Comment

Adapting to Climate Change

Buoyant fields made of plants and manure can support crops in Bangladesh. Sitting on one of the organic floating gardens with Bangladeshi journalist Tania Rashid. Photo by Katia Nicolova. 

Buoyant fields made of plants and manure can support crops in Bangladesh. Sitting on one of the organic floating gardens with Bangladeshi journalist Tania Rashid. Photo by Katia Nicolova. 

In October of 2015, my research brought myself and a film crew to Bangladesh to learn about a fascinating way that Bangladeshi farmers were adapting to sea level rise -- by making floating gardens. Building off of my fieldwork in Madagascar, these case studies of human resilience showcase what it truly means to adapt to climate change. We're currently working on turning them into a digital series.

Read the full feature on Bangladeshi floating gardens here, which was published in the September 2016 issue of National Geographic Magazine.

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2016/09/field-notes-climate-change-adaptations/

Comment

Comment

Brightest Young Things

For the past 4 years, National Geographic has teamed up with DC's Brightest Young Things to put on an evening event at the NG headquarters as a way of bringing young professionals into the National Geographic fold. Sounds professional, but it's basically a big party for 2,000 millenials, complete with NG Explorer talks, DJs, food trucks, and lots of booze. This year's theme was Indiana Jones, which meant guests showed up in what were some of the most inventive field/Indy costumes imaginable. Fun was had by all, and I was supremely impressed by the quality of the audience's questions after what was a good 2 boozy hours into the event.

Compulsory @natgeo backstage seriousness before going on stage. Check out the websites/work of some of my kickass NG Explorer colleagues: Erin Spencer, Anand Varma, Jonathan Mehring, Annie Fitzsimmons and Paatrick Meier.

Compulsory @natgeo backstage seriousness before going on stage. Check out the websites/work of some of my kickass NG Explorer colleagues: Erin Spencer, Anand Varma, Jonathan Mehring, Annie Fitzsimmons and Paatrick Meier.

   

Comment

Comment

Lessons on Tradition at America's Most Famous Party

Members of Krewe de Lune (the "Cosmonaughties"), one of the more modern day dance krewes of Mardi Gras.

The nice thing about constantly moving about the world is the diversity of experiences you get to take part in - cultural, scientific, historical and otherwise. In February, I found myself in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. As a first timer I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Like most non-residents, my ignorant and modern day understanding of Mardi Gras was one of plastic beads, crafty parades and heavy drinking. 

While I can confirm that these are indeed centerpieces of the celebration, there’s a great deal more tradition and culture to the affair than that. Thanks to a New Orleans friend’s involvement in one of Mardi Gras’s more well known “krewes”, the Krewe de Lune, I was able to partake in the occasion in what felt like a particularly local way for an outsider such as myself. The result was hours of parading alongside some of NOLA’s finest star-steppin’ “Cosmonaughties,” adorned in their signature colors of blue, silver and glitter (glitter, as you quickly learn, is a color for Cosmonaughties).

Sparkle and costume aside, though, I wanted to understand the deeper significance behind the most common - and commonly misunderstood - customs of Fat Tuesday. So I spent some time delving into krewes, beads and cake, among other things. The result was a fascinating peek into New Orleans’ social and entertainment history, the sharing of which will hopefully offer a bit more local insight for your next Mardi Gras.

1) Parades & Krewes: It might be surprising to learn that historically, America’s most famous party was not a party for all. Mardi Gras balls and the “krewes” that hosted them were actually quite exclusive, reserved for the elite of the city’s populace. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the socially ambitious began forming their own krewes, making Mardi Gras a more inclusive event (however, krewes still remained separated on racial, class and gender lines for quite some time). 

Today, krewes are the central feature of Mardi Gras street parades, often represented by elaborate floats, music, performances or signature items dished out to the crowds. Some are newly formed, others have been around for decades. In all cases, krewes are the creative life source of the party, offering endless entertainment and infusing crowds with pride and excitement.

