WASHINGTON (Aug. 14, 2013)—Two outstanding scientists who are making groundbreaking contributions to exploration have joined the National Geographic Society’s community of explorers. Paleoanthropologist Lee R. Berger, who is the Research Professor in Human Evolution and the Public Understanding of Science at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, has been named a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. Sarah H. Parcak, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has become a National Geographic Fellow.
Berger’s explorations into human origins in Africa over more than two decades have resulted in many significant discoveries, and he directs one of the largest paleontological projects in history, leading more than 100 scientists who are studying fossils from a rich, recently discovered site outside Johannesburg called Malapa.
Parcak pioneers the young field of satellite archaeology, using futuristic tools to unlock secrets from the past and transform how discoveries are made. Parcak, a 2012 National Geographic Emerging Explorer, is the first Egyptologist to use multispectral and high-resolution satellite imagery analysis to identify previously unknown archaeological sites. She has discovered more than 3,100 archaeological settlements, thousands of tombs and 17 possible pyramids in Egypt.
Explorers-in-Residence are some of the world’s preeminent explorers and scientists and represent a broad range of science and exploration; they develop programs in their respective areas of study, carrying out fieldwork supported by the Society. Fellows, with guidance and support from the National Geographic Society, generate and cultivate ideas that often become substantive programs.
“Lee Berger and Sarah Parcak perfectly embody the new age of exploration that the National Geographic Society is celebrating in its 125th year,” said Terry Garcia, executive vice president of Mission Programs. “We’re honored to have the chance to work directly with these dynamic explorers who are both pioneers in their fields.”
Early Hominin Fossils
As an Explorer-in-Residence, Berger will continue his work at Malapa, where he and a team have unearthed the most complete early hominin fossils yet discovered belonging to a new species of early human ancestor — Australopithecus sediba. “We’ll be opening excavations again at the Malapa site and creating a virtual online laboratory where people from around the world can observe and interact with the preparation of early-human fossils,” Berger said. “We’ll also be developing an exploration academy to impart basic and advanced skills in exploration sciences to the next generation of explorers.”
Berger is an award-winning researcher, explorer, author and speaker. He is the recipient of the National Geographic Society’s first Prize for Research and Exploration, awarded in 1997, and the Academy of Achievement’s Golden Plate Award, among many other achievements. His explorations into human origins in Africa, Asia and Micronesia have resulted in many new discoveries, especially A. sediba. Berger also has pioneered advances in applied exploration methods and the application of technology to exploration, excavation and discovery.
Berger is the author of more than 200 scholarly and popular papers, including more than 80 refereed publications, and several academic and popular books on paleontology, natural history and exploration. His work has appeared three times on the cover of the journal Science and has been named the top science stories of the year by Time, Scientific American and Discover magazines. Berger helped found the Palaeoanthropological Scientific Trust, which today is the largest nonprofit organization in Africa supporting research into human origins.
As a Fellow, Parcak will work to leverage emerging technologies relating to satellite archaeology in high-profile geographic areas critical to human history and cultural preservation. She also will work with National Geographic staff on engaging the public in interpreting “big data,” such as large quantities of satellite imagery.
“My goals for the Fellowship include creating innovative and crowd-sourced online experiences for finding and mapping archaeological sites using satellite imagery, and working with state-of-the-art remote-sensing technologies to preserve sites,” she said. “I also want to use my National Geographic Fellowship to find ways to combat increasing global archaeological site looting.”
Besides working as an associate professor, Parcak is the founding director of the University of Alabama-Birmingham Laboratory for Global Observation. She also is co-director of the Survey and Excavation Projects in Egypt with her husband, Dr. Greg Mumford.
Parcak is author of “Satellite Remote Sensing for Archaeology” (Routledge 2009) and numerous peer-reviewed articles. Her remote-sensing work has been featured in two BBC television documentaries. She is a Fellow in the Society of Antiquaries and a 2012 TED Fellow. Parcak has been called a “21st-century Indiana Jones” and was recently profiled on CNN’s “The Next List,” hosted by Sanjay Gupta.
More information on National Geographic Explorers: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/
Founded in 1888, the National Geographic Society is one of the world’s largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. With a mission to inspire people to care about the planet, the member-supported Society offers a community for members to get closer to explorers, connect with other members and help make a difference. The Society reaches more than 450 million people worldwide each month through National Geographic and other magazines, National Geographic Channel, television documentaries, music, radio, films, books, DVDs, maps, exhibitions, live events, school publishing programs, interactive media and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 10,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program promoting geographic literacy. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com.