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 all of our programs except for our community service trips. 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 together. Below, meet the experts who will join our trips this summer.
Photographer and 2013 National Geographic Traveler of the Year Alison Wright has spent a career capturing the universal human spirit through her photographs and writing. She has covered nearly 150 countries as a documentary and travel photographer for National Geographic magazine, National Geographic Traveler, National Geographic Books, Smithsonian, Outside, and The New York Times. Passionate about giving back to the communities she visits, Alison’s nonprofit Faces of Hope addresses the urgent humanitarian concerns of women and children across the globe by providing education and healthcare. Alison will join the July 2nd departure of the France & Spain middle school expedition in Spain.
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 entire Prague photography 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 the National Geographic Channel and CBS, Andrew is the author of four books and the winner of numerous journalism awards. Andrew will join the July 11th departure of the Ireland expedition in Galway and the Aran Islands.
National Geographic Emerging Explorer and Urban Agriculturalist Caleb Harper believes the future of agriculture lies in urban farms, and uses the technology of computing, architecture, and engineering to explore and develop new food systems. A research scientist at MIT’s Media Lab, Caleb’s CityFarm project 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 Technology & Innovation Workshop at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
National Geographic grantee and primatologist Catherine Workman has dedicated her career to the protection of wildlife through research, the public understanding of conservation issues, and government action. Her work has spanned the globe— from studying critically-endangered langurs in northern Vietnam to developing collaborative strategies to stop the killing, trafficking, and demand for elephant ivory. Currently, Catherine is Senior Director of National Geographic’s new Protecting Wildlife initiative, where she works with the Society’s scientists, explorers and storytellers to help save creatures around the world. During her graduate research, Catherine spent two very happy weeks studying the feeding behavior of howling monkeys in western Costa Rica, and is excited to hear their calls again! Catherine will join the July 5th and July 16th departures of the Costa Rica middle school expedition.
Read an interview with Catherine »
Cedar Wright is a professional climber, filmmaker, and National Geographic grantee. As a member of The North Face Athlete Team, Cedar has traveled the world establishing adventurous and daring first ascents, often documenting these exploits through his writing and cinematography. While studying English and Creative Writing in college, Cedar fell in love with rock climbing, and soon after graduation he began following his climbing dreams full time. Today, Cedar is one of the most recognized professional climbers in the United States. In 2014, Cedar climbed 45 of the American Southwest’s iconic Desert Towers and produced a second film for his award-winning Sufferfest franchise about the expedition. Cedar will join the June 27th and July 3rd departures of the America’s Southwest expedition in Zion and Grand Canyon National Parks.
Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, National Geographic grantee and community conservationist Charles Trout has spent his lifetime in and around the protected areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania. He is the co-founder and Director of Programs for the African People & Wildlife Fund, which through its Maasai Steppe Big Cats Conservation Initiative works to save Tanzania’s most threatened lion population as well as important populations of cheetahs and leopards. Charles brings his complex local knowledge and experience to the development and application of innovative conservation programming in the country. Charles will join the July 17th departure of the Tanzania expedition during the safari.
Photojournalist Dave Yoder was born in Indiana but grew up on the foot of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, where he kept pet monkeys and mongooses. He is a contributing photographer to National Geographic magazine and National Geographic Traveler. His assignments for National Geographic magazine includethe August 2015 cover story on Pope Francis and the Vatican, photographing a lost city in the Mosquitia jungle of Honduras, the high-tech search for a lost Leonardo da Vinci painting, uncovering the architectural mystery of the Brunelleschi Cupola in Florence, and documenting the largest ground-based telescope- ALMA- in Chile’s Atacama desert. His assignments for National Geographic Traveler have taken him to Ireland, Abu Dhabi, Istanbul, Rome, Sardinia, and his adopted home city, Milan. Dave will join the entire Paris photography workshop.
