National Geographic Society Newsroom

Neil deGrasse Tyson to Receive Hubbard Medal at First-Ever National Geographic Explorers Festival: Weeklong Event Will Celebrate the Best in Science, Conservation, Exploration and Storytelling and Introduce 2017 Class of National Geographic Emerging Explorers

TheNational Geographic Society today announced the first annual Explorers Festival, a weeklong celebration of exploration, science and innovation, to take place in Washington, D.C., June 12-18. The culmination of the week is a star-studded event at Lisner Auditorium on The George Washington University campus honoring the explorers, scientists and storytellers who have inspired National Geographic...

TheNational Geographic Society today announced the first annual Explorers Festival, a weeklong celebration of exploration, science and innovation, to take place in Washington, D.C., June 12-18.

The culmination of the week is a star-studded event at Lisner Auditorium on The George Washington University campus honoring the explorers, scientists and storytellers who have inspired National Geographic and led the crusade to preserve the planet for future generations. Among those being honored at the ceremony is astrophysicist and author Neil deGrasse Tyson, who will be presented with the Hubbard Medal, National Geographic’s highest distinction, which recognizes lifetime achievement in exploration, scientific research and discovery. Past awardees include Amelia Earhart, Matthew Alexander Henson, Jane Goodall, Bob Ballard, Meave Leakey and Nainoa Thompson, among others. Also being recognized at the ceremony is photojournalist Brian Skerry, who will be honored as the Rolex National Geographic Explorer of the Year.

Additional awards include the inaugural National Geographic Further Award being presented to Dr. Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg, the innovators behind Solar Impulse, which has created airplanes able to fly 40,000 kilometers without fuel. The Further Award recognizes leaders in exploration whose work is a call to arms, pushing well beyond the markers of progress in their field through uniquely innovative, timely and impactful work.

The annual National Geographic Society/Buffett Awards for Leadership in Conservation in Africa and Latin America will also be presented to Dr. Olivier Nsengimana, veterinarian and founder of the Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association, who designed a unique conservation project to save his country’s endangered grey crowned cranes from the illegal wildlife trade; and Colombian Rosamira Guillen, executive director of Fundación Proyecto Tití, an organization dedicated to the protection and conservation of her country’s most endangered native primate species: the cotton-top tamarin.

Finally, the award ceremony will introduce the 2017 class of National Geographic Emerging Explorers: uniquely gifted and inspiring scientists, conservationists, storytellers and innovators who are changing the world. This year’s class includes:

  • Ryan Carney, evolutionary biologist and epidemiologist, United States

  • Adjany Costa, conservationist and ichthyologist, Angola

  • Federico Fanti, paleontologist and sedimentary geologist, Italy

  • Keolu Fox, human geneticist and advocate, United States

  • Joe Grabowski, educator and scuba diver, Canada

  • Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, environmental activist and geographer, Chad

  • M Jackson, geographer and glaciologist, United States

  • Danielle N. Lee, biologist and outreach scientist, United States

  • Jennifer W. Lopez, data scientist and technologist, United States

  • Ricardo Moreno, wildlife conservationist, Panama

  • Mateus Mutemba, park warden and conservationist, Mozambique

  • Hotlin Ompusunggu, dentist and conservationist, Indonesia

  • Anand Varma, science photographer, United States

  • Grace C. Young, ocean engineer, United States

Read more about the 2017 class of Emerging Explorers on our blog.

The award ceremony will cap off a week of activities celebrating exploration, from happy hours to panel discussions and film screenings. TheExplorers Festival will bring together the world’s most fascinating and innovative scientists, conservationists, explorers and storytellers to share their discoveries and ideas.

Highlights of the Explorers Festival events include:


Thursday, June 15

Join Nat Geo Explorers for a night of great music, food and drinks with members of an amazing team that has spent the past two years navigating the Okavango River Basin as part of an impressive endeavor to help document and protect one of the last truly wild places on Earth.


Thursday, June 15, and Friday, June 16 (Invite-Only)

Each year, some of the most innovative explorers in the world come together at National Geographic headquarters to share their discoveries, breakthroughs, and amazing stories from the field. This year’s event welcomes a fascinating community of scientists and conservationists, storytellers and change makers for two days of inspirational and thought-provoking presentations. Vital topics include new challenges in conservation, how citizen science is making a difference, transformative technology, and how storytelling can change the world.


Friday, June 16

National Geographic is teaming up with Brightest Young Things for a special Explorers Festival after-hours campus takeover featuring music, explorer talks and experiences, bars and exclusive museum access.


Saturday, June 17

This day-long session, hosted by 2011 National Geographic Explorer of the Year Kenny Broad, will talk about the future of exploration on this planet and across the galaxy. Three panel discussions will explore different facets of exploration:

  • “Leaving Terra Firma” will convene ocean and space experts, including noted oceanographer Bob Ballard, to discuss the risks and rewards of pushing the limits of our human boundaries.

  • “A New Human Tide” reveals what it would take for humans to achieve long-term colonization of both Mars and Earth’s oceans. Panelists include Alan Leonardi, Director, NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research; astrophysicist Lucianne Walkowicz; and NASA’s Constance Adams.

  • “No Place Like Home” convenes experts to shine a light on some of the breakthrough discoveries and surprising insights that are giving us a whole new perspective on just staying home. Panelists include marine biologist and National Geographic Explorer Sylvia Earle and Kevin Hand, astrobiologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.



The biggest names in exploration will pay tribute to the visionaries who push boundaries and change our world for the better. Festivities begin with a global culinary adventure featuring an array of cuisines prepared by some of D.C.’s most celebrated chefs, complemented by music and cultural elements highlighting National Geographic’s work around the world. The evening will continue in The George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium with a star-studded show honoring the explorers, scientists, and storytellers who are leading the crusade to preserve the planet for future generations.


Sunday, June 18

This exciting new film festival showcases the amazing work—and inspired vision—of our National Geographic Explorers in the field.

A full schedule, as well as ticket purchase information, can be found on the National Geographic website:

About National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature experiences, stories and content. To learn more, visit or follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.