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National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala launched the Pristine Seas project in 2008 to explore and help protect the last wild places in the ocean.

Spending weeks at sea, diving thousands of hours, and seeking out some of the least explored and understood places in the ocean, Sala and a small team of determined scientists and filmmakers have worked to inspire the creation of protected areas where marine life can thrive—while ensuring effective management for years to come.

Our partnerships with country leaders, business leaders, NGOs, and local governments and communities are critical to our success. Our work with them has inspired the establishment of some of the largest marine reserves in the world.

Pristine Seas is National Geographic’s largest initiative dedicated to environmental preservation. The National Geographic Society is a major nonprofit supporter of the environment.

Find out where we’ve been, meet our team below, and dive into each expedition and the exciting stories behind them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MEET THE TEAM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Executive Director

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Dr. Enric Sala
Explorer-in-Residence
Enric Sala is a former university professor who saw himself writing the obituary of ocean life, and quit academia to become a full-time conservationist as a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. He founded and leads Pristine Seas, a project that combines exploration, research, and media to inspire country leaders to protect the last wild places in the ocean. To date, Pristine Seas has helped to create 22 of the largest marine reserves on the planet, c...
Dr. Enric Sala
 Explorer-in-Residence
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Enric Sala is a former university professor who saw himself writing the obituary of ocean life, and quit academia to become a full-time conservationist as a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence. He founded and leads Pristine Seas, a project that combines exploration, research, and media to inspire country leaders to protect the last wild places in the ocean. To date, Pristine Seas has helped to create 22 of the largest marine reserves on the planet, covering an area of 5.8 million square km. He has earned numerous honors for his work, including 2008 World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leader, 2013 Explorers Club Lowell Thomas Award, 2013 Environmental Media Association Hero Award, 2016 Russian Geographical Society Award, and 2018 Heinz Award in Public Policy. He is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. Sala earned a B.S. in Biology from the University of Barcelona and a Ph.D. in ecology from Aix-Marseille University, France

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Operations and Expeditions

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Paul Rose
Expedition Leader
Paul Rose
 Expedition Leader
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One of the world’s most accomplished science divers, polar explorers and expedition leaders, Paul Rose helps scientists unlock and communicate global mysteries in the most remote and challenging regions of the planet. He is the expedition leader for National Geographic Pristine Seas, which has completed over 30 expeditions all over the globe. A broadcaster, published author and journalist, Rose presents BBC television programs on current affairs, science and the environment, including the highly acclaimed Oceans, Britain’s Secret Seas, Voyages of Discovery and the award winning series, The Lakes. Rose is an Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Programme. He is vice president of Deptherapy, a charity providing specially adapted scuba diving programs for seriously injured armed service personnel. Rose spent a decade as base commander of Rothera Research Station, Antarctica, for the British Antarctic Survey. For this he was awarded the Queen’s Polar Medal. He is a former vice president of the Royal Geographical Society, which awarded him its Founder’s Medal and Ness Award. A mountain has been named after him in Antarctica.

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Dave McAloney
Dive Safety and Logistics Officer
Dave McAloney
 Dive Safety and Logistics Officer
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Dave McAloney operates the hyperbaric chambers used on expeditions and is responsible for all diving gas systems. McAloney has 32 years of experience with underwater systems and has been a master scuba instructor since 1989. He is a certified manned submersible pilot with over 2,000 hours underwater, including on submarine rescue systems worldwide for the Navies of seven different countries. In addition, he is an ROV pilot, offshore superintendent, yacht master, and electrical engineer. He has been honored with the Explorers Club’s Lowell Thomas Award and the Russian Geographical Society Award.

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Patrick Hare
Director of Operations & Expeditions
Patrick Hare
 Director of Operations & Expeditions
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Patrick Hare leads special projects and oversees the operational, financial, and administrative activities of Pristine Seas. Hare has supervised and produced expeditions, media, and events for National Geographic and other organizations, including Smithsonian, Discovery, PBS, the National Park Service, Vulcan, and the Sundance Institute. He won a News and Documentary Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Research for the 2011 National Geographic documentary Can the Gulf Survive? Hare graduated from James Madison University with a degree in media arts and design and is a member of the Producers Guild of America.

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Sam Mandl
Program Specialist
Sam Mandl
 Program Specialist
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Sam Mandl supports expedition planning, contract management, and program logistics. He previously worked in science communication and education at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, the Blue Frontier Campaign, and the American Society for Microbiology. He graduated from Dickinson College with a bachelor’s degree in biology, and discovered his passion for environmental studies and conservation while studying abroad at the University of Queensland.

