Author: ECWG_Admin

2019 Exploration and Field Research Grant Recipients

2019 Exploration and Field Research Grant Recipients

So Hyun Ahn (Ph.D.), University of Maryland, Center for Environmental Science, Horn Point Laboratory, “The broadening of the window of opportunity for harmful algal blooms in the Yellow Sea, China”, China
Globally, harmful algal blooms (HABs) have been increasing in frequency, magnitude and geographic extent. The coast of the China is one of the world’s regions most affected by HABs and eutrophication, a state where excess nutrients induce excessive algal growth, which may result in oxygen depletion of the water body. In the Yellow Sea, China, there have been not only increases in HABs, but there have also been shifts in non-HAB algae as well, especially heavily silicified diatoms. These diatoms lock up dissolved silica, preventing its seasonal dissolution, in turn enhancing the window of opportunity for growth of non-diatom HAB species to accumulate in summer. This project will focus on the HAB species in conjunction with an ongoing project which targets the biology of these heavily silicified diatoms. The identification of HAB taxa will be performed using high performance liquid chromatography as well as microscopy during seasonal, summer sampling in the Yellow Sea. In addition, studies will be undertaken for the physiological understanding of HAB species and their relationship with changing environment and other organisms. This research will augment ongoing research on HABs in Chesapeake Bay with the aim to develop predictive models of HAB dynamics.

Martin Aucoin (M.A.), West Virginia University, Geography and Geology, “Leave now, build later: exploring the relationship between migration and development in The Gambia, West Africa”, The Gambia
Recent development projects in The Gambia, West Africa, employ economic development strategies to reduce the out-migration of young men to work abroad. Such projects have been largely unsuccessful and out-migration has increased. This project examines the complex reasons young Gambian men choose to migrate abroad to work and explores the relationship between economic development and international migration. Drawing from literature in geography and migration studies, alternate narratives of migration in The Gambia will be studied, and how Gambian returnees actively engage with development in their communities will be quantified. This stage of the project will take place in the city of Banjul, the capital of The Gambia, from where most emigrants leave the nation. Interviews and participant observation will be conducted returned migrants in The Gambia. Further research is planned with members of the diaspora in Philadelphia, a city with a large number of Gambians living abroad. This research will contribute to the scholarship in geography and migration studies examining the relationship between development and international migration and has policy implications for organizations operating in The Gambia and for development agencies in the United States.

Naomi Becker (Ph.D.), Johns Hopkins University, Earth and Planetary Sciences, “Processes and timescales for the development of a convergent plate margin: an investigation into the origin of oceanic rocks along the Appalachians”, Alabama, Georgia
The theory of plate tectonics provides a framework for understanding modern geological processes. According to the theory, continents ‘drift’ over geological timescales, rearranging as a result of the birth and death of oceans, which, in geological terms, are only transient features. Despite decades of research on plate tectonic processes, the mechanisms that initiate the creation and subsequent destruction of oceans remain poorly understood. The Appalachian Mountains stretch from Alabama to Newfoundland and record a full supercontinent cycle resulting from the birth and death of a precursor ocean to the Atlantic, the Iapetus. Samples of Iapetan oceanic crust are preserved within the Appalachian system and have radiometric ages that cluster around 490 million years. This project will test the hypothesis that these rocks represent the onset of the tectonic process of subduction, which led to closure of the Iapetus Ocean. Samples will be collected from across the Appalachians, and geochemical analysis performed to investigate their potential formation within a nascent subduction zone. The focus for the initial study will be an oceanic tract in Alabama and Georgia known as the Dadeville Complex, which will be mapped and sampled for subsequent geochemical characterization work.

