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Nat Geo Experts
Outstanding. Encouraging. Inspiring.
National Geographic’s researchers, explorers, and storytellers have been inspiring people for more than 125 years. They’ve pursued their dreams, become leaders in their fields, and are excited to share their stories and knowledge with students. National Geographic experts join most of our programs. As you explore together, they’ll share their insights and experiences, and inspire you with their passion for the work they do and the places you’ll discover. Below, meet the experts who will join our trips this summer.
Aaron Pomerantz is a National Geographic grantee and PhD student at UC Berkeley’s Department of Integrative Biology. His research is focused on structural coloration and wing transparency in butterflies. He also applies novel technology to conduct fieldwork in remote locations of tropical rainforests, such as the origami-based portable Foldscope microscope and handheld gene sequencers. Prior to starting his doctoral program, Aaron spent over two years leading expeditions as a field biologist and science reporter in the Peruvian Amazon, based primarily at the Tambopata Research Center. His work has been featured in media outlets such as the BBC, PBS Nature, CNN, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and Buzzfeed. His motto: “The coolest discoveries are the ones you make.” Aaron will join the Technology and Innovation workshop in the Silicon Valley.
Photographer and filmmaker Ami Vitale’s work has taken her to more than 90 countries—she’s lived in mud huts and war zones, contracted malaria, and donned a panda suit, all in keeping with her philosophy of “living the story.” Early in her career, Ami focused on conflict photography, and her first National Geographic magazine story documented the last rickshaws in Kolkata, India. More recently, Ami has turned her lens to wildlife stories, including efforts to reintroduce white rhinos and pandas to the wild. From 1997 to 2000, Ami lived in Prague covering politics and news from Eastern Europe for newspapers and magazines around the world including The New York Times, The Guardian, and Newsweek. Ami will join the Prague photo workshop.
Writer and globetrotter Andrew Evans has arguably one of the coolest jobs out there: he’s an explorer wandering the globe in pursuit of authentic travel experiences, while using the internet, digital mapping and social media to make his experiences interactive online. Andrew has reported live from glaciers, jungles, mountain summits, and a camel’s back, from all seven continents, and in more than 40 languages. A contributor to National Geographic Traveler and television host for both the National Geographic Channel and CBS, Andrew is the author of five books and the winner of numerous journalism awards. Andrew will join both departures of the Cuba expedition.
National Geographic Emerging Explorer Asha de Vos is a Sri Lankan marine biologist, ocean educator and pioneer of blue whale research within the Northern Indian Ocean. Asha is the first Sri Lankan to earn a PhD in marine mammal research, founded the nonprofit Oceanswell, and runs the Sri Lankan Blue Whale Project, which is the first long-term study of blue whales in the region. She is passionate about inspiring the next generation of ocean heroes and through her work, hopes to change the current marine conservation model. Asha’s work has been showcased by the BBC, the New York Times, CNN, WIRED UK, and TED. Asha will join the Bali high school expedition.
Photographer and filmmaker Ashima Narain is the former editor for National Geographic Traveler (India). She has covered a diverse range of topics that have sent her wading through mudflats in search of flamingos in Mumbai, hiding out in bear caves, climbing sail masts mid-sea, dining with Maharajas, and documenting the conditions of sari weavers in the holy city of Varanasi. In 2017, Time named Ashima one of the “34 women photographers to follow now.” Ashima was a judge on the first ever photography-based reality show on the National Geographic Channel, called Mission Covershot and her work has been published in National Geographic Traveler, Vanity Fair, Vogue, GQ, Marie Claire, Elle, and Teen People. Ashima will join the Bhutan high school expedition.
Named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his groundbreaking work as a cultural educator, Aziz Abu Sarah has dedicated his life to bringing Israelis and Palestinians together to find common ground, build mutual understanding, and forge lasting relationships. He has spoken in hundreds of churches, synagogues, and mosques, before both the European Parliament and the United Nations, and at many universities on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, peace, reconciliation, and interfaith dialogue. His peacemaking work in has taken him around the world—from Syria to Colombia. Aziz will join the Impact Storytelling workshop at Nat Geo Headquarters in Washington D.C.
