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Day 2 of the Explorers Festival Symposium Celebrated National Geographic’s Changemakers and Groundbreaking Conservation Movements

Day 2 of the Explorers Festival Symposium was dedicated to the preservation of our rich biodiversity and celebrating those who are working to create a planet in balance.

The second day of the Explorers Festival Symposium focused on National Geographic’s commitment to protecting our natural world. Throughout the day, speakers highlighted new models for conservation, shared new discoveries for ways to live smarter on our planet and dove into why it’s critical to preserve our last wild places.

Here are the highlights of the day:

  • With over 1 million species threatened with extinction, Vice President of Species Conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society Elizabeth Bennett, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala and National Geographic Fellow Steve Boyes discussed why protecting 30 percent of our planet by 2030 is a critical target.
"Our new future is 30 by 30.Steve Boyes, National Geographic Fellow"
  • National Geographic Fellow Heather Koldewey Skyped with her all-female “Source to Sea: Ganges” team who are currently on expedition in India. The team's expedition is tracking plastic waste from sea to source and helping to identify inclusive solutions to plastic pollution.

Photo credit: National Geographic Society

  • National Geographic Fellow Pete Muller put a feeling we’ve all had into words. Solastalgia: a sense of emotional or psychic distress propelled by negative change in one’s home environment. National Geographic Education Fellow Rue Mapp explained her mission to inspire inclusive outdoor recreation through her organization, Outdoor Afro.
  • Yesterday a Sumatran rhino joined us at Explorers Festival via augmented reality, but on day two, the audience was transported to the Okavango Delta through virtual reality. National Geographic Explorer Andjay Costa, part of the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project team, captured the vast Okavango Delta and its immense biodiversity in a 360-degree experience that illustrated how rich and important this last wild place is to protect.

Photo credit: National Geographic Society

  • National Geographic Explorer and journalist Laurel Chor brought National Geographic Fellows Dominique Gonçalves and Rae Wynn-Grant as well as Director of Latin America, National Geographic Pristine Seas Project Alex Muñoz, to the stage to explore how wildlife and people must coexist in order to maintain sustainable conservation efforts. Conservation is not an individual act — it must be done in partnership with others.
"It is not only about restoring wildlife. It’s about restoring people’s lives. When we think of all the challenges we see today, we think: what can we do to ensure that people and wildlife have a healthy future?Dominique Gonçalves, Ecologist & National Geographic Fellow"
  • Storytelling has always been at the core of National Geographic’s mission. A team from National Geographic Partners shared how they bring the wild, raw and granular truth of the planet into people’s homes.
"I see this room. I see explorers. I see so much diversity, and that brings so much hope. I see that changeAfrica Flores-Anderson, Research Scientist, Earth System Science Center, University of Alabama & National Geographic Explorer"
  • The night ended with the National Geographic Awards, which was hosted by Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Camryn Manheim. Six awards were presented to the conservationists, scientists and storytellers who are leading the charge to protect the world for future generations. Throughout the show, performances were made by Jordan Fisher, Judith Hill and Elle King.

Photo credit: Paul Morigi

You can rewatch the first two days of Symposium as well as today’s panels 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.