WASHINGTON (May 2, 2006)–Drawing from the fields of genetics, documentary filmmaking, bio-geography and conservation, the National Geographic Society has selected five outstanding individuals with unparalleled experience and visionary projects as its newest Explorers-in-Residence. Their tenure kicks off in early May with a launch event gathering National Geographic explorers past and present at the Society’s headquarters.
National Geographic’s Explorer-in-Residence Program enhances the Society’s long-standing relationships with some of the world’s preeminent explorers and scientists. The groundbreaking work of these explorers, representing diverse disciplines, generates the kind of critical scientific information, conservation-related initiatives and compelling stories that are the trademark of the Society. Explorers-in-Residence develop programs in their respective fields and carry out fieldwork supported by the Society.
The new Explorers-in-Residence are bio-geographer and author Jared Diamond, documentary filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert, explorer and conservationist J. Michael Fay and evolutionary geneticist Spencer Wells. They join the current Explorers-in-Residence, 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.
“In our modern era of global commerce, technological advancement and instantaneous communication channels, many may wonder what is left to explore,” notes Terry Garcia, National Geographic’s executive vice president for Mission Programs. “These inspired leaders in their fields prove that there is more than enough mystery, adventure and wonder left in the world.”
The newest Explorers-in-Residence:
Jared Diamond is an explorer in every sense of the word, having pioneered fieldwork in numerous regions of the world and scholarly and popular work in such disciplines as geography, biology, ornithology, anthropology and history. Professor of geography at the University of California, Los Angeles, Diamond is the author of the recently published “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed” and the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies.” He is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (“Genius Award”) and many research prizes, grants and teaching awards. He also is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and American Philosophical Society.
Diamond’s field experience includes 22 expeditions to New Guinea and neighboring islands to study ecology and evolution of birds; the rediscovery of New Guinea’s long-lost golden-fronted bowerbird; and other field projects in North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. As a conservationist, he devised a comprehensive plan for Indonesian New Guinea’s national park system. He also has taken part in numerous field projects for the Indonesian government and World Wildlife Fund.
J. Michael Fay is a conservationist at the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society and has spent his life as a naturalist. He roamed the Sierra Nevada mountains and the Maine woods as a boy, traveled through wilderness in Alaska and Central America in college and has spent the past 15 years in the central African forest.
From October 1999 through December 2000, Fay walked more than 2,000 miles through the forests of Congo and Gabon, systematically surveying trees, wildlife and human impacts on uninhabited forest areas. His “Megatransect” inspired President Omar Bongo of Gabon to create 13 national parks in his country, comprising some 11,000 square miles (26,000 square kilometers) of land. Returning to Africa in 2004, Fay conducted a “MegaFlyover,” assessing the impact of the human footprint on the continent through aerial surveys conducted from a Cessna.
Dereck and Beverly Joubert are award-winning filmmakers with four Emmys and a Peabody award to their name, whose mission in life is conservation. Their organization, Wildlife Films, has been operating primarily in Africa and specializing in African wildlife for 25 years. The Jouberts co-produce all their films; Dereck directs, films and writes their scripts, while Beverly produces and records sound. Beverly also is a professional photographer, having published many magazine articles. Filmmaking has for them always been a way to bring the message of conservation to audiences.
Dereck is involved in community projects in Botswana, trying to integrate wildlife and people in a meaningful partnership to secure the future of both, in particular with the Okavango Community Trust. He also is a founding member of Conservation International in Botswana, the IUCN Lion Work Group and the Chobe Wildlife Trust. The Jouberts also are involved in ecotourism, as directors of Wilderness Safaris and The Great Safari Company, both of which are at the forefront of partnering with local communities to develop sustainable ecotourism in areas where land and wild places are under threat.
Spencer Wells is a geneticist and anthropologist and director of National Geographic and IBM’s Genographic Project. His passion for history has led him to the furthest reaches of the globe in search of human populations that hold the history of humankind in their DNA. In 1989 he began his doctoral work studying what genetics can tell us about biological history and received his Ph.D. at Harvard University. Wells’ work then focused on the use of the Y-chromosome to infer when and how our species populated the planet. His long-term focus has been on the populations of central Asia, and he has undertaken several major expeditions to the region over the past decade. Recently he turned his attention to Chad, in central Africa, a country in which no genetic work had been undertaken before.
After heading a research group at Oxford University in the late ’90s, Wells briefly served as research director of a biotech company in Cambridge, Mass. He was writer and presenter of the 2003 PBS/National Geographic documentary, “Journey of Man,” and author of the book of the same name.
Also under the banner of its “Explorers Program,” National Geographic is announcing three new Fellows who will lead unique projects and provide expert consultation on other Society endeavors. The Fellows are archaeologist and ancient trade route specialist Fredrik Hiebert, acclaimed documentary photographer Chris Rainier, and foresight and global trends consultant Andrew Zolli.
National Geographic, with support from Microsoft and the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation, also fosters an Emerging Explorers Program that 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.
Emerging Explorers for 2006 are theoretical physicist Stephon Alexander, environmental anthropologist and underwater cave explorer Kenny Broad, geographer Maria Fadiman, archaeological oceanographer Katy Croff, American social studies teacher and author Joseph Lekuton, climate change author Mark Lynas, adventure photographer Bobby Model, and gender anthropologist and Tibetan social entrepreneur Losang Rabgey.
In spring 2007 National Geographic will launch its first annual exploration symposium, bringing together novice and accomplished explorers for mentorship and idea-sharing.
Founded in 1888, the National Geographic Society is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations in the world. It reaches more than 350 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and its four other magazines; the National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; radio programs; films; books; videos and DVDs; maps; and interactive media. National Geographic has funded more than 8,000 scientific research projects and supports an education program combating geographic illiteracy. For more information, log on to nationalgeographic.com.