Mentoring the Next Generation of Explorers
Heading up each program is a team of talented, dynamic trip leaders who have extensive experience in the field — and love working with students. With no more than nine students to every leader, we’ll have the freedom to break into small teams and explore your interests.
Below, meet some of our outstanding trip leaders who accompanied students in the field last summer.
After finishing his undergraduate studies, Ricky moved to Shanghai for two years, where he documented the city’s nascent jazz scene, as well as China’s burgeoning cities and their effect on migrants, expatriates, locals, and minorities. While there, Ricky backpacked little-traveled portions of the Silk Road between Pakistan and China, staying with Kyrgyz nomads along the way. When he returned to the U.S., he began work on a film centered on the Mosuo people, and received a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant for the project. Over three years, he recorded Mosuo life at a watershed moment, as modern China encroached upon the shores of the Himalayan home of China’s last matriarchal society. Ricky now works as a freelance photographer and filmmaker in Los Angeles and Beijing.
Born and raised in Germany, Nicole is a biologist, nature guide, and conservationist based in Ecuador. For her master’s thesis, she researched the ecology of hummingbird pollination in the neotropical rainforests of Mindo, Ecuador, where she also lived and worked as a bird guide. Nicole has participated in bird-monitoring programs in Brazil, Peru and England, and for over two years, she studied the behavioral ecology of Banded Ground-Cuckoos, one of Ecuador’s rarest bird species. In 2008, Nicole bought 15 hectares of rainforest near Mindo and established the private conservation project, Un poco del Chocó. She now lives in her nature reserve, where she teaches tropical ecology courses to undergraduate students, supervises the research work of graduate students, and supports local conservation efforts and environmental education workshops.
While at Wittenberg University, Steve studied abroad for a year in Buenos Aires, where he honed his Spanish language skills, studied economic history, and traveled in Patagonia. He then moved to Yosemite Valley where he learned to rock climb and ski as he explored and photographed the technical peaks of the Sierra Nevada. Steve now runs his own photography and print business, specializing in landscape, surf, and adventure photography. He has managed high school exchange programs in Latin America and Europe, and his photography has been published by Surfline, The Inertia, National Geographic Travel, the San Francisco Chronicle, and KQED Media.
Claire focused her university studies on the intersection of cross-cultural education and visual storytelling. She is now a freelance filmmaker, photographer, and visual artist based in New Orleans. Her city-wide social media portrait project NOLAbeings has been featured in national media such as TIME and WIRED, and resulted in her being voted one of New Orleans Magazine’s “People to Watch in 2014.” Prior to moving to New Orleans, Claire wrote a book entitled Ride Somewhere Far about her three-month bicycle tour along the Pacific Coast, and spent four months on a National Geographic expedition photographing and filming traditional beekeeping practices in eastern Turkey.
Avi worked as a lawyer before turning his hand to travel and writing. Since then, his short stories have been published in newspapers, magazines, and anthologies; he has contributed writing to Lonely Planet’s literary anthology and BBC Travel; and while completing his master’s degree, he completed a draft of his first novel. Also a passionate educator, Avi spent a year as director of English reading and writing programs at Trinity Yard School in western Ghana. Avi’s extensive travels include volunteering at an orphanage in Bali, leading a conservation- and sustainability-focused expedition through Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji, and surfing the Pacific coastlines of Costa Rica and Nicaragua.
During her undergraduate studies, Nathalie (pictured above) discovered that she could combine her love of the outdoors with a research focus in montane and alpine ecology. While studying abroad, she gained a unique perspective on biogeography—a topic still at the heart of her research interests. Nathalie now spends her time in the Rocky Mountains and European Alps researching the effects of climate change and other human disturbances on alpine ecosystems. She recently began a yearlong research residency at the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research in Switzerland, and previously has worked as a U.S. Forest Service botany technician.
A Los Angeles-based independent filmmaker and photographer, Andy has worked on media projects throughout the world. He received his degree in film with a minor in cultural anthropology from the University of Central Florida, and spent a year at Hunter College in New York City studying photography. He has worked with brands like Sony and Facebook, and has produced documentaries on topics ranging from the impact of land mines on children in Nicaragua to the documentation of modern Maya culture in Guatemala. He recently launched a project to teach photography to Colombia’s Misak community so they can document and preserve their own culture.
Alex was an Animal Science major and a Natural Resources minor at Cornell, with a special emphasis on wildlife and habitat preservation. After graduating, she spent a year working with Environment America, an environmental advocacy organization. Currently, Alex is pursuing a M.S. degree in Ecology and Evolution, as well as a M.Ed. in Science Education with a focus on urban ecology and the use of technology in science education. Alex works with the university’s Learning Sciences Research Institute, developing science education programs that engage middle school students in investigations of backyard wildlife diversity and behavior using camera traps.
While working toward her MFA at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, Jill spent nine months documenting Himalayan life in Nepal, Northern India, Kashmir, Bhutan, and Tibet for her master’s thesis. Jill later attended the prestigious Missouri Photo Workshop and was a freelance photojournalist for the San Francisco Chronicle. She is now a freelance photographer and photography instructor, and is a contributing photographer for National Geographic Traveler guidebooks. In her free time, Jill works on independent stories profiling unique characters, from families living in Manila’s cemeteries due to overcrowding to the last remaining matchmaker in Ireland.
A conservation biologist, photographer, and educator, Brett has worked and traveled extensively through Asia, Oceania, the Americas and the Middle East. In 2014, Brett received a Rapid Ocean Conservation grant from the Waitt Foundation to spend several months in Fiji producing the multimedia project, “Kia Over There,” highlighting traditional Fijian fishermen and the environmental challenges they face. Previously, he has worked as a marine science instructor for the Mission Bay Aquatic Center and a staff photographer for the Joshua Wilderness Institute. Brett holds certifications as a PADI divemaster, Wilderness First Responder and American Red Cross Waterfront Lifeguard.