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2019 Speakers and Entertainment

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Jonatha Giddens
Ocean Conservation Ecologist and National Geographic Fellow
Jonatha Giddens
 Ocean Conservation Ecologist and National Geographic Fellow
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Ocean ecologist Jonatha Giddens is a fellow at the National Geographic Society Exploration Technology Lab where she is developing a research program to assess biodiversity in the deep sea. This program will provide an indicator of ecosystem health while inspiring people to care about the deep sea through the science, art, and storytelling of deep-ocean exploration. With a background in natural and social sciences and training in art and traditional storytelling, Giddens uses art, science, and technology to imagine and help create a brighter future for our ocean. She has a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

 

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Naftali Honig
Wildlife Crime Investigator and National Geographic Fellow
Naftali Honig
 Wildlife Crime Investigator and National Geographic Fellow
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Naftali Honig is a wildlife crime investigator on a mission to protect wildlife. After college, Honig took a backpacking trip that led him to Central Africa. While living in the rain forest of the Republic of the Congo’s Conkouati Douli National Park, Honig met activists who showed him the dynamics of Congo’s illegal wildlife trade and how to combat it. Not long afterward, he witnessed a commercial bushmeat bust and realized the poacher would never face serious punishment. Incidents like this inspired Honig to do something about wildlife trafficking and weak governance. Honig co-founded EAGLE (Eco-Activists for Governance and Law Enforcement) to bring justice for targeted wildlife. He has also built a unit of wildlife crime detection dogs in the Congo that can detect, among other things, the presence of ivory. He has trained national parks staff in Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Chad to fight wildlife crime through investigations, legal work, and communications. Honig’s horizons widened after conflict broke out in the Central African Republic, bringing rebels to the borders of Congo. Honig now works for African Parks in Garamba National Park in the eastern DRC. In 2016, Honig became a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

 

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Arati Kumar-Rao
National Geographic Grantee
Arati Kumar-Rao
 National Geographic Grantee
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Arati Kumar-Rao is an independent environmental photographer, writer, and artist documenting the slow violence of ecological degradation. She crisscrosses the South Asian subcontinent following a single story, across seasons, sometimes over years, in order to chronicle South Asia’s changing landscapes and climate, and its effect on livelihoods and biodiversity. She communicates through photos, longform narratives, and art, and is working on her first book. Kumar-Rao is based in Bangalore, India.

 

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Heather Lynch
Quantitative Ecologist and National Geographic Explorer
Heather Lynch
 Quantitative Ecologist and National Geographic Explorer
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Dr. Heather Lynch is a quantitative ecologist and an Associate Professor at Stony Brook University with a joint appointment in the Department of Ecology & Evolution and the Institute for Advanced Computational Science. Dr. Lynch’s research is dedicated to understanding the population dynamics of Antarctic wildlife, with a particular focus on Antarctic penguins, and she has more than a decade of field experience in Antarctica as co-PI of the Antarctic Site Inventory project. Dr. Lynch has helped pioneer the use of satellite imagery for studying the distribution and abundance of Antarctic seabirds and has published the first Antarctic-wide satellite-based surveys of both Adélie penguins and Antarctic petrels. Dr. Lynch serves as Principal Investigatorfor a large, multi-institution National Science Foundation award tasked with building the cyberinfrastructure required to unite high resolution commercial imagery and high performance computing for imagery-enabled science in the polar regions. Dr. Lynch has served two terms on the Science & Operations Committee of the University of Minnesota's Polar Geospatial Center, and currently serves as that committee's chair. Dr. Lynch received an NSF CAREER Award for her work on the spatial dynamics of Antarctic penguins, and was elected an early career fellow of the Ecological Society of America. Dr. Lynch has an A.B. in Physics from Princeton University, and M.A. in Physics from Harvard University, and a Ph.D. in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from Harvard University.

