Year-End Honors for Our Cutting-Edge Explorers

Dereck and Beverly Joubert on stage at National Geographic headquarters in Washington, D.C. for our annual Explorers Symposium. (Photo by Mark Theissen/National Geographic Creative)

2016 has been an incredible year for exploration, research, and conservation—and explorers supported by the National Geographic Society have been at the top of each of those fields.

In recent days, several of them have been awarded for their contributions by organizations around the world.

Sarah Parcak, Space Archaeologist

Using the incredible perspective offered by satellite photography, Sarah is on a mission to document undiscovered archaeological sites and to protect them from the ravages of looting. For this work she was recently given the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award.

Calling out her contribution to major new finds in Egypt and a new Viking site in Canada, the Smithsonian called Sarah “the world’s leading space archaeologist.” They also detailed how she locates new sites by studying satellite images, and how her work “maps and tracks the looting of antiquities in the war-torn regions of the Middle East, such as Syria and Libya, where cultural treasures are being destroyed at a record rate.” Earlier in 2016 Sarah was also awarded the TED Prize, and is “developing an online interactive citizen science platform to allow everyone with a computer to discover and monitor archaeological sites.”

Foreign Policy also recognized Sarah’s outstanding work, and named her one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers of 2016.

Watch the Smithsonian’s Profile on Sarah:

Enric Sala, Ocean Ecologist

Enric Sala is a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence actively engaged in exploration, research and communications to advance ocean policy and conservation. His more than 100 scientific publications are widely recognized and used for real-world conservation efforts such as the creation of marine reserves. Enric is currently working to help protect the last pristine marine ecosystems worldwide, and to develop new business models for marine conservation. Photograph of Enric Sala on board a Lindblad Expeditions ship courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions.
Photograph of Enric Sala on board a Lindblad Expeditions ship courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions.

Enric Sala is a powerful leader and voice (with a great Catalan accent) for the ocean. Growing up along the Mediterranean coast of Spain, he was startled when he realized the barren waters he knew were once teeming with fish. As founder of the Pristine Seas program at National Geographic, he has explored some of the world’s most remote and untouched marine areas, and helped to inspire protection for them.

His contributions to ocean conservation were just recognized by Sailors for the Sea, a “global conservation organization that engages, educates, inspires, and activates the sailing and boating community toward healing the ocean.” The group recently hosted a fundraising auction and reception at Rockefeller Plaza in New York. For the accompanying “State of the Ocean” discussion, Enric was selected as a speaker along with Charles Goddard, Executive Director of The Economist’s World Ocean Summit, and Ian Walker, two-time Olympic sailing silver medalist, to “share bold stories that signal a blue future.”

Watch the “State of the Ocean” Event:

Dereck and Beverly Joubert, Filmmakers and Conservationists

Finally, showing the interconnectedness of all species and especially of the efforts necessary to protect the most endangered of them, a conservation group in India honored two explorers renowned for their work in Africa.

Beginning their careers as a photographer and filmmaker, Dereck and Beverly Joubert soon realized that the biggest factor in the lives of the animals they were studying was the threat posed to them by the endless encroachment and exploitation by humans.

For decades, they have devoted their art and resources to protecting these creatures, spreading awareness and supporting research and conservation through the Big Cats Initiative that they founded with National Geographic.

This past month they were honored on stage for their body of artistic and conservation work during the Sanctuary Wildlife Awards in India. While most of their own work occurs in Africa, the Jouberts’ recent efforts to relocate rhinos from areas of intense poaching in South Africa to areas of respite in Botswana has been an inspiration to conservationists in India and elsewhere.

Below, See Some of Africa Through the Jouberts’ Eyes: 

Learn More About Our Explorers and Conservation Programs Around the World

Human Journey


Meet the Author
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.