2) Beads: Sorry, but the tossing of bead necklaces did not invite wild bosom flashing in the streets of 19th century New Orleans (fun visual, though!) Bead throwing had everything to do with the three signature Mardi Gras colors determined by the king back in the 1870s: purple for justice, gold for power, green for faith. The idea was to toss the color beads to those who exhibited the color’s meaning.

3) King Cake: King Cake is perhaps the most important food item consumed during Mardi Gras. It is eaten from King’s Day, January 6th, until Fat Tuesday, the last day of indulgence before Lent. 

If you’ve ever eaten a King Cake, a brioche-styled cake garnished with purple, gold and green sprinkles, you know that the most exciting part about it is the chance of procuring a 1-inch plastic baby Jesus from your slice. 

Traditionally, however, the earliest king cakes were simple oval cakes eaten on January 6th to honor the Three Kings, a custom that dates back to Old World Europe - no tri-color sparkles, no baby Jesus figurine. Historians say that a New Orleans social group from the late 19th century, called the Twelfth Night Revelers, hosted the first ball of the season and took up the custom of hiding a bean or pecan (and later, things like a jeweled ring) inside the cake. Drawing the hidden treasure in the King Cake was used to determine who would be crowned king or queen of the ball. 

So where did the baby Christ figurine enter the picture? It turns out that there’s an interesting story behind the tradition, and it’s thanks to a traveling salesman who approached a local bakery in the 1950s with a surplus of porcelain doll figurines from France. He suggested the baker embed them in the cakes instead of using whatever small treasure was popular at the time. 

After eventually running out of porcelain figurines, someone ran to a local store in the French Quarter and snatched up the little plastic baby that is now so well associated with the modern day King Cake. Given the deep religious ties to the event (and the cake), the baby figurine befittingly came to represent baby Christ.

Comment

Comment

Talking Tech in Austin, TX

The last National Geographic Learning event I was brought to was in Dallas, where I spoke at a science teachers' convention about integrating fieldwork and exploration science into the classroom. This week, I've been in Austin at the Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference discussing the role of technology in science, particularly as it relates to equipping new generations with the necessary skills to share expedition stories in the digital age. 

My take-home message was, how science is documented and shared matters just as much as the content itself. If it weren't for all the photographers, filmmakers, producers, editors, and graphic designers, most explorer stories wouldn't sing nearly as much as they do were it up to us alone. We owe a lot of our neatly packaged and digestible information to those teams, and this conference was about helping capacitate young generations for that growing marketplace by starting in the classroom.

It was a blast. Speaking about my experiences is always fun, but I have to say, it was certainly a more entertaining NGL evening than most...it was set in a margarita bar after all!

Austin, you ain't so bad. 

Comment

Comment

I Heart My City: Alizé's Ithaca

    Moosewood restaurant's vegan chocolate cake - worth the trip for this alone!

    Moosewood restaurant's vegan chocolate cake - worth the trip for this alone!

Calling all former, current, visiting and/or soon to be Ithacans! I'm very excited to share all things Ithaca as the latest feature on Nat Geo's I Heart My City series. I Heart My City, run by National Geographic Travel, features the best things to do and see in a particular city from the perspective of a local and is one of National Geographic Travel's most popular series. It's a great resource for locals and visitors alike - proud to represent my hometown of Ithaca, New York among the ranks!

Alizé's Ithaca: http://intelligenttravel.nationalgeographic.com/2014/12/10/i-heart-my-city-alizes-ithaca/

Comment

Comment

21st Century Learning

If Skype Classroom existed when I was in middle school, I might have been a better student.

I was a kid who always needed a lifeline from the classroom to the world. Field trips, guest speakers, and documentaries account for most of what I recall from my days of primary and secondary education, however infrequent they were. There's just something to be said for hearing directly from the world's experts, doers, shakers and makers.

Mr. G, an 8th grade science teacher in Guelph, Ontario, is on a quest to do more of just that - physical barriers no matter. His classroom's mission: connect with 50 scientists, explorers and conservationists through Skype. Joining an expedition on an active volcano in Italy, chatting with Fabien Cousteau from the bottom of the ocean, and hanging out in an Adele Penguin colony in Antarctica barely scratch the surface of his classroom's connections thus far.