 

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Rue Mapp
Rue Mapp
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Rue Mapp is founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, a national nonprofit and social community with reach in 30 states and over 36,000 participants that reconnects African Americans with natural spaces through outdoor recreational activities. In 2010, she participated in the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors, and subsequently was part of the team that helped launch First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative. She has also worked for the Stewardship Council’s Foundation for Youth Investment. Mapp’s work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and Backpacker, Ebony, and Sunset magazines, among other outlets. She has been recognized with numerous awards and distinctions.

 

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Rodrigo Medellín
Biologist & National Geographic Explorer
Rodrigo Medellín
 Biologist & National Geographic Explorer
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Rodrigo Medellín is senior professor of ecology at the National Autonomous University of Mexico’s Institute of Ecology. For over 40 years, he has studied the ecology and conservation of bats and other mammals and implemented public policy for conservation. Medellín has won many awards, been president of conservation societies, and represented Mexico and North America in CITES and other international forums. His work with bats was the focus of the 2014 BBC documentary The Bat Man of Mexico and featured in the 2018 National Geographic documentary Giant Carnivorous Bats. Medellín has produced over 60 theses and 200 publications.

 

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Peter Muller
Photographer, Multimedia Reporter
Peter Muller
 Photographer, Multimedia Reporter
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Pete Muller is a photographer and multimedia reporter based in Nairobi, Kenya. His work focuses largely on conflict, masculinity, and national identity in post-colonial states. He has won various awards and is a member of the photographic collective Prime. Muller is a contributing photographer to the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic magazine, and other leading photographic outlets. He has provided media support for human rights and development organizations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UNICEF, Norwegian People’s Aid, and Greenpeace.

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Isaiah Nengo
Paleontologist and National Geographic Explorer
Isaiah Nengo
 Paleontologist and National Geographic Explorer
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Paleontologist and National Geographic Explorer Isaiah Nengo is director of research and science at Turkana Basin Institute, Kenya. His research in the Turkana Basin focuses on how climate change and tectonics drove mammal diversity in Africa and shaped the evolution of ape and human ancestors. His fieldwork has led to the discovery of many fossil apes, including recently a 13-million-year-old nearly complete infant ape skull. Nengo holds a B.Sc. in zoology and botany from the University of Nairobi and a Ph.D. in biological anthropology from Harvard University. He was a Fulbright Scholar at the National Museums of Kenya and the University of Nairobi in 2012-13.

 

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Olivier Nsengimana
Founder & Executive Director of Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association, National Geographic Explorer
Olivier Nsengimana
 Founder & Executive Director of Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association, National Geographic Explorer
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In 2014, Olivier designed a unique conservation project to abolish the illegal trade of the endangered Grey Crowned Cranes in Rwanda and won the Rolex Award for Enterprise which allowed him to start implementing the work. He established Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association in 2015 to build on the work with Grey Crowned Cranes and expand research and conservation efforts to other endangered and threatened species in Rwanda. Olivier has been a finalist in the 2016 Tusk Conservation Awards, received the 2017 National Geographic Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation in Africa, and winner of the 2018 Whitley Awards and 2019 Future for Nature Awards. Olivier is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and has a Master of Veterinary Science, Conservation Medicine from the University of Edinburgh, UK.

 

