The Team

Ship Location

San Francisco, USA

Erin Ranney

Photo of Erin Ranney
Video Engineer
Freelance Wildlife Filmmaker
Washington State University/University of Salford

Tell us about your work/research. What kind of things do you do?

I am a freelance wildlife camerawoman. I work in small teams filming wildlife documentaries for both television and digital output. Every day seems to be a bit different- sometimes I’m hiking around remote Alaska side by side with brown bears, other days I’m surrounded by penguins.  

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

When I was in Madagascar doing field research after graduating in Wildlife Ecology, I fell in love even more with cameras and bringing images of wildlife to other people, especially to classrooms. Kids get so excited to see the images and learn more about the animals! Every book on Madagascar in the school library was checked out after I’d visited them. I then decided to change career paths from a scientist to a filmmaker and headed to a master’s program in England specializing in Wildlife filming. I think the first step to getting people to make a difference in the natural world, is to make them fall in love with it and I think film encourages that. 

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

My family has always been supportive- they are the first ones to offer to drive me to the airport for a job, take me somewhere on the boat or plane, put up with my schedule or talk through my ideas with me. Within filming there are have been so many big supporters- Mark and Mary Emery were the first ones to give me an opportunity in the field and from there the support just kept flowing in. It’s been a really amazing experience- more recently working with Chris Morgan, other cameramen, producers and researchers that have pushed me to get out of my comfort zone in filming. 

What element of your work/study do you think is the most fascinating?

I have the opportunity to bring people to places that they may never have the opportunity to get to. And I have been able to meet conservationist heroes and filmmakers making huge differences- it’s very humbling and exciting.  

What other jobs led you to your current career?

I started in Wildlife Ecology, having some amazing opportunities at Washington State University working in labs, hands-on with rehabilitated birds of prey, with bears and ungulates at the research centers, and spent a year doing fieldwork as a technician in remote study sites after graduation. I have spent most of my life working in the commercial fishing industry in Alaska- currently in Bristol Bay- and also guided throughout Alaska in glaciers, kayaking, wildlife viewing and photography, and fishing trips. I’ve since worked in film with companies such as PBS, National Geographic, Smithsonian and BBC - from assisting to working as a full-time camera operator in the field. 

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Science in Wildlife Ecology—Washington State University 2013
Masters of Art in Wildlife Documentary Production – University of Salford 2015
FAA Drone Pilot – 2017
BSAC Scuba diver—2015

What are your hobbies?

I love glacier exploring, kayaking, hiking… basically anything outdoors. I love bears- so any book, paper or film on bears is definitely on the top of my list. I also have two dogs that live on my family’s tree farm so we go on lots of walks when I’m back from a job. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to have a career like yours?

Do not give up- there are some amazing people out there that are willing to help you if you are willing to put in the time and effort. Sometimes it’s people you least expect. You cannot be afraid to ask for advice and help; we were all new at this at some point. Sometimes you are going to have to work other jobs to support yourself as you progress in the industry, but it’s all worth it. 

How did you get involved with the Nautilus Exploration Program? How did you get on the ship?

I applied for the video engineering intern program and after completing the internship was invited back as a Video Engineer. I cannot recommend the internship program enough- for me, it was a different kind of filming and being around such enthusiastic, brilliant scientists, navigators and ROV pilots is so fun.