Profile: Clay Bolt

At WiLDSPEAK 2016, a conference created by the International League of Conservation Photographers, PhotoWings sat down with award-winning photographer Clay Bolt to discuss his fight to protect the rusty-patched bumble bee as a federally protected species under the Endangered Species Act. Clay shares with us how he became involved in this issue and the ways he used the power of visual storytelling to create positive change. In January 2017, the species became North America's first federally protected native bee.

Clay Bolt is a Natural History and Conservation Photographer specializing in the world’s smaller creatures who regularly partners with organizations such as the National Geographic Society and the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation. His current major focus is on North America’s native bees and the important roles that they play in our lives. 

Clay was a leading voice in the fight to protect the rusty-patched bumble bee under the Endangered Species Act, which became North America's first federally protected native bee in 2017. In 2019, he became the first photographer to document a living Wallace's Giant Bee—the world's largest bee—as a part of a four person exploration team to rediscover the species in the Indonesian islands of North Maluku. 

In 2009 Clay co-founded the international nature photography project "Meet Your Neighbours" (, which has grown to include dozens of photographers representing locations around the world. The mission at MYN is to reconnect people with the wildlife that lives within their own communities. In 2012, in partnership with The Highlands Biological Foundation, he co-founded Backyard Naturalists, whose mission is to inspire an appreciation of the natural world in children through science, art, and technology. 

In his current role as Manager of Pollinator Conservation for World Wildlife Fund (WWF-US) and Communications Lead for WWF's Northern Great Plains Program he is leading efforts to protect pollinators and grasslands biodiversity, support wildlife conservation on Native lands, and support private landowners seeking to sustainably manage grasslands. Clay is a Fellow in the Linnean Society of London, Associate Fellow in the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP), and past president of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA). He serves on the board of CREA, an organization dedicated to conserving critical habitat in the Panamanian rainforest, and the Livingston County Parks and Trails Committee in his hometown of Livingston, Montana. 


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