Blog Post

National Geographic’s Early Career Leadership Program: Seeding the Future Generation of Planetary Leaders

The 19 members of our Early Career Leadership Program convened in Washington D.C. for orientation to kick off their year-long program.

The beginning of a National Geographic Explorer’s career can be a time for excitement, curiosity, and personal exploration.

To ensure our Early Career Explorers — the Society’s newest researchers, conservationists, storytellers, technologists, and educators — are equipped with the skills, experiences, and support that will propel their careers to the next level, the National Geographic Society launched the Early Career Leadership Program, a year-long development opportunity.

Over the course of six days, our 2019 class of the Early Career Leadership Program came to National Geographic’s campus to participate in the orientation for the year-long program. The week-long program consisted of mentorship, media and leadership training, and project development guidance. Although the orientation week is over, many of the program’s offerings will continue throughout the year as the class participates in monthly webinars and other trainings and individual development opportunities.

This is the second class of the leadership program, which is made possible through sponsorships from American Express and individual donors.

Here are a few highlights from the orientation week:

Lightning Talks

In front of National Geographic staff and fellow Explorers, all 19 Early Career Explorers gave a three minute “lightning talk” to introduce themselves and present the work they are currently undertaking. We learned that Vanessa Bezy is currently working to promote research, education, and conservation at the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge in Costa Rica; Imogen Napper is investigating microplastics in river systems on the National Geographic’s “Sea to Source: Ganges Expedition” team; and Leo Lanna is showing the world how amazing and interesting the micro-world of insects can be, specifically the praying mantis.

Explorer Mentorship

Each Early Career Explorer was partnered with a senior National Geographic Explorer to be their mentor over the course of the year. Each pair was matched based on their career goals and fields of study. This mentorship not only provides the new Explorers an opportunity for professional growth, but is also a way for senior Explorers to give back to the scientists, storytellers, and conservationists who are just beginning their careers.

Educator-Explorer Exchange

The Educator-Explorer Exchange paired National Geographic Explorers with National Geographic Certified Educators on a one-to-one basis for the 2019-2020 school year. These pairs will collaborate to create innovative learning experiences inspired by each other’s work. They will support each other's growth as educators, explorers, and effective collaborators.


Explorers that participated in the 2019 Early Career Leadership Program included: Alberto Borges, ecologist; Catalina Velasco, marine biologist; Gabrielle Corradino, marine ecologist; Gena Steffens, photographer and writer; Giovanni Chimienti, marine biologist; Gretchen Johnson, biologist; Imogen Napper, marine biologist; Kate McNally, environmental anthropologist; Leonardo Lanna, conservation biologist; Lina Marcela Aragón, biologist; Ellie Gonzales de Castro, archeologist; Marcello Calisti, engineer; Maurice Oniango, filmmaker; Munmun Dhalaria, filmmaker; Patrick Smallhorn-West, ecologist; Salome Buglass, marine ecologist; Tutilo Mudumba, wildlife ecologist; Vanessa Bezy, marine biologist; and Wangechi Kiongo, environmental conservationist.

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