National Geographic grantee and wildlife photographer Drew Rush has a long history of working in and teaching about the wildlife and ecosystems of America’s National Parks. Drew uses camera traps to capture never-before-seen animal behavior in the wild, and uses his work to inspire the next generation of outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts. His work has appeared in numerous international publications and books including National Parks magazine and National Geographic: Complete Photography. He’s worked on several long-term natural history photography projects for National Geographic magazine, and most recently photographed the mountain lions and grizzly bears of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem for an upcoming special issue. Drew will join the June 26th and June 30th departures of the Alaska expedition in Denali.
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’s work in Yellowstone National Park will appear in the May 2016 issue of National Geographic magazine. Erika will join the entire Yellowstone photography workshop.
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 the July 11th Iceland expedition departure in Reykjavík and July 13th departure in Höfn.
Read an interview with Ford »
Watch our Iceland Expedition video featuring Ford »
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 25th and July 7th departures of the Italy middle school expedition, as well as the entire Edinburgh photography workshop.
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 will join the June 26th and July 2nd departures of the Ecuador and the Galápagos expedition in Mindo and Cotopaxi.
Discover the marine life of Belize 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, great white sharks, leopard seals, grizzly bears, lions, and—most recently—giant oceanic manta rays. Greg will join the June 25th and July 16th departures of the Belize middle school expedition on Tobacco Caye.
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 expedition in Ollantaytambo.
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’s imagery has appeared in 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 June 26th and July 9th departures of the Australia Middle School expedition in Brisbane and North Stradbroke Island.
Marine conservationist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer Jess Cramp is a shark researcher and water-loving marine conservationist who is passionate about stopping the over-exploitation of sharks and the degradation of our oceans. She spent a year working in sea turtle conservation in Panama before settling in the Pacific, which spawned her interest in community-based conservation and fisheries. While living in the Cook Islands she managed locally-based Pacific Islands Conservation Initiative (PICI), where she co-championed a grassroots campaign that rallied overwhelming community and international support and resulted in the 772,204 square mile Cook Islands Shark Sanctuary. Jess works for Oceans 5, which is focused on the creation of marine reserves and reducing illegal fishing, and is also the Founder of Sharks Pacific, a new non-profit dedicated to shark research, outreach, education and advocacy. Jess will join the July 12th departure of the Belize expedition in Calabash Caye.
National Geographic grantee and geographer Joel Hartter has spent more than a decade working in communities around national parks. From the American west to Uganda’s Albertine Rift, he is on the frontlines of conservation, working with local people who are facing the challenges of poverty and climate change, while also protecting some of the world’s most important biodiversity hotspots. He uses geospatial technologies, forestry and social science to understand how people’s relationships with parks can also impact health, climate, wildlife and livelihoods. A professor at the University of Colorado Boulder, Joel is excited to welcome students to campus and share his knowledge of Colorado’s wild places. Joel will join the Exploration & Conservation Workshop at the University of Colorado Boulder.
National Geographic Emerging Explorer Katy Croff Bell uses technology to investigate the depths of the ocean. Over the past fifteen years, she has participated in or led more than 25 oceanographic and archaeological projects around the world. Katy’s current work involves the utilization of telepresence technology on ocean exploration projects for remote science and education. She is Vice President for Exploration & Research at the Ocean Exploration Trust, working with National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Bob Ballard, the Corps of Exploration and their Nautilus exploration vessel, to implement state-of-the-art technology on expeditions to remote areas of the world’s ocean. Nautilus expeditions are shared online so that anyone in the world can share in the incredible discoveries the team makes. Katy is a 2014 MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow and proud alumna of MIT, where she received her SB in ocean engineering, before completing her doctoral work at the University of Rhode Island. Katy will join the Technology & Innovation Workshop at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Starting out as a skateboard photographer in the late 1990s, National Geographic photographer and filmmaker Keith Ladzinski began using the special lighting techniques he had learned from sports photography to shoot outdoor adventure stories. As a result, his unique photos have been featured in National Geographic magazine, Discover Magazine, Men’s Journal, Outside, Runner’s World, ESPN magazine and The New York Times. His assignments for National Geographic have included a 50-day expedition to Antarctica’s Queen Maude Land, a climbing expedition on karst rock towers in Southern China, documenting the history of sport climbing in France’s Verdon Gorge, and photographing the effects of climate change in America’s National Parks. Keith is also an accomplished and award-winning filmmaker, and a founder of 3 Strings Productions, which produces commercial, documentary, adventure and environmental films around the world. Keith will join the June 28th and July 15th departures of the New Zealand expedition in Greymouth and Hanmer Springs.
