- Q&A with Trip Leader Regina Yopak
- Q&A with Trip Leader Gaston Lacombe
- Q&A with Trip Leader Ross Weinberg
- Q&A with Trip Leader Nathalie Chardon
- Q&A with Trip Leader Chris Johns
- Q&A with Trip Leader Steve Byrne
- Q&A with Trip Leader Ricky Qi
- Q&A with Trip Leader Claire Bangser
- Q&A with Trip Leader Nicole Büttner
Q&A with Trip Leader Nathalie Chardon
During her undergraduate studies at UC-Berkeley, Nathalie focused on ecology and spent a year abroad in Chile, where she gained a unique perspective on biogeography—a topic still at the heart of her research interests. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. at the University of Colorado, Boulder, studying how alpine ecosystems respond to climate change. Each year she spends time conducting research at the Swiss Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research.
You’ll be leading our Iceland Expedition this summer. What is your connection to this part of the world?
Iceland is home to the northernmost European population of the alpine plant I study, making it a place I’ve always wanted to visit! Aside from its stunning alpine and arctic landscapes, Iceland is one of the most sustainable inhabited places, and I consider it a role model for how our planet’s increasing population should strive to live.
What part of the Iceland trip are you most excited for students to experience this summer?
Few students have ever hiked—let alone slept—on a glacier, and I can’t wait to see these young explorers experience this remnant of Earth’s past climate. It’s unclear exactly how long glaciers will be around, but we know for certain they are melting at alarming rates.
Any pieces of advice for aspiring climatologists and climate activists?
The scientific process is tried and true, whereas political opinions shift quickly and are often based on ideology, not practical facts. This inspired me to become a scientist, and I advise all those working in this charged field not lose sight of the answers we gain from scientific research. This is how we win arguments, this is how we know how climate impacts various parts of the globe.
What do you think is the best part of a National Geographic Student Expeditions trip?
Both the incredible community we build in such a short time, and the tools students gain that will help them pursue their passions. Few high school advisors will recommend that their students pursue a non-traditional path, but with National Geographic, students learn from trip leaders and Experts who have chosen to do exactly that.
Where is the first place you traveled that left a lasting impression on you?
Chile—an enormous country within a huge continent that I knew little about, even though I grew up in North America. The multitude of cultures, the diversity of people, and the soaring Andes next to the deep jungle made up a whole new world I never even knew existed. It was the first time I traveled to a place that was so much bigger, in every sense of the word, than I had expected.
What are your hobbies, aside from traveling and sharing your insights with National Geographic Student Expeditions travelers?
I’m a passionate skier and climber, and try to fit in alpine pursuits as often as possible!
What is the next destination on your travel wish list?
Nepal, where I hope to log some serious hiking miles after finishing my PhD.
What item won’t you leave home without when traveling?
My two bare essentials: chap stick and earplugs!
One fun fact about yourself?
I always bring Nutella to mountain summits and eat it with a spoon.