The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation, together with the National Geographic
Society, is proud to support the Emerging Explorers Program.
For more than 116 years, the National Geographic Society has supported and
chronicled the achievements of some of the most famous explorers of the 20th
century. National Geographic continues to play an important role in sponsoring
expeditions and scientific investigations. Through the Emerging Explorers
Program, National Geographic identifies and supports the next generation of
adventurers, researchers, photographers and storytellers.
National Geographic uses the Emerging Explorers program to spotlight uniquely
gifted, inspiring, visionary individuals – while they're still at the start of
their careers, before their names and works are known and recognized worldwide.
These individuals represent tomorrow's Meave Leakeys, Bob Ballards and Jane
Each year, National Geographic selects between 6 and 10 Emerging Explorers to
celebrate and support with seed grants for their field projects. Emerging
Explorers can come from all walks of scientific disciplines, including
non-traditional categories like cartography, education, filmmaking, music, space
exploration, and technology. Their work will be publicized through National
Geographic's media channels to allow people to experience the “new” world of
exploration in an emerging, fresh, exciting and educational way.
2009 EMERGING EXPLORERS
In the sprawling city of Cairo, Egypt, many of the poorest neighborhoods lack
hot water and other utilities. Tom created the Solar CITIES project, teaching
young Egyptians how to build and install rooftop solar water heaters and other
renewable energy, water and waste management systems. Through his enterprise,
Cairo's Muslims and Coptic Christians are working side by side, adapting new
technology to the needs of their community.
For centuries, traditional healers in Tanzania have employed indigenous plants
to treat infections, ulcers, diabetes and even cancer. As their rain forest
habitat disappears, many of these medicinal plants could be lost forever.
Grace has interviewed scores of healers, and is recording their practices,
identifying medicinal plants for conservation, so that these medicines and
the secrets of their use may be preserved for future generations.
Two thousand years ago, the famous harbor at Caesaria, Israel, built by Herod
the Great, was wracked by a massive tidal wave. Beverly discovered this ancient
disaster through studying sediment core samples from an underwater archeological
site. Through this and other marine excavations, she hopes to trace the historic
pattern of tsunami activity over the centuries, the better to predict and prepare
for future tidal waves.
As curator of mammals for the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History, Kristofer
oversees the world’s largest collection of mammal specimens. He has discovered
nearly 100 previously unknown mammal species, finding many in the wild in almost
every continent, and others lying unidentified in museum collections. It will
take years to publish and confirm all his findings, but his discoveries are
already guiding conservation efforts around the world.
Shafquat created Project Snow Leopard, to protect this endangered species while
securing the economy of Himalayan communities, where herdsmen were killing the
leopards to protect their goats and sheep. Now the herders pay minimal premiums
to insure their flocks and are fully compensated for every animal they lose to
leopard attack. The project's surplus funds pay for much-need improvements to
local, schools, water supply and infrastructure.
Since civil war engulfed Sudan in 1983, it has been almost impossible to conduct
conservation work in the region, and the effects of the war on the nation's
wildlife were largely unknown. Malik conducted an aerial survey that discovered
vast herds of antelope and gazelles that had escaped the destruction of their
habitat. His fieldwork, recording historic mass migrations, is an essential
first step to restoring an ecosystem ravaged by war.
2010 EMERGING EXPLORERS
Saleem H. Ali
From the Amazon rain forest to the marshlands of Mesopotamia, from the Golan Heights
to the contentious borders of Pakistan and India, international conflicts rage across
environmentally sensitive regions, rich in precious natural resources. Environmental
scientist Saleem Ali acts as a mediator between nations in conflict, creating
Transboundary Conservation Areas and Peace Parks in disputed regions. As a professional
mediator and United Nations adviser, he is enabling longtime enemies to treat their
shared natural resources as common ground rather than cause for conflict.
In rural Kenya, Maasai girls are often married and taken from school at age 13, to
spend their lives carrying water and firewood and tending the cows that are a traditional
family's only measure of wealth. Kakenya Ntaiya, born into dire poverty, broke with
tradition, completed high school and went on to college in the United States. She is now
completing her Ph.D. and has founded the Academy for Girls to empower a new generation of
After enduring every cataclysm to strike the earth in 100 million years, the great sea
turtles -- survivors of the age of the dinosaurs -- now face extinction because of the
human appetite for turtle eggs. Marine Biologist Jose Urteaga has established an innovative
turtle conservation program on the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua, and created sustainable
enterprises to give the impoverished locals an alternative to poaching. Urteaga has also
launched a national media campaign, complete with stadium concerts, to end the human
consumption of turtle eggs altogether.