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Intan Suci Nurhati
Paleoclimate Scientist, Oceanographer
Intan Suci Nurhati
 Paleoclimate Scientist, Oceanographer
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Intan Suci Nurhati is a paleoclimatologist and paleoceanographer at the Research Center for Oceanography at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI). She received bachelor’s degrees in environmental science and economics from Wesleyan University, United States, as a Freeman Asian Scholar. Her honors thesis studied past oceanography and climate in central Indonesia using deep-sea sediments. She received her Ph.D. from the Georgia Institute of Technology, United States, with a certificate in environmental public policy. She continued her scientific career as a postdoctoral associate, soon after promoted to senior postdoctoral associate and research scientist, at the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology. Her postdoctoral works studied past climate in Indonesia using corals and trees, as well as marine pollution like sedimentation and heavy metals in the Indian Ocean region via coral skeletal geochemistry. Nurhati became a permanent researcher at LIPI in 2016. Her current work focuses on paleoclimate studies in Indonesia, as well as studying the utility of corals in reconstructing past ocean acidification changes and their impact on corals in Indonesia. She received a Bradshaw Award for Research Excellence from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2010, a Green Talents Award from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research in 2013, a United Nations Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission-Western Pacific Best Young Scientist Award in 2014, and a Best Speaker Award from the Indonesian Oceanology Society in 2016. She has received several international research grants, including from The World Academy of Sciences, USAID-PEER Science, and World Bank-Asian Development Bank programs.

 

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Enric Sala
Explorer-in-Residence National Geographic Society
Enric Sala
 Explorer-in-Residence National Geographic Society
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Dr. Enric Sala is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence dedicated to restoring the health and productivity of the ocean. His more than 120 scientific publications are widely recognized and used for real-world conservation efforts such as the creation of marine reserves. Enric is currently working to help protect the last pristine marine ecosystems worldwide, and to develop new business models for marine conservation. He founded and leads National Geographic’s Pristine Seas, a project that combines exploration, research, and media to inspire country leaders to protect the last wild places in the ocean. To date, Pristine Seas has helped to create 13 of the largest marine reserves on the planet, covering an area of over 4.5 million square kilometers.

Enric has received many awards including 2008 Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum, 2013 Research Award from the Spanish Geographical Society, 2013 Lowell Thomas Award from the Explorers Club, and a 2013 Hero Award from the Environmental Media Association. He is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Enric’s experience and scientific expertise contributes to his service on advisory boards of international organizations and governments.

 

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Brent Stirton
Photographer and National Geographic Fellow
Brent Stirton
 Photographer and National Geographic Fellow
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A special correspondent for Getty Images and regular contributor to National Geographic magazine, photographer Brent Stirton specializes in documentary work and is known for his focus on the intersection of man and the environment. He works regularly for Human Rights Watch and with the Environmental Investigation Agency, LAGA, the Gates and Clinton Foundations, and various United Nations groups. He’s received a Peabody Award, two awards from the Overseas Press Club, and 10 from the World Press Photo Foundation. Stirton's photos have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, le Figaro, GQ, GEO, and other respected international titles.

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Anand Varma
Science Photographer and National Geographic Fellow
Anand Varma
 Science Photographer and National Geographic Fellow
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Anand Varma is a science photographer who works to tell the story behind the science of everything, from primate behavior and hummingbird biomechanics, to amphibian disease and forest ecology.

Varma started photographing natural history subjects while studying integrative biology at UC Berkeley, and spent several years assisting other photographers before receiving a National Geographic Young Explorer grant to document the wetlands of Patagonia. He has since become a regular contributor to National Geographic and his first feature story, called “Mindsuckers,” was published on the November 2014 cover of the magazine.

Varma grew up in Atlanta and currently resides in Berkeley.

 

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Rae Wynn-Grant
Ecologist and National Geographic Fellow
Rae Wynn-Grant
 Ecologist and National Geographic Fellow
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Large-carnivore ecologist Rae Wynn-Grant studies the drivers of human-carnivore conflict and how human development can either facilitate or disrupt connectivity of carnivore habitat. She is currently researching potential habitat corridors in eastern Montana to improve grizzly bear conservation. She has previously worked to protect African lions in Kenya and Tanzania, grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and black bears in the western United States. Wynn-Grant is a National Geographic Society Fellow, an American Museum of Natural History visiting scientist, and an adjunct faculty member at Johns Hopkins University and Columbia University. She has a Ph.D. in ecology and evolution from Columbia University.

 

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photo credit

TOP IMAGES: Audrey Lew