When most people think about biodiversity they envision rainforests or coral reefs. Filmmaker Jeremy Monroe is on a mission to change that and teach about the amazing species that live in freshwater. Many people know only the freshwater animals that are commonly caught as sport fish, such as the largemouth bass. “I grew up in the culture of sportfishing, which celebrates selected game species,” says Monroe, director of Freshwaters Illustrated. “I had to go to college and study aquatic biology to learn the great diversity of freshwater life that isn’t seen in the popular sportfishing image, and that’s where I began to see the aesthetic of these diverse species in their underwater habitat, a beauty that few of us get to see.”

Monroe and his company have created a variety of educational videos and images designed to show people the beautiful creatures that live in lakes, rivers and streams, and to alert viewers to how threatened these ecosystems are. “Freshwater fauna are among the most imperiled on the planet,” says Monroe, who has a graduate degree in river ecology. “As I learned about freshwater ecosystems and their imperilment, I grew more concerned about how hidden freshwater life is to most people.” The unseen nature of freshwater biodiversity is a concern because these ecosystems can be severely damaged by commercial development.

The images in this slide show are some of Monroe’s favorites. He hopes they and his videos will “communicate the nature and beauty of these ecosystems and the passion of the people who work to understand and protect them.”