Meet Our Experts

Our Experts

National Geographic Explorers have been inspiring people for more than 130 years. They’ve pursued their dreams, become leaders in their fields, collaborated with local communities, and are excited to share their stories and knowledge with the next generation of Explorers through our student travel programs. As you explore together, they’ll share their insights and experiences, and inspire you with their passion for the work they do and the places you’ll travel. A National Geographic Explorer joins each of our programs. On this page, meet a few Explorers who have previously joined our trips. Please see the individual program pages for details on the specific Explorer joining each program in 2023. Pages will be updated as Explorers are confirmed.

National Geographic Explorers are exceptional individuals in their fields who receive funding and support from the National Geographic Society to illuminate and protect our world through their work in science, exploration, education, and storytelling.

Alison Criscitiello, Ice Core Scientist

Alison Criscitiello is a National Geographic Society Explorer, ice core scientist and high-altitude mountaineer. She explores the history of sea ice in polar regions using ice core chemistry. This involves long months of living in a tent and drilling ice cores in places like Antarctica, Alaska and the Canadian Arctic. Criscitiello’s work also focuses on environmental contaminant histories in ice cores from the Canadian high Arctic and the water towers of the Canadian Rockies. Water towers are natural mountain systems which store and transport water via glaciers, snow packs, lakes and streams for the benefit of the people living in … Continue reading

Alison Criscitiello is a National Geographic Society Explorer, ice core scientist and high-altitude mountaineer. She explores the history of sea ice in polar regions using ice core chemistry. This involves long months of living in a tent and drilling ice cores in places like Antarctica, Alaska and the Canadian Arctic.

Criscitiello’s work also focuses on environmental contaminant histories in ice cores from the Canadian high Arctic and the water towers of the Canadian Rockies. Water towers are natural mountain systems which store and transport water via glaciers, snow packs, lakes and streams for the benefit of the people living in the valleys below.

She is the director of the Canadian Ice Core Lab at University of Alberta and a professor at the University of Calgary. When not busy shivering for science, Criscitiello seeks out the cold for fun, working as a climbing ranger in the national parks and guiding expeditions to peaks in the Andes, Alaska and the Himalaya.

In 2010, she led the first all-women’s ascent of Lingsarmo, a 22,818 ft. peak in the Indian Himalaya. Criscitiello has received three American Alpine Club (AAC) climbing awards and she earned the first Ph.D. in Glaciology ever conferred by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Criscitiello is founder and co-director of Girls on Ice Canada.

Dr. M Jackson, Educator & Geographer

Dr. M Jackson, Geographer & Glaciologist

Geographer, glaciologist, National Geographic Emerging Explorer, and TED Fellow M Jackson can often be found exploring some of the world’s most remote Arctic environments. She has worked in Iceland for over a decade and completed three Fulbright grants studying how climate change is affecting communities near the fishing village of Höfn. Her first book, While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change, blends her own personal history with climate science. M’s 2019 book, The Secret Lives of Glaciers, explores the complex impacts of glacier change for communities along the southeastern coast of Iceland. Her 2023 book, The Ice Sings Back, … Continue reading

Geographer, glaciologist, National Geographic Emerging Explorer, and TED Fellow M Jackson can often be found exploring some of the world’s most remote Arctic environments. She has worked in Iceland for over a decade and completed three Fulbright grants studying how climate change is affecting communities near the fishing village of Höfn. Her first book, While Glaciers Slept: Being Human in a Time of Climate Change, blends her own personal history with climate science. M’s 2019 book, The Secret Lives of Glaciers, explores the complex impacts of glacier change for communities along the southeastern coast of Iceland. Her 2023 book, The Ice Sings Back, is her first novel. M is also the Climate & Energy host for Crash Course and she starred as the science expert in the Netflix series, Pirate Gold of Adak Island.

