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National Geographic Foundation for Science and Exploration – Asia

National Geographic Supports Local Explorers in Asia

The National Geographic Society established the National Geographic Foundation for Science and Exploration-Asia (NGS-Asia) to increase our ability to support scientists, conservationists, educators, storytellers, and technologists in Asia. From 2020, NGS-Asia pilots National Geographic Education initiatives in Asia through youth grants, leaderships programs, and convenings to support next generation who can change the world for the better. We use one application form for all grant types and regions. Please read more about grant application requirements, eligibility, and program priorities before applying.

Our Explorers

Since 2015, NGS-Asia has supported more than 175 Explorers who are either citizens or residents of Asia, contributing to the total number of Explorers in Asia funded by the National Geographic Society since 1888.  We support and highlight our Explorers through various National Geographic events and media outlets. Please find more National Geographic Explorers in Asia here.

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Nareerat Boonchai
Nareerat Boonchai
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Nareerat Boonchai is a paleobotanist, docent, and research coordinator. She studies fossils of flowering trees, especially petrified wood, and their implications on the past environments and climate. She attended graduate school on environmental biology in Thailand and paleontology in China. Her dissertation was completed at the Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, focusing on southwestern Wyoming petrified woods from 50 million years ago. Boonchai has worked at a paleontological museum in Thailand for more than ten years. She conducts scientific outreach through designing museum exhibits, conservation programs, and educational events. Her current work includes identification and conservation of approximately 180,000-year-old fossil tree trunks in Tak’s petrified forest in northern Thailand, as well as helping local communities and related organizations establish geoparks within UNESCO’s Global Geoparks Network. Boonchai received a postdoctoral fellowship from the French embassy in Bangkok to study petrified trees and learn different fossil wood preparation techniques at University of Lyon and the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. Boonchai leads national and international research projects on petrified wood, collaborating on a multidisciplinary team, to promote conservation and education in Southeast Asia and other countries.

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Naomi Clark-Shen
Naomi Clark-Shen
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Naomi Clark-Shen was born and raised in Singapore and considers Asia her home. Tired of being restricted to full-time employment representing one company, she set herself up as a freelancer. In Singapore, she runs her own shark and ray fishery research project, funded in part by the National Geographic Society; writes for a children’s wildlife magazine for the World Wildlife Fund; and takes on various other research projects, including for TRAFFIC and the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue. Outside of work, Naomi is a vegetarian and advocates for animal welfare, lives as eco-friendly as possible, trains and performs in wrestling (WWE-style), and enjoys free diving.

