Nature: The Serengeti Rules

Air date: 10/09/2019

Critically Acclaimed Documentary THE SERENGETI RULES to Premiere on Nature on Wednesday, October 9 on PBS

Founders of Modern Ecology Share Scientific Rules That Offer Hope for the Fate of Our Planet

Exploring some of the most remote and spectacular places on Earth, five pioneering scientists make surprising discoveries that flip our understanding of nature on its head, and offer new hope for restoring our world in Nature: The Serengeti Rules, premiering nationwide Wednesday, October 9 at 8 p.m. on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video app.

Academy Award-winning Passion Pictures and HHMI Tangled Bank Studios present one of the most important, but untold, science stories of our time—a tale with profound implications for the fate of life on our planet. Beginning in the 1960s, a small band of young scientists headed out into the wilderness, driven by an insatiable curiosity about how nature works. Immersed in some of the most remote and spectacular places on Earth—from the majestic Serengeti to the Amazon jungle; from the Arctic Ocean to Pacific tide pools—they discovered a single set of rules that govern all life. Now in the twilight of their eminent careers, these five unsung heroes of modern ecology—Bob Paine, Jim Estes, Mary Power, Tony Sinclair, and John Terborgh—share the stories of their adventures, and how their pioneering work flipped our view of nature on its head. Across the globe, they discovered that among the millions of species on our planet, some are far more important than others. They called these species “keystones” because they hold communities of plants and animals together, just like a keystone holds a stone arch in place.

When keystones are removed, ecosystems unravel and collapse—a phenomenon no one had imagined or understood until their revolutionary discoveries. But with new knowledge also comes new hope, and these same visionaries reveal the remarkable resilience of nature—and how the rules they discovered can be used to restore the natural world, from American lakes to war-ravaged African parks.

Based on the book by Sean B. Carroll, The Serengeti Rules will forever change the way we see nature. The film, a New York Times critic’s pick, which they dubbed, “science made spellbinding,” had its world premiere at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival and won awards at top-film festivals worldwide including Wildscreen’s “Smithsonian Channel Theatrical Award,” “Best Environmental Film” at the 2019 Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, “Jury Award” at the 2018 Wild & Scenic Film Festival, “Green Fire Award” at the 2018 American Conservation Film Festival, “Family Friendly Documentary” at the 2018 Maui Film Festival, and the “Golden Owl” at the 2018 Bergen International Film Festival. The broadcast will be accompanied by a media and impact campaign to shine a light on restoration projects across the world.

Now in its 38th season on PBS, Nature brings the wonders of natural history to millions of American viewers. The series has won more than 700 honors from the television industry, the international wildlife film communities and environmental organizations, including 18 Emmys and three Peabody Awards. The series is available for streaming simultaneously on all station-branded PBS platforms, including and the PBS Video app, which is available on iOS, Android, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast. PBS station members can view episodes via Passport (contact your local PBS station for details).

Nature is a production of THIRTEEN PRODUCTIONS LLC for WNET and PBS. For Nature, Fred Kaufman is Executive Producer, Bill Murphy is Series Producer and Janet Hess is Series Editor. The broadcast version of The Serengeti Rules is a production of HHMI Tangled Bank Studios and Passion Planet in association with Sandbox Films, Thirteen Productions LLC, and WNET. The feature documentary was directed by Nicolas Brown, produced by David Allen and executive produced by David Guy Elisco, Dennis Liu, John Battsek and Andrew Ruherman. The broadcast edit was directed by Alex West, produced by Gaby Bastyra and executive produced by David Guy Elisco and Jared Lipworth.



About WNET
WNET is America’s flagship PBS station: parent company of New York’s THIRTEEN and WLIW21 and operator of NJTV, the statewide public media network in New Jersey. Through its new ALL ARTS multi-platform initiative, its broadcast channels, three cable services (THIRTEEN PBSKids, Create and World) and online streaming sites, WNET brings quality arts, education and public affairs programming to more than five million viewers each month. WNET produces and presents a wide range of acclaimed PBS series, including Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend, and the nightly interview program Amanpour and Company. In addition, WNET produces numerous documentaries, children’s programs, and local news and cultural offerings, as well as multi-platform initiatives addressing poverty and climate. Through THIRTEEN Passport and WLIW Passport, station members can stream new and archival THIRTEEN, WLIW and PBS programming anytime, anywhere.

