National Geographic Society
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 Goodalls.
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.
The Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation chaired and developed the inaugural Evening of Exploration Gala which raised more than $1 million for the National Geographic Society.
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.
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 Maasai women.
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.