National Geographic Explorer Ronan Donovan’s love of the natural world was born, as he was, in rural Vermont in the cabin his father built. Ronan inherited a healthy sense of curiosity and wanderlust from his parents, who after crossing the Atlantic on a 35-foot sailboat, chose to raise their two boys close to the natural world in the forests of New England.
But it was in Africa that Ronan transitioned from biology to photography, when he travelled to Uganda in 2011 to study wild chimpanzees for Harvard University. Part of his work involved climbing fig trees to observe the chimps in the forest canopy, and he brought his camera with him, creating a series of photographs of the primates from above. That experience inspired his desire to use visual storytelling, above all about animals, as a way to reach a greater audience.
Ronan's photographic assignments for National Geographic magazine include an entire year living inside Yellowstone National Park documenting one of its iconic species, the gray wolf, and hiking volcanoes to photograph mountain gorillas. With the help of a grant from the National Geographic Society, he is currently pursuing a story in Uganda about how deforestation is creating conflict between chimpanzees and humans.
A self-taught photographer, Ronan was accepted into the Photo Society of National Geographic in 2017. He’s a two-time finalist for Wildlife Photographer of the Year and his photographs have hung on the walls of the Natural History Museum in London and the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. His film work has aired on National Geographic, PBS’s Nature, and the BBC. His most ambitious project yet, the story of a family of Arctic wolves, will air on NatGeo WILD in the fall of 2019.
For the past 10 years, Ronan has lived in Montana, where he loves to explore the Rocky Mountains around his home in Bozeman.
Find out about upcoming programs and expeditions with National Geographic photographers, view more work, or purchase a print by Ronan Donovan.