Dr. Tierney Thys, Biologist & Filmmaker

Dr. Tierney Thys is a biologist, filmmaker, Research Associate at the California Academy of Science, and National Geographic Explorer. Her diverse research and outreach projects include mapping connections between nature and human wellbeing through brain imaging in partnership with Stanford University; quantifying nature’s effect on incarcerated populations in partnership with the University of Utah; satellite tracking marine megafauna throughout the world’s oceans; and researching sustainable textile solutions to fast fashion pollution. For seven years, Dr. Thys was the Daily Explorer in the online game Animal Jam (100 million registered players). She is a world expert on molidae, the giant ocean … Continue reading

Dr. Tierney Thys is a biologist, filmmaker, Research Associate at the California Academy of Science, and National Geographic Explorer. Her diverse research and outreach projects include mapping connections between nature and human wellbeing through brain imaging in partnership with Stanford University; quantifying nature’s effect on incarcerated populations in partnership with the University of Utah; satellite tracking marine megafauna throughout the world’s oceans; and researching sustainable textile solutions to fast fashion pollution. For seven years, Dr. Thys was the Daily Explorer in the online game Animal Jam (100 million registered players). She is a world expert on molidae, the giant ocean sunfishes, and recently co-edited the first academic book on the family molidae. As past Director of Research for Sea Studios Foundation, she helped produce the NSF-funded PBS documentary series Strange Days on Planet Earth and Shape of Life. Dr. Thys also serves as an expert for numerous National Geographic itineraries each year and has traveled to more than 60 countries. She is a TED All-Star speaker, frequent TEDed contributor, was a member of the TED braintrust, and serves on the science advisory board for the innovation think tank ThinkBeyondPlastic.

Drew Rush, Photographer

Drew Rush is a wildlife and natural history photographer with a passion for national parks. Before embarking on a career in photography, Drew spent ten years guiding on the Snake River and taking people into the heart of Yellowstone National Park. His photography has appeared in numerous international publications, such as National Parks magazine and National Geographic: Complete Photography, and has also been displayed at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming. Drew has recently been working in the Yellowstone-Tetons region on several long-term projects for National Geographic magazine.

Drew Rush is a wildlife and natural history photographer with a passion for national parks. Before embarking on a career in photography, Drew spent ten years guiding on the Snake River and taking people into the heart of Yellowstone National Park. His photography has appeared in numerous international publications, such as National Parks magazine and National Geographic: Complete Photography, and has also been displayed at the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming. Drew has recently been working in the Yellowstone-Tetons region on several long-term projects for National Geographic magazine.

Erika Larsen, Photographer

Erika Larsen is a photographer and multidisciplinary storyteller known for her essays, which document cultures that maintain close ties with nature. Larsen has shot multiple stories for National Geographic magazine—from following SĂ mi reindeer herders across the Scandinavian Arctic to exploring the significance of the horse in Native American culture. Erika was also part of the team that produced the magazine’s 2016 single topic Yellowstone Issue, and she contributed to Yellowstone: A Journey Through America’s Wild Heart, published by National Geographic Books. Larsen has been a Fulbright Fellow for her study of the North SĂ mi language, resulting in her first monograph, … Continue reading

Erika Larsen is a photographer and multidisciplinary storyteller known for her essays, which document cultures that maintain close ties with nature. Larsen has shot multiple stories for National Geographic magazine—from following SĂ mi reindeer herders across the Scandinavian Arctic to exploring the significance of the horse in Native American culture. Erika was also part of the team that produced the magazine’s 2016 single topic Yellowstone Issue, and she contributed to Yellowstone: A Journey Through America’s Wild Heart, published by National Geographic Books. Larsen has been a Fulbright Fellow for her study of the North SĂ mi language, resulting in her first monograph, “SĂ mi, Walking With Reindeer,” released in 2013. Currently, she is a National Geographic Society Fellow exploring the landscape of the Americas in relation to the animals and natural resources which are interpreting of our current environment. Her images are represented by Nat Geo Creative, and her work has been shown in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Fotografiska Museum in Sweden, and the Reggio Calabria National Archaeological Museum in Italy, as well as at Visa pour l’Image in Perpignan, France. Erika is also one of the featured photographers in Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment, which profiles the lives and work of important photojournalists and goes behind the lens of their individual assignments.

