The Year in Photos: Instagram Highlights Nature at Its Best

From sharks to sea turtles, marine animals shine on social media

The world is a beautiful place. That’s one reason Pew works globally to protect oceans and preserve wild lands—and share experiences and images via our Instagram feed.

You’d be forgiven for thinking 2016 was the year of the shark—five of our 10 most engaging Instagram posts (shown below) featured the ocean’s top predators. The truth is, it was a year of eye-opening events on land as well as under the waves.

For the full picture, follow @pewenvironment. In the meantime, here’s a snapshot—our most popular posts, and why.

1. A Close Encounter

It’s no wonder this rare image by photographer Mike Coots was @pewenvironment’s most-liked Instagram post of 2016 and went on to become a social media sensation. Coots, a shark attack survivor, speaks up for sharks—and against the fin trade and other harmful practices. “I wish the public would lose this irrational fear of sharks,” he told us. The scariest part of snapping this great white shark photo off New Zealand? “How cold the water was.” (See more of Coots’ shark photos—and his story of survival.)

2. New Friends

Our Tim Nicol snapped this photo of a green sea turtle helping to inspire the next generation of nature advocates in the Karajarri Indigenous Protected Area in Western Australia. Nicol manages Pew’s environmental work in the country’s Kimberley region. One major Kimberley conservation highlight of 2016? Establishment of the Walyarta Conservation Park, which will provide a boost for indigenous people and conservation in the region.

3. Making History

In August, President Barack Obama expanded Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii, making it one of the world’s largest marine reserves. This GIF shows just how big it really is

4. Yosemite’s Grandeur

2016 marked 100 years of the National Park Service. With views like this, it’s easy to see why Yosemite National Park in California is among the most visited U.S public lands. And now it’s even bigger—400 acres of meadows and wetlands were added along its western border in 2016.

5. Mesmerizing Motion

Thresher sharks use their uniquely long tails as whips to hunt and stun its prey—employing the somewhat hypnotic movement shown here. Fortunately, this vulnerable species benefited from new global trade regulations in 2016. (More thresher shark video: facts, map, and footage.)

6. Opening Wide

For Whale Shark Day (Aug. 30), we took a little look at this giant species. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean—about the size of a school bus.

7. Monumental Maine

These colorful Maine lands inspired Henry David Thoreau more than 150 years ago. In 2016, they helped inspire the creation of the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.

8. Introducing Casper

Say hello to Casper, the “friendly” octopus—a newly discovered species found haunting the Hawaiian seafloor in February.

9. Ghostly Vision

This chimaera, or ghost shark, was spotted swimming through the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off New England—the first U.S. marine monument in the Atlantic Ocean. Created in 2016, the monument supports an extraordinary array of marine life, from corals to whales to seabirds. (Video: See the park in 50 seconds.)

10. A Victory for Sharks

Pew artists created this hand-lettered artwork to honor the designation of the world’s second-largest shark sanctuary—established in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati in November.

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