Tag: Explorers Club

Wildlife photographer spoke on ‘Saving the next Dodo’

Wildlife photographer spoke on ‘Saving the next Dodo’

Gabby Salazar, MN15, an acclaimed wildlife photographer, spoke on “Island Biodiversity: Saving the Next Dodo” at an Explorers Club Washington Group dinner at the Cosmos Club on Feb. 20, 2016

Jack Williams, ECWG chair, presents Gabby Salazar a certificate of appreciation after her talk. Photo by Darlene Shields
Jack Williams, ECWG chair, presents Gabby Salazar a certificate of appreciation after her talk. Photo by Darlene Shields

Tropical islands are home to some of the world’s most unique and endangered species, from giant tortoises to golden bamboo lemurs. Often restricted to a single island, these species are especially threatened by rising sea levels, invasive species, and habitat degradation. In fact, of the 724 animal extinctions recorded in the last 400 years, roughly half were island species.

The dodo, whose name is almost synonymous with extinction, was a flightless bird on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius that became extinct in the late 18th century.

Salazar’s career

Salazar became a nature photographer at the age of 11, when her father gave her a camera. After being named the BBC Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the age of 14, she went on to become a U.S. Fulbright Scholar in Photography, a National Geographic Young Explorer, a member of The Explorers Club, and a part of the Emerging League of the International League of Conservation Photographers (iLCP). Last year at the age of 27, she also became the youngest ever President of the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA).

National Geographic Explorers biography of Salazar

Last year Salazar traveled to Mauritius, to document the island’s remaining species and its world-renowned endangered species recovery programs. Just a few decades ago, the Mauritius Kestrel, the Rodrigues mandrinette flower and the Echo Parakeet had declined to a handful of individuals and seemed destined to go the way of the dodo. Remarkably, Mauritius has saved more critically endangered bird species from extinction than any other country in the world.

In her multimedia presentation, Salazar discussed the six months she spent documenting biodiversity conservation in Mauritius and other Indian Ocean islands. Her compelling imagery illustrated some of the world’s rarest animals and the ongoing challenges of saving island species.

Documented global conservation efforts

She has documented conservation efforts around the world, from the jungles of South America to the grasslands of Southeast Asia. With support from the National Geographic Society, Salazar spent 10 months in Southeastern Peru in 2010 documenting the creation of the Manu-Tambopata Conservation Corridor along a new, transcontinental highway.

Her work from this project has been displayed in a 30-image solo exhibit in the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and at the Peruvian Embassy in the District of Columbia.

Her images have been exhibited in museums around the world, including the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, the London Museum of Natural History, and the International Photography Hall of Fame.




News briefs 4th Quarter 2014

News briefs 4th Quarter 2014

This page includes brief looks at activities of Explorers Club Washington Group members during the fourth quarter of 2014  or reported during this quarter. ECWG members want to know what you’re up to, including awards, honors, publications, or news stories about you, email the information to joewittewx@yahoo.com

Jocelyn Kelly, FN 12,  returned from the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo and Central African Republic in February 2014 where she looked at human rights issues in conflict-affected areas. Her recent work has involved studying mineral extraction in unstable political environments. She has recently published two articles in the peer-reviewed literature:

  • Kelly, J., King-Close,A. & Perks, R. (2014). Resources and Resourcefulness: Roles, opportunities and risks for women working at artisanal mines in South Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Futures. Vol 62 (Part A), pages 95-105.
  • Kelly, J. T. (2014). “This mine has become our farmland”: Critical perspectives on the co-evolution of artisanal mining and conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Resources Policy. Vol 40, pages 100-108

In January and February, 2014, Lee Talbot, MED 57, worked in Laos following up his earlier explorations and environmental work there.  Among the tasks accomplished were finding illegal logging and fishing.  As usual, prior to leaving, he presented conservation recommendations directly to the Deputy Prime Minister of Laos.

In July and August Lee and his wife, Marty Talbot, Med 04, spent almost a month climbing and hiking in the High Sierras of California. Lee also races in vintage sports car events. In spite of car problems during the 2014 season, out of 8 races he finished his  final score was six first places, one second and one third .

In January 2014  Lee Talbot was presented with a certificate on behalf of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for his outstanding contributions in establishing the World Heritage Convention. Full story .

