The iconic Explorers Club revealed its honorees for its inaugural EC 50 program, recognizing 50 explorers who are changing the world. The Club nominated over 400 explorers from over 50 countries, all representing a diverse group from every continent, working in 46 different countries, including Ecuador, Mozambique, China, and more.
This year’s honorees have embarked on a wide range of amazing work from anti-poaching efforts in China; fire management research protecting Madagascar’s rich forests; researching climate change in the Arctic; investigating food strategies for astronauts while in space; initiating movements that support black women in America, and supporting youth activism utilizing biodiversity and conservation.
The 117-year-old Club started in 1904, with members making extraordinary accomplishments including; becoming first to the North Pole, first to the South Pole, first to the summit of Mount Everest, first to the deepest point in the ocean, and first to the moon’s surface. Notable Club members include Teddy Roosevelt, Neil Armstrong, Jane Goodall, Edmund Hillary, John Glenn, Sally Ride, and Bob Ballard. Check out the Club’s amazing history in the video below.
I had a conversation with Explorers Club President Richard Wiese about the inaugural honors, “Poet Amanda Gorman (and newly minted Explorers Club member) was really the inspiration for this because I thought there are so many Amanda Gorman’s who are communicating science ideas in non-traditional ways. We’ve been working on a diversity and inclusion program for a while now.”
“I spoke to astronaut Kathy Sullivan (our honorary chairman), and I said, we tend to honor someone like her or the Apollo astronauts over and over again. I wanted to honor somebody who is the young version of Kathy or the young Jane Goodall. And so I got this idea, 50 people who are changing the world that the world needs to know about, and we had our members nominate their favorites.”
Here are the 21 remarkable women who were honored this year. For a complete list of nominees, visit Explorers Club.
Paige West, PhD (Anthropologist)
Dr. Paige West holds the Claire Tow Professorship in Anthropology at Barnard College and Columbia University, where she serves as the Director of Columbia’s Center for the Study of Social Difference. She has worked in Papua New Guinea since 1996 to understand the biodiversity and traditions of indigenous peoples and help them conserve their cultures, languages, and environments. She is the author and editor of numerous books and the co-founder of two NGO’s that are conservation-focused.
Bolortsetseg Minjin, PhD (Paleontologist)
A Paleontologist who focuses on the protection of fossils in her native country, Mongolia, Dr. Minjin received her Doctorate from a joint program between the American Museum of Natural History and the City University of New York. Shortly thereafter, she founded the Institute for the Study of Mongolian Dinosaurs. Bolortsetseg worked closely with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to reveal illegal markets in Mongolian fossils, many of which have subsequently been shut down. In 2012, she helped establish the Central Museum of Mongolian dinosaurs.
Brandi Decarli (Entrepreneur)
Brandi Dcarli is the founding partner of Farm from a Box, a cleantech-powered infrastructure for community-based local food production. She is currently a SheEO Venture, a board member of Jordanian agritech accelerator Hassad, and a rising talent with the Women’s Forum. She is a frequent global speaker on technology’s role in climate resilience, economic empowerment, and women’s leadership, including her TEDx talk, “How technology and togetherness can transform our world.” Brandi is passionate about rejecting old rules and driving positive change in the world through innovation, compassion, and connection.
Latonia Hartery, PhD (Archaeologist)
An Archaeologist and filmmaker, Dr. Hartery is the Director of the Bird Cove Archaeology Project in Northern Newfoundland. Latonia has worked with colleagues to reconstruct 5,000 years of indigenous history in the region. Latonia is also founder of a charity which researches, preserves, and promotes archaeology, cultural heritage and art in Newfoundland, Labrador and the Arctic, and informs the public about these topics through educational programs. Latonia’s production company, LJH Films, specializes in films which promote adventure and stories of women and indigenous people.
Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, PhD (Marine biologist)
Dr. Johnson is a policy expert and Brooklyn native, co-founder of Urban Ocean Lab, co-founder of the All We Can Save Project, and co-creator and co-host of the podcast How to Save a Planet. She has been Executive Director of the Waitt Institute, developed policy at the EPA and NOAA, a leader of the March for Science, and taught at New York University. She earned a BA from Harvard University in Environmental Science and Public Policy and a PhD from Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Losang Rabgey, PhD (Anthropologist)
Born in a Tibetan refugee settlement in India and raised in Canada, Dr. Rabgey holds a PHd from the University of London as the first Tibetan with a Graduate degree in Feminist Anthropology. With her sister Dr. Tashi Rabgey, she co-founded Machik, a nonprofit group with a mission to grow a global community of care for a stronger future for Tibet. In the last 20+ years, Machik has supported education for thousands of rural students and youth in Tibet and in diaspora. Gender equity has always been a key focus of Machik.
Dominique Gonçalves (Ecologist)
She grew up in Beira, near Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique, hearing her father’s stories about the park and its wildlife, especially the elephants. Today, she manages Gorongosa’s Elephant Ecology Project. Her work is a holistic blend of ecology, conservation, and human-elephant conflict mitigation. She is also a passionate advocate for girls’ education, to help prevent early marriage. In 2019, she was narrator and main character of the award-winning film Our Gorongosa: a park for the people.
Dawn Wright, PhD (Oceanographer)
Dawn Wright is Chief Scientist of the Environmental Systems Research Institute (ESRI) and a Professor of Geography and Oceanography at Oregon State University, on the faculty since 1995. She is a leading authority in the application of geographic information system (GIS) data to ocean and coastal science. Raised on Maui, Hawaii, she has completed oceanographic fieldwork in the East Pacific Rise, the mid-Atlantic Ridge, the Juan de Fuca Ridge, the Tonga Trench, and on volcanoes under the Japan Sea, the Indian Ocean, and in American Samoa.
Margaret O’Leary Amsler (Marine biologist)
Margaret “Maggie” O’Leary Amsler is a Marine Biologist. Her research initially focused on the Antarctic krill. More recently she concentrates on Subtidal Benthic Ecology, invasive crabs, and the consequences of ocean acidification. Maggie has spent over 8 years (30 expeditions) in Antarctica aboard research vessels or at research stations. She has made over 500 polar scuba dives and 33 submersible hours logged down to 1000m in polar waters.
Callie Broaddus (Conservationist)
Callie Broaddus is the Executive Director of Reserva: the Youth Land Trust, an organization she established in 2019 to bridge the gap between youth activism and tried-and-true methods of biodiversity conservation. The flagship initiative was to create the world’s first entirely youth-funded nature reserve in Ecuador’s Chocó Cloud Forest. Her youth team is working to protect wildlife and support local partners, documenting dozens of critically endangered and new-to-science species of plants and animals. Callie spent seven years designing books at National Geographic Kids.
Sian Proctor, PhD (Geoscientist)
A Geoscientist, explorer, space artist, and science communication specialist with a passion for space exploration, Dr. Proctor encourages people to use their unique one-of-a-kind strengths to inspire those within their reach and beyond. She has completed four analog space missions and believes that when we solve issues for human spaceflight, we also solve issues on earth. She promotes sustainable food preservation techniques to reduce food waste on earth. She joined JOIDES Resolution Expedition 383, was an urban-sustainability-in-India fellow, a NOAA teacher at sea, an astronomy in Chile educator ambassador, and a Polartrec teacher.
Susan R. Eaton (Geoscientist)
A Geoscientist, journalist and polar explorer, Susan investigates the world’s changing oceans from Antarctica to the Arctic, in the snorkel zone. A unique land-sea-ice-air interface where charismatic animals and snorkelers commingle. Susan studies the interplay of plate tectonics, oceans, glaciers, climate, and life in polar regions. She has participated in expeditions to the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Antarctica, Svalbard, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Labrador, and Nunavut. Susan is founder and leader of the all-female, Sedna Epic Expedition and has been inaugurated into the Women Divers Hall of Fame.
Fawn Sharp (Advocate)
Fawn Sharp is President of the National Congress of American Indians and the 5th term Head of State and CEO of the Quinault Indian Nation. A human rights attorney recognized by the United Nations as a global authority on indigenous rights, President Sharp received her Juris Doctorate from the University of Washington. Prior to serving as an elected official, she served as a judge for both the Quinault Nation and Washington State and held positions within the Central Intelligence Agency.
