Northwest Ohio is home to a wildlife filmmaker, photographer and educator who has traveled around the world documenting animals for organizations like National Geographic, the BBC, and PBS. He is active in conservation efforts and spreads awareness about how every person can make an impact by helping to preserve ecosystems, contribute to a healthier planet, and preserve the wildlife in their own backyards.
“Seeing Planet Earth blew my mind in junior high school,” said Alex Goetz. “I knew I wanted to work with wildlife.” He graduated from BGSU with a degree in film production and environmental science. After graduation, he worked at the Toledo Zoo, and began his career filming animals.
“YouTube was getting big (at that time) and it seemed possible to make a living doing wildlife film.” He co-founded Running Wild Media with a fellow BGSU grad, Justin Grubb. Together, they have worked domestically and abroad, even partnering with organizations right in our backyards: Metroparks Toledo, Nature Conservancy Ohio and the Black Swamp Conservancy.
In addition to his filmmaking efforts, Goetz is also involved in the world of conservation and took part in a two-year international program for Emerging Wildlife Conservation Leaders. Meeting others in his field from around the world demonstrated the spectrum of approaches to working with wildlife, educating people about nature, and contributing to conservation efforts at home and around the world.
“Conservation is at the center of most of the work we do,” said Goetz. “We try to tell stories in not such a depressing way. By focusing on people who have seen the problem and found a way to make a difference. Showing ways to portray and conserve natural environments.”
For a lot of people, one of the unspoken benefits of being stuck at home during the pandemic was that the quiet (and boredom) caused folks to slow down, listen to the nature around them, and learn more about the animals who live in their backyards.
“A lot of people don’t realize that we live in a globally rare ecosystem, Oak Openings. A third of the birds in Ohio that are rare and endangered can be found in the Oak Openings region,” said Goetz.
One of the somewhat-recent developments in thinking about conservation is to focus less on traveling to other parts of the world to “save” animals and ecosystems there, and more on addressing issues endangering ecosystems in one’s own community, or nearby. So, rather than traveling overseas to help save an endangered elephant, for instance, one might work with a local organization like Black Swamp Conservancy to support their efforts in cleaning up land nearby and restoring it to an ecosystem that contributes to the strength of our own natural world.
A question on our minds: how does a wildlife filmmaker learn how to not get discouraged in a world that seems to be falling apart at the seams? Climate change seems downright hostile to the perpetuation of animal species and ecosystems, and there doesn’t seem to be enough of a unified approach to managing it.
“Think and act local. Learn about what you have around you: squirrels, songbirds. Raccoons seem exotic to Australians. Appreciate what lives around you and help organizations that are conserving local habitats,” said Goetz.
Goetz’ work can be seen in the Badlands episode of the American Parks series on Disney+. He will travel soon to Chile with a scientist studying avian malaria. His favorite animals: red wolves (the rarest wolf in America, only 30 in the wild); leopards in Africa that act like giant housecats, and orangutans. View his work at runningwild.media