Filmmaker and scientist Birgit Buhleier helped develop National Geographic’s Crittercam, a video camera system that has provided fascinating insights into the daily lives of hundreds of species. She has deployed over 100 Crittercams on a broad range of animals around the world. Through her work with Crittercam, she has sidled up to sea lions, studied the secret lives of great white sharks, and dived with hawksbill sea turtles. Birgit will join both departures of the Belize middle school expedition.
Conservationist and wildlife tracker Boone Smith has traveled the world helping scientists study big cats. He has developed some of the best and safest techniques for attaching radio collars to large mammals so we can learn about their lives and reduce human-predator conflict. Boone is a host on National Geographic WILD, and has assisted National Geographic magazine photographers in the field. Currently, Boone is working in Alaska’s backcountry, searching for lynx dens and studying the population and health of kittens. Boone will join the Alaska high school expedition.
South African photographer Brent Stirton spends most of his time working on long-term investigative projects for National Geographic magazine, and is committed to issues related to wildlife and conservation, global health, diminishing cultures, sustainability, and the environment. He has shot 20 stories for National Geographic magazine, including recent stories on human-lion conflict, elephant poaching, and the rhino horn trade. Brent appeared in National Geographic’s documentary Virunga National Park in Conflict, which won the Emmy for Best Documentary Feature. In Botswana, Brent has covered bush pilots in the Okavango Delta, and indigenous bushmen communities. Brent has been recognized by the United Nations for his work on the environment and in the field of HIV/AIDS. His work has received 9 World Press Photo awards, and has been published in many respected international titles including Vanity Fair, Time, The New York Times Magazine, GEO, and Le Monde. Brent will join the July 17 departure of the Botswana Expedition in the Okavango Delta.
National Geographic Emerging Explorer and Urban Agriculturalist Caleb Harper believes the future of agriculture lies in urban farms, and uses the technologies of computing, architecture, and engineering to explore and develop new food systems. A research scientist at MIT’s Media Lab, Caleb directs the Open Agriculture Initiative, which uses existing urban real estate and soil-less gardening to grow plants faster than a traditional farm 365 days a year (even during New England winters!), and produces food that is fresher and cheaper than what is available in grocery stores. His work has been featured by TIME, WIRED, The Economist, the Institute of Electronics and Electrical Engineers, the World Urban Forum, USAID and TED. Caleb will join the Engineering and Robotics Workshop on the MIT campus.
Catherine Workman is Senior Director of Wildlife and Wild Places at the National Geographic Society, where she oversees a portfolio of programs and grants related to wildlife issues. Her work has spanned the globe- from studying critically endangered langurs in northern Vietnam to helping develop collaborative strategies to stop the killing, trafficking, and demand for elephant ivory, to serving National Geographic’s BioBlitz, a citizen science initiative occurring annually in national parks across the United States. Before returning to National Geographic in 2015, Catherine spent a year as a AAAS Science Policy Fellow in the Office of Forestry and Biodiversity at USAID, where she supported government efforts to address biodiversity and forest loss, including unsustainable fishing, illegal logging, and wildlife trafficking. Catherine will join the Impact Storytelling workshop at Nat Geo Headquarters in Washington D.C.
National Geographic grantee and community conservationist Charles Trout has spent most of his life in and around the protected areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania. He is the co-founder and chief program officer for African People & Wildlife, which through its Northern Tanzania Big Cats Conservation Initiative works to save Tanzania’s most threatened lion population as well as important populations of cheetahs and leopards. In partnership with National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative, Charles launched the Build a Boma campaign, which has crowd-funded innovative solutions to protect African livestock and wildlife. Charles will join the Tanzania expedition.
