Each year, the National Geographic Society recognizes and uplifts a group of individuals who are leading a new era of exploration through science, education, conservation, technology, and storytelling. These individuals have proven to be the next generation of influential leaders, communicators and innovators whose critical work demonstrates the power of science and inspires us to discover, care for and protect our world.
Recipients of the 2022 Wayfinder Award – formerly known as the Emerging Explorer Award – are engaged in groundbreaking work that challenges the most ingrained stereotypes of the animal kingdom, focuses on inclusive and community-based conservation, combines social justice with ecological scientific research and promotes race literacy in education. These incredible people use new technologies, research, photography and impactful storytelling, among other techniques, to champion and protect the wonders of our world.
Wayfinder Award winners join the Society‘s global community of National Geographic explorers and each receive a cash prize for continuing to lead their work.
Meet these amazing 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 attempts to bring the issues of biodiversity and landscape conservation to an audience wider from the single point of view 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 working to renew Kenyans’ sense of ownership over their wildlife, culture and land.
Farwiza Farhan is a forest ecologist who uses policy and advocacy to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia. Her primary focus is policy and advocacy, working to increase meaningful access and deepen the involvement of women and local communities in issues relating to their environment and livelihoods.
Zoleka Filander is a South African deep-sea researcher who identifies and documents seabed species in the uncharted oceans of South Africa. His findings contributed to assessments of biodiversity and ecosystem classification maps of South Africa and helped lay the foundations for the creation of a network of offshore marine protected areas.
Gibbs Kuguru is a Kenyan scientist who studies shark DNA. Kuguru uses his genetic research to better understand the unique DNA elements that shape shark populations in the blue nature 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 Mexico. His photographs often reflect the sense of emptiness, absence and pain felt by those affected by organized crime.
Ariam Mogos is a designer and researcher who studies the ways technology can foster playful learning experiences that connect communities and cultures. His work in Kenya and Spain has used game design as a means of resolving conflicts 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 wildlife protection. He founded Save Vietnam’s Wildlife and set up 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 Citizen Potawatomi Nation tribal member and cartographer. She sees cartographic language as a powerful mode of graphic expression complementary to writing and speaking, where narratives and dialogues across cultures and between viewpoints can be explored, particularly for the expression of indigenous geographies.
Suzanne Pierre is a transdisciplinary scientist developing the new field of critical ecology, the study of fundamental ecological processes through the analytical lens of decoloniality and critical social theory. Its aim 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 they make possible. His non-profit organization, the Ramsey Research Foundation, works to break down barriers that slow progress and reduce public access to science as a way to preserve insect species.
Babak Tafreshi is a scientific photojournalist and cinematographer who merges art and science through visual stories. Passionate about exploring the night sky, he has photographed breathtaking night scenes on every continent. His work aims to bring the wonders of science to the public, preserve the natural nocturnal environment from light pollution, and connect cultures through a common interest in the night sky.
Carlos Velazco is a Mexican-born biodiversity consultant who seeks to work on behalf of nature and biodiversity through education and the use of citizen science tools. Velazco has documented over 5,600 species (including undescribed species) and recorded over 24,300 sightings on iNaturalist while helping other users make over 131,000 identifications.
Xi Zhinong is a self-taught photographer and filmmaker who champions endangered species and uses his camera and voice to protect Chinese wildlife. Zhinong and his wife, an environmental educator, founded Wild China with the mission “to use the power of images to protect nature”.