Changing Planet

National Geographic Names 2014 Class of Emerging Explorers

2014 Emerging Explorers Collage

By Fiona McNabb

These visionaries of the 11th annual class of National Geographic Emerging Explorers define the mission: to inspire people to care for the planet. This year, National Geographic has chosen fourteen incredible individuals who are making significant contributions to our world in a variety of disciplines and who show potential for future breakthroughs. Each member of the 2014 class will receive an award to continue their ground-breaking exploration and will be honored as a group at National Geographic Headquarters in June.

Past classes of Emerging Explorers have brought together diverse groups of visionary individuals ranging from population geneticist Spencer Wells (2004), to marine ecologist Enric Sala (2007), to geo-archaeologist Beverly Goodman (2009), and innovator and entrepreneur Tan Le (2013).


Meet the 2014 Class of Emerging Explorers:

Inventor Jack Andraka developed a new, potentially lifesaving test to detect pancreatic, lung and ovarian cancer with greater accuracy at early treatable stages.

Educator Shabana Basij-Rasikh empowers a new generation of young women to rebuild Afghanistan, expanding their access to education worldwide and through the first innovative girls’ school she founded in Kabul.

Conservation Biologist Shivani Bhalla safeguards the future of Kenya’s rapidly disappearing lions; using research and community outreach to reduce conflict between people and lions who share landscapes.

Ecologist & Epidemiologist Christopher Golden studies the connection between global environmental changes and human health, using empirical data to predict problems, guide solutions, and shape actionable policies.

Marine Biologist David Gruber discovers new biofluorescent marine creatures that he engineers to enable medical breakthroughs, and designs cameras and vehicles to revolutionize deep ocean exploration.

Paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim combs the Sahara for clues of life in the Cretaceous period, unearthing huge dinosaur bones and discovering a new species of flying reptile that soared 95 million years ago.

Creative Conservationist Asher Jay uses groundbreaking design, multimedia arts, and literature to inspire global action to combat illegal wildlife trafficking, advance environmental issues, and promote humanitarian causes.

Conservation Biologist Juliana Machado Ferreira fights Brazil’s illegal wild pet trade; using fieldwork, genetic research, and educational outreach to empower police, strengthen laws, change habits, and protect species.

Artist, Writer, & Musician Paul D. Miller aka DJ Spooky creates multimedia performances and installations blending artistic genres, academic disciplines, and data to engage audiences in environmental and social issues.

Environmentalist Maritza Morales Casanova builds a new generation of environmentally aware leaders, volunteers, and social entrepreneurs through her unique educational park for children in Mexico.

Social Entrepreneur Sanga Moses tackles Uganda’s energy, food, health, and deforestation crises through novel technology that converts waste into clean cooking fuel.

Author & Campaigner Tristram Stuart wages global war against food waste, transforming efforts to fight hunger, reverse devastating environmental impact, and make the issue an international priority.

Electrical Engineer Robert Wood develops robots that are ultra-small, flight-worthy, soft, and uniquely equipped to gather data, advance medicine, assist agriculture, aid search and rescue missions, and more.

Nanoscientist Xiaolin Zheng invented a way to create thin, flexible solar cells with the potential to transform the practical, affordable, widespread application of solar power.

Read about the 2013 Class of Emerging Explorers

Stay tuned as the latest class of Explorers brings new energy, science, and fresh ideas to National Geographic.

12418031_10153900711084116_8462971761216697621_nDavid Braun is director of outreach with the digital and social media team illuminating the National Geographic Society’s explorer, science, and education programs.

He edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and major initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world. More than 50,000 readers have participated in 10,000 conversations.

Braun also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship

Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn

Forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. He has 120,000 followers on social media.

Assignments in 80 countries/territories included visits to a secret rebel base in Angola, Sahrawi camps in Algeria, and Wayana villages in the remote Amazon. Braun traveled with Nelson Mandela on the liberation leader’s Freedom Tour of North America, accompanied President Clinton and Chelsea Clinton to their foundation’s projects in four African countries and Mexico, covered African peace talks chaired by Fidel Castro in Havana and Boutros Boutros-Ghali in Cairo, and collaborated with Angelina Jolie at World Refugee Day events in Washington, D.C. As a member of the National Geographic Expeditions Council, and media representative to the Society’s Committee for Research and Exploration, he joined researchers on field inspections in many parts of the world.

Braun has been a longtime member/executive of journalist guilds, press clubs, and professional groups, including the National Press Club (Washington) and editorial committee of the Online Publishers Association. He served as WMA Magazine of the Year Awards judge (2010-2012), advisory board member of Children’s Eyes On Earth International Youth Photography Contest (2012), and multimedia/communications affiliate of the International League of Conservation Photographers (2015-2017).

David Braun edits National Geographic Voices, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society’s mission and initiatives. Contributors include grantees and Society partners, as well as universities, foundations, interest groups, and individuals dedicated to a sustainable world.

He also directs the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience.

Follow David on Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (

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