Nicolas Amin Hazzi (Ph.D.), George Washington University, Biological Sciences, “Systematics, Evolution and Biogeography of the Tropical Wandering Spiders (Ctenidae)”, Columbia
The study will address the diversity and the evolution of the wandering spiders (Ctenidae) in the Neotropical region. In Colombia, prior to the peace agreement between the government and the FARC-EP guerrilla at the end of 2016, many areas with high species diversity were inaccessible for biological studies. During more than 50 years of war, knowledge of a large important portion of Colombian´s biodiversity was hindered. Field collections will be made in unexplored areas such as the Chocó biodiversity hotspot and the Amazonian region, where members of this family are restricted to pristine forests and can reach their highest species richness. DNA sequences and morphological examination will allow the discovery of new species and the reconstruction of an evolutionary tree of Neotropical co-distributed ctenid genera. Based on this tree, a biogeographic analysis will be used to test geographic diversification hypotheses that help to explain how the geological and climatic events in the past influence the evolution and distribution of ctenids in the Neotropics. The goals are to discover new species in these unexplored areas, to expand knowledge of the geographic distribution of ctenids and to obtain an evolutionary framework to test hypotheses of diversification in the Neotropics. Data collected will be important in the development of conservation strategies prior to interest in these areas for agriculture and industry.

Edward Andrew Hobbs, Jr. (M.S.), University of Maryland, Center for Environmental Science, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, “Controls on nitrous oxide distribution and air-sea flux in estuarine waters”, Maryland
Nitrous oxide (N2O) has a greenhouse gas potential ~300 times greater than carbon dioxide and is produced in estuaries via biogeochemical processes. Despite the importance of this gas, there is still a large knowledge gap regarding N2O distributions and controls in polluted waters. Excessive nutrients in estuaries alter water column oxygen, impacting biogeochemical rates within the nitrogen cycle and affecting N2O availability. The goal of this project is to measure N2O availability and air-water flux across a range of environments to better understand the role of estuaries in producing N2O. Study sites include Rock Creek, a tidal tributary to the Patapsco River (Maryland) where an engineered aeration system has been operating since 1988, which can be turned off to simulate ecosystem-scale deoxygenation and its impact on N2O availability. N2O will also be measured in two systems adjacent to Rock Creek that have similar characteristics but do not have aeration. These efforts will be complemented by N2) measurements made at a fixed station in the Patuxent River, a moderately polluted Chesapeake Bay tributary, and during two Patuxent-wide samples cruises. These new data will significantly broaden the understanding of N2) cycling, air-water flux, and distribution within eutrophic estuarine systems.

Olanrewaju Lasisi (Ph.D.), College of William and Mary, Anthropology, “History of Archaeological Research in the Yoruba-Edo region of Nigeria: New Directions for Urban Earthen-works”, Nigeria
The Ijebu kingdom is well-known in the historic Atlantic trade, as a nexus between the coastal and interior of the Yoruba-Edo region of West Africa. Oral traditions, early European travel accounts and remains of monumental architecture still visible in the landscape point to Ijebu and its capital, Ijebu-Ode, as centers of power. Yet, the archaeology of this early African polity remains largely unknown. Archaeological surveys conducted in the 1990s revealed that the core of the kingdom was surrounded by a 180 km enclosure. This project focuses on the capital of Ijebu, a large urban center that stood in the center of the monumental enclosure. Using a landscape perspective, this research project seeks to document the depositional history of Ijebu-Ode, and study long-term changes in the shape and functions of urban and territorial enclosures. Three research questions guide this study: What is the chronological and functional relationship between the urban and the territorial enclosures? How was the urban space defined by the enclosure socially structured? What can the archaeological record tell us about change and continuity in the life and social stratification of the inhabitants of Ijebu-Ode during the second half of the second millennium? This project will the first to examine the chronological data and extent of Ijebu Ode fortifications and will be central to further research in this area.

Vaughn M. Shirey (Ph.D.), Georgetown University, Biology, “The evolution and ecology of high-latitude butterflies with special focus on their biological traits and climate change”, Canada
No habitat on Earth is experiencing more dramatic climatic change than Earth’s arctic; however, much of the endemic insect fauna of the region is severely understudied, leading to significant knowledge gaps with respect to artic ecology. Butterflies represent a well-documented group of insects that will aid in alleviating these knowledge gaps. This project focuses on uncovering the ecological attributes of butterflies in the arctic, specifically still under-documented aspects of their behavior through field work in the Yukon Territory. The data will be examined in tandem with data collected from published field guides and scientific literature to understand the nature of butterfly adaptation to the arctic and how these adaptations may impact these species with respect to of climate change. This project will bridge the gap between data-intensive ecology and field work and elucidate the eco-evolutionary dynamics of a threatened and relatively unexplored ecosystem. A goal of this research is to leverage those data to model how butterfly communities in the arctic have responded and are most likely to respond in the future to changing arctic conditions. Results from the study will become part of an international, global effort to compile ecological, morphological, and evolutionary information on all butterfly species.

