La Jolla biologist connects persons to nature by way of pictures and vacation

In the pre-dawn hrs of a mid-September early morning, biologist, photographer and environmental advocate Nigella Hillgarth woke up in a tent surrounded by acacia trees in the African Savanna.

Hillgarth, a La Jolla resident, is as at-residence in Kenya as by the ocean. She retired to La Jolla in 2018, following possessing dwelling there from 2002 to 2014, when she was executive director of Birch Aquarium at Scripps Establishment of Oceanography. She also retains a remote submit as an affiliate professor and investigate scientist at the University of Washington.

Hillgarth spends a fantastic offer of time traveling, with her international trips encompassing the two business enterprise and pleasure.

Her modern African experience was a photographic safari with a modest team. “First gentle seems as I consume a cup of espresso and pack my cameras for the day,” Hillgarth claimed. “Early early morning is my favored aspect of the day, ahead of it will get as well incredibly hot and several animals are out and light for pictures is superior.”

They camped in the Southern Masai Mara, and were being off by 6 a.m. most mornings, on the lookout for lions, leopards and other animals.

“For a biologist like myself, African animals are intriguing. There are even now so lots of huge wild animals residing free of charge in their purely natural habitat, and residing and interacting in the same way they have for thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of many years,” Hillgarth stated. “As a photographer, it is a excellent spot to go to get superb shots and the light can be incredible.”

An image captured by Nigella Hillgarth while in the Masai Mara of Africa.

An impression captured by Nigella Hillgarth even though in the Masai Mara of Africa.

(Provided by Nigella Hillgarth)

She reported that the teams choose pictures right up until the warmth of the working day, when they retire again to camp, venturing out once again in the evenings for a several far more several hours.

Even with getting retired, Hillgarth even now strives to link people to the natural planet, and allows some others know what can be performed to shield it in the confront of habitat reduction, air pollution and the shifting weather. She brings together her images and science track record to acquire exhibits, which enable train the public about environmental concerns.

Despite the fact that she experienced been to East Africa ahead of, Hillgarth’s recent undertaking is her first visit to Kenya. In January, she will vacation to Antarctica, South Ga and the Falkland Islands, departing from the southern idea of Argentina.

“This will be my fifth vacation to Antarctica and I just cannot wait around to go again,” she said. “Antarctica is entire of color and audio and life.” She explained the sunsets as “the ideal I have ever viewed,” the penguins as “delightful” and the icebergs and glaciers as “incredible.”

In late July, Hillgarth will journey to the Arctic, to Svalbard, the Greenland Sea and Iceland. The next Oct she will go to the Seychelles in East Africa.

Before returning to La Jolla from Kenya, she programs to just take a vacation to Ireland for a handful of days. There, she will pay a visit to close friends and remain at a tiny cottage she has there, in Tipperary on Lough Derg, in the vicinity of Nenagh, following to exactly where she was born and grew up.

Hillgarth’s hometown nurtured her enjoy of animals and nature during her upbringing.

So considerably so that when Hillgarth was 5, she went all around her dwelling stating “I am an animal lover, I am an animal lover” more than and over yet again, and “I seriously have not adjusted,” she stated.

An Oxford University graduate, she obtained her master’s degree in zoology and doctoral diploma in animal conduct. She specialised in the behavior and physiology of pheasants, and performed investigation in Britain, India and Thailand.

She later on turned the govt director of the Tracy Aviary, the nation’s premier bird park, in Salt Lake, Utah, then the president and CIO of the New England Aquarium in Boston, prior to landing at Birch Aquarium.

Of all the areas Hillgarth has traveled, she is generally delighted to occur back again residence.

“What is not to like about La Jolla? It has so a lot record for the location, and fantastic institutions this sort of as Scripps Establishment of Oceanography, UC San Diego, the Salk Institute and many other folks,” she claimed, and praised the welcoming folks, great atmosphere, eating places and suppliers, and the great weather conditions.

“And of program, the ocean is merely fantastic,” Hillgarth said. “What improved area is there to retire?”

Hillgarth’s operate can be witnessed at

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