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Brian Skerry was a boy from a small, working-class town in Massachusetts who had a big dream: to explore the mystery and beauty of the oceans with a camera. Forty years later, Brian has spent more than 10,000 hours under water and he is one of the top ocean photographers in the world. He has a string of awards to his name, including a Peter Benchley Award for Excellence in Media and the Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year. He has covered the harp seal’s struggle to survive in frozen waters, to the plight of the right whale, to the alarming decrease in the world’s fisheries.
Marine biologist Sylvia Earle is an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. Named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet,” Sylvia has pioneered research on marine ecosystems, with a special focus on exploration, conservation, and the development of new technologies for effectively accessing the deep sea and other remote environments. She is former chief scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and founder of SEAlliance, which partnered with National Geographic on Mission Blue to further global initiatives aimed at restoring health and productivity to the ocean. Earle has led more than a hundred expeditions, logged over 7,000 hours underwater, and has authored more than 190 scientific, technical, and popular publications.
Jamal Galves – a National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow, has been passionate about manatee conservation since he was 11 years old, and later jumped at the opportunity to join manatee scientists at Sea to Shore Alliance to assist with manatee captures and health assessments. In his time at Sea to Shore Alliance, he has risen in the ranks from field assistant to program coordinator for the Belize Manatee Conservation Program.
Erika Woolsey is a marine biologist, an Ocean Design Fellow at Stanford University, and CEO of The Hydrous, a nonprofit that uses emerging technologies like virtual reality for ocean engagement. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she conducted most of her research on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, where she investigated how warming oceans affect coral health, specifically how rising temperatures alter growth and development in young corals following mass spawning events. Woolsey is Executive Producer of “Immerse,” a 360/VR film that takes the viewer on a virtual dive on the coral reefs of Palau.
Dr. Enric Sala is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence dedicated to restoring the health and productivity of the ocean. His more than 120 scientific publications are widely recognized and used for real-world conservation efforts such as the creation of marine reserves. Enric is currently working to help protect the last pristine marine ecosystems worldwide, and to develop new business models for marine conservation. He founded and leads National Geographic’s Pristine Seas, a project that combines exploration, research, and media to inspire country leaders to protect the last wild places in the ocean.
Rodrigo Medellin – Senior Professor of Ecology at the Institute of Ecology, University of Mexico. He has worked on the ecology and conservation in Mexico and elsewhere for over 40 years, and has authored over 190 publications. Medellin was the President of the Society for Conservation Biology, is the founder of the Program for the Conservation of Bats of Mexico, and is the founding Director of the Latin American Network for Bat Conservation. His work led to delisting Leptonycteris yerbabuenae. Medellin is also Co-Chair of the Bat Specialist Group of IUCN.
Emma Carrasco – As the senior vice president of global engagement at the National Geographic Society, Emma Carrasco leads strategic engagement and outreach efforts with key stakeholders around the world to further the visibility, vision, and impact of the Society. Her responsibilities include the management of the Society’s most strategic partnerships, executive thought leadership, crisis and reputation management, and oversight of the Society’s internal communications function. She is also an executive sponsor for the organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts.
Gael Almeida is the senior director for Latin America at the National Geographic Society. She has more than 20 years of experience working in conservation, specifically in developing financing strategies, coordinating initiatives, facilitating collective impact, and strategic planning for conservation. Almeida has worked with governments, academic institutions, and civil society organizations such as the Mexican Fund for Nature Conservation, The Nature Conservancy, and World Wildlife Fund. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from the Universidad Iberoamericana, a master’s in management of protected areas from UNESCO, and a master’s in conservation biology from University College London.
As president and chief operating officer at the National Geographic Society (NGS), Michael Ulica implements the institution’s global strategy, which invests in groundbreaking scientists, explorers, educators, and storytellers to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Ulica also oversees the Society’s day-to-day operations.
Kehkashan Basu – Winner of the 2016 International Children’s Peace Prize, 18-year-old youth leader, Kehkashan Basu, has been impacting the global fraternity with her work on children’s rights, promoting gender quality, mitigating climate change and social upliftment. In 2013, at the age of 12, she was elected for a 2-year term as UNEP’s (United Nations Environment Programme) Global Coordinator for Children & Youth and a member of its Major Groups Facilitating Committee and she is the youngest person and the first minor, ever, to be elected into this position. She is also a United Nations Human Rights Champion for her work on protecting children’s rights.
National Geographic Explorer Victoria Herrmann works with coastal communities in the United States and U.S. territories on climate change adaptation. Over the past two years, as lead researcher for America’s Eroding Edges project, she traveled across the country interviewing 350 local leaders to identify what’s needed most to safeguard coastal communities against the unavoidable impacts of climate change . Her current project, Rise Up to Rising Tides, is creating an online matchmaking platform that connects pro bono experts with climate-affected communities. The project seeks to safeguard heritage by connecting national expertise to some of the 13 million Americans at risk of being displaced due to rising waters in the coming years. Herrmann is also the president and managing director of The Arctic Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to Arctic security research. Her research focuses on human security of remote indigenous communities in the circumpolar north. Herrmann teaches sustainability management at American University; science communication at the University Centre of the Westfjords, Iceland; and public speaking at National Geographic Sciencetelling Bootcamps.