WASHINGTON (Sept. 17, 2004)–A program to help a new generation of visionary explorers realize their potential has been announced by the National Geographic Society. National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers Program recognizes and supports uniquely gifted and inspiring adventurers, scientists, photographers and storytellers who are making a significant contribution to world knowledge through exploration while still early in their careers.
Up to 10 Emerging Explorers will be chosen each year. Each will receive an award of $10,000 to assist with their research and to aid further exploration. The recipients may be selected from virtually any field, from the Society’s traditional arenas of anthropology, archaeology, photography, space exploration, sociology, earth sciences, geology, mountaineering, cartography, education and history to the worlds of art, music and filmmaking.
“A key mission of National Geographic over the past 116 years has been to support and chronicle achievements of explorers and to sponsor their scientific expeditions. The new Emerging Explorers program will identify and honor outstanding adventurers who are setting out on promising careers. They represent tomorrow’s Edmund Hillarys, Jacques Cousteaus and Dian Fosseys,” said Terry Garcia, National Geographic’s executive vice president for mission programs. The Emerging Explorers program is supported by Microsoft.
Nine individuals represent the first class of Emerging Explorers. They are paleontologist Zeray Alemseged, climber/photographer Jimmy Chin, integrative biologist Tyrone Hayes, biologist Zeb Hogan, primatologist/conservationist Cheryl Knott, primatologist Elizabeth Lonsdorf, plant biologist Mark Olson, marine biologist/filmmaker Tierney Thys and geneticist/anthropologist Spencer Wells.
Zeray Alemseged: Born in 1969, Alemseged, a native of Ethiopia, is a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. He is the leader of the Busidima-Dikaka paleoanthropological site in Ethiopia’s Afar region, which is yielding important clues about the 4 million-year history of human evolution.
Jimmy Chin: Born in Minnesota in 1973, Chin is a world-class climber and highly skilled photographer, a combination of skills that has taken him around the world to capture images of the remote and extreme. This year alone he has summited Everest and Kilimanjaro and will attempt a dangerous peak in Tibet this fall. In his brief career Chin has already attempted Argentina’s Cerros Torre, pioneered routes in Pakistan’s Karakoram Range and photographed mountaineering legends in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia.
Tyrone Hayes: An associate professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, Hayes’ research focuses on how genes and hormones regulate developmental changes in amphibians. Many hormones found in frogs are almost identical to human hormones, and Hayes, 37, is exploring how the study of frogs can yield benefits for human health and conservation. In particular, he is focusing on the impact of the potent endocrine-disrupting herbicide atrazine and its impact on environmental and public health.
Zeb Hogan: A postdoctoral fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, 30-year-old Hogan is in search of the world’s largest fish. He leads a conservation project in the Mekong River Basin that protects populations of migratory fish, including the giant catfish.
Cheryl Knott: An associate professor of anthropology at Harvard University, Knott’s research has focused on orangutan behavior and biology as a way to further our study of apes and to provide clues to human evolutionary history. Her study of orangutans in Borneo has shown this highly endangered primate has distinct cultural behavior traits that link closely to those of humans.
Elizabeth Lonsdorf: Born in Asheville, N.C., in 1974, Lonsdorf is studying how young chimpanzees learn to “termite” — the practice of fashioning a piece of vegetation into a tool to extract termites from mounds. Currently director of field conservation at Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, Lonsdorf facilitates the zoo’s involvement in animal conservation projects around the world.
Mark Olson: A plant biologist with the Instituto de Biología, Universida Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City, California-born Olson is soaring to novel heights for a fresh perspective on the diversity of trees. He conducts field research from a powered paraglider, which gives him a bird’s-eye view that allows him to study how trees present their leaves to the sky. As plants collect light for photosynthesis from above, it is crucial to have an aerial perspective of their anatomy, he says. Olson specializes in plants of the dry tropics.
Tierney Thys: Since 2000 Thys has been traveling the world’s oceans to study the giant sunfish (mola). The fish can grow more than 10 feet and weigh more than 5,000 pounds, yet little is known about them. By placing satellite tags on molas and collecting tissue for genetic samples, Thys hopes to uncover the giant fish’s secrets. Born in 1966 in California, she is science editor at Sea Studies Foundation, a documentary film company in Monterey, Calif.
Spencer Wells: By collecting blood samples from thousands of men living in isolated tribes around the world and analyzing their DNA, Wells and his colleagues discovered that all humans alive can be traced back to a small tribe of hunter-gatherers who lived in Africa 60,000 years ago. From this genetic trail, Wells, 35, has charted the ancient journey of our ancestors as they populated the planet, continent by continent. The story is told in the 2002 National Geographic documentary “The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey” and a book of the same name.
Emerging Explorers is the second National Geographic program that honors and supports outstanding explorers in their fields. The National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence Program was established in 2000 to highlight and enhance the Society’s longstanding relationships with some of the world’s preeminent explorers and scientists. Current National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence include oceanographer Robert Ballard, anthropologist Wade Davis, marine biologist Sylvia Earle, Egyptologist Zahi Hawass, paleontologists Meave and Louise Leakey, high-altitude archaeologist Johan Reinhard and paleontologist Paul Sereno.
Microsoft’s support of the Emerging Explorers program includes a series of profiles in National Geographic magazine and a companion Web feature at nationalgeographic.com/emerging, with multimedia profiles of some of the explorers. In addition, the National Geographic Channel is airing a taped vignette about each explorer.
Founded in 1888, the National Geographic Society is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations in the world. It reaches more than 270 million people worldwide each month through its five magazines, the National Geographic Channel, television documentaries, films, books, videos and DVDs, maps and interactive media. National Geographic has funded more than 7,500 scientific research projects and supports an education program combating geographic illiteracy. For more information, log on to nationalgeographic.com.