Behind every great National Geographic story is a great storyteller.
From discovering a rare new species, to mountaineering a hidden peak in Myanmar, our 2017 speaker series has it all!
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Come hear the fantastic experiences of these explorers and scientists, directly from those who experienced them! Find out how Mireya Mayor, dubbed the “female Indiana Jones,” is inspiring young girls interested in science and nature, why Zeb Hogan is on a quest for the world’s monster fish, and how Hilaree O’Neill lead a team of explorers through treacherous conditions to make some incredible discoveries.
These speakers will share stories, images, and film clips to immerse you in their adventures. You’ll get to hear all about the important work they’re doing in nature and science, plus get the gritty, hilarious, and sometimes difficult details of what doing this work really entails. Come along for the highs of escaping charging gorillas and discovering new species and the lows of logistical failures and personality clashes, all in the service of making discoveries, advancing science, and accomplishing dreams.
This program is presented in association with National Geographic Live, bringing the National Geographic experience to global audiences, while celebrating the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change our world.
Point of No Return: Hilaree O'Neill
Mountaineer & Expedition Leader
Being tasked to lead a five-person team of National Geographic explorers, photographers, and filmmakers on a 300-plus mile journey overland, across tiger reserves, into plunging gorges, and through the remotest cultural areas is hard enough. Add strong personalities and tough descisions to the mix and the task almost seems impossible — but not for Hilaree O'Neill.
Hear Her Story
In an attempt to discover Southeast Asia's highest point, Hilaree and her team undertook a harrowing adventure that included dwindling food supplies, hypothermia, hellish jungle slogs and more that pushed them to the breaking point both physically and mentally, and threatened to rip the team apart. Hear, first-hand, the story of how this female expedition leader balanced strong personalities and made tough decisions that helped guide her team to tackle the seemingly insurmountable and accomplish their dreams.
How It All Began
When you develop a passion at age three, it is easy to let that passion shape your future. Skiing down the Cascade Mountains of Washington State throughout her childhood led to a life surrounded by mountains.
Shortly after graduating from Colorado College, Hilaree expanded her list of conquered mountains to include some of the best in France, India, Lebanon, Canada, and even the volcanoes in the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia.
Her mountain adventures led Outside Magazine to name Hilaree one of the most adventurous women in the world of sports. Thus kicking off the amazing feats she would tackle, the legacy she would create, and the inspiration she would give others.
As Hilaree’s skiing skills quickly reached the next level — ski mountaineering — her adventures grew larger and more frequent.
1996 – European Women’s Extreme Skiing Champion, Chamonix, France
2005 – Climbed the 8,000-meter peak Cho Oyu in Tibet completing the second female oxygenless ski descent
2006 – Climbed and skied multiple peaks throughout Bolivia
2007 – Ski exploration in Prince William Sound, Alaska
2008 – Attempted to climb and ski Gasherbrum II in Pakistan
2010 – Ski exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska
2012 – First woman to climb consecutive 8,000 meter peaks in a single day (Everest and Lhotse)
2014 – Led a team of alpinists to attempt a first ascent on a remote peak in northern Myanmar using a National Geographic Explorer’s Grant
2015 – "Down to Nothing," a film of her journey through Myanmar, won Best Cinematography at Telluride’s Mountainfilm festival
2015 – Attempted Makalu, a Himalayan giant. Named one of the “Most Badass Adventures of 2015” by Outside Magazine
She forged her way into the record books for high-altitude innovation and prowess and still exercises her love for skiing, climbing, and mind-blowing adventure as she continues her travels around the globe.
In Search of River Giants: Zeb Hogan
Every fisherman wants the biggest catch, and Zeb Hogan is no different. However, he's not just fishing for a trophy, but for a solution. From Mongolia to the Pacific Northwest, Thailand to Australia, Hogan travels the world looking for, researching, and protecting the world’s largest freshwater fish. His ultimate goal is to bring awareness to the increasingly fragile freshwater ecosystems and their endangered inhabitants.
Hear His Story
Hear his tales of working with fisherman and researchers, spending hours on rivers — sometimes in boats, sometimes submerged in deep water, side-by-side with enigmatic and scary aquatic giants. Hogan will entertain you with stories about his searches for everything from mythical enormous catfish to stingrays the size of cars, and why his journey won't stop until he discovers the biggest catch of all, the true "monster fish."
