Washington, D.C., May 2, 2023 — Today, the National Geographic Society announced that 15 inspirational changemakers have been named 2023 Young Explorers. Young Explorers are selected for their exceptional courage, leadership, and impact-driven solutions. Ranging between the ages of 18 and 25, this diverse cohort represents 13 countries with each changemaker engaged in solution-focused ideas including scientific innovation, conservation, education, civic engagement, storytelling and more — all in an effort to break boundaries and overcome challenges within their communities.
“These inspirational young leaders are positively influencing their peers, schools, communities, and global networks,” said Alex Moen, chief explorer engagement officer at the National Geographic Society. “They represent a diversity of backgrounds, identities, and experiences, yet they share one common goal: using their voices to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. They see profound possibilities to make a difference in the world, and they do it with confidence, courage and conviction. We’re thrilled to support and elevate this extraordinary cohort of Young Explorers as they join the National Geographic Explorer community.”
These Young Explorers represent the full breadth of the Society’s key focus areas; with work that touches upon ocean, land, wildlife, human ingenuity, and human histories and cultures. Young Explorers are nominated and later selected by the National Geographic Society through a competitive, multi-tiered application process. In addition to their funding, Young Explorers receive skill building, leadership development training, and networking opportunities to connect and collaborate with their peers.
The 2023 Young Explorers are:
- Aiita Joshua Apamaku, 25, of Uganda, a wildlife biologist and digital content creator who founded the storytelling and sciencetelling hub NatureWILD.
- Avery Tilley, 22, of the U.S. and Cherokee Nation, a wildlife disease researcher focused on advancing wildlife health initiatives across tribal lands.
- Betty Jahateh, 25, of The Gambia, an environmental biologist, ocean youth leader and consultant who initiated research on saltwater intrusion in The Gambia.
- Brigitta Maria Andrea Gunawan, 19, of Indonesia, an ocean conservation advocate and the founder of 30×30 Indonesia.
- Cárol Sierra Durán, 25, of Colombia, a bat researcher who serves as an ambassador to build a network of allies for the conservation of bats in the global south.
- Gabriela Tejeda, 25, of the U.S., a photographer, videographer and digital content creator who amplifies wildlife conservation messages through creative and immersive storytelling.
- James Rooney Dukundane, 24, of Rwanda, a filmmaker, editor, director, and photographer who uses his skills to help nonprofit organizations deliver important advocacy messages.
- Miles McCain, 22, of the U.S., a technology expert who co-founded Atlos, a non-profit, collaborative open-source platform for visual investigations.
- Mya-Rose Shanti Craig, 20, of United Kingdom, an ornithologist and diversity activist who founded and leads Black2Nature.
- Qiyun Woo, 26, of Singapore, a science communicator who founded The Weird and Wild, an educational social media account focused on illustrating complex climate issues in an engaging way.
- Sharona Shnayder, 23, of Nigeria and Israel, a climate justice activist who founded the now global grassroots initiative Tuesdays for Trash.
- Tabe Njume, 24, of Cameroon, a sustainability advocate who founded and leads Greensphere Cameroon, an initiative to conserve mangrove forests by providing waste-based alternatives to fuelwood and charcoal.
- Te Aho Jordan, 24, of Ngati Porou (Te Whānau-a-Tūwhakairiora and Te Aitanga-ā-Mate), a photographer and youth development advocate who amplifies Māori and Pasifika voices through visual storytelling.
- Thinakone Louangdy, 23, of Laos, a computer scientist who uses interview-based research to analyze global health initiatives in poor and hard-to-reach communities.
- Yael Crupnicoff, 20, of Argentina, a founding member and educator at Tekohá, a startup that trains Latin American youth from diverse backgrounds to be climate leaders.
“The passion of the upcoming generations is what sparks my passion to continue realizing the aspirations of our tīpuna (ancestors),” said Young Explorer Te Aho Jordan. “We must leave a better world for our mokopuna (descendants) but also, leave mokopuna who will better the world.”
“When young people hold onto their passions as a fuel to catalyze change, we become co-authors in protecting the fragile beauty of our world,” said Young Explorer Brigitta Gunawan.