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Day 1 of the Explorers Festival Symposium Ushers in a New Era of Exploration, Technology and Young Leaders

The first day of the Explorer's Festival Symposium introduced to the audience where the future of technology, conservation, and the next generation of changemakers were headed.

Yesterday was the first day of the 2019 Explorers Festival Symposium! Over 20 changemakers from a variety of fields and disciplines took the stage to share the work and research they are doing to bring us closer to the Society's vision of a planet in balance.

Here are a few highlights from the day:

  • Taking the stage in their blue spacesuits, astronauts Ron Garson, Nicole Stott and Anousheh Ansari described how their time in space reminded them of the interconnectedness of every being on Earth and the importance of “becoming the crew of the spaceship Earth, and not just passengers.”

Credit: National Geographic Society

  • Penguin guano and satellites may not seem related, but Explorer Heather Lynch and her team have been using satellite imagery to track penguin guanos on small, Antarctic islands in order to study penguin colony growth and decline.
  • Explorers Whitney Goodell and Jonatha Giddens married together the importance of art and technology in deep sea conservation, and Holger Klinck showcased how bioacoustics can monitor environmental health, from the rainforests to the sea.
"It was technology that took these two men to the bottom of the ocean, but it was art that brought it to the people.Jonatha Giddens, Explorer and Ocean Conservation Ecologist"
  • Current Storytelling Fellow Sandesh Kadur introduced some of National Geographic’s Explorers who are closing the gap on unknown species. Olivier Nsengimana founded an organization in his home country of Rwanda to save the grey crowned crane from illegal trade. Patricia Medici brought the South American tapir to the spotlight as she explained the significance of this small animal to biodiversity. Rodrigo Medellin reminded the audience that in order to find and protect a species, you often have to get out of your comfort zone.
  • A Sumatran rhino, which is at the brink of extinction, walked through the auditorium via augmented reality during a panel featuring moderator and Senior Director of Wildlife Programs at National Geographic Society Catherine Workman, Director of Wildlife Programs at National Geographic Society Colby Bishop, National Geographic Fellow Corey Jaskolski, Director of Strategic Partnerships, IUCN Species Survival Commission, Kira Mileham and Deputy Director, International Rhino Foundation, CeCe Sieffert, are some of the key changemakers working to save the rhino from extinction. The audience was in awe — and even tried to pet the rhino!

Credit: National Geographic Society

  • National Geographic Editor Rachael Bale moderated a panel with Explorer Brent Stirton, National Geographic Editor Natasha Daly and Photojournalist Kirsten Luce as they exposed the underbelly of wildlife tourism around the world. At the core of it, the industry is consumer motivated — how we combat this is through having dialogues with people we currently aren’t having.
"This is a moment for you, but a lifetime for these animals.Natasha Daly, Editor, National Geographic Magazine"
  • Young people are not just the future — they are the present — and Sahar Mohammadzadeh, co-founder of Prichard Committee Student Voice Team, reminded the audience that “young people are the Earth’s most untapped resource for hope.” Felix Finkbeiner, founder of Plant-for-the-Planet has planted over two billion trees with the help of young people across the globe, and is striving for a billion more. Founder of Bye Bye Plastic Bags, Melati Wijsen, and her younger sister, created the largest NGO in Bali to clean plastic from their home. As a result of their efforts, Bali is implementing a ban on single use plastic.

Credit: National Geographic Society

Day 2 of Explorers Festival is currently underway! Join us via livestream to hear more from inspiring scientists, conservationists, explorers, educators, storytellers, and changemakers here.

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About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 15,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.