For more than a decade, Erika Larsen has used photography to learn intimately about and document cultures that maintain strong connections with nature. She has followed Sami reindeer herders in the Scandinavian arctic and explored the significance of the horse in Native American culture for National Geographic magazine. Her work has been shown in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, the Swedish Museum of Ethnography, the Ájtte Sámi Museum and as part of National Geographic’s Women of Vision photography exhibit. Erika received a Fulbright Fellowship to study the North Sami language and recently published her first book of photographs, Sámi, Walking With Reindeer. Erika recently spent a year photographing the people of Yellowstone National Park for the May 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine. Erika will join the July 16 departure of the Iceland high school expedition.
National Geographic Big Cats Initiative grantee Florian Weise has spent over 11 years on the African continent conserving endangered species. His work helping to reduce conflicts between Southern Africa’s large cats, like cheetahs and leopards, and local farmers has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Africa Geographic, and the Financial Times London. Florian has combined his passion for the outdoors with research in the Serengeti, the Okavango Delta, the Namib Desert, and at the N/a’an Ku Sê Carnivore Conservation Centre. Florian will join the Namibia high school expedition.
Environmental scientist, writer, and Web producer Ford Cochran descended into ice caves and an active volcano on his first visit to Iceland while on assignment for National Geographic Television. Ford was principal contributing writer for the Society’s Historical Atlas of the United States and has written for National Geographic magazine. He helped launch nationalgeographic.com in 1996 and has been an editorial director and daily blogger for the website. In 2015, Ford completed a 36-lecture course on the geology of America’s national parks for National Geographic and the Great Courses. Ford will join both departures of the Iceland middle school expedition.
Originally from Italy, Gianluca Colla has traveled and photographed around the world, from the Arctic Circle to Africa’s deserts and from the Amazon to the streets of Edinburgh. He has covered a diverse range of topics including the secrets of the longest-living centenarians in the world, a lost Da Vinci painting, and hidden mummies in Sicilian crypts. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including National Geographic magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, Newsweek, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Gianluca will join the June 27 departure of the Australia high school expedition and Italy and Greece middle school expedition.
National Geographic grantee Greg Goldsmith is an ecologist studying the impacts of climate change on the world’s tropical forests. Over the past decade, his research has taken him to the furthest corners of Brazil, Panama, Mexico, Singapore, Costa Rica and Peru. Along the way, Greg has become a leading expert in using innovative media to share science and promote conservation. His web-based learning platform, Canopy in the Clouds, allows users to virtually explore Costa Rica’s cloud forests, while learning earth and life sciences through immersive media. Greg Goldsmith will join the Costa Rica middle school expedition.
Discover the wildlife of Alaska with biologist and filmmaker Greg Marshall. Greg invented the Crittercam—a device that can be attached to an animal to study its behavior. Greg’s Crittercam has enabled him to document life in the oceans and on land from the perspective of more than 80 species, including blue whales, black turtles, emperor penguins, and most recently, giant oceanic manta rays. Greg will join the Alaska middle school expedition.
Delve into Peruvian culture with ethnomusicologist Holly Wissler, who specializes in the musical rituals of Peru’s Q’eros and Wachiperi indigenous groups. Based in Cusco, Holly works with these indigenous communities to preserve their culture and traditions, and is a guest lecturer for National Geographic and a number of U.S. university study abroad programs. She has produced documentaries about the largest pilgrimage festival in the Peruvian Andes and the Q’eros’ musical rituals, and presented a small group of Wachiperi representatives at the 2015 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Holly is fluent in Spanish and Quechua, the main indigenous language spoken in the Andes, as well as Peruvian Sign Language. She is the Peru Director of the Center for World Music, a classical flutist, and plays a number of traditional Andean instruments as well. Holly will join the Peru high school expedition.
Photographer Ian Teh’s work is often driven by a concern for social, environmental, and political issues. He honed his craft while traveling throughout China in his early twenties, documenting the enormous political and economic changes the country was undergoing. He has worked throughout Asia and internationally, and his recent work on China’s Yellow River was featured in the March 2017 issue of National Geographic magazine. Ian has published three books, and his work has appeared in numerous publications including The New Yorker, Bloomberg Businessweek, and Granta. His photography is part of the permanent collection at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and was displayed in Paris as part of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference. Ian will join the China expedition in Beijing and Dunhuang.