Michael D. Max, FN05

Michael D. Max, FN05

It is with deep sorrow and regret that I convey the news of the passing of Michael D. Max, FN05, ECWG’s Program Director for the past six years. He died of cancer on Sunday, May 31, 2020, days after celebrating his 78th birthday. Michael had a broad background including geology, geophysics, chemistry, acoustics, and information technology. He had received a B.Sc . (History, Geology) from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, an M.Sc. (Petroleum & Economic Geology) from the University of Wyoming, and a Ph.D. (Geology) from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland.

Michael worked as a geologist/geophysicist for the Geological Survey of Ireland, for which he carried out detailed scientific mapping and established a nearshore exploratory unit involving scientific diving. Then he was at the Naval Research Laboratory, Washington, DC, working on shallow water acoustic propagation prediction. This is where I first met him. He also worked at the NATO’s Undersea Research Center in La Spezia, Italy where he conducted at-sea experiments and designed and carried out operational technology applications involving major research vessels.

Last year he regaled our Chapter with a presentation describing aeromagnetic surveys he conducted around Antarctica. From 1999 to 2011 he was CEO and Head of Research for Marine Desalination Systems LLC, a small innovative R&D company which established a hydrate research laboratory and explored industrial applications of hydrate chemistry as a government contractor under DARPA and ONR. At the time of his death, he was a principle and an active member of Hydrate Energy International, which is a consulting company specializing in unconventional natural gas, particularly natural gas hydrate (

Michael authored many scientific publications and three textbooks, a number of map sheets, and several GIS/relational database operational geographic digital maps. He assisted in the writing of the U.S. Gas Hydrate Research and Development Act of 2000. Michael was appointed by the Secretary of Energy to the Methane Hydrate Advisory Committee of the Department of Energy for 2014–2018, and was Co-Chair, Diving Committee of the Marine Technology Society. He was an Adjunct Professor in the School of Geological Sciences of University College, Dublin, Ireland, at which he was currently supervising a Post-Doctoral research student. Michael was involved with over 40 patents and patent applications.

Michael’s membership’s included the: Geological Society of America, Geological Society of London, American Geophysical Union, American Chemical Society, Explorers Club (Program Director, ECWG), Marine Technology Society (Vice-Chair and Co-Chair Diving Committee), Coast Guard Auxiliary (Vessel Inspector), Acoustical Society of America, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and American Association for the Advancement of Science, amongst others. He is survived by his wife, Eleanor, and daughter, Rachel, a graduate student in Hamburg, Germany. Services will be private.

Bruce F. Molnia, Ph.D.

Zoom Meeting Instructions

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Cancellation of ECWG Dinner Meetings and Happy Hours

Cancellation of ECWG Dinner Meetings and Happy Hours

As we are all aware, these are very trying times. With respect to protecting the health of our members and guests, the ECWG Board of Directors fully supports Federal, State, and District of Columbia guidance to stay at home and to reduce the spread of Coronavirus.

Therefore, we have cancelled our April and May Dinner Meetings and future Happy Hours until further notice.

We appreciate your understanding and look forward to resuming meeting with you again once the pandemic has ended and the medical professionals leading the response have pronounced ‘all clear’.

The Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Awards Weekend – SATURDAY MORNING AWARDEE PRESENTATIONS

The Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Awards Weekend – SATURDAY MORNING AWARDEE PRESENTATIONS

National Geographic Grosvenor Auditorium
Saturday, October 12, 2019, starting at 8:30am


Robert L. Fisher, Ph.D., HON ’88 is a research geologist emeritus in the Geological Research Division at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego. His life’s work involves over half a century of in-depth seafloor/crustal exploration, specifically regarding the composition, crustal structure, and actual topography underlying the Pacific and Indian Oceans. From that shipboard work, by mid-1959 he established that at 10,915±10 meters Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench was the world’s deepest; this maximum was confirmed six months later by manometer on the bathyscaph Trieste. Bob Fisher Ridge, a wholly-submerged mountain range of Sierra Nevada dimensions south of Madagascar is named for him.

