VOICES Voices Icon Ideas and Insight From Explorers


Nearly Crushed By a Flipping Iceberg

Frozen in time, Franz Josef Land is one of the last lingering remnants of the truly wild Arctic. The remote and nearly uninhabited 192-island archipelago is renowned for its biodiversity, which includes polar bears, walruses, bowhead whales, belugas, and narwhals. The intensifying impact of climate change, however, nearly turned this serene environment deadly for National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala and his crew.

Marigolds: an (agri)cultural staple

The first seeds I ever saved were marigold seeds. At the time, I was a garden educator at a small neighborhood environmental nonprofit in Camden, New Jersey. The Center for Environmental Transformation(CFET) is situated in the South Waterfront neighborhood, an old urban community enclosed by industrial facilities which not only restrict access to the nearby waterfront, but…

What’s in a Name? An Exploration of Identity in Serbia and Croatia

There I was: thousands of miles from home, with a total of zero English-speaking relatives, trying to connect with the place where my family originated from… only to find out that I wasn’t even in the right country!

Of course, to anyone familiar with the Balkans, and especially former-Yugoslavia, this story is a common one. Identifying as Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian, or Montenegrin may actually have nothing to do with where you grew up. Or where your parents grew up. Or where your grandparents came from originally.

Surveying Canopy Wildlife: A Brief Look at Looking Up

There is more to come in the way of introductions, but here is a quick first look at my project, Looking Up: A Canopy Wildlife Expedition. Throughout the year, I’ll be conducting wildlife surveys in forest canopies of Malaysia and Ecuador. As a scientist, I’m excited to expand my work to new research sites. Camera trapping…

National Geographic Footage Lost at Sea for 3 Years Has Returned Home

In April 2013, two 150 lb. National Geographic Cameras were sucked into the Gulf Stream. Three years and a couple thousand miles later, a tiny dog named Scuba alerted her owner to something she noticed floating in the water. One of the cameras, and all of its footage, had been found.

Tiny ants may pose a big threat for diversity in Laikipia

In the shadow of Mt. Kenya, everyone has a story about a small, shiny ant that steals their cooking oil and sugar. When the seasonal rains come, they retreat into their underground nests, but they strike with full force during the dry months. The “big-headed ants” (Pheidole megacephala, which literally means “big head”) don’t bite or…

Saving Sharks and Coral Reefs in Malaysian Borneo

Borneo. The name speaks of wildness, of dense rain forests, biodiversity, of elephants and orangutans. Eighteenth century naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, co-theorist of speciation, natural selection and evolution, traveled extensively throughout Malaysia and Indonesia describing terrestrial flora and fauna. His work founded the field of biogeography, and Wallace’s Line describes the separation of species between the ecoregions…

Close Encounter with a Polar Bear

After photographer Cory Richards joined the Pristine Seas expedition to Franz Josef Land in the Russian Arctic, he spent over a month trying to capture an image of a polar bear from a relatively close distance. On his final attempt, a teammate launched a remote-controlled quadcopter, or drone, and the polar bear ended up right where they wanted him.

National Parks: Celebrating a Sentinel of American Memory

Krista Schlyer writes on the beauty and memory of National Parks. “It isn’t just beauty we see in these places, and in infinite others in the National Park System–it’s memory. Memory of another time, another life, when we lived in seamless connection to the system of nature. Written on this body of Earth is the prose of universal memory. We as humans are but a word of it.”

Fighting Dynamite With Marine Protection in Borneo

This is the devastation left by blast fishing also called fish bombing, an illegal but rampant form of fishing here in the Coral Triangle. In the practice, a fisherman tosses dynamite, or homemade bombs made from a bottle filled with fertilizer and kerosene lit by a short fuse into the water. The blast kills or stuns all fish within the vicinity, which are easily collected for market. Dangerous to the reef, this method also maims and kills fishermen, and it is not uncommon to see men with fingers or hands missing. What is left behind is a wasteland of flattened coral rubble that can take decades or even centuries to recover.

Climbing Into Volcanoes, Collecting Rocks—and Hopefully Saving Lives

When a growing population lives below two major volcanoes, someone better figure out how they work.

Searching for Orangutans but Finding Hope for Borneo’s Endangered Wildlife

“Hold it.” Hasri’s upheld hand tells us. He takes two soundless steps on the dried leaves of the lowland Borneo rainforest and listens. We pause for the strange sound to repeat itself among the jungle cicadas and morning calls of birds. From the dense undergrowth comes a cross between a moan and a hoot. The Orangutan…

Counting Catsharks in Malaysia

Borneo has a shark problem. Over 100 species of sharks live in this region of the Coral Triangle, a region of highest marine biodiversity in the world. Not only do large sharks like hammerheads, tigers and bull sharks swim here, but also endemic species like the Borneo shark, and small bamboo and cat sharks.

Blood Moon Over Red Square

Act One: A Good Idea The last time a Blood Moon shone down on Red Square, it was 1982. Soviet officials were strict about photography. You couldn’t just traipse on down to the Kremlin and snap a shot. But thirty-three years later, photographers are a lot more free. I would set out to get that picture and…

Salamanders Lost, Found and Saved

An expedition to find species missing for decades in the remote cloud forests of northwest Guatemala leads to a new sanctuary for rare and elusive salamanders.