India's Namdapha National Park is one of the most ecologically diverse areas on the planet,
rising from tropical forests to Himalayan peaks, home to a hundred mammal species, about
500 species of birds, and more than a thousand different plants. Aparajita Datta, a wildlife
biologist working with the Nature Conservation Foundation, has established a community-based
conservation program for Namdapha that addresses the needs of the region's indigenous Lisu
people: building schools, water projects, and introducing fuel-efficient technology to reduce
the demand for firewood that has long threatened the area with deforestation.
Before the advent of agriculture, the fertile spaces of the earth were covered with perennial
plants, living year round and reproducing without human intervention. In today's world, billions
depend for their survival on the cultivation of annual grain crops, requiring vast resources of
water, artificial fertilizer and mechanized labor. Jerry Glover, an agroecologist at the Land
Institute in Kansas, is patiently breeding new perennial grains that could feed our exploding
population while reducing the demand for energy and ending the ruinous demands we have made
on our planet's irreplaceable soil.
Bio-archaeologist Christine Lee is unearthing the relics of nearly forgotten cultures that once
flourished from Mongolia to Southern China. The American-born daughter of Chinese parents from
Taiwan, she was fascinated with paleontology from an early age, and now sees it as a means to
correct the Western misperception of China as a homogenous nation. From her analysis of the
artifacts and human bones she has unearthed, we are learning unprecedented details of the lives
of men and women who lived 4,000 years ago, demonstrating the diversity of human culture in ancient
China that underlies the vast country we know today.
By applying statistical models to DNA samples of ancient animals and the plants they fed on,
molecular biologist Beth Shapiro is reconstructing the tumultuous history of life on earth. Her
travels have taken her from Kenya to Siberia, collecting bone and tusk fragments from creatures
that lived as long as 130,000 years ago, preserved in deep mines or in mountains of volcanic ash.
By comparing DNA samples from different moments in time, she is unearthing the patters of evolution,
migration and extinction, the better to protect and conserve the species of today.
The sands of Mongolia's Gobi desert have preserved the fossil skeletons of dinosaurs in unparalleled
number and variety, many of them virtually intact. For years, the country's political and geographic
isolation prevented the exploration of this unique resource. The paleontologist Bolortsetseg Minjin
has founded the first Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs, drawing students and scientists
to his country, while training a new generation of his countrymen to uncover the amazing natural history
that lies beneath the desert sands.
Electrical engineer Aydogan Ozcan has set out to make a diagnostic tool of the most widely used and
portable piece of technology in the world, the common cell phone. His invention has the potential to
save millions of lives in the developing world, where communities may lack access to high-tech medical
facilities or even reliable electricity. His modified devices can capture images of cells in blood and
fluid samples, and beam the data back to an inexpensive PC-based diagnostic station, detecting infections
such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS while they can still be treated.
Around the world, otherwise effective grassroots nonprofit organizations cannot access the Internet
because of a lack of equipment and local infrastructure. After his own conservation work in Africa,
Ken Banks created FrontlineSMS, a free communications software application that enables people in remote
areas to access the Internet with nothing more than the most basic laptop computer, an ordinary cell
phone and a single cable. He provides the software free of charge to development workers, health care
groups, election monitors, community activists, farmers and anyone else who needs it, across Africa,
Asia and Latin America.
Feliciano dos Santos
As a child, Feliciano dos Santos was crippled by polio contracted from contaminated water in the
impoverished province of Niassa in Mozambique. Today, he leads the internationally acclaimed band
Massukos, using his music to inspire the disabled, and to promote sanitation and hygiene in all the
disadvantaged areas of his country. The NGO he founded, Estamos, has effected the reform of water use
and sanitation practices in thousands of villages, sustainably increasing agricultural production while
dramatically reducing the incidence of infectious disease.
The venoms of poisonous snakes and other reptiles have been used in the past to develop medications
for illnesses ranging from high blood pressure and heart disease to diabetes and chronic pain. The
Hungarian biologist Zoltan Takacs, who has hunted venomous snakes through the jungles, seas and deserts
of 133 countries, has created a technology that enables the rapid screening of animal toxin samples,
providing the basis for possible treatments for arthritis, multiple sclerosis and cancer. He is also
dedicated to preserving biodiversity, as some of the most dreaded animals on the face of the earth provide
us with substances that can cure as well as kill.
As a researcher with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Emma Stokes came to the Republic of Congo
to prevent logging companies from encroaching on gorilla habitat and ended up discovering a previously
unknown concentration of 125,000 lowland gorillas. Her discovery astounded the conservation world, and
catalyzed Congolese government action toward designating part of the region as a new protected area.
She is now applying her research expertise, sophisticated technology, and a well-defined business model
to saving the endangered tigers of Asia.