National Geographic Explorers are curious explorers

Brad Norman (AUS)

The Library uses photographs of the skin patterning behind the gills of each shark and any scars to distinguish between individual animals. Cutting-edge software supports rapid identification using pattern recognition and photo management tools.

You too can assist with whale shark research - by submitting photos and sighting information. The information you submit will be used in mark-recapture studies to help with the global conservation of this threatened species.

Adrian J Flynn (AUS)

The University of Queensland's Deep Ocean Australia Project owns two Medusa deep-sea camera systems. Designed and built by our collaborators at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI), the camera systems will be deployed in water depths of up to 2,000 m in never-before sampled deep-sea habitats of the Coral Sea. The Coral Sea has been identified as a globally significant region for biodiversity values. The cameras can be baited to attract animals into the field of view. The deployment of these systems will add tremendously to the very small amount of deep-sea observational research carried out to date. Footage from similar camera systems around the world have resulted in the recording of new species and given remarkable new insights into the behaviour and biodiversity of organisms of the deep-sea.

Jonathan K Webb (AUS)

Invasive cane toads continue to spread rapidly through tropical Australia, decimating populations of endangered northern quolls that die after consuming the highly toxic toads. Realistically, we cannot prevent toads from invading the Kimberley, a major stronghold of the northern quoll. Nonetheless, quoll extinction is not inevitable, because encounters between toads and quolls need not be fatal. Our methods provide an innovative solution to decrease the impact of an invasive species on an endangered marsupial predator. If successful, we will have a powerful tool for enabling a critically endangered predator to survive the cane toad invasion, and also, for increasing the success of future reintroductions of the northern quoll to mainland Australia.

Bernd G Wursig (NZ)

Dusky dolphins feed at night in deep waters off New Zealand's east coast (Kaikoura), on deep scattering layer fishes and squid, year-round. Some dolphins travel to shallow bays (especially Admiralty Bay of the Marlborough Sounds) to the north in Winter, and there feed on schooling fishes in daytime. This partial migration may be by the same dolphins year after year, and most but not all are males. While we have learned much about this differential use of habitats, we have not yet learned who makes the migration, and whether it is by the same animals year after year. The present project covers one year, but with a team in each outer extent of the habitat, off Kaikoura and in Admiralty Bay.

Craig C Moritz (AUS)

This research investigates the evolution of two key processes that maintain lineage divergence - selection against hybrids and mate choice - to better understand speciation in a tropical rainforest. To do so, we take advantage of a unique natural experiment: a suture zone located in a narrow strip of rainforest in Australia. The contacts in this suture zone formed due to a shared biogeographic history, yet they exhibit differing levels of genetic divergence. This natural variation affords the unique opportunity to study the outcomes of secondary contact and evolution of reproductive isolation at different stages of the divergence process. To investigate the evolution of mate choice, we will conduct mate choice trials between lineages to determine if they are mating assortatively and we will establish if mating signals are evolving as would be expected if assortative mating is maintaining lineage boundaries.

Sarah L. Boyner

The Wet Tropics World Heritage Area of Queensland, Australia has emerged as a model system for studying the origin of rainforest biodiversity. Researchers have focused on the influence of past climate change on diversification of endemic rainforest animals. Evolutionary divergences in many Wet Tropics animals are well explained by habitat contraction and fragmentation during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) approximately 18,000 years ago. The proposed research tests this hypothesis in an ancient group of cryptic arachnids known for their extraordinarily narrow species ranges, slow dispersal, and high persistence: the mite harvestmen.

Daniela Vergara (NZ)

The coexistence of sexual and asexual forms of the same species is an enigma for evolutionary biology. Such coexistence is the case for Potamopyrgus antipodarum, a freshwater snail that has sexual and asexual (clonal) individuals. Populations of P. antipodarum differ in the frequency of sexual vs. asexual individuals depending on factors such as the location within a lake and the presence of a major trematode parasite, Microphallus sp. Hence, this system is ideal for exploring various evolutionary questions, like the maintenance of sex and the co-evolution between a parasite and its host. I propose to study different populations of P. antipodarum from several lakes in the South Island of New Zealand, which is the snail's natural habitat. These lakes are under different parasite-selective pressures. This will allow me to infer the extent to which parasitism selects for sex and variation.

About Explorers

National Geographic is the only TV network in Australia that’s built on a scientific society that’s been exploring the world for more than 100 years. In fact, the exploration of the world and the conservation of what’s in it is why National Geographic exists.

National Geographic's Emerging Explorers Program recognizes and supports uniquely gifted and inspiring young adventurers, scientists, photographers, and storytellers - explorers who are already making a difference early in their careers. To help the Emerging Explorers realize their potential, National Geographic awards each of them U.S. $10,000 for research and exploration. Each year explorers are chosen from fields as diverse as anthropology, space exploration, mountaineering, and music.

The Committee for Research and Exploration (CRE) funds hypothesis-based scientific research. For more information on what is funded, click here.


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