So I was both honored and excited when Mr. G reached out to include me as part of the mission. We talked about everything from my work on climate change adaptation to lemurs in Madagascar to challenges of being out in the field for long periods of time. And, it turns out 14 year olds will ask you deep, thought-provoking life questions when you're least expecting it ("So with your job, what do you actually do everyday?")

Thank you, Mr. G and @SkypeClassroom for helping bring the world into the classroom - we need more teachers and platforms like you!

Mr. G's great write-up and photos/video clips from our Skype lesson:

http://mrgsclassroom8.weebly.com/blog/lemonade-from-lemons-adapting-to-climate-change

Comment

Comment

10 Explorers: 1 Question

                       Photo composition courtesy of friend and fellow NG Young Explorer Andrés Ruzo

What happens when you throw National Geographic Explorers in front of a camera and fire personal questions at them about life? This new mini web series called "10 Nat Geo Explorers: 1 Question" - surely one of NG's most entertaining yet. It was way fun to take part in this, watch the videos by clicking the link below:

http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/special-features/10explorers-1question/what-superpower-do-you-wish-had/

Comment

Comment

CSI (Creating STEM Inquiry)

One of the perks of being a NG Explorer is getting to then share about your experiences with broader audiences. As much as I love being out in the field doing the gritty adventurous stuff, it wouldn't be nearly as gratifying if I were simply keeping the tales for myself and my journal.

For that I am grateful to National Geographic Learning, the NGS branch that creates National Geographic branded educational content for classrooms. They utilize the work of NG Explorers in their textbooks and media, and also bring us along to many of their events to speak about being an explorer.

This week I had the pleasure of speaking at a large science education conference (CAST) being held in Dallas, Texas. The theme this year was 'CSI: Creating STEM Inquiry'. In an effort to inspire youth in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) related fields, thousands of teachers and content distributors set up shop in the Hilton Anatole Hotel. The National Geographic Learning booth was abuzz the entire time, and I was honored to be their featured explorer. More events like this to come!

Comment

Comment

Beijing and the Bicycle

 Photo © Alizé Carrère

While spending a month in China this past summer, I became fascinated with the country's iconic bicycle culture. After stopping in on a bamboo bicycle building workshop in Beijing led by a Chinese-American who is trying to re-instill notions of sustainability among China's youth, I was even more curious about what will become of this transport tradition. So I delved into it, and discovered that adapting to the times may be crowding out an important part of China's past - and future.

Full story for National Geographic's Explorers Journal:

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2014/09/24/beijing-and-the-bicycle/

Comment

Comment

What Darwin Missed

Photo © Alizé Carrère

On a recent trip aboard the National Geographic Endeavour to the Galapagos, the focus wasn't on the scaly or furry critters that make up most of what is recalled from these unique islands. Instead, our attention was brought to the underwater realm, where even Darwin missed a significant portion of the magic this area has to offer.

Full story for National Geographic's Explorers Journal:

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2014/06/20/sharks-whales-and-rays-the-other-galapagos-mascots/

Comment

Comment

Chasing Reindeer

Reindeer herding is a cornerstone of arctic indigenous life across Scandinavia and Eurasia. Photo © Alizé Carrère

Or as I like to call them....Santa's OTHER helpers. 

Forget the polar vortex we've been experiencing on the east coast this winter - such conditions are the norm in Kautokeino, a town above the arctic circle in northern Norway where I found myself this past week. Home to the Samí, an indigenous group known for their semi-nomadic reindeer herding lifestyle, I had the pleasure of joining a conference held at the Samí University College that addressed issues as diverse as the role of indigenous knowledge in climate change mitigation to reindeer castration. It was an all-around fascinating experience, with adorable reindeer baby sightings to boot!

