We asked speakers at the 2022 Global Biodiversity Festival to share their story of how they ended up in their current career.

For Aishwarya Sridhar, the path to her award-winning career started with a childhood love of nature fueled by watching David Attenborough documentaries about the natural world and asking “why isn’t there someone like me doing this?”

Sridhar is an award-winning wildlife photographer, storyteller, filmmaker and 2022 National Geographic Explorer. An Emerging Fellow at the International League of Conservation Photographers, she has been working towards policy protection for wetlands using the visual medium. Her debut feature film, Tiger Queen of Taru, is airing worldwide on National Geographic WILD and Disney+.

What’s your favorite thing about your job?

I love every aspect of my job! Be it researching stories or going out and filming or even sitting down on a computer for post-production. My work takes me to the most exotic places and to the frontlines of conservation. I get a sneak peek into the lives of incredible species and real-life heroes working to protect the endangered every day. I don't have Monday blues because even though I have odd call times, when I step into the wild, each and every challenge is worth it.

When did you know you wanted to pursue the work you’re currently doing?

Becoming a wildlife photographer and filmmaker wasn't on my mind as a child. To me, this was something I was deeply passionate about. I grew up in the lap of nature, hence being outside in the wild was something I was very comfortable with since childhood. I have grown up watching Sir David Attenborough on television and I used to wonder why wasn't there someone like me doing what he did as well! While I was in school, I used to put down whatever I felt about mother nature in poetry.

Then in eighth grade, a poem I had written called ‘’An exercise in futility’’ which was based on tiger poaching won in an inter-school elocution competition. The poem stemmed from feeling depressed about how humans can be entirely oblivious to the pains of another creature with whom we share this world. I did not want to live in a world devoid of these majestic beings. That poem became the turning point in my life as one of the judges invited me to participate in the NDTV- Aircel Save the Tiger Telethon where I recited the poem and showed some of my tiger pictures. That was the moment when the spark of creativity within me got ignited. Standing on the stage, facing the cameras, I understood the strength of communication and I wanted to harness its power to connect people with nature. I wanted to communicate my experiences and adventures in the wild to the world around me. To take the impact it had on me and to multiply that with the hope of creating change.

Was there an educator or mentor who inspired you when you were young? Tell us about them!

While growing up I didn't have a mentor, though I have always looked up to Sir David Attenborough, Jane Goodall and Dr. Sylvia Earle for inspiration.

If you could go back in time, what is one piece of advice you would give to your 18-year-old self?

'Be wary of those who try to hug you, more than the people who openly oppose you.'' At 18, I was naïve and used to easily trust people. I learned some hard lessons because of that, especially in my profession.

What advice would you give students today who want to pursue a career in STEM?

If you are passionate about it, willing to get up every morning, wanting to do it, then please follow a career in STEM. It may not be easy, but it's definitely worth your efforts, if you truly care about the subject. Patience, dedication and perseverance will certainly help you progress in your career.

What advice would you give parents who want to raise children who care about climate change, conservation, and STEM?

Please encourage your child if they want to pursue anything related to STEM or climate change & conservation. Our planet needs more defenders! Young children are the beacons of hope and change. And children certainly should be sensitized about the climate issue. Educating them on these issues will help them grow into responsible individuals, leading a sustainable lifestyle.