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Yikweon Jang
Yikweon Jang
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Dr. Yikweon Jang’s research interests focus on the ecology and evolution of communication in insects, frogs, birds, and mammals. Currently, Jang is working on the causes of population decline in the endangered Suweon tree frog species, Dryophytes suweonensis and Dryophytes japonicus. Jang works with the citizen science program The Earth Love Explorers, which encourages grade-school children and their parents to participate in the annual survey of tree frogs in western low-lying fields in Korea. Participation of citizens in this research not only provides valuable information about population dynamics but also increases public awareness about the need to conserve D. suweonensis. This program resulted in a restoration project of the Suweon tree frog. In addition to tree frogs, Jang leads research projects about the spatiotemporal distributions of cicadas, the diversity of honey plants, and the diversity of acoustic insects via citizen science programs. Jang was involved in the release of three Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins into the waters off Jeju island in 2013. He led the behavioral research of the dolphins in the aquarium and sea pens to figure out the criteria for the release. In 2016, two of the reintroduced female dolphins gave birth. This is the first documented case of successful breeding by reintroduced dolphins in the world. Jang is a professor in the Department of Life Sciences and Division of EcoScience at Ewha University in Korea. Back
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Yukinori Kawae
Yukinori Kawae
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Yukinori (Yuki) Kawae first saw the Giza pyramids in 1992 as a 19-year-old recent high school graduate, who had moved to Cairo from Japan. He ultimately spent 16 years in Egypt, during which time he graduated from the American University in Cairo with a B.A. in Egyptology in 2003. Kawae began his academic career as a member of Ancient Egypt Research Associates, Inc. led by Dr. Mark Lehner, one of the supervisors of the Heit el-Ghroub site (Lost City of the Pyramids) excavations. Soon after the introduction of 3D technology in the field of Egyptian archaeology, Kawae began conducting 3D surveys of ancient megalithic structures. In 2006, he joined an interdisciplinary research project to complete 3D surveys of the tomb of Queen Khentkawes [I] and the Worker’s Cemetery at Giza. In 2008, at the request of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities (presently the Ministry of State for Antiquities in Egypt), Kawae established a joint corporate, academic, and government project and successfully completed comprehensive 3D documentation of Egypt’s oldest pyramid (the Step Pyramid at Saqqara), during its restoration. In 2013, Kawae expanded the collaborative research to include a Japanese television production company. With a crew from TV Man Union, he climbed the great pyramid of King Khufu (c. 2509–2483 BCE) to obtain data from the great pyramid’s core masonry. Currently working with the Czech Institute of Egyptology led by Dr. Miroslav Barta, Kawae is leading an interdisciplinary project that incorporates computer science and applied mathematics to record pyramids at Abusir, a royal cemetery from the fifth dynasty (c. 2435–2306 BCE) located 11 km south of Giza. In 2016, Kawae was selected as a National Geographic Emerging Explorer. In 2017, his team used a drone to obtain the world’s first detailed image data of the Three Pyramids at Giza (c. 2509–2442 BCE). Kawae’s team is currently conducting post-processing for the production of 3D data of the pyramids from an enormous base of images. Kawae’s use of 3D data has introduced an unprecedented form of empirical analysis to uncover the mysteries of the pyramids’ construction. A TV documentary inspired a young Kawae to become an archaeologist; now he is the one on-screen, appearing in Japanese programs and presenting talks on Egyptian archaeology and the history of ancient Egypt. Kawae is also conducting several international interdisciplinary researches as an associate professor at the Institute for Advanced Research at Nagoya University. Back
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Hannah Reyes Morales
Hannah Reyes Morales
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Hannah Reyes Morales is a Filipina photojournalist whose work focuses on individuals mired in complex situations created by inequality, poverty, and impunity. This includes photographing human trafficking at sea for the New York Times, reporting on war crimes against Cambodians for Al Jazeera America, and documenting changing indigenous cultures in the Philippines for a grant from National Geographic. Recently, through a grant from the GroundTruth Project, she documented the lives of displaced Filipina women who wound up in the sex trade after frequent typhoons. Her work has been published in print and online in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time (online), National Geographic (online), Guardian, and Lonely Planet, and has been exhibited in Manila, Telluride, Copenhagen, Aalborg, Nanning, Suwon, and Chiang Mai. She is represented by National Geographic Creative. She is a recipient of a SOPA award for excellence in digital reporting for her work in the Outlaw Ocean series for the New York Times. Reyes Morales is a 2013 National Geographic Young Explorer grantee and is part of the 2017 Young Explorer Leadership and Development Program. She is currently based in Manila and travels around South East Asia. Back
