Each year, the National Geographic Society recognizes and promotes a group of individuals who are leading a new age of exploration through science, education, conservation, technology, and storytelling. These individuals have proven to be the next generation of influential, connected, and innovative leaders whose critical work demonstrates the power of science and inspires us to learn about, care for, and protect our world.
The recipients of the 2022 Wayfinder Prize — formerly the Emerging Explorer Award — engage in groundbreaking work that challenges the animal kingdom’s most entrenched stereotypes, focuses on comprehensive and community-based conservation, blends social justice with environmental scientific research, and advances race literacy in education. . These amazing individuals use new technology, research, photography, and impactful storytelling among other techniques to defend and protect the wonders of our world.
Wayfinder Prize recipients join the global community of National Geographic Explorers and each receive $50,000 in unrestricted funding to continue their work.
Meet these great explorers:
Mónica Alcázar-Duarte is a British-Mexican photographer and visual artist whose work recognizes her indigenous heritage while exploring current ideas of progress. Alcázar-Duarte uses augmented reality and other new technologies to create multi-layered works that highlight the human relationship with the natural world.
Samantha Cristoforetti is a European Space Agency lead astronaut and is currently working on the International Space Station as part of Expedition 67. Cristoforetti’s work attempts to present biodiversity and landscape conservation issues to a broader audience with a unique perspective of space.
Rayson Kantai Duff is Deputy Director of Ewaso Lions, an organization dedicated to helping people and lions coexist in northern Kenya. Duff is passionate about conservation decolonization and works to renew Kenyans’ sense of ownership over their wildlife, culture and land.
Faruza Farhan is a forest conservation activist who uses policy and advocacy to protect, conserve and restore the Loser ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia. Primarily focused on policy and advocacy, it works to increase meaningful access and deepen the participation of women and communities in matters relating to their environment and livelihoods.
Zoleka Filander is a deep-sea researcher from South Africa who identifies and documents seafloor species in the uncharted oceans of South Africa. Her findings contributed to taxonomic mapping assessments of South Africa’s biodiversity and ecosystems and helped lay the groundwork for the establishment of a network of marine protected areas.
Gibbs Kogoro, a Kenyan scientist studying the DNA of sharks. Kogoro uses his genetic research to better understand the unique DNA elements that make up the world’s blue prairie shark populations. He is a passionate interlocutor and has a multidisciplinary approach to shark conservation.
Yael Martinez is a narrator who uses photography to address the fractured communities in his native Mexico. His photography often reflects the sense of emptiness, absence, and pain experienced by those affected by organized crime.
Aryam Mogos is a designer and researcher who investigates the ways technology can enhance fun learning experiences that connect societies and cultures. Her work in Kenya and Spain has benefited from game design as a way to address conflict among young people from diverse backgrounds. By using technology to create more equitable educational conditions, Mogos’ work promotes racial literacy and social justice in learning.
Thai Van Nguyen is a Vietnamese conservation activist whose work focuses on protecting wildlife. Founder of Save Vietnam’s Wildlife, 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 aircraft technology without pilot .
Margaret Pierce is a tribal member of Citizen’s Nation Potawatomi and a cartographer. She sees cartography as a powerful style of graphic expression complementary to writing and speech, in which narratives and dialogues can be explored across cultures and between viewpoints, particularly to express indigenous geographic areas.
Susanne Beyer is an interdisciplinary scientist developing a new field of critical ecology, examining fundamental ecological processes through the analytical lens of decolonization and critical social theory. Its goal is to explain the phenomenon of global environmental change in response to global colonialism and capitalism.
Sami Ramsay is a leading entomologist who seeks to apply his fascination with invertebrates to understanding and preserving the ecosystems that make them possible. His nonprofit, The Ramsey Research Foundation, works to remove barriers that slow progress and reduce public access to science as a way to conserve insect species.
Babak Tafrishi is a science photographer and cinematographer who fuses art and science through visual stories. With his passion for exploring the night sky, he has photographed breathtaking night scenes on all continents. His work aims to reveal the wonders of science to the public, preserve the natural nighttime environment against light pollution, and connect cultures through a shared interest in the night sky.
Carlos Velazco, a Mexican-born biodiversity consultant, seeks Acting on behalf of nature and biodiversity through education and the use of citizen science tools. Velazco has documented over 5,600 species (including nondescript species) and logged over 24,300 observations on iNaturalist while helping other users identify over 131,000 identities.
Xi Zhinong is a self-taught photographer and filmmaker who advocates for endangered species and uses his camera and audio to protect wildlife in China. Zhinong and his wife, an environmental teacher, founded Wild China with the goal of “using the power of images to protect nature.”