Changing Planet

Explorers Update: Patagonian Wetlands and More

This post is adapted from the pages of the October 2011 National Geographic magazine.

In the temperate grasslands of southern Argentina, the wet meadows known as mallines support livestock and a host of native wildlife. But overgrazing threatens to dry out the lush landscape.

Biologist-photographer and National Geographic Young Explorers Grant recipient Anand Varma spent 11 weeks documenting the region, on the ground and overhead—including a paragliding stint (above) that took him above Nahuel Huapí Lake. “A gaucho told me, ‘The mallín is our life,’ ” he says.

Varma’s work will help conservationists protect critical areas throughout the region.

Photo Gallery: Anand Varma’s Exquisite Views of Pagagonia


Monkey Watcher: Capuchin monkeys, says anthropologist Susan Perry, are “high-drama animals.” She should know—she’s studied them in Costa Rica for the past 21 years. Among her findings: Capuchins like to push their fingers up to the first knuckle into each other’s eyes, a likely signal of trust.

Saint Seeker: When Italy’s Reggio Emilia Cathedral was renovated in 2008, workers recovered bones making up two nearly complete skeletons. Paleopathologist Ezio Fulcheri believes they are the remains of third-century Christian saints Daria and Chrysanthus, killed by the Romans for proselytizing.

Volcano Whisperer: Geophysicist Jeffrey Johnson listens to rumbles for clues to volcanic behavior. Most signals he’s studied measure below 20 hertz, inaudible to the human ear but not to infrasound sensors that are used to examine volcanic processes to help anticipate future eruptions.


Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. In 2018 he became Communications Director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish. Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of for several years, and helped manage the Society's Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010. He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history. You can follow him on Twitter @anderhowl and on Instagram @andrewjhowley.

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