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Tam Thi Ton
Tam Thi Ton
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Tam Ton was granted by National Geographic explorer in 2017. She holds two Masters degrees, one is an MA, from the National University of Education in Vietnam, with a major in the methodology of teaching Vietnamse language and the other is an Med. from Queensland University of Technology, Australia. Ton has been working for ChildFund Vietnam as an Education Specialist since March 2018. Previously, she worked for ten years as an expert of Ethnic Minority Education in the Ministry of Education and Training, Vietnam. Prior to that, she was a researcher in the National Institute of Educational Sciences, a post that she took up after being a high school teacher. During her career, Ton has been involved in many projects supporting ethnic minority students in disadvantaged areas as well as working as an education consultant for many international organizations & non-government organizations. She has worked on educational development for ethnic minority groups, and her interest is in training and coaching teachers on teaching methodologies and the development of training modules and learning material. Her NGS-funded project is to develop learning materials in bilingual (Bahnar-Vietnamese) based on Bahnar cultural resources. The objective is for her team go to the local communities to gather folklore—riddles, proverbs, and comics, and to take photographs of cultural products of the Bahnar group. Based on their findings, the team plans to develop learning material for primary students. This material will be printed and provided to primary schools for use in teaching the primary students in Bahnar, as a first language, and in Vietnamese as a second language. The aim of the project is to provide interesting and helpful training and referencing materials for Bahnar primary students. Back
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Hsiao-Wen Wang
Hsiao-Wen Wang
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Hsiao-Wen Wang is a professor in the Department of Hydraulic and Ocean Engineering at National Cheng Kung University, Taiwan. Her research interests include river mechanics and restoration, sediment transport and management, ecohydraulics, and water environmental planning and assessment. She is currently working on resolving conflicts related to land use between green energy and other core necessities for environmental sustainability through science combined with local wisdom, emphasizing the need to blend environmental management and mitigation to address problems known today and those predicted for the future. Wang received her Ph.D. from National Taiwan University in 2006, and was a postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley in 2007 and 2008 before she joined National Cheng Kung University. She was a recipient of a 2017/2018 National Geographic Global Explorer Grant and was a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley through the 2018/2019 Fulbright Senior Research Program. Back
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Intan Suci S. Nurhati
Intan Suci S. Nurhati
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Intan Suci Nurhati is a paleoclimate scientist and paleoceanographer at the Research Center for Oceanography of the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI). Her research unlocks changes in the tropical climate and oceans over the past centuries such as ocean warming and acidification by studying the geochemical composition of reef-building corals. She has conducted field sampling in SE Asia, the Kiribati, Kuwait, and Hong Kong. In 2017, Nurhati received a grant from the National Geographic Society to set up the first ocean acidification monitoring station in Indonesia in the effort to understand the impact of ocean acidification on coral calcification in Lombok. Nurhati earned her B.A. from Wesleyan University and Ph.D. from Georgia Institute of Technology. She received the Freeman Asian Scholarship (2001), Green Talent Award from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (2013), UN IOC-WESTPAC Best Young Scientist Award (2014), Best Speaker Award from the Indonesian Oceanology Society (2016) and LIPI Young Scientist Award (2018). She is involved in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as a lead author in the Sixth Assessment Report. An avid science communicator, she has given TEDxJakarta and UNESCO Masterclass Series talks. Back

