Nikos Petrou was born in Athens where he lives and practices. After graduating from the University of Athens Dental School, he completed his postgraduate training in prosthodontics at Emory University Dental School, in the USA.
From a young age he was attracted to nature, especially birds, and he has participated in ringing programmes and other fieldwork, in Greece and other countries. Since 1987 he has been photographing nature and wildlife in Greece, traveling continuously all over the country. Since 1997 he has traveled extensively in southern Africa, spending considerable time in Namibia His photographs have been published in magazines in Germany and Great Britain and he is a regular contributor to Greek magazines and newspapers, having published more than 70 articles on nature and wildlife subjects, as well as on current conservation and environmental issues. In addition, for many years he has been painting birds; his paintings have illustrated two publications of the Goulandris Museum of Natural History.
His first published work was “Images of Dadia” (1994), the first comprehensive coffee-table book about nature in Greece, combining images and accurate scientific information. It was followed by the similar “Reflections on Kerkini” (1996), and later on “Acheloos” (2001). In 1999 he provided the text and photos for the desktop calendar “The Nature of Thrace”. In 2000 he was commissioned to provide photographs for the book “Milos. Geologic History” by Ian Plimer and, in 2002, for the book “Amvrakikos” by Yannis Raptis and Stamatis Zogaris. In 2000 he published the first in a series of smaller coffee-table books “Mesolongi”, followed in 2003 by “Dadia” and “Kerkini”. The images and texts of these books are the result of exhaustive research and years of work in the field in those areas.
He has published two coffee-table books in cooperation with fellow nature photographer Kostas Vidakis: “The Colours of Water” (2008) and “Colours of the Forest–Rodopi” (2009). After more than 15 years of research and fieldwork, his photographs illustrated the field guide “Orchids of Greece”, written by Maria Petrou and Marios Giannakoulias, also published in 2009; the guide includes all 210 taxa occurring in Greece.
In 2010 he published the large volume “Greece. Land of Diversity”, a celebration of his country’s rich natural heritage, which includes extensive information on species and habitats, as well as on current environmental issues. Nikos Petrou donated all profits fro the sales of this book to the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature.
He illustrated the book “An expert’s guide to finding the animals in Etosha”, a field guide about wildlife in Etosha National Park, Namibia, which was published by Klaus Hess Verlag in 2012, and co-authored the texts with Neil MacLeod. In 2015 he produced the book “Birds of the Mesolongi Wetlands National Park” for the Management Authority of Mesolongi Wetlands National Park, with contribution in photographs by Kostas Vidakis and Panagiotis Vafidis.
He has also contributed photographs to the books “The Birds of Kuwait| (KUFPEC, 2012); “Discovering the stream of Pikrodafni” (HSPN, 2012), for which he was editor in charge; and “Photographs of Drama and its Beautiful World” (CYCLOPS, 2017), for which he also edited the English text. He also provided photographs for, and edited the texts of three guides books on EU environmental legislation (respectively for judges and prosecutors, lawyers and public authorities, and the general public) published by HSPN in March 2019, in the context of project LIFE Natura Tehmis.
His books have been listed by the Hellenic Book Centre among the most important books on Greek nature and the newspaper “Ta Nea” referred to him as “…one of the leading wildlife photographers in Greece…”
The Hellenic Post Office has selected his photographs several times as the basis for commemorative sets of stamps: in 2001 for the series on Greek flora and fauna, in 2003 for the series on Greek islands, in 2005 for the series on Greek wildflowers, and in 2014 for the series on common Greek songbirds.
Nikos Petrou has been active in nature conservation, and over the years has worked with many of the environmental NGOs in Greece, including the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature, WWF Greece, Arcturos, and the Hellenic Ornithological Society.
He has been a member of the board of directors of the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature (HSPN), the oldest and most prestigious of Greek environmental NGOs, for many years. During the period 2007-2016 he was editor of its quarterly journal “I Fysi” (Nature). Between 2007-2009 has was Vice-President of the HSPN Board of Directors, and since February 2009 he has been continuously elected as its President.
In 2016 and 2018 he was elected as a member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), an international organisation based in Denmark, with members in 80 countries all over the world. FEE operates prestigious educational and sustainable management programmes, including “Eco-Schools” and “Blue Flag”. Nikos Petrou is responsible for overseeing “Learning About Forests”, an environmental education programme focused on forests and their functions, involving more than 600,000 students in 26 countries.
Since September 2012 he has been Project Coordinator for the LIFE+ project LIFE11/NAT/GR/1014, ForOpenForests, co-funded by the European Commission. This 7-year project is implemented by the HSPN, in cooperation with the University of Athens, the Institute of Mediterranean Forest Ecosystems, the NGO Arcturos and the Region of Sterea Ellada. The main objective of the project is to design and implement management practices in forests and forest openings for the conservation of biodiversity at species, habitat, and landscape level, in two mountainous Natura 2000 sites of Central Greece, in the Region of Sterea Ellada: “ETHNIKOS DRYMOS OITIS” (GR2440004) and “OROS KALLIDROMO” (GR2440006).
Between March 2016 and May 2017 he was HSPN Project Coordinator for the project ICON, a15-month project focusing on the conservation of native orchids of Greece and Turkey, funded under Civil Society Dialogue between EU and Turkey – Education Grant Scheme, in cooperation with the German NGO Sails for Science, and the Turkish NGO Association for the Conservation of Antalya Orchids and Biodiversity. In the context of this project he was lead author of the white paper “Current Status and Best Practice Analysis for Greek and Turkish native orchid flora conservation”, and he wrote the script for, and co-directed in cooperation with Kosts Vidakis, the documentary film “Orchids: small and precious like our children”.
Since February 2018 he has been HSPN Projcet Coordinator for the LIFE+ project LIFE14/GIE/GR/000026, LIFE NATURA Themis, co-funded by the European Commission. This 5-year project is implemented by the University of Crete, in cooperation with HSPN, the Ministry fr the Environment, and the Herakleion and Chania Bars. The main objective of the project is to disseminate information to Judges, prosecutors, lawyers, public authorities, and the general public in Crete, about EU environmental crime legislation, especially the Environmental Liability Directive, and how it affects protection of Natura 2000 sites.
Since July 2018 he has been Project Coordinator for the LIFE+ project LIFE17/NAT/GR/000511, LIFE PRIMED, co-funded by the European Commission. This 5-year project is implemented by the HSPN, in cooperation with the Sapienza University of Rome, the Institute of Mediterranean Forest Ecosystems, the Managing Authority of the East Macedonia nad Thraxe National Park, and ARSIAL. The main objective of the project is to design and implement management practices for the conservation of Mediterranean Temporary Ponds and other priority habita, in two Natura 2000 sites: “DELTA NESTOU JAU LIMNOTHALASSES KERAMOTIS” (GR1150010) in northern Greece, and “BOSCO DI PALO LAZIALE” (IT5030022) in Italy.