Meet Our National Geographic Experts
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, give you guidance in crafting your final project, and inspire you with their passion for the work they do and the places you’ll discover together. Meet the experts who will join our trips this summer.
Writer and globetrotter Andrew Evans has arguably one of the coolest jobs out there: he's a digital 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 tweeted from glaciers, jungles, mountain summits and a camel’s back, from all 7 continents, and in more than 40 languages. A contributing editor for National Geographic Traveler, Andrew is the author of four books and the winner of numerous journalism awards. Andrew will join the the Ireland expedition in Galway and the Aran Islands.
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. Ashima was a judge on the first ever photography-based reality show on the National Geographic Channel called ‘Mission Covershot’. Ashima’s work has been published in National Geographic Traveler, Vanity Fair, Vogue, GQ, Marie Claire, Elle, and Teen People. Ashima will join both departures of the India expedition in Rajasthan.
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, to serving as the scientific lead for BioBlitz, a citizen science initiative occurring annually in national parks across the United States. Currently, Catherine is a Biodiversity Specialist at the Office of Forestry and Biodiversity at USAID, where she supports government efforts to address biodiversity and forest loss, including unsustainable fishing, illegal logging, and wildlife trafficking. Catherine is a proud alumna of CU-Boulder, where she received her BA and MA in anthropology, before completing her doctoral work at Duke University. Catherine will join the July 7 session of the On Campus program.
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 17 departure of the Tanzania expedition.
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 include a 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 June 28 Paris photo workshop.
National Geographic Emerging Explorer and grantee David Gruber is a marine biologist and ocean explorer who searches the undersea world for bioluminescent and biofluorescent marine animals. By studying these creatures, he has uncovered a secret "language" of shining colors and patterns that help many marine creatures communicate, interact, and avoid enemies. On land, his team designs submersibles and extremely light-sensitive cameras to aid their deep sea exploration, and works with medical researchers who might be able to use these sea creatures’ molecules as tools to visualize the inner workings of human cells. Committed to the public understanding of science, David’s research and media were featured in an exhibit at the American Museum of Natural History, and his writings have appeared in The New Yorker, Nature Medicine, and The Best American Science Writing. David first developed his interest in glowing marine creatures during an undergraduate reef study in Belize, where he used glow sticks to track the movements of reef fish at night. David will join the July 5 and July 12 departures of the Belize conservation in action program on Blackbird Caye.
Brazilian conservationist Denise Marçal Rambaldi has dedicated her career to the conservation of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest. As director of the Golden Lion Tamarin Association, she achieved remarkable success in pulling back from the brink of extinction this highly endangered primate species that lives in the Atlantic Forest, one of the world’s most critically endangered biodiversity hotspots. In 2008, she received the National Geographic Society/Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation. Denise currently serves as Director of Biodiversity and Forests of the Rio de Janeiro State Environmental Agency and she has published many articles on biodiversity, wildlife protection and management, public policy, and private protected areas. Denise will join the Brazil expedition in the Atlantic Forest.
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. Over the past year, Erika has been photographing Yellowstone National Park for an upcoming story in 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. Ford will join both departures of the Iceland expedition.
• Read an interview with Ford.
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 London. 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 lead the London photography workshop.
National Geographic grantee Greg Goldsmith is an ecologist studying the impacts of climate change on the world’s tropical forests. Although his research has led him to the furthest corners of Brazil, Panama, Mexico, Singapore and Peru, Greg always seems to find his way back to Costa Rica, where he first began his research with help from a National Geographic Young Explorers Grant. Along the way, Greg has become a leading expert in using innovative media to share science and promote conservation. He is looking forward to finding weird and wonderful things in the Costa Rican forest with our students. Greg will join the July 26 Costa Rica expedition in the cloud forests of Monteverde.
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 animals such as blue whales, black turtles, manta rays, seals, and—most recently—giant oceanic manta rays. Greg will join the July 19 and July 26 departures of the Belize conservation in action program on Blackbird Caye.
Jason is an professional naturalist, environmental educator, wildlife photographer and videographer who has been leading expeditions from the equator to the arctic circle for nearly 20 years. He majored in anthropology at Montana State University and is a certified Master Naturalist specializing in wolf and bear ecology. Jason's work has appeared on the National Geographic Channel and Nat Geo WILD, and he recently was part of a National Geographic team studying brown bears and polar bears on Kodiak Island and the arctic of Alaska. Called an "encyclopedia" by the New York Times and based near Yellowstone National Park where he lives with his family and 48 sled dogs, Jason loves to share his passion for wild places. He will join our Alaska Expedition in Denali National Park.
