Jeremy Shelton is a freshwater conservation ecologist at Freshwater Research Centre (FRC), a non-profit organisation that develops solutions for balancing the human need and ecological requirements for water. His research involves understanding the consequences of species invasions and collaborating on projects that strive to protect functioning freshwater ecosystems and restore degraded ones.
Shelton is also a filmmaker and the creator of Fishwater Films, where his decade of experience and passion visually takes shape to create indigenous stories about South Africa. “My documentaries aim to tell purpose-driven stories that reveal the beauty and plight of freshwater ecosystems,” says Shelton.
His love for the world beneath the water was sparked when his father introduced him to rock pools. Years later, when starting his postgraduate studies, he noticed a surplus of marine biologists in comparison to freshwater ecologists. “That’s when I decided to become a freshwater conservation biologist — and I’ve never looked back,” says Shelton.
His work at FRC demonstrates how building ecological resilience is the best way to safeguard freshwater ecosystems in the face of climate change. He says: “Conservation is more about understanding people than animals and ecosystems.”
Despite facing challenges such as matching the scale of projects to the problems they are designed to overcome, Shelton still finds ways to stay motivated and inspired through those he educates. “Witnessing a degraded aquatic ecosystem being revived as a result of a successful conservation intervention is incredibly rewarding,” he says.
Through his in-depth research and challenging films, he exposes and shares the incredible diversity of life hidden beneath the reflective surface of South Africa. “The networks of rivers and wetlands flowing through our landscapes and into our oceans carry the life-blood of our planet — water.”
Conservation is more about understanding people than animals and ecosystems