How It All began
Aquatic Ecologist is not usually the response a young boy gives when asked what he wants to be when he grows up, and it definitely wasn’t the answer Zeb was giving. His love of water, however, began before he could walk, and was furthered by countless summers spent in a swimming pool attempting to outsmart the Arizona heat. His to-do list growing up clearly hinted at the career choice that awaited Zeb: See a whale shark, visit Madagascar, SCUBA dive.
His first real aquatic interaction came in the eighth grade through a volunteer program at an aquarium in Massachusetts. College led to summer jobs studying impacts of controlled releases, impacts of invasive species, and distribution and movement on specific fish. It was these jobs that solidified his love for underwater creatures.
After college, Zeb traveled to Thailand and began investigating the impact of 12 proposed dams on the Mekong River’s migratory fish species. In order to continue his studies, Zeb entered a Ph.D. program at the University of California, and after seven years and around 20 trips to Asia, it was complete — just in time to start his post-doc at the University of Wisconsin.
Zeb now travels the world dedicating his life to saving critically endangered fish and the livelihood of people who share their habitats.
Zeb's passion has fueled his travels across six continents, resulted in encounters with the most intricate freshwater ecosystem challenges on the planet, and provided him the opportunity to educate the world on the urgency of these issues.
Decades-long research focused on migratory fish ecology, multi-species fisheries management, the status and conservation of giant freshwater fish, endangered species issues, and conservation genetics
Findings published in Nature, Science, Conservation Biology, the Environmental Biology of Fishes, Time Magazine, and National Geographic Magazine
National Geographic Museum traveling exhibition, “Monster Fish: In Search of the Last River Giants”
Host of Nat Geo WILD series Monster Fish
Pink Boots and a Machete: Mireya Mayor
Primatologist & Explorer
City girl. NFL Cheerleader. Survivor of poisonous insect bites. In the case of Mireya Mayor, these descriptions all fit nicely on her resume. Known as the “female Indiana Jones,” this respected primatologist, fearless explorer, and Emmy Award-nominated wildlife correspondent has wowed colleagues by completing research others couldn’t and discovering species nobody else had, making her an inspiration to young women everywhere.
Hear Her Story
The only child of Cuban immigrant parents in Miama, Mireya wasn't allowed to join the Girl Scouts because her family thought it would be too dangerous. She has since gone on to work in some of the most remote places on Earth, including the wilds of Madagascar, jungles teeming with poisonous snakes, and waters that are home to six-foot Humboldt squids. Join Mireya as she shares a behind-the-scenes look at the hardships and dangers of life in the field, as well as the moments of discovery that make it all worthwhile.
How It All began
Mireya’s love for animals shone bright at an early age. With pets like fish, dogs, cats, parrots, rabbits, turtles, and a chicken named Maggie, Mireya had found her passion. It wasn’t until she got to the University of Miami many years later that she fully grasped the career possibilities that surrounded her and her love of all animals.
A by-chance enrollment into an Anthropology class opened the doors to endless possibilities for Mireya. After gaining a clear grasp on extinction and the imminent dangers facing so many wild animals, Mireya applied for and won her first grant. From Guyana to Madagascar, she lived among the villagers — most of whom had never seen a foreigner before — and completed the first ever long-term genetic studies of Perrier’s Sifaka and the Silky Sifaka, critically endangered primates.
She has dedicated her life to unlocking the mysteries of the natural world and has ventured to unexplored parts of the planet to do so, constantly pushing the boundaries of adventure along the way.
1999 – Hired by National Geographic as a Wildlife Correspondent
2000 – Co-discovered new species of mouse lemur in Madagascar
2005 – Received two Emmy Award nominations for work on the series "Ultimate Explorer"
2007 – Named “Emerging Explorer” by the National Geographic Society
Author of Pink Boots and a Machete
Appeared on The Today Show, MSNBC, CNN, Despierta America
Profiled in People, Marie Claire, Latina, National Geographic Adventure, Vanidades, and Elle magazines
National Science Foundation Fellow
Author for National Geographic’s kids magazines