Ocean News

Ocean Storytelling Photography Grant 2023

By Lauren De Vos, 18th August 2023

The kind of stories we tell now, have the power to create the story of our future.  At the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF), we want to inspire people to protect sharks – and our planet – and we believe that captivating stories are the best route to heart-centred action.


We are happy to announce another year dedicated to supporting a new generation of conservation storytellers. A third year of our Ocean Storytelling Grant is part of our commitment to inspiring storytelling excellence, and this year we return to a photography focus.

The photography grant is led by our own Director of Storytelling and National Geographic photographer Thomas Peschak, in collaboration with Kathy Moran, formerly the senior photo editor at National Geographic, and Jennifer Samuel, photo editor at the Washington Post.

Once again, we are committed to finding diverse storytellers who can bring new perspectives and offer the viewers rare insights into our ocean and the animals and people whose lives depend on it. This call is not limited to underwater photography, but remains conservation and ocean focused. Three successful grantees will each receive a fully funded assignment to shoot a conservation photo story on location (including day rate and travel), under the direct mentorship of the Ocean Storytelling Grant team.

Our particular focus is on supporting early career and emerging storytellers. Applicants should therefore have no more than five years of professional experience in any photography-related discipline. We especially want to encourage women and applicants from South and Central America, the Caribbean, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, as well as underrepresented communities, to apply for this opportunity. Applications will be accepted both directly via open call and through nomination.

Find out more about the entry requirements here.


  • Three winners will be selected for each grant.
  • Each winner will receive a US$2,000 cash prize and will be given a paid three-week photographic assignment to document an SOSF-supported marine research or conservation project. The SOSF has funded more than 400 projects in more than 85 countries and the winning photographers will be assigned to tell one of these stories.
  • Thomas P. Peschak, National Geographic Magazine photographer and Director of Storytelling for the Save Our Seas Foundation, Kathy Moran, former senior editor (natural history) of National Geographic Magazine and Jennifer Samuel, photo editor at The Washington Post, will mentor photographers throughout the process.
  • All winners will be given the chance to showcase their work at an international conference or an exhibition.
  • Each winner’s story will also be published as a photo essay for Save Our Seas Foundation.


  • The Ocean Storytelling Photography Grant application process consists of a one-stage online application. The form consists of a few questions and requires the submission of a portfolio (20 images) and photo story (10 images).
  • Only one application will be accepted from any one applicant.
  • If an applicant has any other current SOSF grant, they cannot apply for a new grant.
  • All applications will be reviewed by the Ocean Storytelling Photography Grant judging panel and require final approval from the Foundation’s Board of Directors.
  • If successful, the SOSF Grant agreement between the Foundation and the applicant must be returned by the deadline. This agreement cannot be modified.

Along the coastline of Miami, turtle researchers are studying the adaptations of the turtles to increasing urban threats. Photo by Justin Gilligan | © Save Our Seas Foundation


Thomas Peschak

Thomas P. Peschak is a National Geographic photographer, explorer and fellow who specialises in documenting both the beauty and the fragility of the world’s oceans, islands and coasts. For National Geographic Magazine he has produced 10 feature stories that cover various natural history and conservation issues, ranging from manta rays to marine protected areas.

Originally trained as a marine biologist, Thomas embraced photojournalism 15 years ago after realising that his photographs could have greater conservation impact than scientific statistics can. He is a founding director of the Manta Trust and a senior fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers. His images have won 17 Wildlife Photographer of the Year and seven World Press Photo awards. Thomas has supplied the photographs and text for seven books, including Currents of Contrast, Sharks & People and Manta: The secret life of devil rays. He is a popular speaker for National Geographic Live, having presented more than 20 shows in 15 cities on three continents. His official 2015 TED talk, ‘Dive into an ocean photographer’s world’, has been viewed more than one million times.

Kathy Moran

Kathy is co-founder of Moran Griffin, Inc. and works as a photo editor and project consultant. Previously, she was National Geographic magazine’s deputy director of photography. As the magazine’s first senior editor for natural history projects, she has produced projects about terrestrial and underwater ecosystems for the magazine since 1990. She was the project manager for the National Geographic Society/Wildlife Conservation Society’s partnership documenting photographer Nick Nichols and Dr Michael Fay’s trek across Central Africa. The resulting stories were the impetus for the creation of Gabon’s national park system.