Documentary storyteller, James Whitlow Delano has made Tokyo his home for over two decades while pursuing his passion for the environment, human rights and indigenous cultures. Since 2011, he has documented the aftermath of the Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, resulting in his fourth book, “Black Tsunami: Japan 2011.” His photography series documenting the 1.5 million sacks of radioactive soil in Fukushima Prefecture on the fifth anniversary of the disaster, was featured by National Geographic. Recently, his work for National Geographic has shifted to the US/Mexico border where he has been documenting the border wall and fence in panoramas, as well as families whose houses rest up against the border wall in Tijuana, Mexico. In 2015, James founded the @EverydayClimateChange Instagram feed, where photographers document global climate change on all seven continents. The project has been exhibited around the world. James is a grantee at the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting, and his award-winning work has been featured in numerous publications including The New York Times Magazine, Time, the New Yorker, and Foreign Policy. James will join the Tokyo photo workshop.
Award-winning Australian photographer Jason Edwards has been at the forefront of natural history photography for two decades. A passion for animals and the environment defines his extensive career. Since embarking on that career at the Royal Melbourne Zoo, Jason has produced images for everything from environmental campaigns to Hollywood blockbusters. His work has appeared in hundreds of publications including National Geographic magazine, BBC Wildlife, Australian Geographic, Sports Illustrated, Condé Nast Traveler, and The New Yorker. Jason is also the host of the National Geographic Channel’s Pure Photography, and an author of science education books. Jason will join the July 13 departure of the Australia high school expedition
Photographer Katie Orlinsky has spent over a decade covering news stories and feature assignments around the world, and her work has been featured in National Geographic magazine, the New York Times, the New Yorker, and Smithsonian Magazine. This year Katie received a National Geographic grant for a camera trapping project in Yellowstone National Park. Katie will join the entire Yellowstone photography workshop.
National Geographic Fellow Dr. Katy Croff Bell uses technology to investigate the depths of the ocean. Katy currently leads the MIT Media Lab Open Ocean Initiative, dedicated to reimagining the future of ocean exploration and storytelling. Since 1999, she has led or participated more than 25 oceanographic and archaeological projects, using robotic and telepresence technologies to explore what lies at the depths of the ocean. At the Ocean Exploration Trust, she was Chief Scientist of the Nautilus Exploration Program, working with a large, global team of scientists, engineers, and educators to conduct multidisciplinary expeditions aboard E/V Nautilus in the Mediterranean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean, and Pacific Ocean. Nautilus expeditions were shared with the world live, revealing the wonders of the undersea world in real time, in an effort to maximize the scientific outputs of expeditions and engage and inspire a new generation of young explorers. Katy is a proud alumna of MIT, where she received her SB in ocean engineering, before completing her masters at the University of Southampton and doctoral work at the University of Rhode Island. Katy will join the Engineering and Robotics Workshop on the MIT campus.
National Geographic grantee and ecologist Kevin McLean can often be found high up in forest canopies, studying some of the world’s least-known wildlife. Kevin combines camera trapping and GPS technologies with field science to study wildlife living in tropical treetops. As he collects his scientific data, he writes stories, takes photos, and creates videos to provide a view of his life as a researcher and the interesting species he encounters. Kevin is a Research Fellow at the University of California Davis, and recently traveled to Malaysian Borneo and the Ecuadorian Amazon as a Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling fellow, surveying canopy wildlife in two of the most biodiverse areas of the world. Kevin will join both departures of the Ecuador and the Galapagos expedition in Mindo and Cotopaxi.
For over a decade, Krista has worked as a photographer and photo editor for National Geographic Traveler. Her assignments for the magazine have taken her around the world—from documenting a surfer’s paradise in Costa Rica to capturing images of traditional Zulu farms in South Africa.In 2013, she photographed a feature story on San Francisco forNational Geographic Traveler. For Krista, the camera is a powerful tool that helps her understand new cultures, meet locals, and explore the natural world. Krista is also a photography instructor, and has taught multiple workshops focused on capturing the spirit of the American West’s people, culture, and wild places. Krista will join the Yosemite and San Francisco photography workshop.