National Geographic grantee and wildlife conservationist Laly Lichtenfeld is a woman with a passion for Africa. She lives in Tanzania and is co-founder and executive director of the African People & Wildlife Fund. She has over 20 years of experience in East Africa working with large carnivores, local communities, and community-based conservation programs. Laly received a Ph.D. from Yale University for her research combining wildlife ecology and social ecology in an interdisciplinary study of human-lion relationships, interactions and conflicts. In partnership with National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative, Laly launched the Build a Boma campaign, which has crowd-funded innovative solutions to protect African livestock and wildlife. Laly is a Distinguished Fellow of the Yale Tropical Resources Institute, a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, and a recipient of the Fulbright Award. Laly will join the June 28th departure of the Tanzania expedition on the safari.
Luke Dollar is a wildlife biologist and National Geographic Emerging Explorer who is passionate about community-based conservation initiatives and has spent more than two decades coordinating conservation, research, and development programs in Africa and Madagascar. Luke’s scientific research focuses on carnivores—ranging from big cats to Madagascar’s largest carnivore, the fosa (Cryptoprocta ferox)—and satellite analyses of their habitat. Not only have his efforts helped to protect these species, they have also led to the development of educational and sustainable business programs benefiting thousands of local subsistence farmers and their children. He is also the director of National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative, which supports on-the-ground conservation and education projects that help to protect Africa’s seven iconic big cat species. The initiative has funded over 64 projects in 27 countries, including work at the N/a’an ku sê Wildlife Sanctuary and Cheetah Conservation Fund, which we will visit on the Namibia Expedition.
Conservationist Marc Brody is a National Geographic grantee for his work to restore giant panda habitat in China. Marc serves as a senior advisor to the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan and founded Panda Mountain, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) entrusted by the Wolong administration to manage a conservation training center and a sustainability initiative for indigenous villagers. Panda Mountain provides hands-on panda habitat restoration opportunities in Wolong, helping people learn how they can help save endangered wildlife. Marc has also managed the U.S.-China Environmental Fund, an environmental NGO, in China for 20 years. When not working in Wolong, Marc is actively restoring an oak savanna and prairie on his land near Madison, Wisconsin. Marc will join the China expedition in Sichuan Province.
Combining her interest in biology and indigenous cultures to better understand the relationship between people and plants, National Geographic Emerging Explorer and ethnobotanist Maria Fadiman works in rural communities around the world to help conserve native cultures and ecosystems. A professor at Florida Atlantic University, Maria has conducted research throughout the world from Zimbabwe to Tibet, the Philippines to Mexico. Often focused on the rain forests of Latin America, she has worked in Ecuador for the past 25 years exploring a variety of issues including the use of the palm plant by indigenous communities, oil exploration in the Amazon, and organic coffee production in the Galápagos Islands. Maria will join the July 19th departure of the Ecuador &the Galápagos expedition in Mindo and Cotopaxi.
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 28th and July 19th departures of the Italy & Greece expedition.
Before becoming a photographer in the 1990s, Michael trained as a physicist and worked with the same materials and chips used in digital cameras. Combining his interest in the technical side of photography with his love of the outdoors, Michael produces stunning, raw images of athletes pushing their sports to the limit, and is now an internationally published adventure sports, travel and landscape photographer. His assignments have taken him around the world- from shooting surfers taking on big waves in Tahiti, to capturing BASE jumpers in Utah, to documenting a team kayaking, climbing, mountain biking and trekking their way across remote sections of Patagonia. His work has been published in National Geographic magazine, he has taught adventure photography for National Geographic Traveler, and is a contributing photographer to the National Geographic Travel Instagram account. His work has been published in Sports Illustrated, Outside, Men’s Journal, Climbing and The New York Times, and his clients include Apple, Nike, Patagonia, Nikon and Red Bull.