Florian Weise, Wildlife Biologist

Florian Weise, Wildlife Biologist

Big cat researcher and conservationist Dr. Florian Weise has spent nearly two decades on the African continent studying and protecting endangered species. His work helps to reduce conflicts between southern Africa’s large cats—cheetah, lion, and leopard—and local farmers. Florian combines traditional and modern methods in his conservation research, always looking for innovative ways to improve human-wildlife coexistence. For example, he helped develop an app that warns people about approaching lions, giving them an opportunity to avoid dangerous encounters or attacks on livestock. He is also a National Geographic Explorer, combining his passion for fieldwork and the outdoors. After leading several … Continue reading

Big cat researcher and conservationist Dr. Florian Weise has spent nearly two decades on the African continent studying and protecting endangered species. His work helps to reduce conflicts between southern Africa’s large cats—cheetah, lion, and leopard—and local farmers. Florian combines traditional and modern methods in his conservation research, always looking for innovative ways to improve human-wildlife coexistence. For example, he helped develop an app that warns people about approaching lions, giving them an opportunity to avoid dangerous encounters or attacks on livestock. He is also a National Geographic Explorer, combining his passion for fieldwork and the outdoors. After leading several projects throughout Namibia and in the Okavango Delta, he now manages a zoo in Germany. Florian will join the Namibia program at N/a’an Ku SĂȘ.

Haruka Sakaguchi, Photographer

Haruka Sakaguchi is a Japanese documentary photographer based in New York City. She was born in Osaka, Japan, and immigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was three months old. Sakaguchi’s documentary work focuses on cultural identity and intergenerational trauma. Her clients include The New York Times, National Geographic, TIME magazine, ProPublica, The New Yorker, Smithsonian Magazine, BBC News, Bloomberg Businessweek, Newsweek and The Washington Post, among other publications. Her long-term project “1945” was exhibited at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo from November 2017-November 2018.

Haruka Sakaguchi is a Japanese documentary photographer based in New York City. She was born in Osaka, Japan, and immigrated to the U.S. with her parents when she was three months old. Sakaguchi’s documentary work focuses on cultural identity and intergenerational trauma. Her clients include The New York Times, National Geographic, TIME magazine, ProPublica, The New Yorker, Smithsonian Magazine, BBC News, Bloomberg Businessweek, Newsweek and The Washington Post, among other publications. Her long-term project “1945” was exhibited at the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo from November 2017-November 2018.

Ingi Mehus, Storytelling Facilitator

Ingi Mehus is a storytelling facilitator, social entrepreneur, and National Geographic Explorer born in South Korea and raised in Norway, dedicated to cultivating an inclusive and equitable world that celebrates diversity. She travels across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa to facilitate personal storytelling journeys that foster empathy, proximity, and collaborations between diverse people and places. Ingi started her career working with international migration across four continents with local NGOs, UNHCR, and IOM; however, her dissatisfaction with the polarizing migration narratives encouraged her to found Pocket Stories, an organization to create a more inclusive narrative for migration. She is … Continue reading

Ingi Mehus is a storytelling facilitator, social entrepreneur, and National Geographic Explorer born in South Korea and raised in Norway, dedicated to cultivating an inclusive and equitable world that celebrates diversity. She travels across Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa to facilitate personal storytelling journeys that foster empathy, proximity, and collaborations between diverse people and places. Ingi started her career working with international migration across four continents with local NGOs, UNHCR, and IOM; however, her dissatisfaction with the polarizing migration narratives encouraged her to found Pocket Stories, an organization to create a more inclusive narrative for migration. She is also a European Youth Press’s Prix awardee, TEDx speaker, ChangemakerXchange facilitator for change, Ashoka Hellopreneur, and Bosch alumnus.

Liliana Gutiérrez Mariscal, Biologist & Conservationist

Liliana GutiĂ©rrez graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from National Autonomous University of Mexico in 2000. She has a master’s degree in public administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, and an M.Sc. from the State University of New York where she defended the thesis “Public Participation in Mexican Biosphere Reserves: A Comparative Case Study.” Since 2007, she has been a member of the Latin American Network for Integrated Coastal Management. She joined Noroeste Sustentable in July 2007 as program coordinator, and was promoted to executive director in 2014. She has experience in … Continue reading

Liliana GutiĂ©rrez graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from National Autonomous University of Mexico in 2000. She has a master’s degree in public administration from the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, and an M.Sc. from the State University of New York where she defended the thesis “Public Participation in Mexican Biosphere Reserves: A Comparative Case Study.” Since 2007, she has been a member of the Latin American Network for Integrated Coastal Management. She joined Noroeste Sustentable in July 2007 as program coordinator, and was promoted to executive director in 2014. She has experience in highly complex multisectorial processes, and has received training from the Centro de ColaboraciĂłn CĂ­vica (Civic Collaboration Center) in conflict resolution, facilitation, mediation and effective communication and from the Society of Organizational Learning in organizational learning, leadership and generative dialogue. In 2016, GutiĂ©rrez helped to found Achamar, a for-profit organization designed to invest in fishery and community restoration.

