Each year, the National Geographic Society recognizes and elevates a group of individuals who are leading a new age of exploration through science, education, conservation, technology, and storytelling. These individuals have proven themselves as the next generation of influential leaders, communicators, and innovators whose critical work demonstrates the power of science, and inspires us to learn about, care for, and protect our world.
Recipients of the 2022 Wayfinder Award—previously called the Emerging Explorer Award—are engaged in groundbreaking work that challenges the most entrenched stereotypes in the animal kingdom, focuses on inclusive and community-based conservation, blends social justice with ecological scientific research, and promotes racial literacy in education. These incredible individuals use new technology, research, photography, and impactful storytelling among other techniques to advocate for and protect the wonder of our world.
The Wayfinder Award recipients join the Society’s global community of National Geographic Explorers and each receive a monetary prize to continue conducting their work.
Meet these incredible Explorers:
Mónica Alcázar-Duarte is a British-Mexican photographer and visual artist whose work acknowledges her Indigenous heritage while exploring current ideas of progress. Alcázar-Duarte uses AR and other new technologies to create multi-layered works that highlight the human relationship with the natural world.
Samantha Cristoforetti is a leading ESA astronaut and is currently on the International Space Station as part of Expedition 67. Cristoforetti’s work tries to bring the issues of biodiversity and landscape conservation to a wider audience from the unique perspective of space.
Resson Kantai Duff is the deputy director of Ewaso Lions, an organization dedicated to helping people and lions coexist in northern Kenya. Duff is passionate about decolonizing conservation and works to renew Kenyans’ sense of ownership over their wildlife, culture, and land.
Farwiza Farhan is a forest conservationist who uses policy and advocacy to protect, conserve, and restore the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia. She focuses primarily on policy and advocacy, working to increase meaningful access and deepen the involvement of women and local communities in matters pertaining to their environment and livelihood.
Zoleka Filander is a South African deep-sea researcher who identifies and documents seabed species in South Africa’s uncharted oceans. Her findings have contributed to assessments of South Africa’s biodiversity and ecosystem classification maps and helped lay the groundwork for the establishment of a network of offshore marine protected areas.
Gibbs Kuguru is a Kenyan scientist who studies the DNA of sharks. Kuguru is using his genetic research to better understand the unique DNA elements that shape the populations of sharks in the blue wilds of the world. He is a passionate communicator and has a multidisciplinary approach to shark conservation.
Yael Martínez is a storyteller who uses photography to address fractured communities in his native country, Mexico. His photography often reflects the sense of emptiness, absence, and pain suffered by those affected by organized crime.
Ariam Mogos is a designer and researcher who investigates the ways that technology can foster playful learning experiences that bridge communities and cultures. Her work in Kenya and Spain has leveraged game design as a vehicle to address conflict between young people from diverse backgrounds. By using technology to create more equitable learning conditions, Mogos’ work promotes racial literacy and social justice in learning.
Thai Van Nguyen is a Vietnamese conservationist whose work focuses on protecting wildlife. He founded Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, and has established two pangolin rehabilitation centers, in Cuc Phuong and Pu Mat National Parks, as well as an anti-poaching unit, where he trains government rangers in wildlife conservation, animal identification, GPS skills, and drone technology.
Margaret Pearce is a tribal member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation and a cartographer. She sees cartographic language as a powerful mode of graphic expression complementary to writing and speech, where narratives and dialogues across cultures and between viewpoints can be explored, in particular for the expression of Indigenous geographies.
Suzanne Pierre is a transdisciplinary scientist developing the new field of critical ecology, the study of basic ecological processes through the analytical lens of decoloniality and critical social theory. Her goal is to explain the phenomena of global ecological change in response to systems of global colonialism and capitalism.
Sammy Ramsey is a leading entomologist who seeks to apply his fascination with invertebrates to understanding and preserving the ecosystems that they make possible. His nonprofit, The Ramsey Research Foundation, works to remove barriers that slow the progress of and decrease public’s access to science as a way of preserving insect species.
Babak Tafreshi is a science photojournalist and cinematographer who merges art and science through visual stories. With a passion to explore the night sky, he has photographed breathtaking night scenes in all continents. His work aims to reveal the wonders of science to the public, to preserve the natural night environment against light pollution, and to connect cultures through common interest to the night sky.
Carlos Velazco is a Mexican-born biodiversity consultant seeking to work on behalf of nature and biodiversity through education and the use of citizen science tools. Velazco has documented more than 5,600 species (including undescribed species) and has logged more than 24,300 observations on iNaturalist while helping other users make more than 131,000 identifications.
Xi Zhinong is a self-taught photographer and filmmaker who advocates for endangered species and uses his camera and voice to protect China’s wildlife. Zhinong and his wife, an environmental educator, founded Wild China with a mission to “use the power of images to protect nature.”