National Geographic Emerging Explorer, geographer, and environmental educator M Jackson can often be found exploring some of the world’s most remote Arctic environments. M’s research is focused on glacial environments and climate change, and she recently spent a year in Iceland studying how climate change is affecting communities near the fishing village of Höfn. In 2015, she published her first book, While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change, which blends her own personal history with climate science. M’s research has taken her around the globe—from Alaska to Turkey—and she has spent over 10 years as a glacier guide and naturalist. M will join the June 25 and July 2 departures of the Iceland high school expedition.
Author, wildlife photographer, and cinematographer Matthias Breiter has spent most of the past 30 years researching the daily lives and habits of black, brown, grizzly, and polar bears. He has authored 16 books, and his articles and photography have appeared in National Geographic magazine, and BBC Wildlife. Matthias’s most recent documentary, Polar Bear Summer, was nominated for an Emmy. Matthias will join both departures of the Canadian Arctic expedition.
Meet Massimo Bassano, whose work has been published in National Geographic Traveler and on nationalgeographic.com. Massimo has developed quite a following teaching National Geographic photography workshops in Tuscany and Venice as well as leading expeditions around the world. His September 2011 story in National Geographic Traveler, “Italy’s Forgotten Towns,” had him traveling thousands of miles through the southern Italian countryside. His acclaimed photography book The Color of Silence details the 12 weeks he spent in a little-known Italian monastery. Massimo will join the June 26 and July 17 departures of the Italy & Greece high school expedition.
Melissa Farlow is known for her personal approach when photographing people, and has worked on over 20 projects for National Geographic in South America, Quebec, Alaska, the Alps and throughout the American West. From an early age, Melissa had a passion for horses and she recently co-produced Wild at Heart, a young adult book about mustangs and the teens who are trying to save them and preserve America’s wild horse legacy. Melissa was awarded a Pulitzer Prize with the staff of the Louisville Courier-Journal and her work has been published in National Geographic magazine, National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian, LIFE, and in over seventy books. Melissa has photographed throughout Ireland on a book assignment for TIME. Melissa will join the Ireland high school expedition.
National Geographic grantee Paola Rodríguez-Troncoso studies and protects coral reefs in the tropical waters of the Atlantic and Pacific. As a researcher at the University of Guadalajara, in Mexico, Paola has studied the ecology of tropical corals, and how they are affected by climate change, ocean acidification, and El Niño Southern Oscillation events. With funding from National Geographic, she has restored coral reefs in two areas of the Pacific. Paola will join the Belize high school expedition.
You can often find adventurer and visual storyteller Robbie Shone capturing images of the world’s most remote places, where natural light doesn’t reach and the art of photography is at its most challenging. Over the past ten years, Robbie has lit up and captured stunning images of the deepest, largest, longest and even smallest cave systems known. Robbie’s National Geographic assignments have taken him to the remotest areas of Vietnam, Papua New Guinea, Uzbekistan and the Alps, and his work has been published in National Geographic magazine and National Geographic Science. During magazine assignments in China, Robbie has explored the caves of Wulong and trekked across mountainous Sichuan. When not on assignment, Robbie spends his time chasing adventures in the heart of the Alps, and has photographed local Alpine cultural events, rock climbers on Via Ferratta, tobogganing competitions, and the first Youth Winter Olympic Games. Robbie will join the Swiss and French Alps expedition.
Based in New York City, photographer Robert Clark’s photos have appeared on more than a dozen National Geographic magazine covers. Early in his career, Robert joined H. G. “Buzz” Bissenger author of Friday Night Lights, in documenting the lives of high school football players. His coverage of the attack on the World Trade Center, witnessed from his rooftop, was recognized at the World Press Photo awards. Robert will join the New York City photography workshop.