Highlighted Projects

Picture of Erina Molina interviewing local fishermen
Photograph by Glenn Barit

Saving the Reef Fish of the Philippines

Erina Molina is currently completing her master’s degree in environmental science at the University of the Philippines Diliman. As a National Geographic Young Explorer, she interviewed different generations of fishers in the northern Philippines to see whether expectations about reef fish populations have changed over time, leading younger people not to recognize long-term declines for vulnerable species. She now plans to convert this local knowledge into hard data to help in the management of fisheries.


Picture of Chang-Hwa Kang and Gyoung Ah Lee
Photograph by Aram Lee

Archaeological Study of the Neolithic Cultural Site on Jeju Island

Chang-Hwa Kang has been involved with archaeological research on Jeju Island in South Korea for over two decades. Now he’s teamed up with a multidisciplinary team led by Gyoung-Ah Lee of Oregon for a closer investigation of Jeju’s Neolithic culture. Where did it come from? How connected was it to other East Asian cultures? And how did volcanic eruptions and a shifting climate shape people’s adaptation to life on this fascinating island between the Korean Peninsula and Japan’s Kyushu Islands?


Picture of Kaseka Phon
Photograph courtesy Kaseka Phon

Saving and Studying the Archaeological Site of Cheung Ek

The intricate stonework of the Angkor Empire (in what is now Cambodia) is well known, but what about the empire’s less famous stoneware? Kaseka Phon is working to reveal the secrets of this specialized craft industry and protect the only known southern kiln site from being lost to urban sprawl. As director of the archaeology department and a Ph.D. candidate at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, he has researched kilns for over a decade. Now he’s building capacity for the future, training the next generation of Cambodian archaeologists.


Picture of Katsufumi Sato
Photograph by Yusuke Goto

Ocean Ninjas: Employing Seabirds to Gather Air and Water Data

Katsufumi Sato realizes sometimes the best person for the job is a bird. Seeking more detailed samplings of air and water conditions surrounding Japan and South Korea than a satellite or a buoy can give, he’s turned to his feathered friends for help. A behavioral ecologist and professor at University of Tokyo, Katsufumi attaches sensors to seabirds to record temperature, current, and other data while they fly or float. It will all help improve the accuracy of computer models of the physical interaction between atmosphere and ocean.


Picture of Kalyar Platt with Burmese Star Tortoise
Photograph by Petch Manopawitr

Softly Bringing the Burmese Star Tortoise Into the Wild

Unlike her beloved tortoise pals, Kalyar Platt has never been slow to come out of her shell. Described as a “force of nature” and “the Indomitable Turtle Lady,” she has boldly made turtle and tortoise conservation a driving force in Myanmar (formerly Burma). Releasing captive-bred Burmese star tortoises into well protected nature reserves, she’s helping this stunningly beautiful species recover from over harvesting for food and the high-end pet trade.

Since 1888, National Geographic has awarded grants that have sent thousands of the world’s greatest explorers on groundbreaking journeys of discovery. The stories, insights, and imagery our explorers bring back from the field educate us, inspire us, and change the world.

National Geographic Fellows

Conservation for Critical Species (2018–2019)

For thousands of creatures living on Earth, time is running out. Although our planet’s wildlife and wild places are disappearing at an alarming rate, some of the most threatened species still receive little or no conservation funding. To help save wildlife and sound the alarm for lesser-known species at risk, the National Geographic Society and Zoological Society of London (ZSL) launched the National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellowship, which leverages the power of the Photo Ark’s captivating portraits to bring attention to the global extinction crisis. Conservationists in the the 2018–2019 Asia Cohort work with Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species in Asia to help bring them back from the brink of extinction.

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Ginelle Gacasan
Conservationist, National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow
Ginelle Gacasan
 Conservationist, National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow
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Ginelle Gacasan is a National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow focusing on the endangered green turtle. Ginelle currently works at Community Centred Conservation Philippines Inc., where she previously implemented a program to establish a dugong sanctuary through community participation. She recently started studying for an M.Sc. at the University of the Philippines. Ginelle’s project aims to document traditional ecological knowledge from the indigenous Calamian Tagbanwa tribe about the green turtle and its seagrass habitat, and to use this knowledge to make conservation recommendations. 

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Ha Hoang
Conservationist, National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow
Ha Hoang
 Conservationist, National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow
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Ha Hoang is a National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow focused on the endangered big-headed turtle. Ha studied for an M.Sc. in environmental management before joining the Asian Turtle Program in 2008, where he is currently the Vietnam turtle program coordinator. His ambition is to save all of Vietnam’s native tortoise and freshwater turtle species from the threat of extinction. Ha’s project aims to increase local conservation capacity in Vietnam, better understand the risks of disease transfer between released turtles and wild turtle populations as well as other threats to the species, and increase awareness of turtle conservation.

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Jonathan Phu Jiun Lang
Conservationist, National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow
Jonathan Phu Jiun Lang
 Conservationist, National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow
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Jonathan Phu is a National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow focusing on the endangered green turtle. He is a conservation officer at the Marine Research Foundation in Malaysia and is currently studying for an M.Sc. in marine science at Universiti Malaysia Sabah. Jonathan’s project aims to provide an assessment on the population status of foraging sea turtles in Mantanani Island to Sabah Parks, a government organization responsible for establishing marine parks.