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. 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 July 1st and July 16th departures of the Switzerland & France expedition.
After spending a number of years focused on conservation efforts in the US and around the world, National Geographic photographer Ronan Donovan decided to combine his passions for science and photography to capture candid images of animals in the wild and raise awareness about these critical species. Ronan recently spent a year photographing the wolves of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem for National Geographic magazine. His photographic work has been featured in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and he has contributed cinematography to multiple PBS Nature programs. In 2015, Ronan skied across Alaska’s Taku Glacier and explored the Katmai Peninsula photographing coastal brown bears. Ronan will join the July 5th departure of the Alaska middle school expedition.
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.
National Geographic Emerging Explorer and grantee Shah Selbe believes technology could be the answer to solving complex conservation issues around the world. His project, Conservify, is focused on using technology to empower local communities to change our oceans’ future. His projects have integrated crowdsourcing, smartphone apps, drones and acoustic sensors to address ocean conservation issues including illegal poaching, overfishing and the monitoring of Marine Protected Areas. Recently, Shah returned from an expedition in support of the Okavango Wilderness Project– a collaboration between four National Geographic explorers that aims to monitor the health of Botswana’s Okavango River Delta and protect this vast wilderness area for future generations. Shah will join the June 30th and July 6th departures of the Belize expedition on Calabash Caye.
National Geographic Emerging Explorer and grantee Dr. Tierney Thys is a marine biologist, filmmaker and science media producer. She researches some of the ocean’s largest animals, including the giant ocean sunfish and has led and participated in research expeditions worldwide from Alaska to Galápagos, Indonesia to South Africa. Tierney works with all ages promoting ocean conservation through numerous creative means:exploring how nature imagery impacts the brain, executive producing an ongoing TEDed film series called Stories from the Sea, and creating and starring in video games including National Geographic’s online game Animal Jam. This summer she looks forward to sharing the wonders of the Coral Triangle with our students. Tierney will join the June 24th and June 30th departures of the Bali expedition in Pemuteran.
Tim Weed is an award-winning author, outdoorsman, and independent explorer. A founding director of National Geographic Student Expeditions, Tim has lived and worked in more than twenty-five countries on every continent except Antarctica. Tim was among the first to bring American students to Cuba since the Revolution in the late 1990’s, and has created and led programs for writers, artists, and musicians in countries around the world. His articles on travel, history, outdoor adventure, and the writing craft have appeared in various magazines and journals, and he is the winner of a Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Award, and a Solas Best Travel Writing Award. His first novel, Will Poole’s Island, was released in 2014 and was named to Bank Street College of Education’s list of the Best Books of the Year. Tim will join the Cuba Expedition July 1st departure in Remedios, and the July 12th departure in Havana.
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 the July 3rd departure of the Barcelona photography workshop, as well as the July 16th departure of the France & Spain middle school expedition.
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 June 26th and July 17th departures of the Argentina & Chile expedition in Patagonia.
Photojournalist Tyrone Turner has traveled the world reporting on social and environmental issues. His assignments for National Geographic magazine include covering the impacts of Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 gulf oil spill in his hometown of New Orleans, a cover story on energy efficiency and conservation, documentation of the excavation of ancient Maya murals in Guatemala, and Brazil’s “quilombos,” or communities founded by runaway slaves. Tyrone has received multiple awards from the National Press Photographer’s Association for his work, is a fellow with the News Literacy Project, and is a project mentor for the Corcoran School of Art + Design’s photojournalism program. Tyrone will join the June 26th departure of the Iceland expedition in Höfn.
Photojournalist, filmmaker, and adventurer Ulla Lohmann has sailed around the world, explored volcanoes in Vanuatu, 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, Germany), and has appeared in several television programs for National Geographic and the BBC. Most recently, Ulla published a photographic book with National Geographic Germany documenting a year-long journey hiking, biking and skiing Italy’s Dolomite mountains. Ulla will join the June 25th and July 15th departures of the Australia expedition at the Great Barrier Reef.
Read an interview with Ulla »