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Core Team

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Steve Boyes
Project Leader
Steve Boyes
 Project Leader
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South African conservation biologist and National Geographic Fellow Steve Boyes is the founder of the Botswana-based nonprofit The Wild Bird Trust and project leader of the Okavango Wilderness Project. With a passion for wilderness and restoration, he works to safeguard the Okavango Delta by leading expeditions to learn more about the ecosystem and working with local community and government leaders to protect and sustainably manage the area.

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Adjany Costa
Assistant Director
Adjany Costa
 Assistant Director
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Adjany Costa is a local Angolan scientist with a master’s degree in environmental science. She is the project’s assistant director, an expert on the fish survey team, and the local liaison with the Angolan Ministry of Environment for the project’s science and expeditions teams. 

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Chris Boyes
Expedition Leader
Chris Boyes
 Expedition Leader
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Chris Boyes has been leading expeditions across remote wilderness areas in Africa for the last 10 years and has worked on a wide range of marine and terrestrial research projects. Before joining the project team, he worked as a research manager on D’Arros Island in the Seychelles.

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Kerllen Costa
Angola Assistant Country Director
Kerllen Costa
 Angola Assistant Country Director
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Kerllen Costa is an Angolan scientist, and the Angola Assistant Country Director who works as a research assistant with the project’s science team while on expedition. In 2015 he graduated with a bachelor of science in environmental sciences and biology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and has worked in the fields of zoology and botany. 

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Sally-Ann Fraser
Project Administrator
Sally-Ann Fraser
 Project Administrator
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Sally-Ann Fraser manages human resources and assists with expedition logistics, meeting and symposium preparation, reservations, invoicing, purchasing, and other administrative responsibilities. 

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John Hilton
Project Director
John Hilton
 Project Director
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John Hilton has dedicated his life to spending time in the African wilderness and sharing his experiences with others. Hilton oversees the administration, human resources, finance, and logistics of the project. He also leads outreach efforts with government officials from the three countries in the Okavango River’s watershed to encourage protection of this fragile ecosystem.

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Gobonamang “GB” Kgetho
Lead Poler and Guide
Gobonamang “GB” Kgetho
 Lead Poler and Guide
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Gobonamang “GB” Kgetho is the Okavango Wilderness Project’s lead poler and a member of the Seronga Polers Trust. Kgetho has crossed the Okavango Delta eight times with expedition leader Steve Boyes and is an exemplary ambassador of the Okavango Delta and the ba’Yei community. He has a keen interest in the culture and history of indigenous communities.

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Leilamang “Schnapps” Kgetho
Poler
Leilamang “Schnapps” Kgetho
 Poler
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Leilamang “Schnapps” Kgetho is a member of the Okavango Polers Trust and can pilot his mokoro through the most treacherous terrain, always seeming to know which direction to take. He is also the team’s chief hippopotamus spotter and a keen birder.

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Koketso Mookodi
Botswana Country Director
Koketso Mookodi
 Botswana Country Director
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A Botswana-born tourism practitioner, conservation educator, and community mentor, Koketso Mookodi is the Botswana country director for the Botswana-based nonprofit The Wild Bird Trust. Since she received her degree in tourism management, Mookodi, a Mandela Washington Fellow, works closely with communities in the Okavango Delta to educate and empower them on issues of conservation and sustainability.

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Götz Neef
Research and Collections Manager
Götz Neef
 Research and Collections Manager
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Namibian-born Götz Neef coordinates all the research data and sample collections for the project. During expeditions he works with the various specialists and research assistants undertaking sampling, trapping, and recording.

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Tumeletso “Water” Setlabosha
Poler, Guide, and Ambassador
Tumeletso “Water” Setlabosha
 Poler, Guide, and Ambassador
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Tumeletso “Water” Setlabosha has been a wilderness guide in the Okavango Delta for 14 years. Born in Jao in the middle of the Okavango Delta, Setlabosha has a deep understanding of the intricacies of this complex ecosystem.

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Rainer von Brandis
Research Director
Rainer von Brandis
 Research Director
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Rainer von Brandis completed his honors and master’s degrees in nature conservation while working intermittently as a freelance guide in South Africa. In 2002, he moved to the Seychelles where he worked to establish security protocols, trained marine rangers, wrote conservation management plans, eradicated invasive species, implemented long-term monitoring programs, and mentored scientific researchers. In 2012, von Brandis completed his doctorate degree in nature conservation, and has been working with the project for the last two years.

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LOGISTICS AND RESEARCH ASSISTANTS

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Frowin Becker
Research Data Analyst
Frowin Becker
 Research Data Analyst
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After obtaining a master of science in conservation ecology from Stellenbosch University in South Africa in 2016, Becker joined the project’s logistical support team. His duties have since shifted into research support, and he has begun to pursue a doctoral degree. As a Namibian, Becker is particularly interested in the Okavango Wilderness Project’s contributions toward the region’s long-term future.