Background: Lee Talbot’s long association with Laos

Thomas F. “Tom” Kirsch, MN 06 was among the health care workers invited to the

Dr. Kent Brantly delivers remarks during an event with American health care workers fighting Ebola. Kirsch is in back row 2nd from right with the grey goatee. White House photo by Chuck Kennedy.

White House on Oct. 29, 2014 to meet President Obama and leading figures from the Administration in a ceremony and discussion to honor the ‘Heroes in Healthcare Fighting Ebola.” Kirsch had just returned from working on the Ebola epidemic in Liberia. More: White House report on the meeting.

ECWG members: Tom Kirsch

Tom King, FN 02, is finalizing plans to take a group of 65 visitors to Nikumarono Atoll in Kiribati  in June 2015 to explore where The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) hypothesizes Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan landed and died after their 1937 disappearance.

The group will visit the Seven Site, where archaeological and historical evidence suggests that Earhart may have died, and will carry out archaeological work along the eroding shoreline where aircraft parts have been found in the past.  The visit will be coordinated with a TIGHAR expedition performing more detailed archaeological survey and robotic submarine survey along the atoll’s northwestern reef.

Dr. Michael Manyak, MED 92 presented his experiences with expedition medicine in a special plenary session presentation for the Brazilian Society of Urology in Rio de Janeiro in November.

Robert Hyman, LF 93, was one of the researchers who for the first time ever affixed Argos (Doppler) transmitters to one of Central America’s most endangered bird species,

Researchers hold a three-wattled-bellbird

the Three-wattled Bellbird (Procnias tricarunculatus). This enigmatic bird is characterized by unique vocalizations, including squeaks, bonks, and thunderous bell-like sounds that register among the loudest bird calls on the planet. In late September, a field research team led by Dr. Robin Bjork traveled deep into the cloud forests of the Sierra de Agalta National Park in eastern Honduras, captured four of the rare bellbirds, and affixed state-of the-art, solar powered Argos units to the birds before releasing them back into the wild.

The transmitters have already enabled the researchers to begin studying the complex migratory movements of the bellbirds. The ultimate goal of the project is to better understand the behavioral ecology of the bellbirds in an effort to promote conservation of the species and the preservation of its tropical cloud forest habitat.

The Fall 2014 issue of the  Journal of Space Philosophy published an article by  Carolyn J., “Lonnie,“ Schorer,  MN 98, entitled “Education for Tomorrow’s Space Travelers and Developers.” In it she argues that while “risk and exploration have been symbolic ofthe American Way…

Lonnie Schorer employs kite aerial photography on Nikumaroro Island, photo by Mark Smit

“Standardization in the U.S. education system and collective homogenization of effort are leading students to be risk averse.” She urges reevaluating “our no-child-left-behind, lowest-common-denominator approach” and “support those who are intellectually predisposed to risk.”

She says, “a step in this direction would be to synthesize liberal arts and technical preparation in a single liberal arts-tech degree – a synthesis that would allow our pioneers to understand the mechanics as well as the context of their commitment.” The full text of her article.

To learn more about Schorer’s life and explorations, click on her Alumna Profile in the   Fall 2013 issue of The Virginia Tech Magazine.

The governing Council of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) elected Jack Williams, FN 03, as one of 28 new AMS Fellows at its fall 2014 meeting. The Society says members elected as fellows “shall have made outstanding contributions to the atmospheric

Jack Williams at U.S. Antarctic Program “Happy Campers” survival school on the Ross Ice Shelf in January 1999.

or related oceanic or hydrologic sciences or their aplications substantial period of years.” The Council selects no more than two-tenths of one percent of all AMS Members as fellows each year. The Society has approximately 14,000 members.

Williams was the founding editor of the USA TODAY Weather Page when the paper began publication in 1982 and assumed added duties of USATODAY.com weather editor in 1995 when the paper launched its Web site.

Williams reported on weather and climate research from Antarctica, Greenland (four times), a research icebreaker sailing on the Arctic Ocean, Barrow, Alaska, airplanes flying into four hurricanes and one tropical storm, and with researchers chasing Great Plains tornadoes (three times). He’s the author or co-author of seven books with all but two focused on meteorology.

