Samantha Peltz ’15 peered at the majestic Icelandic landscape through the lens of a camera, capturing the glaciers, hot springs and mountains with which the nation has become synonymous. Around her, Peltz’s classmates took samples of the soil for their class, Earth’s Global Environment: Iceland. They’d come to the mysterious Nordic island nation to study glacial retreat firsthand. It was their professor, Larry Tanner, Ph.D., who asked Peltz to record their work in the field. As a communications major and environmental studies minor, Peltz was uniquely qualified to take on the task. Upon her return to the U.S., she created a seven-minute video about the research she and her peers did.
She’d found her calling.
“In Iceland, I just kind of figured out what my purpose in the world was, which was conservation filmmaking,” she recalled.
Today, fewer than three years after her graduation from Le Moyne, Peltz is living out her dream. She is a Washington, D.C., based visual story teller specializing in wildlife and environmental messages. She serves as an associate producer at National Geographic and host of the eponymous What Sam Sees, a series in Nat Geo Kids on Nat Geo Wild that airs each Saturday morning. The first season explored what Peltz called “misunderstood marine life,” including sharks, eels and puffer fish and was shot at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Md. Peltz is now working on the second season of What Sam Sees. When it premiers on Dec. 9, the audience will be introduced to a new panoply of ocean life, including sea turtles, lion fish, goliath grouper and sharks, in Key Largo, Fla.
“It is incredibly rewarding to see Sam take what she learned at Le Moyne (in all of her classes, not just mine) and use that as motivation to try to inspire a new generation to care for the environment,” said Tanner, who has seen all of the episodes of the first season of the show. “Sam knew early on what she wanted to do; she had a clear image of her dream job. How to actually achieve that dream was not nearly as clear, however, but she was patient and persistent. She explored career opportunities that initially may not have seemed particularly promising for her goals, but used the skills and connections acquired from each job to navigate toward that goal.”
As a child in Skaneateles, N.Y., Peltz looked up to explorers and conservationists like Steve Irwin, Jane Goodall and Sylvia Earle. They captured her imagination, inspiring her to see world around her in an entirely new way. They also encouraged her at a young age to think about her responsibility to the environment. Likewise, Peltz hopes that each episode of What Sam Sees will motivate children to care for the world, including its oceans, particularly as they are developing lifelong habits. Peltz acknowledged that it doesn’t hurt that the subject matter itself – covering more than 70 percent of the surface of the earth – is “pretty awesome.”
“I measure success through progress of fulfillment in my endeavors,” she said. “Working for a company whose mission is closely aligned with my own is a reward in and of itself. Having the opportunity to inspire kids by helping show them the beauty of the world we get to call home is another honor that I would call success.”
Peltz is a long way from the field in Iceland where the seeds of her career were first planted. She marvels at the fact that she is able to blend professionally her expertise in video production, social media and photography with her love for scuba diving and traveling. And she is grateful to her professors at Le Moyne, including Tanner, not just for the lessons she learned about science and communication, but for the grounding she received in subjects like philosophy, ethics and religion. They guide her every day and “led to the yellow borders” that is National Geographic, creating fun and original content about a subject close to her heart.
“It feels like something I was meant to do,” she said.