An Explorers Festival Conversation with Shah Selbe and Joe Grabowski

The theme of this year’s National Geographic Explorers Festival was “Connecting to Ignite Change.” This theme was present in all the panels, activities, and conversations that were had on stage, as well as in the energy of the party, film festival, and awards. But what happens after Explorers Festival wraps up? What kinds of projects can come out of this event? All it takes is a conversation with many of the explorers and educators that attend Explorers Festival to understand the connection and collaboration that Festival inspires. The relationship between Joe Grabowski and Shah Selbe, both of whom are National Geographic Explorers and Fellows, is a prime example.

Shah Selbe is an engineer and conservation technologist who works with communities, NGOs, and developing countries to identify and deploy technologies that can help with their greatest conservation challenges. His projects have integrated crowdsourcing, smartphone apps, drones, satellite data, and sensors to address such conservation issues as illegal poaching and the monitoring of protected areas. He founded a conservation technology makerspace and prototyping lab, Conservify, which uses open source technology to empower local communities to change our planet’s future. Selbe was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2013.

Joe Grabowski is an educator working to bring science, exploration, adventure, and conservation into classrooms across North America through virtual speakers and field trips. He is using technology to open the most remote corners of the planet to classrooms. Currently, Grabowski teaches science and math in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. He is also the founder of a nonprofit called Exploring by the Seat of Your Pants, which, since 2015, has hosted more than 200 Google Hangouts with leading scientists and explorers from around the world, connecting them with tens of thousands of students. Grabowski was selected in 2016 as a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow and in 2017 he was named a National Geographic Emerging Explorer.

Over the past several years, Shah has been able to bring his work into classrooms across North America through Joe’s Exploring by the Seat of your Pants Google Hangouts, inspiring a new generation of explorers and highlighting what can happen when innovative leaders connect.

We caught up with them during Explorers Festival to get updates on their work together and where they’re going next.


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