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Ilda Menezes Cangolo
Office Manager
Ilda Menezes Cangolo
 Office Manager
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Ilda Menezes Cangolo is an Angolan who did a completed their undergraduate degree in Earth Science at the University of Stellenbosch. After working for four years in the oil and gas Industry, she has joined the Okavango Wilderness project to help manage the Luanda office part time.

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Keamogetse “Castro” Molathegi
Logistics Manager
Keamogetse “Castro” Molathegi
 Logistics Manager
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Keamogetse “Castro” Molathegi is a Motswana from the north west part of the Botswana along the Okavango delta. Castro has worked in the hospitality industry around the delta for 16 years and is currently working as a logistic manager with the Wild Bird Trust. His passion lies in conservation and cultural initiatives.

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Science Team

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Marion Bamford
Palaeolandscape Studies Lead
Marion Bamford
 Palaeolandscape Studies Lead
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Professor Marion Bamford is the director of the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. She has published over 120 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters and is a National Research Foundation B2-rated scientist. Her research projects in Africa fall into three time frames: Her research projects on the flora of Africa fall into three time frames: the Permian and Triassic, the Cretaceous, and the Cenozoic.

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Nigel Barker
Co-lead Botanist and Habitat Specialist
Nigel Barker
 Co-lead Botanist and Habitat Specialist
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Professor Nigel Barker is head of the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Pretoria. He is interested in plant and animal biodiversity, systematics, phylogeography, biogeography, and conservation.

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Ninda Baptista
Assistant Herpetologist
Ninda Baptista
 Assistant Herpetologist
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Ninda Baptista has a master of science in conservation biology from the University of Lisbon, Portugal. Her primary interest is effective conservation, particularly of priority unprotected areas in Angola. Baptista works at the Institute of Higher Educational Sciences of Huíla in Angola conducting herpetological surveys, monitoring herpetofauna, and participating in a project to help conserve the escarpment forest of Kumbira, Kwanza Sul. She also has experience in research, environmental education, and conducting environmental impact assessments. Baptista joined the project as an assistant herpetologist and has been involved in several surveys.

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Helen Barber-James
Lead Entomologist, Aquatic Invertebrates
Helen Barber-James
 Lead Entomologist, Aquatic Invertebrates
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Helen Barber-James is a freshwater biologist in the Department of Freshwater Invertebrates at the Albany Museum in South Africa, which houses a collection of more than 1.5 million specimens, including limited material from other African countries. She has over 25 years of research experience, which has focused on the biodiversity, systematics, and biogeography of freshwater invertebrates, especially the mayfly (Ephemeroptera).

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Werner Conradie
Herpetologist, Reptiles and Amphibians
Werner Conradie
 Herpetologist, Reptiles and Amphibians
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Werner Conradie is the curator of herpetology at the Port Elizabeth Museum (Bayworld), South Africa. He holds a master’s in environmental science and has 10 years of experience studying southern African herpetofauna, with his main research interests focusing on the taxonomy, conservation, and ecology of amphibians and reptiles. He has published numerous scientific papers, and has served on a number of conservation and scientific panels.

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David Goyder
Co-lead Botanist, Botanical Research Director
David Goyder
 Co-lead Botanist, Botanical Research Director
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David Goyder has catalogued the entire Okavango Wilderness Project plant collection, which is currently housed at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London. Goyder is director and research leader for Africa and Madagascar at Kew, which has been working in Angola to document the flora and fill the large gap in botanical knowledge of the area.

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Francisco Maiato Pedro Gonçalves
Botanist
Francisco Maiato Pedro Gonçalves
 Botanist
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Francisco Maiato Pedro Gonçalves is a biologist associated with the Herbarium of Lubango at ISCED-Huíla, Angola. His previous experience includes working with renowned botanists in the field and assessing the impact of forest fragmentation on the endemic birds of the Angolan escarpment. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate in plant ecology at the University of Hamburg, Germany. His interests include plant diversity, tree population dynamics of the Angolan miombo woodlands, and biodiversity conservation, all of which prepared him well for the Okavango Wilderness Project.

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John Mendelsohn
Geomorphologist and System Ecologist
John Mendelsohn
 Geomorphologist and System Ecologist
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John Mendelsohn has lived all his life in Africa, and has been residing in Namibia for the past 30 years. A passion for research has driven much of his work in zoology, education, livelihoods, geography, and river systems. He has been published in over 70 scientific papers and 28 books. Most of his recent research has been in Namibia, but he now also works extensively in Angola. Over the past 15 years, Mendelsohn has developed a keen interest in the economies of rural areas, seeking to document and understand relationships between natural resources, land uses, land rights, incomes, savings, opportunities, and constraints in different areas. Rivers in the Kalahari Basin are another special interest, particularly the Cunene, Cuvelai, Okavango, and Cuando River systems.