Vicki Lynn Ferrini, PhD (Oceanographer)
Dr. Vicki Ferrini is a Senior Research Scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. Her research interests lie at the intersection of ocean exploration, seabed mapping and characterization. She has participated in more than 30 expeditions using ships and submersibles in remote unexplored parts of the ocean. Dr. Ferrini is dedicated to ensuring that marine geoscience data are accessible to scientists and to the public. She is working closely with stakeholders to build a complete map of the global ocean by 2030.
Inti Keith, PhD (Marine biologist)
Dr. Inti Keith is a Senior Marine Biologist at the Charles Darwin Foundation. She leads the Marine Invasive Species Program and the Long-term Subtidal Ecological Monitoring Program in the Galapagos marine reserve. Inti has worked around the world tagging sharks, monitoring sea turtles, and surveying coral and rocky reefs. Her current interests lie in understanding the health of marine ecosystems in the Eastern tropical Pacific and in evaluating the impacts of anthropogenic drivers on this incredibly biodiverse region including climate change, invasive species, increasing tourism, illegal fishing, and plastic pollution.
Binbin Li, PhD (Conservationist)
Binbin Li is an Assistant Professor at Duke Kunshan University, Kunshan, Jiangsu, China. She focuses on protected areas and endangered and endemic species conservation. Her studies include giant panda habitat and understanding the impacts of oil palm and rubber plantations on biodiversity in Southeast Asia. She also empowers young women to participate in scientific research and conservation work, and she is actively engaged in science communication and nature education. She is a popular writer and nature photographer with more than 400,000 followers on social media.
Casuarina McKinney-Lambert (Advocate)
Casuarina McKinney-Lambert is the Executive Director of the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF), a non-governmental organization dedicated to protecting the Bahamian marine environment through hands-on education, outreach, research, and policy. She was a founding board member of One Eleuthera Foundation and Bahamas Protected Areas Fund. She serves on the Fisheries Advisory Council, the National Climate Change, Biodiversity, National Maritime Policy committees and on the Sustainable Development Goals Technical Committee. She is a member of the Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme and the United World College National Committee in the Bahamas.
Danielle N. Lee (Biologist)
Danielle N. Lee studies nuisance animal ethology, examining the natural history, behavioral biology, and morphometric traits of field mice and giant pouched rats across urban gradients in Metro St. Louis, Missouri and Tanzania. From Memphis, Tennessee, she started exploring in local parks. In graduate school, she engaged students in experiential lessons in life sciences, environmental science, and urban ecology. She shares her science experiences via social media to increase minority participation in the sciences and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Supraja Dharini (Conservationist)
A committed sea turtle conservationist along the Indian East Coast for the last 18 years, she is exemplary for her multi-disciplinary approach. She has a team of 363 ‘Sea Turtle Protection Force (STPF) members from 222 marginalized artisanal fishing villages in Tamil Nadu, Andhra, and Odisha. They have protected tens of thousands of Olive Ridley nests in hatcheries, which has resulted in the safe release of millions of hatchlings back to the sea. STPF members educate other fishers in their villages about the importance of conserving turtles, retrieving ghost nets, reducing pollution, and caring more for their ocean environment in general.
Onkuri Majumdar (Conservationist)
A wildlife conservationist focusing on ending wildlife trafficking by training and supporting governments and the private sector, Onkuri has provided investigative support to law enforcement through analysis and intelligence gathering on tiger, pangolin, ivory, and exotic pet trafficking syndicates. She is currently working on a smartphone application with information on 600+ trafficked species for use by border and transport officials and the general public. Onkuri strongly believes that wildlife and nature have a right to thrive, and should not have to ‘pay’ for their continued existence by being useful to humans.
Ayana Omilade Flewellen, PhD (Archaeologist)
A black feminist, an archaeologist, a storyteller, and an artist, Ayana is the co-founder and President-elect of the Society of Black Archaeologists and sits on the board of Diving With a Purpose. An Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Riverside, her research and teaching interests are shaped black feminist theory, historical archaeology, maritime heritage conservation, public and community-engaged archaeology, processes of identity formations, and representations of slavery.