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Hanh Ngo
Conservationist, National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow
Hanh Ngo
 Conservationist, National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow
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Hanh Ngo is a National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow. Hanh is currently a master’s student and research assistant in the Department of Genetics at Vietnam National University. She previously contributed to fieldwork for the Asian Turtle Program, including surveys on the Vietnamese pond turtle and the Yangtze giant softshell turtle. Hanh’s project aims to develop an advanced eDNA protocol to support survey efforts of the endangered Chinese crocodile lizard in northeastern Vietnam.

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David Quimpo
Conservation Specialist, National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow
David Quimpo
 Conservation Specialist, National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow
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David Quimpo is a National Geographic Photo Ark EDGE Fellow focusing on the critically endangered Rufous-headed Hornbill. David has acted as a conservation specialist for the Haribon Foundation in the Philippines since 2012. In this role, he assists with policy writing at both the local and national level, and trains community-based forest protection teams. David’s project aims to use the rufous-headed hornbill as an umbrella and keystone species to sustainably protect and conserve the biodiversity of the Central Panay Mountains in Panay Island.

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Technology and Innovation with a Purpose (2020–2021)

Our Labs fellows demonstrated the ability to transform and disrupt traditional conservation technology efforts. We drive innovation that helps protect the wonder of our world by bringing together individuals with diverse backgrounds to create cutting-edge solutions to some of the world's most critical problems.

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Alok Bhardwaj
Alok Bhardwaj
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Alok Bhardwaj is a National Geographic Fellow who conducts flood research in Asia. His main research interests include using remote sensing and deep learning techniques to study urban floods and rain-induced landslides and understanding the link between climate teleconnections and the occurrence of extreme rainfall events and resulting floods in Asia.

Bhardwaj studied civil engineering at Govind Ballabh Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, then received a masters of technology from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay and a Ph.D from the National University of Singapore in 2018. Prior to joining IIT Roorkee as an assistant professor in the civil engineering department, Bhardwaj worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Earth Observatory of Singapore at Nanyang Technological University.

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Matthias Hoffman-Kuhnt
Matthias Hoffman-Kuhnt
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Matthias Hoffmann-Kuhnt has spent three decades studying bioacoustics and animal behavior around the world. He is currently researching dolphins and whales in hopes of one day cracking the code of their communication, perhaps allowing us to “talk” across species boundaries.

Hoffmann-Kuhnt is also working to identify and localize bird vocalizations via the use of automated acoustic recorders that collect soundscape data. Systems like these, already being tested in Singapore, will allow us to collect a location’s soundscape data and determine the presence of particular species, as well as the number of animals living in an area. This information is vital to evaluating the animals’ conservation status in places where they face habitat loss and degradation.

Hoffmann-Kuhnt is a senior research fellow at the Acoustic Research Laboratory at the National University of Singapore. He holds a Ph.D in behavioral biology from the Freie Universität of Berlin.

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Narumasa Tsutsumida
Narumasa Tsutsumida
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Narumasa Tsutsumida is a geographic information scientist who studies land cover classification and its uncertainties, and develops novel techniques for analyzing land cover. He has conducted case studies of urban expansion in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and Jakarta, forest biomass mapping in Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, and plant functional type classifications in the forests of Japan. As a National Geographic Fellow, Tsutsumida incorporates human perception of nature into land cover maps and integrates satellite/aero and street-level sequential images to collect ground information for land cover mapping.

Tsutsumida is also a charter member of the Open Source Geospatial Foundation and is developing several open source algorithms to explore spatial heterogeneity in geographic phenomena. He received his Ph.D in global environmental studies at Kyoto University, where he conducted terrestrial environmental monitoring using remote sensing and GIS.

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Founding Sponsor

National Geographic Society has expanded its commitment to Asia with a philanthropic gift from C program to establish a non-profit foundation based in Seoul since 2015. We also seek generous contributions and donations to continuously support scientists and explorers in Asia. Please email ngs-asia@ngs.org for more details.

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