Full story for National Geographic's Explorers Journal here:

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2014/04/03/arctic-indigenous-knowledge-gains-strength-in-latest-ipcc-climate-report/

Comment

Comment

Behind The Scenes

When photo subjects find it more exciting to be behind the lens...! Black-and-white ruffed lemurs in Madagascar.

A collection of the less-spoken of, and often less glamorous, moments during my 4-month research expedition in Madagascar! This piece was featured on the National Geographic home page on January 30th, 2014.

Full article for National Geographic's Explorers Journal here: 

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2014/01/28/ng-young-explorer-behind-the-scenes-the-good-the-bad-and-the-unforgettable/

Comment

Comment

Earth's Treasures Revealed

Glancing down into a tourmaline mine inside a lavaka. Photo © Alizé Carrère

Glancing down into a tourmaline mine inside a lavaka. Photo © Alizé Carrère

When I began my research on lavaka back in October, my first blog post was titled, “Scarred Hillsides in Madagascar May Actually Be Agricultural Gold Mines”. While my fieldwork has proved this to be true in many cases over the last three months of my research, what I didn’t know was that lavaka can, in some instances, be literal gold (and other precious and semi-precious stone) mines.

Full article for National Geographic's Explorers Journal:

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2014/01/10/severe-erosion-reveals-earths-treasures/

Comment

Comment

A Christmas of the Coastal Kind

Showing local children how to make a "sandman". Photo © Alizé Carrère

Showing local children how to make a "sandman". Photo © Alizé Carrère

What made this Christmas so special wasn’t a particular tradition or exotic celebration of any notable kind. Instead, it was simply a continuation of business-as-usual, another day in a life where the sea gives only to the extent that one shows up. 

Full story for National Geographic's Explorers Journal: 

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2013/12/28/a-christmas-of-the-coastal-kind/

Comment

Comment

Dodging Madagascar's Plague Outbreak

Taxi-brousses, or 'bush taxis', are the common form of public transportation in Madagascar. Photo Alizé Carrère

This story received considerable press once it was published on the National Geographic homepage (Dec. 17th, 2013), so I'll say a few words about the experience after the facts.

Despite its ghastly reputation (and understandably so, for it killed off 1/3 of Europe's population during the Middle Ages), the bubonic plague today isn't as deadly as it once used to be - thanks to the arrival of penicillin and other modern antibiotics. Although the bubonic plague now only exists in very few and isolated pockets of the world, Madagascar is the country in which the highest number of annual plague-related deaths are reported each year. The hot spots tend to be in remote villages and prisons. 

So, when I found out that the village I was going to last week in northern Madagascar was experiencing a deadly plague outbreak, I still opted to push through with it. By taking a prophylactic dose of doxycycline, I was confident that I wouldn't be wiped out by the disease even if I did come in contact with it. This story is the journey behind that whole process, which at the end of the day can be boiled down to one thing...never underestimate the length a NatGeo Explorer will go for a photograph! 

The original story here (for National Geographic's Explorers Journal):

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2013/12/16/journey-behind-the-lens-dodging-madagascars-plague-outbreak/

Comment

Comment

Reforesting Madagascar...Nature's Way

Photo © Alizé Carrère

Photo © Alizé Carrère

For decades, Madagascar has been the recipient of millions of aid dollars and countless multi-national projects that aim to reduce the wide scale deforestation across the island. But, as I've begun to witness, there might be an important natural process happening quietly alongside the re-seeding madness. Spoiler: it's free! 

Full article for National Geographic's Explorers Journal:

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2013/12/07/reforesting-madagascars-highlands-a-poetic-lesson-from-nature/

Comment

Comment

Democracy Revived

Voters cast their ballots in a one-room schoolhouse in a northern village of Madagascar. Photo © Alizé Carrère

This past week, Madagascar held its first presidential elections since the 2009 military coup that overthrew the government. Despite having 33 candidates in the running, I found the whole process remarkably calm and democratic from where I stood in a remote village schoolhouse.

Full story for National Geographic's Explorers Journal:

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2013/10/31/madagascars-first-elections-since-2009-coup-revive-democracy/

Comment