Kathy was recently named the chair of London’s Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. She has also edited several books for the National Geographic Society, including Women Photographers at the National Geographic, The Africa Diaries: An illustrated life in the bush, Cat Shots and most recently Tigers Forever. She was the photo editor for two collections of wildlife photography – ‘100 Best Wildlife Pictures’ and ‘Wildlife, the Best Photos’ – and recently curated ‘50 Best Wildlife Photographs’, an exhibition for the society’s museum. She was named ‘Picture Editor of the Year’ for her winning portfolios in the 2017 and 2006 POYI competition and the 2011 Best of Photo competition.

Kathy is a founding member of the International League of Conservation Photographers and currently serves on the board. She lives in Arlington, Virginia, with her husband and three bad cats.

Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel

Jennifer Pritheeva Samuel is the international photo assignment editor at The Washington Post, where she works with correspondents across the Americas, Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa bureaus, assigning freelance and staff photographers to ensure strong visual reporting from these regions.

Prior to that, she was with National Geographic where she produced stories about culture and the human condition. She edited many of the stories in the magazine’s 2019–2020 series highlighting women as well as the 2018 series on race and diversity. In 2019 Jennifer took second place as POYI’s magazine media visual editor of the year. Prior to joining National Geographic, she oversaw public programming for Photoville and managed the Anastasia Photo Gallery and Hank Willis Thomas’ studio. She was a co-founder and curator of the Brooklyn Photo Salon.

Jennifer is an avid swimmer and ocean lover. She briefly considered studying marine biology, but quickly realised this was mostly because she wanted to be underwater all day. After studying anthropology and photography at New York University, she was a Peace Corps volunteer on the Caribbean island of Dominica. She received her Master of International Affairs from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, with a focus on economic development and media. Brooklyn, New York, will always be her home, but she currently resides in Washington, D.C.

James Lea

James is a shark biologist and the chief executive officer of the Save Our Seas Foundation. Although his love for the ocean realm has taken his own career down a path of scientific research, this passion was inspired, and is maintained, by a deep affection for stories. From his grandfather’s tales of blue and porbeagle sharks, through the entrancing productions of Cousteau and Attenborough to the adventures of photographers (including our own Thomas Peschak) heard in an underwater camera store, stories have had a strong influence on him.

Indeed, James recognises the unique power they have to affect people’s world view. He is particularly excited to support emerging photographers to connect audiences with critical conservation issues through engaging storytelling – and in turn inspiring us all to be part of the solution and make a difference.

Jade Schultz

For nearly a decade Jade has been working with natural history images to engage audiences, raise awareness and tell conservation stories. As content manager for the Save Our Seas Foundation, she oversees the communication interface between the foundation and its audience and has witnessed at first hand the power of strong imagery as an aid to storytelling and science communication.
Under the mentorship of Thomas Peschak, Jade has learned how to discern between a good image and an image that will not only stand out and grab the viewers’ attention, but will educate and inspire.

In an age when people are bombarded with information and seem to only scan a page or timeline rather than read, a good image is an extremely powerful tool to have in your storytelling arsenal to engage the reader, elicit an emotional response and communicate an important message.

Jade is passionate about conservation and effective communication, as well as exploring the various mediums available to inspire others and hopefully drive conservation change. While it is always exciting to work on video, illustration and other multimedia projects, photography remains her passion.



Applications open: 18 August 2023

Applications close: 13 October 2023, 18:00 CET.




Winners announced: In the last quarter of 2023

Assignment: 2024



A juvenile lemon sharks explores the safety of Bimini's mangrove forests. These forests act as a nursery area for number of species in the area. Photo by Shin Arunrugstichai | © Save Our Seas Foundation



Fighting for Reef Fish – by Joris van Alphen

Sharks Safe, People Safe – by Mac Stone


Urban Pioneers: Florida’s Marine Wildlife – by Justin Gilligan

Islands in the Stream – by Shin Arunrugstichai