Kathy West


BS Zoology / Animal Behavior, 1978 University of California, Davis

MS Primate Ecology and Behavior, 1981, University of California, Davis; Field research (Sumatra) on siamang ape (Hylobates syndactylus) ecology, behavior and communication

Travel for work and pleasure has provided me with amazing opportunities to conduct science and create images in Alaska, British Colombia, Pacific Northwest, Tanzania, Madagascar, Panama, Ecuadorian Amazon and cloud forests, Suriname, Galapagos Islands, Cambodia, Sumatra, Europe, and many states around the US.

As a conservation photographer and primatologist, I am troubled by the loss of biodiversity worldwide. In 2016 I founded a conservation program, Photography Inspiring Children in Conservation (PICCmadagascar.org). PICC is empowering people in habitat critical communities to support local ecosystem conservation, and inspiring children to become lifelong learners and conservation leaders within their communities by providing them with skills, knowledge and a passion for conservation through the arts of photography, illustration and writing.

By creating and freely sharing my images of endangered species, I am dedicated to bringing a greater understanding and appreciation of the natural world to further conservation awareness and solutions, especially in the primate extinction crisis.

I am a member of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA); International Primatological Society; American Society of Primatologists; and Guild of Natural Science Illustrators.

For details, please see my CV here.

Unique Set of Experience and Skills

With my education and long career as an illustrator, photographer and communications specialist for University of California, Davis, and as a freelance photographer and illustrator, I have created images of a broad range of subjects from mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians to insects, plants and fungi.

chimpanzee portrait I

• Extensive experience photographing a broad range of animal and plant species in North, South and Central America, SE Asia, Tanzania, and Madagascar, both in the field and in the laboratory

• Recipient of 2019 “Kyes Award for Excellence in Outreach” for significant contributions to primatology outreach, American Society of Primatologists

• Honored Image in 2020 Top 250 North American Nature Photography Association; Semifinalist in 2017 Nature’s Best Photography International Awards

Developed new conservation program, Photography Inspiring Children in Conservation (PICC)

Led an environmental outreach children’s workshop in collaboration with Suriname Forest Fragment Project, using the PICC program (see here for description and photos).

• Developed and led novel and successful education and public outreach communication strategies for UC Davis research programs and a national outreach consortium for 13 years

• Over 40 years providing accurate and engaging scientific illustrations for a broad range of research and conservation projects

• Key image and graphics contributor to successful government and private funding grant applications

• Donated photography field services to UC Davis’ One Health project, PREDICT, Phase II, in rural Cambodia

“Thanks to astonishing progress in digital imagery in recent decades, many people now take excellent photographs, yet Kathy West consistently rises way above that bar. Her work is utterly wonderful, reflecting outstanding  technical expertise, extensive training in biology, and a special knack for capturing details, a talent I suppose must come from some deep love […]

Dr. Harry W. Greene

“Kathy West has an ability to take startlingly beautiful photos of her animal subjects, in ways that fascinate and compel the viewer. For those of us that study the lives of animals, it makes others want to know about what we do.” Karen Bales, PhD, Professor and Vice Chair, College of Letters and Science Department […]

Dr. Karen Bales

“Kathy has been instrumental in providing photographs that illustrate the animal’s behavior when I communicate my science. These essential elements contribute to making the research tangible and have been featured from the Smithsonian to the New York Times coverage of the scientific studies.” Katie Hinde, PhD, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Center for […]

Dr. Katie Hinde


Growing up in northern California, my family explored the Pacific coast from Canada to Mexico by sail and I experienced the state by camping and backpacking. Prolonged eye contact with a gray whale in the dawn mist and helping to disentangle an albatross from fishing line while he sat in our cockpit were just two of the special moments in our travels that engaged me with the natural world and led me to want to learn more. I attended University of California, Davis where I earned a BS in Zoology/Animal Behavior and an MS in Primate Ecology and Behavior, focusing my graduate research on siamang apes in the forests of Northern Sumatra.