National Geographic photographer and naturalist Jeff Mauritzen has been on assignment in Kenya, Tanzania and the Galápagos Islands, photographing wildlife for National Geographic Kids’ most recent Animal Encyclopedia. His photography has appeared in numerous National Geographic books, on nationalgeographic.com, and on the @natgeotravel Instagram account, where he is a regular contributor. Jeff’s adventures have taken him to five continents and more than 50 countries around the world--and immersed him in vivid landscapes both above and below the water. Having been to Ecuador and the enchanting Galápagos Islands twice on assignment, it is one of his favorite countries to photograph. Jeff will join the June 28 and July 5 departures of the Ecuador and the Galápagos expedition.
National Geographic Emerging Explorer and agricultural ecologist Jerry Glover works with organic and alternative farms around the world to develop innovative small-scale farming systems that could revolutionize agriculture and solve problems far beyond farm fields. Raised on a farm in Southeastern Colorado, Jerry now serves as senior sustainable agriculture advisor at the U.S. Agency for International Development, and has been featured in National Geographic magazine, Scientific American, Discover and multiple documentary films. From researching the environmental sustainability of organic orchards to advocating for the use of perennial crops, Jerry believes our farms could be the key to saving biodiversity, polluted ecosystems, and starving people. Jerry will join both departures of the Tuscany conservation in action trip.
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 June 27 session of the On Campus program.
National Geographic Emerging Explorer and environmentalist Juan Martinez grew up in the tough neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles, but had a life-transforming experience when his high school teacher said he could forgo multiple detentions if he joined his school's Eco Club. That experience led him to apply for a scholarship to attend Wyoming's Teton Science Schools, and after seeing mountains for the first time as a teenager, Juan has dedicated his work to connecting all people with the outdoors, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. He spearheads the Nature Leaders Network of the Children & Nature Network, a community of leaders ages 16 to 30 who are dedicated to bringing nature to their communities and their communities to nature. Juan has attended White House forums, advises the U.S. Department of the Interior on plans to create a youth conservation corps, is the youngest board member in the history of the Sierra Club, and organizes youth delegations to conferences on green jobs and outdoor experiences. Juan looks forward to meeting the next generation of conservation leaders during both sessions of the On Campus program.
After starting out as a skateboard photographer in the 1990s, National Geographic photographer 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 front page of the New York Times. His assignments for National Geographic have taken him to some of the most remote and untouched places of the world’s seven continents and have included a 45-day expedition to Antarctica’s Queen Maude Land, a climbing expedition on karst rock towers in Southern China, and a story about France’s Verdon Gorge. Also an accomplished filmmaker, Keith and his partners at 3 Strings Productions have produced over 20 films around the world. Keith will join both departures of our Switzerland & France expedition and the June 27 session of our On Campus program.
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 15 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 in 2005 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 Yale Visiting Fellow, a member of the Clinton Global Initiative, and the recipient of the Fulbright Award. Laly will join the June 29 departure of our Tanzania expedition.
National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and paleoanthropologist Lee Berger has been exploring human origins on the African continent, Asia, and Micronesia for the past two and a half decades. His explorations have resulted in many notable discoveries: the most complete early hominin fossils found so far, belonging to a new species of early human ancestor; and the richest early hominin site yet found on the continent of Africa. Lee is a strong advocate for the potential of exploration and discovery, dedicating much of his work to the public understanding of science. Lee will join both departures of the South Africa expedition in the Cradle of Humankind -- the site of his most famous discoveries.
Conservationist Marc Brody is a National Geographic grantee for his work to restore giant Panda habitats in China. Senior advisor to the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan, Marc founded Panda Mountain, a (nongovernmental organization (NGO) entrusted by the Wolong administration to manage a panda conservation center and a sustainability initiative for indigenous villagers. Marc has also managed the U.S.-China Environmental Fund, an environmental NGO, in China for nearly 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 both departures of 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 Galapagos Islands. Maria will join the July 19th Ecuador & the Galápagos expedition in the Páramo.
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,” recently 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 our Italy & Greece expedition and our Tuscany field workshop.
• Watch our Tuscany video featuring Massimo.
Following a 3-month adventure through Mongolia, French photographer Matthieu Paley’s first job was an expedition for National Geographic Adventure magazine in Bhutan, which took him to the highest unclimbed mountain in the world. Twelve years, four books and numerous assignments later, his passion to always look “over the next ridge” has provided him with countless opportunities to witness our common humanity. Matthieu recently completed a global story for National Geographic magazine called “The Evolution of Diet” (November 2014), which took him to countries around the world, including Afghanistan, Bolivia, Greenland, and Tanzania. Matthieu’s work has also been published in numerous other magazines including Geo, Newsweek, Time, Outside, and Le Monde. Matthieu is excited to lead the Prague photography workshop, taking him back to his European roots.
