A Sioux Falls native is behind one of the biggest wildlife series National Geographic has ever done. And while "Untamed Americas" takes place across the globe, Kelly Sweet says the most memorable experience was filming part of the series in her home state.
Sweet fell in love with animals while growing up in Sioux Falls. After graduating from Roosevelt High School in 1998, she spent the last couple years traveling thousands of miles from Alaska to Patagonia capturing the most extreme wildlife of the Americas for National Geographic.
"Untamed Americas" explores the mountains, deserts, forests and coasts of the American continents.
The crew team spent nearly three years capturing extreme wildlife. Sweet helped produce, film, write and edit the four-part series.
"It was neat. Just to do something on this level was amazing. It was great that South Dakota was a big part of it," Sweet said.
Sweet was in the helicopter filming a bison herd at Custer State Park, featured in the Deserts episode. It was the first shoot of the project. But over the years, Sweet was there as filmmakers made scientific revelations including the long-tongued bat in Ecuador.
"We were talking with the scientist who had just discovered it and we were the first ones to film it. That was really neat to be the one. Wow. This is the first time anyone has ever been able to see it," Sweet said.
And scientists weren't sure of the effects of the blood-squirting defense of a regal horned lizard until now.
"No one had studied this before," Sweet said. "We worked with a scientist and the bobcat got hit right in the mouth. You can see in slow motion its reaction of, 'Ugh.'"
After living in a rain forest, being charged by rhinos, bit by snakes and enduring smoldering desert heat, Sweet is excited "Untamed Americas" finally premiers this weekend. She's also proud her home state made the cut.
"I've never worked on such a big project. I've never put so many years or weeks, blood and so much sweat and tears. And it was so rewarding to see it at the end and think, 'I am so proud of this,'" Sweet said.
The series premieres Sunday and Monday starting at 8:00 p.m. Central on Nat Geo.
Watch a preview of the show on the National Geographic website.