Through its Young Explorer Leadership and Development Program, National Geographic selects a small batch of promising researchers, conservationists, photojournalists and storytellers from around the globe for a year-long leadership program. The program aims to provide them with the skills, experiences and support necessary to propel their careers to the next level through mentorship, training and project development guidance. The goal is to help foster the next generation of leaders — individuals who will tackle global challenges with commitment, innovation and curiosity. National Geographic is bringing four members of its inaugural Young Leaders class to Mountainfilm to present on their latest projects.
Ecologist and photographer Jen Guyton’s passion is wildlife conservation. She’s documented baboons in Tanzania, meerkats in South Africa, hippos in Kenya and termites in Namibia. Currently, she spends 10 months a year living in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique, where she studies and photographs wildlife with a specialty in mammal ecology. Her current work focuses on two threads: bat diversity and conservation, and the ecological interactions between plants and the large mammals that eat them. The National Geographic Young Explorer and National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow holds a master’s degree in ecology and evolutionary biology from Princeton University, where she is pursuing her PhD.
Ecologist Dalal Hanna strives to foster a more equitable and sustainable future through researching environmental challenges. Her current focus is on the diverse ways rivers contribute to human well-being, and how protection of rivers influences their ability to make these contributions. When Dalal is not busy asking scientific questions about the environment, she’s usually exploring it. She has hiked the Fagarash mountains in Romania, biked around Gaspésie in Canada, dived through caverns in Mexico, ridden camels in the Sinai desert and paddled 7,000 kilometers across Canada to raise funds and awareness for watershed conservation.
Anusha Shankar is a PhD candidate at Stony Brook University who studies how hummingbirds balance their daily energetic needs, including using infrared video to capture the secret nightlife of the diminutive birds. She received a Young Explorer grant from National Geographic in 2014 to collect field physiological data in Ecuador, and has continued to work closely with Ecuadorian hummingbirds and scientists. She plans to work longer-term in the tropics, with a home base in India.
Documentary filmmaker and photographer Asha Stuart’s work focuses on sociocultural themes. She is particularly interested in people living in marginalized communities and facing injustice in areas of racial inequality, women’s rights and environmental issues. Her passion for storytelling has taken her across the world — documenting voodoo ceremonies in Haiti and acid attack burn wards in India. Her investigative short films have appeared on CNN and PBS, and she was named a National Geographic Young Explorer grantee in 2016.In Person:
In China, the bladder of a totoaba fish, believed to contain healing properties, is incredibly valuable — one can be sold for $40,000. When the market for bladders increased around 2012, it sparked a bonanza of overfishing for totoaba in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez. An unwitting victim of this, however, was the vaquita, a tiny, charismatic and incredibly rare porpoise endemic to the area, which drowned in totoaba nets by the hundreds. The decimation of vaquitas prompted the Mexican government to ban most forms of fishing, and what has unfolded is a complex battle between fish mafias, local fishermen and the military. So far, few winners have emerged.