Thomas Peschak: Telling the story of the Amazon’s complex aquatic ecosystem

National Geographic Explorer and seasoned photographer Thomas Peschak is taking on a new challenge: Documenting the biodiversity and ecology of the Amazon River Basin. 

Having shot great white sharks in the shallow waters of South Africa and been hands-on with grey whales in Baja California's San Ignacio Lagoon, National Geographic Explorer and photographer Thomas Peschak is no stranger to the diversity of aquatic life—especially when it's time to capture a good frame. He has spent his career specializing in documenting the world’s ocean. But now, he’s widening his lens and taking on a new challenge: the Amazon. 

Peschak is passionate about bridging the divide between people and conservation by sharing impactful stories and images. His work lives at the delicate intersection of art and science. 

“Instead of encountering sharks, whales, and sea turtles that I’m used to, I’ll be diving anacondas, piranhas, and sloths,” Peschak says. 

Peschak began his career as a marine biologist, but eventually, he discovered the power of storytelling through photojournalism when he realized a still image could potentially connect people to conservation more directly than scientific journals. 

“There are many unique ecologies in the aquatic world of the Amazon,” Peschak says. “There’s everything there from the largest mammals to the smallest invertebrates, and they all harbor these really unique ecologists and unique behaviors.” 

For decades, the terrestrial rainforests of the Amazon have dominated the conversation when it comes to conservation. Peschak says that typically when we think about deforestation in the Amazon, the first thing that comes to mind is the trees. He hopes to shift that narrative. 

“The aquatic ecosystem that really underpins the entire Amazon basin is under siege from dams, mining, overfishing, pollution, and climate change,” Peschak says. “It really is in dire need of a spotlight.” 

It’s not just about highlighting the Amazon’s unique aquatic biodiversity for Peschak. From the local communities and Indigenous peoples in the area whose knowledge and understanding of how the ecosystem is directly interlinked with the balance of living in harmony with the Amazon, to the Explorers and researchers who are passionate about preserving its wonder, Peschak believes in highlighting both the challenges facing the Amazon as well as the people who are facing them head-on. 

Thomas Peschak is participating in the National Geographic Society Perpetual Planet Amazon Expedition—a two-year series of scientific studies spanning the entire Amazon River Basin, supported by Rolex as part of its Perpetual Planet initiative. Learn more about the expedition.

This Explorer's work is funded by the National Geographic Society
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For the National Geographic Society: Brittany Maher is a freelance writer based in Atlanta, Georgia, who specializes in literary journalism. She believes in the connective power of storytelling. 

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