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Shirin Esmaeili
Program Coordinator
Shirin Esmaeili
 Program Coordinator
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Shirin Esmaeili supports expedition planning, program logistics and leads several digital media projects. Previously, Esmaeili worked with a startup based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She also worked on a GIS consultancy with NASA, where her team combined scientific data with traditional knowledge from indigenous communities to better understand the effects of climate change on agricultural management in Peru. Esmaeili received a Master’s in GIS and a bachelor’s degree in Geography and Communication and Culture from Clark University.

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Research

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Dr. Alan Friedlander
Chief Scientist
Dr. Alan Friedlander
 Chief Scientist
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Over the past 35 years Alan Friedlander has spent over 10,000 hours underwater—among coral reefs, to depths of thousands of meters, and at both poles. He is chief scientist and director of research for Pristine Seas as well as director of the Fisheries Ecology Research Laboratory at the University of Hawai‘i. Friedlander leads research efforts to help understand and conserve the last wild places in the ocean and his work on marine conservation ranges from small-scale, community-managed areas to some of the largest protected areas on the planet. He has authored over 200 scientific publications, which have been cited over 10,000 times. Friedlander received a Master’s in Oceanography from Old Dominion University, a Ph.D. from the University of Hawai‘i, and was a National Research Council postdoctoral associate. He is a fellow of both the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club.

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Enric “Kike” Ballesteros
Marine Ecologist
Enric “Kike” Ballesteros
 Marine Ecologist
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Enric “Kike” Ballesteros has been part of the Pristine Seas team since its inception. As a field naturalist his interests are focused on marine and freshwater ecosystems. His chief responsibility on expeditions is to describe benthic assemblages, the biodiversity occurring at the bottom of the ocean. Based at the Centre d’Estudis Avançats de Blanes in Spain, he has primarily studied the Mediterranean region. He specializes in seaweed and seagrass taxonomy and ecology and has a deep understanding of marine invertebrates. His main areas of research include habitat mapping and description, the effects of introduced species on ecosystems, seaweed ecology, and the long-term monitoring of benthic communities. He has authored several books on marine algae, mushrooms, and the biology and ecology of marine Mediterranean ecosystems. His book Marine Wildlife of the Mediterranean (2015) has been translated to Spanish, French, Turkish, Dutch, German and Catalan. He has contributed to numerous other books and more than 300 research papers.

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Michael Fay
Michael Fay
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In 1997 Mike Fay walked 2,000 miles across an unexplored forest corridor in central Africa. His documentation of trees, wildlife, and human impacts led to the protection of an incredible 11,000 square miles of intact forest in Gabon. This work became a model for Pristine Seas founder Enric Sala when he began leading similar expeditions underwater for the protection of the sea. Fay has participated in many Pristine Seas expeditions, exploring and documenting life and human impacts on nearby land areas. He also performed the 2004 Megaflyover of Africa and the 2008 Redwood Transect. Fay has now returned to Africa, where he is helping the government of Gabon stop illegal fishing and establish the marine protected areas named as a result of a 2012 Pristine Seas expedition that explored Gabon’s coastal waters.

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Pelayo Salinas de León
Conservation Scientist
Pelayo Salinas de León
 Conservation Scientist
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Pelayo Salinas de León is a marine ecologist with a keen interest in marine protected areas, shark ecology, and the communication of science. Since 2016 he has served as the project’s conservation scientist. He has also been a senior marine ecologist with the Charles Darwin Foundation for the Galápagos Islands since 2012. While on expedition with Pristine Seas, he operates remote camera systems to quantify the diversity and abundance of large predatory fishes and sharks. Salinas de León is based in the Galápagos islands, where he has co-authored more than 50 scientific papers on the ecology of the Galápagos’ marine ecosystems, with a special focus on highly migratory sharks and previously unexplored deep-sea ecosystems. In 2020, he founded GUPU, a non-profit that works with artisanal fishermen to maximize their economic returns and reinvest profits in the environmental, social and economic sustainability of fishing within the Galápagos. Salinas de León received his Ph.D. from Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. Prior to fulfilling his childhood dream of working in the Galápagos, he was involved in several research and conservation projects in Spain, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Cuba.