India-based photographer, author, filmmaker, and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Sandesh Kadur uses images, both still and video, to expose the need for conservation and encourage protection of the world’s biodiversity. With subjects ranging from king cobras to clouded leopards, his documentary films have appeared worldwide on National Geographic, the BBC, the Discovery Channel, and elsewhere. His photographs have appeared in numerous books and magazines, and his photographic book about India’s Western Ghats were part of the submission that helped convince UNESCO to name the area a World Heritage site. Sandesh’s many awards include the Nature’s Best photography award, the International Conservation Photographer award, two Green Oscar nominations at the Wildscreen film festival, and the 2013 North American Nature Photographers Vision Award. Sandesh will join the India high school expedition.
Susan Goldberg is editor in chief of National Geographic magazine and editorial director of National Geographic Partners, in charge of all publishing ventures, including digital journalism, magazines, books, maps, children and family, and travel and adventure. Under her leadership, National Geographic magazine has won a Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for its issue about gender, three National Magazine Awards, and the George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting. After spending most of her career in newspapers, she served as executive editor for Bloomberg News in Washington. In 2013, she was voted one of Washington’s 11 most influential women in the media by Washingtonian magazine. Susan will join the Impact Storytelling workshop at Nat Geo Headquarters in Washington D.C.
National Geographic Emerging Explorer and grantee Dr. Tierney Thys is a marine biologist and filmmaker studying some of the ocean’s largest animals, including the giant ocean sunfish. She has led and participated in research expeditions worldwide from Alaska to the Galápagos, Indonesia, and Africa. Tierney works with all ages to promote ocean conservation through numerous creative means: from exploring how nature imagery impacts the brain to filmmaking to serving as a digital explorer in National Geographic’s online world, Animal Jam. This summer she looks forward to sharing the wonders of the Coral Triangle with our students. Tierney will join the Monterey Bay and Yosemite expedition.
Born and raised in Barcelona, Tino Soriano divides his work between photojournalism and travel photography. A frequent contributor to National Geographic Books, he has photographed eight National Geographic Traveler guidebooks including South Africa, Scotland, Spain, Rome, Madrid, Portugal, Naples, Tuscany and Sicily. Tino has worked on three television documentaries for National Geographic’s domestic and international channels, and played a lead role in the documentary Andalusia: The Awakening of the Senses. Tino has received multiple prizes for his photographic work, including a World Press Photo Foundation first prize and a grand prize in UNESCO’s Humanity Photo Awards. His photography has appeared in National Geographic magazine, Smithsonian magazine and The New York Times. Tino will join Barcelona photo workshop.
Photographer and climber Tommy Heinrich was born and raised in Buenos Aires and has traveled the world combining his passions for photography and climbing the highest and remotest mountains. Tommy’s photographs have been published in magazines throughout the world, and his assignments for National Geographic magazine include documenting a Polish climbing team’s attempt to summit Pakistan’s Nanga Parbat in winter and Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner’s history-making ascent of K2, which made her the first woman to have climbed all 14 of the world’s highest peaks without support. An accomplished alpinist in his own right, Tommy has completed several first ascents, including being the first Argentinian to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Tommy will join the Patagonia expedition.
National Geographic Emerging Explorer, engineer, physicist, and inventor Topher White has come up with an ingenious method of detecting illegal logging and poaching in remote rain forests, using recycled cell phones. He is the Founder and CEO of San Francisco-based Rainforest Connection whose mission is to stop illegal logging and poaching operations around the world—from Indonesia to Brazil. Topher was named an Engineering Hero by the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers for his work. Prior to launching Rainforest Connection, he worked at the Department of Energy and Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Lab on high energy physics, and at the ITER Organization in France on fusion power. Topher will join the Technology and Innovation workshop in the Silicon Valley.
Photojournalist, filmmaker, and adventurer Ulla Lohmann has sailed around the world, explored volcanoes in some of the most remote places on the planet, and traversed the African continent using only biodiesel. She spends much of her time working with indigenous cultures in Australia and the South Pacific. Based in the German Alps, she is a regular contributor to the National Geographic Channel and National Geographic magazine (France and Germany), and recently published a book about Italy’s Dolomites with National Geographic Books. Ulla will join the New Zealand high school expedition.