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Freshwaters Illustrated | David Herasimtschuk

David Herasimtschuk's love for rivers and the slimy and scaly critters that inhabit them has turned into a passion to help conserve them. He strongly believes that promoting awareness through visual storytelling can have a large impact in conservation. "If people can see what they are saving, they may see a real reason to act."

With a background in freshwater ecology much of his work focuses on creating imagery that offers a unique look into the secret worlds that reside below our rivers and streams. Working with Freshwaters Illustrated, a non-profit that uses film and photography to educate the public on a variety of freshwater topics, he hopes to inspire curiosity and help to encourage everyone to get out and explore their local river. 


David won 2018 Wildlife Photographer of The Year, Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles with the image below.

Clamped in the jaws of a hungry hellbender salamander, things were not looking good for the northern water snake. But when its attacker repositioned its bite, the snake pushed free and escaped. David was thrilled to catch a battle between these two unlikely foes. ‘I’ve seen hellbenders display an array of behaviours, but this was by far the most remarkable,’ he says. 

Hellbenders are the largest salamanders in the USA and are among the most endangered. Usually they hunt for small prey, such as crayfish, insects and eggs, so a northern water snake is an unexpected choice. These amphibians use suction to secure their prey before using their teeth – a method unlikely to subdue a wriggling snake.


David received Highly Commended, 2018 Wildlife Photographer of The Year, Behaviour: Amphibians and Reptiles with the image below.

Every spring, hundreds of rough-skinned newts migrate from nearby forests to this pond to breed. David follows suit, spending hours in the icy water. He seized this moment, when one male successfully embraced the female in the centre, while rivals jostled beneath. ‘The males are so desperate to mate,’ says David, ‘that I usually have a few hanging off me’.

This large, writhing group of newts indicates a healthy population, where the two lighter skinned ones are female, and the others are male. Scientists have, however, become concerned about a new fungal disease called bsal, which is fatal to newts and other salamanders. Named the amphibian plague, once in a habitat it can decimate numbers.


David created the following film to raise awareness on the bsal fungus. Please clink in the link to learn more.

March of the Newts from Freshwaters Illustrated on Vimeo.


To see more of David's work please check out the following sites.