Tales from the Tundra

For Kaiti Chritz, photography isn’t just a fun side project; it’s her passion and career path. From the time she was little, Chritz always knew she loved photography. “As a kid, I used to say my dream job was to be a National Geographic wildlife photographer,” she remembers.

For Kaiti Chritz, photography isn’t just a fun side project; it’s her passion and career path. From the time she was little, Chritz always knew she loved photography. “As a kid, I used to say my dream job was to be a National Geographic wildlife photographer,” she remembers.

Chritz started Central Michigan University (CMU) with a future biology career in mind. Her love and curiosity of the Earth’s wildlife and ecosystems quickly fueled a passion to share stories for people to learn about protecting these lands.

In her junior year, Chritz discovered CMU’s photojournalism major, and she contacted Kent Miller, the adviser of the program. Right after that first meeting, she added photojournalism to an already-declared biology major. She has been looking forward to starting a career in scientific and conservation photography and filmmaking ever since.

Chritz eventually learned about a photojournalism internship in Alaska that Miller coordinates through CMU. “I waited a full year before applying for the Alaska internship. I wanted to feel confident in my photography and filmmaking skills before going,” she says.

Chritz spent 88 days in Alaska, photographing the wildlife and the breathtaking views of the state, working in the Kenai Fjords, Katmai National Park and Preserve, and the Alaskan Sea Life Center, documenting scientists, wildlife, and landscapes. She mainly worked with the Changing Tides Project, which explores the relationship between coastal brown bears, intertidal invertebrates, and people.

Bears were the primary focus of the research Chritz documented, and they were also her favorite subjects to photograph. She says, “For me, it’s a fascination with the connections I can draw between bears and humans. One of my favorite moments was being able to feel the fur of the first brown bear I approached in the field for the collaring process. When you are on the Alaskan tundra, nose-to-nose with a wild, tranquilized brown bear, your view of the typical ‘work day’ definitely starts to change.”

Looking back, Chritz knows this internship affected her for the rest of her life on multiple levels—personally, professionally, and academically. The opportunity also changed Chritz’s perspective on the planet itself and each person’s responsibility to protect it. She explains, “I see it as a place that we share with millions of other creatures, and we have a responsibility to protect and learn about the land for our sake and for theirs.” 

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