Meet the Judges

Cristina Mittermeier

Cristina Mittermeier

Conservation Photographer

Cristina Mittermeier is the marine biologist and activist who pioneered the concept and field of conservation photography. Mittermeier founded the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP) in 2005 to provide a platform for photographers working on environmental issues. In 2015, Mittermeier co-founded SeaLegacy, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the ocean. Mittermeier was named one of National Geographic's Adventurers of the Year in 2018. She is also the recipient of many awards, including the Mission Award from the North American Nature Photography Association, the Smithsonian Conservation Photographer of the Year Award, and the Imaging Award for Photographers Who Give Back.

Cristina Mittermeier

Cristina Mittermeier

Conservation Photographer

Cristina Mittermeier is the marine biologist and activist who pioneered the concept and field of conservation photography. Mittermeier founded the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP) in 2005 to provide a platform for photographers working on environmental issues. In 2015, Mittermeier co-founded SeaLegacy, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection of the ocean. Mittermeier was named one of National Geographic's Adventurers of the Year in 2018. She is also the recipient of many awards, including the Mission Award from the North American Nature Photography Association, the Smithsonian Conservation Photographer of the Year Award, and the Imaging Award for Photographers Who Give Back.

Steve Winter

Photographer / Videographer

Steve Winter has been a photographer for National Geographic for over two decades, He specializes in wildlife, and particularly, big cats. He is a Nat Geo Explorer and he’s been named BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and BBC Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year. He was a two-time winner of Picture of the Year International’s Global Vision Award and won 1st prize in the nature story category from World Press Photo in 2008 and 2014. And won 2nd prize in World Press Photo 2020 in the Contemporary Issues category. He has appeared on 60 Minutes, CBS Nightly News, NPR, BBC, CNN, NG WILD and other media outlets. He speaks globally on big cats and conservation for Nat Geo LIVE and other outlets.

Steve Winter
Steve Winter

Steve Winter

Photographer / Videographer

Steve Winter has been a photographer for National Geographic for over two decades, He specializes in wildlife, and particularly, big cats. He is a Nat Geo Explorer and he’s been named BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and BBC Wildlife Photojournalist of the Year. He was a two-time winner of Picture of the Year International’s Global Vision Award and won 1st prize in the nature story category from World Press Photo in 2008 and 2014. And won 2nd prize in World Press Photo 2020 in the Contemporary Issues category. He has appeared on 60 Minutes, CBS Nightly News, NPR, BBC, CNN, NG WILD and other media outlets. He speaks globally on big cats and conservation for Nat Geo LIVE and other outlets.

Jennifer Hayes

Jennifer Hayes

Aquatic Biologist / Photojournalist

Jennifer Hayes is an aquatic biologist and photojournalist specializing in natural history and ocean environments from the tropics to the polar regions. Jennifer is a contributing photographer, author and speaker for National Geographic Partners and visiting professor of marine ecology, State University of New York.

Jennifer’s passion for the study and conservation of sharks and sturgeons lead to graduate degrees in zoology and marine biology. Jennifer is an award-winning photographer, author of numerous publications and books on marine environments and recipient of the Presidential Award for Environmental Education. Her work has been featured on CNN, ABC Good Morning America, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Channel and the Disney Channel. She is a trustee of the Shark Research Institute, Explorer Club Fellow, Contributing Editor for Ocean Geographic Magazine and Principal for Elysium Artists for Antarctic, Arctic and Coral Triangle Expeditions.

Jennifer Hayes

Jennifer Hayes

Aquatic Biologist / Photojournalist

Jennifer Hayes is an aquatic biologist and photojournalist specializing in natural history and ocean environments from the tropics to the polar regions. Jennifer is a contributing photographer, author and speaker for National Geographic Partners and visiting professor of marine ecology, State University of New York.

Jennifer’s passion for the study and conservation of sharks and sturgeons lead to graduate degrees in zoology and marine biology. Jennifer is an award-winning photographer, author of numerous publications and books on marine environments and recipient of the Presidential Award for Environmental Education. Her work has been featured on CNN, ABC Good Morning America, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Channel and the Disney Channel. She is a trustee of the Shark Research Institute, Explorer Club Fellow, Contributing Editor for Ocean Geographic Magazine and Principal for Elysium Artists for Antarctic, Arctic and Coral Triangle Expeditions.

Octavio Aburto

Conservation Photographer

He is an Associate Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), a conservation photographer, and a National Geographic Explorer. He obtained his PhD at the Center of Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at SIO, and was awarded the Katerhyn Fuller Fellowship, WWF-Science Program in 2010, the Conservation of Nature prize by the Mexican Ministry of the Environment – CONANP in 2014, received a Hellman Fellowship, for a Junior Faculty Research Project in 2015. His research and photographs have focused on marine reserves and commercially exploited marine species and their fisheries in Mexico, Latin America, and the U.S.

Octavio Aburto
Octavio Aburto

Octavio Aburto

Conservation Photographer

He is an Associate Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), a conservation photographer, and a National Geographic Explorer. He obtained his PhD at the Center of Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at SIO, and was awarded the Katerhyn Fuller Fellowship, WWF-Science Program in 2010, the Conservation of Nature prize by the Mexican Ministry of the Environment – CONANP in 2014, received a Hellman Fellowship, for a Junior Faculty Research Project in 2015. His research and photographs have focused on marine reserves and commercially exploited marine species and their fisheries in Mexico, Latin America, and the U.S.