Dereck and Beverly Joubert are conservationists, filmmakers, and National Geographic Explorers-in-Residence. They work primarily in rural Botswana, where they have to contend with big cats (such as lions and leopards)—as well as fording rivers like this one.

Photograph courtesy Beverly Joubert
  • Dereck and Beverly are environmentalists and documentary filmmakers who focus on the big cats native to their home in Botswana, and throughout Africa. They helped the National Geographic Society establish the Big Cats Initiative, which provides information and solutions to stop the number of big cats, especially lions, from dwindling.


    Beverly and Dereck, who met when they were teenagers, always had an interest in the outdoors.

    Dereck and his family often spent holidays in nature preserves. “It’s part of my DNA,” he says.

    Beverly remembers how she and her twin brother explored the grasslands surrounding their childhood home in South Africa. She was awed by the “vast, open veldt.”


    Beverly: “Being somewhere in the field and not knowing what will happen . . . capturing a unique scene or behavior . . . discovering something new for science.”

    Dereck: “Spending time with individual animals, such as a leopard, and getting to know their personality and character.”


    Beverly and Dereck answer in unison: “Leaving the bush, finishing a project.”

    Beverly says the hours required can be grueling. “We work seven days a week, 18-19 hours a day in extreme climates. The heat, dust, rain, and all the bugs can be emotionally exhausting, as well as physically.”

    Dereck adds, “Because we work with predators, we deal with death all the time.”


    Dereck defines geography as an active process: “Going out into the edges of society, gathering information, and bringing it back to the center. . . . It can be a journey in the mind. Going to the edge of the unknown.

    “Geography is looking at the Earth, and seeing the lines on its face.”


    Beverly and Dereck visit schools and museums all over the world, and they have noticed that students in developed countries are not as well-prepared in geography as students in less-developed countries.

    “Kids in these far-flung places have a better sense of geography,” Dereck says. “They have to actively find themselves on a map. ‘Where am I?’”

    Beverly encourages students to “get a visceral connection to a place”—not just looking for places on a map, but understanding the climate, biodiversity, and culture of a specific location.


    Dereck encourages students to study diverse topics in biologyEarth science, zoology, ecology—instead of focusing on the latest camera or filmmaking technology. “Technology changes! It’s so much more important to understand the natural world,” he says.


    Beverly says conservationists “need to be completely 'in the zone'.” Turning off personal electronic devices is a great way to get closer to the natural world, she says. It allows people to always be watching and observing nature, instead of “listening for the beep-beep” of a smartphone.

    Dereck is more succinct about the demands of life in the field: “Toughen up!”

    Wildlife Filmmakers and Conservationists: Dereck and Beverly Joubert
    Dereck and Beverly Joubert are conservationists and wildlife filmmakers.
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    behavior Noun

    anything an organism does involving action or response to stimulation.

    big cat Noun

    large predators, including tigers, lions, jaguars, and leopards.

    Big Cats Initiative Noun

    National Geographic Society program that supports on-the-ground conservation projects, education, economic incentive efforts, and a global public-awareness campaign to protect big cats and their habitats.

    biodiversity Noun

    all the different kinds of living organisms within a given area.

    Encyclopedic Entry: biodiversity
    biology Noun

    study of living things.

    bush adjective, noun

    open, undeveloped, or sparsely populated area.

    climate Noun

    all weather conditions for a given location over a period of time.

    Encyclopedic Entry: climate
    conservationist Noun

    person who works to preserve natural habitats.

    culture Noun

    learned behavior of people, including their languages, belief systems, social structures, institutions, and material goods.

    diverse Adjective

    varied or having many different types.

    documentary filmmaker Noun

    person who makes non-fiction movies or television programs.

    dominate Verb

    to overpower or control.

    dust Noun

    tiny, dry particles of material solid enough for wind to carry.

    Encyclopedic Entry: dust
    dwindle Verb

    to shrink.

    Earth Noun

    our planet, the third from the Sun. The Earth is the only place in the known universe that supports life.

    Encyclopedic Entry: Earth
    Earth science Noun

    branches of study that focus on the origin and structure of the Earth. Also called geoscience.

    ecology Noun

    branch of biology that studies the relationship between living organisms and their environment.

    Encyclopedic Entry: ecology
    encourage Verb

    to inspire or support a person or idea.

    environmentalist Noun

    person who studies or works to protect the Earth's ecosystems.

    establish Verb

    to form or officially organize.

    exhausting Adjective


    far-flung Adjective

    spread over a great distance.

    geography Noun

    study of places and the relationships between people and their environments.

    Encyclopedic Entry: geography
    geology Noun

    study of the physical history of the Earth, its composition, its structure, and the processes that form and change it.

    grassland Noun

    ecosystem with large, flat areas of grasses.

    grueling Adjective

    physically difficult.

    location Noun

    position of a particular point on the surface of the Earth.

    Encyclopedic Entry: location
    map Noun

    symbolic representation of selected characteristics of a place, usually drawn on a flat surface.

    Encyclopedic Entry: map
    museum Noun

    space where valuable works of art, history, or science are kept for public view.

    National Geographic Society Noun

    (1888) organization whose mission is "Inspiring people to care about the planet."

    predator Noun

    animal that hunts other animals for food.

    preserve Verb

    to maintain and keep safe from damage.

    rain Noun

    liquid precipitation.

    Encyclopedic Entry: rain
    smartphone Noun

    mobile telephone with additional features, such as a web browser or music playing device.

    succinct Adjective

    having few words.

    technology Noun

    the science of using tools and complex machines to make human life easier or more profitable.

    unique Adjective

    one of a kind.

    vast Adjective

    huge and spread out.

    veldt Noun

    rural grasslands of southern Africa.

    visceral Adjective

    having to do with deep, inward emotions or instinct.

    zoology Noun

    the study of animals.