Curt J. Westergaard, MN 09, reports that his the National Capitol Planning Commission  has selected his firm, Digital Design & Imaging Service, Inc., in Falls Church, Va., to conduct an aerial survey of Washington, D.C. with special focus on the original layout of avenues. This supports the Planning Commission’s look at the evolution of the 1791 L’enfant Plan and the 1903 Macmillian Plan.

The project is based on the aerostat-based imaging project the firm conducted for the DC Office of Planning’s Height Study in 2012.

This aerostat based imaging project  grew from their work for DC Office of Planning’s  Height Study in 2012.

The company’s Web site has links to these stories about it’s activities:

The company notes that the tethered aerostat balloons, like the ones it deploys, are the only FAA authorized, safe, legal, aerial platform currently allowed in highly restricted U.S. flight zones.

ECWG awards 5 exploration research grants

ECWG awards 5 exploration research grants

The Explorers Club Washington Group is awarding a total of $15,652 in exploration grants to five graduate students.

The ECWG’s Grants Committee selected the awardees from 36 graduate students from nine universities in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

“This group of proposals was highly competitive,” said Polly Penhale, FN ’91, the chair of the Grants Committee.” Of note is that the cost of conducting field work has risen considerably since the program was initiated in 1997.

“Since the program’s beginning, we have made 104 awards, totaling $181,598. We have made a big difference in the careers of many students,” she said. “Our awardees have conducted successful research and exploration projects. Several students credited our support as helping them obtain subsequent support from other major grant programs.”

While many of the early awards were in the $1000-2000 range, today’s cost of airplane tickets, gasoline, sample analysis, etc. means that the budget requests have been rising. Most of the applicants have some level of graduate stipend support (which our program does not fund), and bits and pieces of support gathered from various sources. Our funds tend to support preliminary research, trips to museum collections, and field work (travel expenses, small instruments, etc.).

The awards and amounts from the past 3 years were:

  • 2011   $17,840   8 students
  • 2012   $16,758   6 students
  • 2013   $18,500   8 students
ECWG hosts Lowell Thomas Dinner weekend

ECWG hosts Lowell Thomas Dinner weekend

The Explorers Club Washington Group hosted The Explorers Club 2013 Lowell Thomas Awards Dinner and related events on Oct. 25, 26, and 27, 2013.

It “was the most widely attended LTAD. Ever. With nearly 300 guests from across the U.S., breaking the last record by almost 80 people,” says Kristin Larson, FN ’02, who was a co-chair of the event along with Jay Kaplan, MN ’01, and Bill Runyon, MN ’01.

The Portuguese Ambassador's residence

The weekend began Friday evening, October 25th, with an elegant VIP dinner at the beautiful residence of the Portuguese Ambassador in Washington’s Kalorama neighborhood. The dinner featured Portuguese cuisine and carefully selected wines. An after-dinner talk focused on the history of exploration, including Portugal’s key role in that history. The evening concluded with a tasting of some of Portugal’s finest wines under the guidance a renowned wine expert from Portugal.

The Willard Hotel ballroom

The Saturday evening black tie dinner, at which the awards were presented, was at the historic Willard Hotel in Washington. The evening began with a reception that included a silent auction. Many attendees had their photos taken with a live cheetah courtesy of the Cheetah Conservation Fund. The reception and dinner included a display of the wild life sculptures of ECWG member Bart Walter, FN ’08. The dinner concluded with a live auction.

On Saturday morning, each recipient of the 2013 Lowell Thomas Award told the stories of his or her award winning explorations at a symposium.

Other events included:

  • An opportunity to visit the National Geographic 125th Anniversary Exhibit: A New Age of Exploration,
  • A private guided tour of the historic Cosmos club  and brunch in the John Wesley Powell Room.
  • Tours of the Cheetah Facility at the National Zoo and at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
Invitation to a New York art reception

Invitation to a New York art reception

Betsy Stewart, MN ’05 is inviting ECWG members who’ll be in New York City for the Explorers Club Annual Dinner on March 16 to attend the opening reception for “All About Water,” at which many of her works will have their New York premier.

The reception is from 6 to 8 p.m., Thursday, March 14 at Denise Bibro Fine Art, 529 W 20th St., New York City.

Her work as been described as “Capturing the cosmos in a drop of water.”