Emma Balunek | Judges’ Choice, Conservation

2020 Showcase Top 24 Winner

About Emma

Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, I am a senior at Colorado State University completing a degree in Ecosystem Science and Sustainability. I started photography when I was 12.

My photography is focused on telling important wildlife and conservation stories to make people care about the issue. My favorite subjects are prairie dogs because they are charismatic, entertaining, and are vital to the grassland ecosystem. There is a simplistic beauty and balance in the grasslands that I really enjoy. I hope to use the power of photography to shine a light on “underdog” species like the prairie dog.

I watched my dad take photos on family trips and decided I wanted to try it. I was one of the ten NANPA High School Program participants in 2016, when I met Karine Aigner. The following summer I went to Ecuador with Karine Aigner and Lucas Bustamante for their Kids Conservation Photography Workshop. This was a pivotal moment in my photography career because I realized I could combine my two favorite things—photography and wildlife conservation. My Ecuador group was invited to speak at the International League of Conservation Photographer’s annual conference, WildSpeak, in November 2017. I was inspired by the presenters, and decided I wanted to tell my own conservation photography story about prairie dogs.

The power of photographs and the emotions they evoke is what keeps me interested in photography.

Explore more of Emma’s work at www.emmabalunek.com or follow her on Instagram @EmmaBalunek.


As a NANPA Member

I have been a NANPA member since 2016. I had one photo selected for the top 250 in both 2019 and 2020, in addition to winning Judge’s Choice in 2020.