Nova West headshot

Nova West

Video Engineer, Documentarian

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

I work as a filmmaker specializing in underwater camera work, and have worked with networks such as National Geographic, Discovery, and Netflix. I'm also an avid artist, graphic designer, scuba diver, photographer, musician, and environmental educator. In all aspects of my creativity my work most often centers around the natural wonders of our world and inviting others to explore them with me.

What sparked your initial interest in your career?

I've always had an innate interest in wildlife and expedition filmmaking, all starting with exploring my back yard in small-town Minnesota. I've always been curious about this strange world we live in and having a camera in my hand gave me a way to make art with the things I saw. While I was in a college Outdoor Education program a professor helped me realize that I could marry my love for the remote outdoors, teaching, photography, and videography. I then moved out to Washington, DC for an internship with National Geographic and never looked back. Since then I've been on some wild adventures that inevitably reignite the spark that got me here in the first place.

Who influenced you or encouraged you the most?

I think about this question a lot and my honest answer is everyone - everyone from my family to my friends, professors, and colleagues. I am so incredibly lucky and privileged to have so many people cheering me on, inspiring me, and having my back. To be a little bit more specific, I gotta give a proper thank you to Dr. Danny Frank and Dr. Ken Gilbertson, who are two of my college professors who really pushed me to see the possibilities of who I could become.

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

I think to date one of the most fascinating things I've done is help search for Amelia Earhart's plane off the island of Nikumaroro. This was my first time aboard the Nautilus as part of the National Geographic film crew for Expedition Amelia, and to this day it still stands as one of the coolest things I can say I have done. There's something so riveting about trying to find or do something that no one else has done before.

What other jobs led you to your current career?

Believe it or not, I've done many jobs unrelated to my career and those have taught me the most about what I want to do. In order to pay for college, I used to work full-time on an assembly line at a local factory. It was some of the most physically and emotionally taxing work I've ever done, but having that job truly gave me the push and perspective I needed to go after the things I truly cared about. Along the way, I've had opportunities to try on many different hats in filmmaking as well, which have helped me to narrow down my career path to underwater filmmaking.

What are your degrees and certifications?

Bachelor of Applied Human Sciences, Environmental and Outdoor Education - University of Minnesota, Duluth 2017

What are your hobbies?

I absolutely love scuba diving - if I could live underwater I'd be happy for life! I also enjoy drawing, playing Legend of Zelda, and hanging out with my dog, Turnip. I'm a drummer in a band and hope to join a drumline again in the near future! When I'm not working you can find me canoeing in the Boundary Waters or rock climbing with friends.

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

If you want to be a filmmaker I highly recommend filming whatever you can when you can. Film film film! Learn as much as you can on your own, from planning a film to producing, shooting, and then editing. The amazing thing about technology these days is virtually everyone with a modern cell phone has a pretty decent camera already in their pocket. It's so easy to get caught up in the fancy gear but given you have access to the basics like a phone and a computer, do what you can with what you have - it's the best way to learn. My other piece of advice is to network as much as you can. Network network network! Don't be afraid to reach out to people who are doing what you want to do and ask them how they got there. Plus, you never know who they can connect you with, and that person may just be the start of an incredible journey!

How did you get involved with the Ocean Exploration Trust?

After sailing on the Nautilus to film Expedition Amelia in 2019, I became very excited about the work that OET does year-round. After working with the Video Operations Manager on that expedition I decided to reach out about continuing to work on deep-sea exploration efforts. A few years later here we are!


What excited me the most about participating in a deep-sea mission is that I get to be a part of something so much bigger than myself. Regardless of if I have an off day or am a little seasick, I know that what I'm doing is contributing to an incredible effort to better understand our planet. And that's just plain cool.