Duke Kunshan Professor Named Nature Photographer of the Year

Duke Kunshan Professor Named Nature Photographer of the Year


Accepting her award during a Feb. 24 ceremony, Li said photography plays an important role in conservation and that in recent years she had been increasingly active in capturing animals on film to support her work.

“Taking photographs of the natural world helps me to more effectively communicate the significance of scientific findings and the urgency of our conservation efforts,” she said.

“They inadvertently create a connection between us and nature, changing our perception of it and even our expectations of ourselves.”

The professor told the ceremony that she had been inspired as a child to pursue a conservation career by a picture of Peking University’s Dr. Lu Zhi studying giant pandas in the wild.

The young Li spotted the picture hanging on the wall during a visit to the university as part of a middle school biology competition.

Li receives praise from Lu Zhi and Jane Goodall at the ceremony

Years later, she was presented her latest award by Zhi herself — who in turn credits chimpanzee expert Dr. Jane Goodall with influencing her own career — in the hope that Li would continue the chain of high-achieving conservationists inspiring the next generation of women into the field.

Goodall, who is one of the world’s most admired conservationists and a member of the competition’s academic committee, said she was “extremely impressed” by the way Li combined research and “wonderful” photography.

“You’ve had to shoot film and conduct research often in difficult conditions and you’ve had to succeed in a world where women are typically in the minority,” she told Li.

“I hope that this competition and your example will encourage more people — especially young people, including young women — to become involved in wildlife research and conservation.”

The photography prize, awarded by a jury of renowned photographers, nature publication editors and environmental experts, is the latest accolade to adorn Li’s mantelpiece.

Her DKU team last year received a Pineapple Science Award for its research into bird-window collisions.

Li, who is also an assistant professor at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, worked as a science advisor for the Disney nature documentary “Born in China” and holds editor positions at several conservation journals.