Salomé Buglass, Ecologist

Salomé Buglass, Marine Ecologist

Marine ecologist Salomé Buglass is passionate about aquatic ecosystems and the intersection of ecological processes, people, and sustainable development. She works at the Charles Darwin Foundation in the Galåpagos on projects that support the management of the Galåpagos Marine Reserve. Salomé recently received a National Geographic Early Career Grant to lead a study exploring bajos, or shallow seamounts, which are important fishing areas for the local artisanal fleet in the Galåpagos. Her research is focused on finding policy-oriented solutions to the degradation of land and marine resources while ensuring sustainable, community-based practices.

Marine ecologist Salomé Buglass is passionate about aquatic ecosystems and the intersection of ecological processes, people, and sustainable development. She works at the Charles Darwin Foundation in the Galåpagos on projects that support the management of the Galåpagos Marine Reserve. Salomé recently received a National Geographic Early Career Grant to lead a study exploring bajos, or shallow seamounts, which are important fishing areas for the local artisanal fleet in the Galåpagos. Her research is focused on finding policy-oriented solutions to the degradation of land and marine resources while ensuring sustainable, community-based practices.

Shin Arunrugstichai, Photojournalist & Marine Biologist

Sirachai “Shin” Arunrugstichai is an independent photojournalist and marine biologist, specializing in marine conservation stories. He is an Associate Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers and a National Geographic Explorer. Shin regularly works for various conservation organizations and covers news as a stringer for Getty Images. His photographs have been published in National Geographic, Smithsonian, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Guardian, among many others. And when he is not fortunate enough to be photographing stories in the field, Shin often collaborates on shark and ray research in the waters of Southeast Asia, which he … Continue reading

Sirachai “Shin” Arunrugstichai is an independent photojournalist and marine biologist, specializing in marine conservation stories. He is an Associate Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers and a National Geographic Explorer. Shin regularly works for various conservation organizations and covers news as a stringer for Getty Images. His photographs have been published in National Geographic, Smithsonian, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Guardian, among many others. And when he is not fortunate enough to be photographing stories in the field, Shin often collaborates on shark and ray research in the waters of Southeast Asia, which he calls home.

Skylar Tibbits, Architect & Design Researcher

Skylar Tibbits is the founder and co-director of the Self-Assembly Lab housed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) International Design Center. The Self-Assembly Lab focuses on self-assembly and programmable material technologies for novel manufacturing, products, and construction processes. His invention of 4D printing has established a unique area of design research focused on programmable materials that can sense and actuate in response to internal or external stimuli. His work on self-assembly has demonstrated the scalability of this natural construction phenomenon with synthetic design and fabrication systems. The research is the first to apply the principles of self-assembly to construction … Continue reading

Skylar Tibbits is the founder and co-director of the Self-Assembly Lab housed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) International Design Center. The Self-Assembly Lab focuses on self-assembly and programmable material technologies for novel manufacturing, products, and construction processes. His invention of 4D printing has established a unique area of design research focused on programmable materials that can sense and actuate in response to internal or external stimuli. His work on self-assembly has demonstrated the scalability of this natural construction phenomenon with synthetic design and fabrication systems. The research is the first to apply the principles of self-assembly to construction and manufacturing: for example, a cell phone that can build itself, a chair that self-assembles, and the self-construction of aerial balloons. Skylar is an assistant professor of Design Research in the Department of Architecture at MIT where he teaches graduate and undergraduate design studios and co-teaches “How to Make (Almost) Anything,” a seminar at MIT’s Media Lab with Neil Gershenfeld. Skylar is also the Editor-In-Chief of the 3D Printing and Additive Manufacturing Journal and the founder of SJET LLC, a small multi-disciplinary design practice.