Bio

Dustin Angell is a conservation photographer and environmental educator living and working in the headwaters of Florida's Everglades. His photography documents the science and conservation challenges of the region and the people trying to solve them.

 
 
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People are often surprised when they learn my background and they usually ask me to explain it. How could a suburban art major from New York end up running the education department at a biological field station in rural Florida?
— Dustin Angell

Discovering art

Dustin grew up in a suburb of Syracuse, NY called Lyncourt. His father was a truck driver for a paper company, which meant there was always extra drawing paper around. By the end of middle school, Dustin dreamed of becoming an artist. With a limited number of public school art classes available in high school, he attended figure drawing classes downtown at the Everson Museum of Art and enrolled for two summers in a month-long residential art program called the New York State Summer School of the Arts (NYSSSA). When it came time to pick a college major, although he was a first generation college student, his parents' advice was clear, "Follow your dreams." Dustin graduated from the New York College of Ceramics: School of Art and Design at Alfred University in 2007 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting and Photography, and a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

During his school years, Dustin developed a love of portraiture and people in art, finding inspiration in diverse sources, like the works of Renaissance painter Leonardo DaVinci and the late photo-journalist Eugene Smith. In fact, it was Dustin's first exposure to Smith's work that made him a believer in the power of photography. Most inspiring was Smith's photo Tomoko Uemura in Her Bath (1971) The picture was part of Smith's multi-year project called Minamata, which documented the effects of mercury poisoning from industrial pollution and advocated for the victims.  

Careers paths for young photography dreamers are narrow, even with an art degree, and graduating on the cusp of the Great Recession probably did not help. Instead of living in NYC or traveling the world as a photographer, Dustin found himself at home with his parents, a part-time photography assistant in need of a second job.

 

Discovering Science education

Working at the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science and Technology (MOST) was supposed to be temporary part-time minimum wage job, but Dustin discovered his love for science, a talent for informal education, and a mentor in fellow MOST educator Betty Jones. After promotion to a leadership position, he spent the next four years heading their planetarium programs and traveling the region to give entertaining science-themed performances for PreK-12 grade classes, libraries, camps, and children's hospitals. 

When Dustin and his partner Emily decided to move to Florida for her new wildlife biology job at Archbold Biological Station, they were unsure just what Dustin would do. There were no science museums nearby. Could he turn his part-time photo gig doing weddings and portraits into a career? 

 

Discovering Environmental Education

Archbold Biological Station, founded in 1941, had built a new Learning Center a year before, and were looking for someone to lead their outreach in a new direction. Someone who could run their elementary school program, science camps, and volunteer program, but who could also help change the organization's relationship with the community. Dustin had never led a nature hike before, but his reputation as an educator and friendly ambassador, the success of the programs he ran at the MOST, and his enthusiasm for incorporating technology and social media into his work qualified him for the position.

Since becoming the Education Coordinator at Archbold Biological Station in January 2013, Dustin has fully embraced his role as an environmental educator. In order to better interpret the organization's science and conservation projects for his students, Dustin accompanies researchers into the field and participates in the regional conservation community. He also participates in a variety of environmental education associations.

Dustin Angell's Environmental Education Highlights

  • Current Steering Committee Member for the Lake Wales Ridge Ecosystem Working Group
  • 2015 Outstanding Educator Award from the Florida Chapter of the Wildlife Society
  • Current President of the League of Environmental Educators of Florida (LEEF)
  • Certified Interpretive Guide by the National Association for Interpretation (NAI)
  • Member of the Association of Nature Center Administrators (ANCA)
 

Discovering Conservation Photography

Involvement in the science, conservation, and education communities in Florida offers a variety of opportunities for a photographer. After joining Archbold's team, Dustin started bringing his camera to work. He not only documented the educational programs for Archbold's social media, but co-founded an extracurricular photo club and began photographing biologists in the field. After realizing that conservation photography with a regional focus would allow him to use his photography for a purpose, he seriously began documenting science and conservation in 2014. This new focus led to local photography shows and a photo essay on Florida Grasshopper Sparrows in the Spring 2017 issue of Living Bird Magazine.

 
Dustin Angell leads summer camp students on a buggy tour. Photo courtesy of Archbold Biological Station.

Dustin Angell leads summer camp students on a buggy tour. Photo courtesy of Archbold Biological Station.