About HHMI Tangled Bank Studios
HHMI Tangled Bank Studios is a mission-driven production company established and funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) as an extension of its longstanding commitment to science education. The Institute is the largest private, nonprofit supporter of science education in the United States. HHMI Tangled Bank Studios’ award-winning films address important contemporary issues and capture compelling stories of discovery across all branches of scientific inquiry. Recent films include Emmy Award-winning The Farthest – Voyager In Space, film festival favorite The Serengeti Rules, airing on PBS/Nature on October 9, and Inventing Tomorrow, which premiered at Sundance and aired on PBS POV in July. Broadcast productions include the Smithsonian Channel’s Mass Extinction: Life at the Brink, NOVA special, Vaccines—Calling the Shots, and the Emmy Award-winning three-part PBS series, Your Inner Fish. HHMI Tangled Bank Studios extends the experience of its films with extensive outreach, promotion and education efforts. For more information, please visit

About Passion Planet
Passion Planet, a division of Passion Pictures is a global production company with a worldwide reputation for its commercials, animation, feature documentaries and landmark television productions. With three Oscars, three BAFTAs, and numerous Emmy awards Passion Pictures’ film and television department has a world-renowned output with notable titles including: Academy Award-winning One day in September, Academy Award-nominated Restrepo, Academy shortlisted The Tillman Story (Winner: Best Historical Doc Emmy 2012), BAFTA-winning The Imposter, Academy Award and BAFTA-winning Searching For Sugar Man, Golden Panda and Emmy-winning My life as a Turkey, and the Netflix original Academy Award-nominated Winter On Fire. Passion Planet is a department set up by four-time Emmy Award-winning producer/director David Allen to focus on natural history and specialist factual documentaries. The Serengeti Rules is Passion Planet’s latest feature length production. Visit for more information.

For editorial use in North America only in conjunction with the direct publicity or promotion of NATURE, no other rights are granted. All rights reserved. Downloading this image constitutes agreement to these terms.

The Ochre starfish (Pisaster ochraceus) is a predator of mussels in Pacific Northwest tide pools. Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, Bamfield, British Columbia, Canada. Credit: Petr Kragh / © Tangled Bank Studios, LLC

Jim Estes (Jaime Excell) steps off an airplane on arrival to Amchitka Island in the Aleutian archipelago to monitor sea otters. Credit: David Allen / © Tangled Bank Studios, LLC

A young John Terborgh (Johnathan Newport) watches a rare bird in the forest. Allegheny National Forest, Tionesta, Pennsylvania. Credit: Nicolas Brown / © Tangled Bank Studios, LLC

Ecologist John Terborgh standing at the edge of a downgraded forest in Manassas, Virginia. Credit: Catherine Watling / © Tangled Bank Studios, LLC

(Left to Right) Tony Sinclair, John Terborgh, Jim Estes and Mary Power gather at the "White Oak Ranch” reunion. The “White Oak” group published an article in Science Magazine, “Trophic Downgrading of Planet Earth.” Dragonfly Retreat, Bothell, Washington. Credit: Audrey O’Neil / © Tangled Bank Studios, LLC

Biologist Tony Sinclair (Greg Kriek) gets taken out for morning drive through the Serengeti. Lindbergh Lodge, Wolmaransstad, North-West Province, South Africa. Credit: Catherine Watling / © Tangled Bank Studios, LLC

Tony Sinclair (Greg Kriek) sits in Serengeti's tall grasslands looking through binoculars. Credit: Catherine Watling / © Tangled Bank Studios, LLC

Mary Power (Ashlyn Lopez) as a child sees the beauty of nature underwater for the first time. Credit: Japa Magyer & Laks Magyer / © Tangled Bank Studios, LLC

Ecologist Mary Power visits freshwater springs. Gilchrist Blue Springs, High Springs, Florida. Credit: © Tangled Bank Studios, LLC

Naturalist Bob Paine (Mathieson McCrae) conducts his starfish experiment on a beach in the Pacific Northwest. Credit: Catherine Watling / © Tangled Bank Studios, LLC