WASHINGTON (Jan. 31, 2006)–Eight young, visionary trailblazers — including an archaeological oceanographer, a U.S. social studies teacher originally from Kenya, a climate change author, and a gender anthropologist and Tibetan social entrepreneur — have been named to the 2006 class of National Geographic Emerging Explorers.
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. The Emerging Explorers each receive an award of $10,000 to assist with their research and to aid further exploration. The program is supported by Microsoft and the Catherine B. Reynolds Foundation.
Emerging Explorers for 2006 are theoretical physicist Stephon Alexander, of University Park, Pa.; environmental anthropologist and underwater cave explorer Kenny Broad, of Miami; archaeological oceanographer Katy Croff, of Narragansett, R.I.; geographer Maria Fadiman, of Boca Raton, Fla.; U.S. social studies teacher and author Joseph Lekuton, of McLean, Va.; climate change author Mark Lynas, of Oxford, England; adventure photographer Bobby Model, of Nairobi, Kenya; and gender anthropologist and Tibetan social entrepreneur Losang Rabgey, of Washington, D.C.
National Geographic Emerging Explorers 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 118 years has been to support and chronicle achievements of explorers and to sponsor their scientific expeditions. The Emerging Explorers program identifies and honors 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.
Microsoft’s support of the Emerging Explorers program includes a series of profiles in the February 2006 issue of National Geographic magazine. A Web feature at nationalgeographic.com/emerging will have profiles of the explorers and their activities.
Stephon Alexander: Alexander, 34, explores the secrets of the early universe, at the intersection of fundamental physics and cosmology. A native of Trinidad and Tobago, Alexander grew up in the Bronx, N.Y. He graduated from Brown University in 2000 with a Ph.D. in physics, specializing in theoretical cosmology and Superstring theory. He completed two postdoctoral qualifications at Imperial College, London, and Stanford’s Linear Accelerator Center and Institute for Theoretical Physics. Currently an assistant professor at The Pennsylvania State University’s physics and astrophysics departments, Alexander’s research activities focus on the interface between early universe cosmology and the quantum theory of gravity. In his spare time he plays the tenor saxophone.
Kenny Broad: Broad, 39, explores the relationship between climate, society and natural-resource management in diverse and challenging environments. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1999 and is an assistant professor in the Division of Marine Affairs and Policy and the Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. He holds a joint appointment at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Working in the United States, Latin America and the Caribbean, Broad studies climate impacts and human perception, the use and misuse of scientific information, decision making under uncertainty, marine protected areas and issues of societal equity. Broad has taken part in and led scientific and film expeditions around the globe, including the exploration of one of the world’s deepest caves in Mexico’s Huautla Plateau.
Katy Croff: Croff, 27, surveys, researches and conducts expeditions exploring ancient underwater traces of humanity’s past. A graduate of MIT and the University of Southampton, Croff is working toward her Ph.D. in archaeological oceanography at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography. She is involved with developing the university’s Sea of Crete Project, providing background research, determining survey routes and working with established archaeologists and oceanographers in the region. This project will focus on geological changes in the Sea of Crete and how they relate to the underwater archaeological record. Her other research interests include the protection of archaeological material underwater and public education on marine science and exploration.
Maria Fadiman: Fadiman, 36, conducts ethnobotanical studies of how indigenous people in Latin America and Africa use plants. An assistant professor in the Department of Geosciences at Florida Atlantic University, she recently completed her Ph.D. in geography from the University of Texas at Austin. Projects she is currently involved in are a study of the human role in the dispersal of exotic plant species in the Galápagos, and the ecological impact on the islands; the use and importance of the baobab tree in Zimbabwe and Tanzania; and the food plants of different ethnic groups in the rain forest of Ecuador.
Joseph Lekuton: A Kenyan and member of the nomadic Maasai people, Lekuton, 37, is an example of someone who constantly bridges the gap between the traditional and the modern world. A master’s graduate from Harvard University, he teaches U.S. social studies at the Langley School in McLean, Va. In the summer months he organizes visits to his traditional village for Langley School students and parents, and has spearheaded a number of development projects in Kenya. His autobiography for children, “Facing the Lion: Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna,” was published by National Geographic Books in 2003.
Mark Lynas: Lynas projects the effect that global warming will have on humanity and the future of our planet. He was born in Fiji in 1973 and grew up in Peru, Spain and the United Kingdom. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh (where he also edited the university’s newspaper), he joined a Web start-up called OneWorld.net, helping turn it into the world’s most-accessed Internet portal for human rights and sustainable development issues. Since leaving OneWorld in 2000 to work full-time on climate change, he has also been active as a climate change author and journalist. He is the author of “High Tide: News from a Warming World” and is working on a second book, “Six Degrees,” about the future of global warming. Lynas was selected as one of Seed magazine’s Revolutionary Minds in 2004.
Bobby Model: As an adventure photographer, Model braves the most challenging locations to cover the toughest topics — culture, conflict and extreme adventure. Born in 1973, he grew up on a ranch near Cody, Wyo., and his childhood experiences in the Absaroka high country instilled an appreciation for remote places. In college he developed an interest in adventure photography, enhanced by his ability to negotiate mountainous terrain. After graduating with a degree in economics, Model covered significant mountaineering expeditions on five continents for clients in the outdoor industry. His interests have evolved to include photographic reportage, and in 2004 he relocated to Nairobi, Kenya, where he is able to cover Africa more effectively. His photography has received international recognition and has been exhibited at the Banff Centre for Mountain Culture. He is a contributing photographer for National Geographic Adventure magazine.
Losang Rabgey: Rabgey, 37, is a founder and executive director of Machik, a nonprofit whose mission is to strengthen and revitalize rural communities on the Tibetan plateau. Born in a Tibetan refugee settlement in India, Rabgey moved as a child to Canada. After years of balancing doctoral studies with advocacy work, Rabgey began to explore new pathways for creative social engagement. She has since co-founded an award-winning primary school in her father’s village in Kham and has established an innovative Tibetan cultural center and trilingual library in the northeastern region of Amdo. Through Machik, Rabgey is coordinating collaborative efforts to establish sustainable geotourism in the region. As part of her ongoing efforts to bridge cultural divides, Rabgey is also on the board of directors of the Tibetan Himalayan Digital Library and was a founding member of Mechak, an online gallery for contemporary Tibetan art. She is a Ph.D. graduate in Tibetan and gender studies from the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.
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 1996 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 are 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.
Founded in 1888, the National Geographic Society is one of the largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations in the world. It reaches more than 300 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.