Native Coloradan and National Geographic photographer Pete McBride has spent more than two decades studying the world with his camera. He has traveled on assignment to over 65 countries for National Geographic magazine, National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian, Outside, Esquire, Sports Illustrated and Men’s Journal, among others. Whether it involves vantages from 20,000 feet or swimming below icebergs, Pete is passionate about creating unique photographs, films and stories. After a decade working mostly abroad, Pete decided to focus his cameras closer to home and spent over two years documenting the Colorado River from source to sea. His work resulted in an award-winning film, a photographic book and exhibit, which is now touring the country. For his work documenting rivers worldwide, Pete was named a National Geographic Freshwater Hero. Pete will join the July 7 session of the On Campus program.
Peter Frost is a writer, photographer, and National Geographic grantee who has spent most of his life exploring Peru. His published works include a guide to the Cusco region and a well-known book on Machu Picchu. Peter has led National Geographic archaeological expeditions into the remote region of Vilcabamba, where he discovered the Inca and pre-Inca site of Qoriwayrachina (National Geographic magazine, February 2004). Peter lives in Cusco and will join our Peru expedition in Cusco and the Sacred Valley.
• Watch our Peru video featuring Peter.
National Geographic Emerging Explorer and grantee Shah Selbe believes technology could be the answer to solving complex conservation issues around the world. His project, FishNET, 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 is excited to join both departures of our Pacific NW expedition in the San Juan Islands.
National Geographic Big Cats Initiative grantee and wildlife biologist Stuart Munro is a lead researcher at the N/a’an ku sê Carnivore Conservation Research Programme. Originally hailing from Aberdeen in Scotland, Stuart moved to Namibia in 2011 to join N/a’an ku sê’s research team, working to reduce conflicts between large cats like cheetah and leopard, and local farmers. The team's work on human wildlife conflict has been featured in National Geographic, Africa Geographic, and the Financial Times London. Stuart has also developed a project focusing on the venomous snakes of Namibia, fitting them with radio transmitters to better understand their life history and ecology. Stuart will join both departures of the Namibia expedition at N/a’an ku sê.
A staff scientist at the University of Arizona, conservation biologist Taylor Edwards worked on the National Geographic Genographic Project. Taylor works on a variety of research projects ranging from endangered tortoises to giant frogs. He says that he wishes he was raised by wolves, but he believes a career as a biologist is the next best thing. Taylor will join the July 9 departure of the Costa Rica expedition at the La Selva research station.
• Read an interview with Taylor.
• Watch our Costa Rica video featuring Taylor.
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: teaching underwater fieldwork techniques, creating video games, making sculptures from beach trash, advising dance troupes and working with the TED conferences (credit whiteside at dresshead.com). This summer she looks forward to sharing the wonders of the Coral Triangle with our students. Tierney will join both departures of our Bali conservation in action trip.
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 seven National Geographic Traveler guidebooks including Spain, Rome, Madrid, Portugal, and southern Italy. 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 his photography has appeared in National Geographic magazine, Smithsonian magazine and The New York Times. Tino will join the Barcelona photography workshop and the July 12 Paris photography workshop.
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 our both departures of our Australia expedition at the Great Barrier Reef.
• Read an interview with Ulla.
I could listen to Tierney Thys talk forever! She has so much experience and is someone I truly look up to. Her work and the way she explained what she does helped me decide that I not only want to pursue a career in marine biology but also educate others on conservation efforts.
Keith is by far the coolest and most interesting person I've ever met in my life (and probably for the rest of it). He had a profound effect on how I look at both photography and my life. I found his story and work really inspiring and I now cannot wait to further explore the art of photography.
Switzerland & France expedition 2014
Ulla is an extremely accomplished photographer, and the greatest explorer I’ve ever met. She made the already great experience of the Daintree Rainforest and the whole Australia trip into an unforgettable one. Her life story was inspiring and she helped me discover my own strengths. She was cheery, smart, caring and just a quality person - it wouldn’t have been the same without her.
Australia expedition, 2014
It was such an honor to meet Ford Cochran- he was down-to-Earth and positive- I don't think I'd recognize him without a smile on this face! It was an amazing experience to hear about his passions, and I loved how willing he was to help us with our projects and answer any questions we had.
Iceland expedition, 2014
Tino taught me so much about photography, from how to approach difficult situations to walking slowly and observing places carefully. When I got home, I put his tips to use and my photography has improved so much! I'm excited to see how much further I can go with the lessons Tino shared with us
Paris photo workshop, 2014