David L. Mearns, OAM, FI ‘91, is a chartered marine scientist, historical researcher, author, and expedition leader of deep ocean projects. He is one of the worlds most experienced and successful deep-sea shipwreck hunters, having located 24 major shipwrecks with an overall success rate of 89%. Mearns’s most important discoveries include HMAS Sydney and AHS Centaur for which he was awarded an honorary Medal of the Order of Australia. He has travelled to more than 50 countries and is a long-standing fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

Bruce F. Molnia, Ph.D., FN ’80 has more than five decades of experience in exploration, research, community service, communication, public policy, and education. Currently the Senior Science Advisor for National Civil Applications for the U.S. Geological Survey National Civil Applications Center, Molnia has conducted extensive research in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic marginal seas, as well as in Alaska, where his work has focused on understanding the response of glaciers to changing climate and the dynamics of tidewater. Among many awards and public recognitions for his service, Molnia is a recipient of the Antarctic Service Medal.

Joseph M. Rohde FN ’10 is a Creative Executive at Walt Disney Imagineering. He is known for leading the team that conceptualized, designed, and built Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Through that process he was instrumental in the development of the Disney Conservation Fund. Rohde has also participated in a number of research expeditions on behalf of Disney to countries all over the world. He speaks regularly on the art of cultivating creative innovation through narrative framing, and has spoken at NASA, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, the TED conference, as well as many other venues.


Ellen R. Stofan, Ph.D., FN ’17 is currently the John and Adrienne Mars Director at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. She has over25 years of experience in space-related organizations and a deep research background in planetary geology. She was chief scientist at NASA (2013–2016), where she helped guide the development of a long-range plan to get humans to Mars. Stofan’s research focuses on the geology of Venus, Mars, Saturn’s moon Titan, and Earth. She has published extensively and received many awards and honors, including the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers and the NASA Distinguished Service Medal.

Astronaut Frank Culbertson (Capt, USN, Ret.), is an American former naval aviator, test pilot, aerospace engineer and executive, and NASA astronaut. He recently retired as President of the Space Systems Group at Northrop Grumman and is currently consulting and supporting educational programs. He served as the Commander of the International Space Station for almost four months in 2001 and was the only American not on Earth when the September 11 attacks occurred. A veteran of three space flights: Pilot of STS-38, Commander of STS-51, and Commander of ISS Expedition 3, Culbertson has logged over 144 days in space and performed one EVA.


Emma Carrasco is the senior vice president of global engagement at the National Geographic Society, leading strategic engagement and outreach efforts with key stakeholders around the world to further the visibility, vision, and impact of the Society. Her responsibilities include the management of the Society’s most strategic partnerships, executive thought leadership, crisis and reputation management, and oversight of the internal communications function. Carrasco’s career spans more than 30 years in marketing, branding, media, and communications, working with various national and international brands including NPR, Univision, McDonald’s Corporation, Nortel Networks, and Fleishman Hillard.


Michael J. Manyak, M.D., MED ’92 is an explorer, author, urologist, and corporate medical executive. He is Global Medical Affairs Director for the GlaxoSmithKline urology franchise, and the Chief Medical Advisor for Crisis Response for Accenture. Dr. Manyak is a Fellow of The Explorers Club, served on the Board of Directors from 1996-2006, and received the prestigious Sweeney Medal in 2004 for service to the Club. He is also a consultant to the National Geographic Society and has served on the NASA Aerospace Medicine and Occupational Health Advisory Committee. Dr. Manyak maintains an avid interest in field exploration and expedition medicine, and has led or been medical director for scientific expeditions around the world.

ECWG and National Geographic Liaison: Lonnie Schorer & Krista Strahan