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Dan Parker
Co-lead Mammologist, Small Mammals
Dan Parker
 Co-lead Mammologist, Small Mammals
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Professor Dan Parker’s research focuses on mammalian terrestrial ecology. An associate professor at the University of Mpumalanga in South Africa, Parker is also active with the Department of Zoology and Entomology at Rhodes University in South Africa. For the Okavango Wilderness Project, Parker is leading the surveys of the little-known bat populations of the upper catchments in the Angola highlands.

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Paul Skelton
Science Director; Lead Ichthyologist, Fish and Aquatic Biodiversity
Paul Skelton
 Science Director; Lead Ichthyologist, Fish and Aquatic Biodiversity
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Paul Skelton is emeritus professor and emeritus managing director of the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity at Rhodes University in South Africa. Author of several books on the fish fauna of the southern African subregion, Skelton has chaired several International Union for Conservation of Nature committees and discovered many fish species new to science. Skelton helps coordinate the specialist survey results and publications of the Okavango Wilderness Project.

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Peter Taylor
Co-lead Mammologist, Small Mammals
Peter Taylor
 Co-lead Mammologist, Small Mammals
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Professor and South African Research Chair on Biodiversity Value & Change at the University of Venda in South Africa, Peter Taylor studies small mammals, such as bats and rodents, for the Okavango Wilderness Project. He is also a core team member at the Centre for Invasion Biology in South Africa.

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MEDIA AND FILM TEAM

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Thalefang Charles
Photographer
Thalefang Charles
 Photographer
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Thalefang Charles is a renowned photographer and travel writer from Botswana who has traveled extensively throughout Botswana and Africa. A journalist by trade, he works for local media houses writing content. Charles has joined the team on expeditions taking him to the source waters of the Okavango and through the beautiful Delta. Inspired by his love for travel, he recently wrote and published a book titled Botswana’s Top 50 Ultimate Experiences.

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Kaya Ensor
Associate Film Producer
Kaya Ensor
 Associate Film Producer
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Kaya Ensor is an associate producer and assistant editor for the National Geographic Society. She joined the team during the three-month expedition through Angola, Namibia, and Botswana, where she worked as a camera assistant, second camera person, and media manager. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in English literature and European history and minored in art history. She lives in Washington, D.C.

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Neil Gelinas
Senior Film Producer
Neil Gelinas
 Senior Film Producer
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Neil Gelinas is a senior film producer, cameraman, and editor for the National Geographic Society. Gelinas produced a feature documentary about the Okavango Wilderness Project called Into the Okavango. For the past five years, he has also produced films for National Geographic Pristine Seas, a project that has helped protect over five million square kilometers of ocean through science, exploration, and media. His work has been screened for presidents of nations and environmental film festivals, and has aired on both the National Geographic channel and Nat Geo WILD.

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James Kydd
Photographer
James Kydd
 Photographer
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James Kydd is a wildlife photographer and international safari guide with a passion for Africa who connects people to wildernesses across the globe. Kydd is a founder of the blog site Ranger Diaries, a platform to promote guides and photographers and celebrate the wildlife they work with. He has accompanied the Okavango Wilderness Project team on several expeditions, documenting their work. When not on safari he is based in Cape Town, South Africa.

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Kostadin Luchansky
Photographer
Kostadin Luchansky
 Photographer
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Konstadin Luchansky was born in Bulgaria and has lived in Angola for 28 years. He has a biology undergraduate degree, specializing in ornithology. In 2011 he decided to dedicate himself entirely to his passion for photography, transforming his hobby into a career. Founder of the Angola Image Bank, he has traveled from Cabinda to he has traveled from Cabinda to Cunene photographing Angola and has accompanied the Okavango Wilderness Project team over the years documenting their expeditions.

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Mauro Sergio
Photographer
Mauro Sergio
 Photographer
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Born in Luanda, Angola, Mauro Sergio travels across Angola documenting the life of local people and nature. While on expedition he spends most of his time taking photos of the team and villagers engaged with the project.

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Steve Spence
Film Production
Steve Spence
 Film Production
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Steve Spence specializes in film pre-production and production; his experience spans six continents. From exploring remote tropical islands in the South Pacific to sledding on ice flows in northern Greenland, he has a passion for capturing the natural world on camera. Spence received his bachelor’s degree in television production from Western Kentucky University and is completing his M.F.A. in wildlife film production from Montana State University.

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The HALO Trust

The HALO Trust is an international humanitarian organization that focuses on removing landmines in areas emerging from conflict. It has been working in Angola for two decades and has destroyed more than 92,000 landmines—clearing 800 minefields over 22,600 hectares of land. It is currently focused on the more rural areas in Angola, where the threat of mines isolates remote villages and poses a real danger to their inhabitants. The HALO Trust is an essential partner on Okavango Wilderness Project expeditions and accompanies the team on all missions to remove and detonate remaining mines and to ensure that the routes are clear.


In addition to the team listed above, the National Geographic Okavango Wilderness Project also incorporates polers from Angola, Zambia, and Botswana during various expeditions on short-term contracts. Various specialists from different countries are also involved in the project in a diversity of capacities and we are thankful to all involved in the expeditions, research, administration, logistics, media, and report writing.

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