To commemorate International Women's Day, learn more about two of National Geographic's most outstanding female explorers.
Whether directly making a difference in our world or being role models for future adventurers and researchers, these explorers paved the path least travelled.
Primatologist, Anthropologist & Animal Rights Activist
Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help shall all be saved.
— Jane Goodall
In July 1960, at the age of 26, Jane Goodall travelled from England to what is today Tanzania and bravely entered the little-known world of wild chimpanzees. She was equipped with nothing more than a notebook and a pair of binoculars. But with her unyielding patience and characteristic optimism, she won the trust of these initially shy creatures. She managed to open a window into their sometimes strange and often familiar-seeming lives. The public was fascinated and remains so to this day.
Today, Jane’s work revolves around inspiring action on behalf of endangered species, particularly chimpanzees, and encouraging people to do their part to make the world a better place for people, animals, and the environment we all share.
The Jane Goodall Institute works to protect the famous chimpanzees of Gombe National Park in Tanzania, but recognizes this can’t be accomplished without a comprehensive approach that addresses the needs of local people who are critical to chimpanzee survival. Our community-centred conservation programs in Africa include sustainable development projects that engage local people as true partners. These programs began around Gombe in 1994, but have since been replicated in other parts of the continent.
Likewise, Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots, which Jane started with a group of Tanzania students in 1991, is today the Institute’s global environmental and humanitarian youth program for young people from preschool through university with nearly 150,000 members in more than 120 countries.
Pioneering Oceanographer & National Geographic Explorer-In-Residence
“My wish is that you will use all means at your disposal … to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas, hope spots large enough to save and restore the ocean, the blue heart of the planet.”
— Sylvia Earle
Thanks to hard work, more than 6,000 hours logged underwater, and the poise that comes with having worked in just about every facet of ocean conservation, Sylvia Earle’s wish is gaining traction, one marine preserve at a time.
The first female chief scientist of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Time magazine’s first Hero for the Planet, Earle advises heads of state in the U.S. and abroad on critical marine protection legislation and works at the forefront of marine catastrophes, including the Deep Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Through countless media interviews, books, testimony before Congress, and on public, private, and academic stages worldwide, she strives to help us understand the consequences of everything we put into and everything we take out of the ocean—noting that every breath of air we take and every drop of water we drink depends upon its health.
Earle reminds us there is reason for hope—that continued decline in the health of our ocean is preventable, not inevitable. Although humans are largely responsible for many stresses on the ocean—pollution, global climate change, and overfishing—we also are its best hope for survival.