibis in Florida. For Smithsonian mag, Endangered Rothschild’s Giraffes in Uganda; Spirit Bears in BC’s Great Bear Rainforest;  Sandhill Cranes in Nebraska; Snowy Owls in Utqiagvik, Alaska; and Hudsonian Godwits in Chile; for Living Bird mag, the threats to Nebraska’s Sandhills region; and for National Geographic online, the Island Fox of California’s Channel Islands.

Melissa has served on the jury of numerous photo contests, including Wildlife Photographer of the Year (2023), Audubon Photography Awards, Bird Photographer of the Year, Nature’s Best, The Big Picture, and NANPA.

Melissa’s work has appeared on the covers of AudubonSmithsonianNatural HistoryLiving Bird, and Outdoor Photographer magazines and in publications such as National Geographic and National Wildlife.

In 2023, Melissa received the “Jay N. Ding Darling Memorial Award for Wildlife Stewardship Through Art,” from The Wildlife Society. Cited were her conservation photography and advocacy on ethical techniques in wildlife photography. In 2017, she received Audubon Connecticut’s Katie O’Brien Lifetime Achievement Award, for demonstrating exceptional leadership and commitment to the conservation of birds, other wildlife, and their habitats. In 2017, Melissa also received NANPA’s Vision Award, in recognition of early career excellence, vision and inspiration to others in nature photography, conservation, and education.

She has received awards in national and international photography competitions, including Audubon (2015 Grand Prize winner), Nature’s Best, and NANPA. Her fine art prints are in personal and corporate collections, and have been exhibited in many public venues, including the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Her work is currently on display in the Greenwich Audubon Center’s Kiernan Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Melissa leads private workshops and also teaches for select Summit Series of Photography Workshops. She gives presentations both virtually and in person.

Melissa is proud to be an Ambassador for Project Coyote; she cares deeply about the importance of carnivores in our landscapes, and continually advocates for co-existence with, and appreciation of, these animals. In addition, she serves on the Advisory Council for Wyoming Untrapped and the Board of Directors for The Little Egg Foundation.

Connect with Melissa online

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