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Juan Mayorga
Marine Data Scientist
Juan Mayorga
 Marine Data Scientist
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Juan Mayorga is a marine data scientist working to leverage emerging Earth monitoring technologies and datasets to catalyze marine conservation. Mayorga is based at the University of California Santa Barbara’s Environmental Market Solutions Lab. His work combines data science, marine ecology, economics, and conservation planning to better understand human activities at sea and distill actionable insights to advance conservation. He leads Pristine Seas’ partnership with Global Fishing Watch, an open-source technology platform that tracks industrial fishing activity with unprecedented resolution and in near-real time. By making fisheries data transparent, this collaboration has been instrumental in accelerating ocean protection since it allows us to assess the economic implications of protected areas and have transparent and well-informed decision-making processes. His most recent work involves developing a state-of-the-art conservation prioritization framework to identify the most critical places in the ocean to protect biodiversity, safeguard carbon stocks, and improve fisheries yields. Mayorga holds a master’s in environmental science and management from UC Santa Barbara.

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Whitney Goodell
Marine Researcher
Whitney Goodell
 Marine Researcher
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Whitney Goodell is a marine ecologist and geospatial analyst committed to pushing the needle of ocean conservation and ecosystem health in a positive direction. Her work ranges from local-scale marine management efforts to global-scale ecological studies, from vibrant coastal ecosystems to the dark unknown of the deep sea. She works with National Geographic Pristine Seas, contributing to research efforts to better understand and protect the ocean’s remaining pristine ecosystems. Goodell concurrently works with NG Exploration Technology Lab as part of a team that explores the deep sea using drop-camera systems, helping to shed light on biodiversity patterns of this mysterious part of our Earth. She is also involved in ongoing conservation research in coastal Mozambique, contributing to the development and adaptation of local-scale management efforts. Previously, Goodell was a Fulbright Award recipient and conducted near-shore fisheries research in Brazil. With an appreciation of multimodal approaches to ecosystem conservation, Goodell explores many ways to better understand and protect our ocean. Back

Public Affairs

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Dan Myers
Director of Public Affairs
Dan Myers
 Director of Public Affairs
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Dan Myers works with a team of global experts to support the creation, expansion and sustainable management of marine reserves around the world. Myers has an extensive background in environmental policy and communications. Prior to National Geographic, he served as assistant director of communications for former United States Vice President Al Gore in support of his efforts to build awareness and promote solutions to the global climate crisis. Myers graduated from Dickinson College with a bachelor's degree in environmental studies and a master’s degree in international relations from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

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Alex Muñoz
Director of Policy, Latin America
Alex Muñoz
 Director of Policy, Latin America
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Alex Muñoz has led campaigns that have resulted in the creation of the seven largest fully protected marine reserves in Latin America, covering 1.2 million square kilometers of ocean. He has also led many important ocean policy changes in Chile, which touch on a diverse collection of ocean management issues: banning shark finning, fighting for protections against salmon farming and unchecked antibiotic use, legal protections against destructive fishing practices, and minimizing the impacts of coal-fired power plants on marine habitat. He also put together the first Latin American fellowship course on transparency, accountability and anti-corruption. He was named a Yale World Fellow by Yale University in 2019. Muñoz received a law degree from the University of Chile and a master's degree in international and comparative law from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

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Adrian Gahan
Director of Policy, United Kingdom
Adrian Gahan
 Director of Policy, United Kingdom
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Adrian Gahan represents National Geographic Pristine Seas in the United Kingdom. He has more than 10 years of political experience in London, Brussels, and Washington DC, and has been central to the U.K. campaign to establish and implement a ‘blue belt’ of at least four million square kilometers of ocean under protection across a number of UK Overseas Territories. Gahan was managing director of Sancroft, a London and Washington DC based sustainability consultancy. He was policy adviser to a number of Members of Parliament and his legislative record includes advising on the Climate Change Act 2008, the world’s first legally binding legislation to reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 80 percent by 2050. Gahan has also worked with the Delegation of the European Commission to the United States in Washington, D.C. He has a degree in european studies from the University of Cambridge and is a dual British-Irish national.

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Sydney McDonald
Program Coordinator
Sydney McDonald
 Program Coordinator
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Sydney McDonald supports the Pristine Seas executive director and the policy team. Prior to joining the National Geographic Society, she worked for Deloitte & Touche as an analyst for FEMA’s floodplain mapping program. Previously, she established foundational operations processes for the Obama and Biden post-administration offices. She has also worked for the National Aquarium and U.S. Department of the Interior. McDonald graduated from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. with a bachelor’s degree in international environmental studies, and studied social sciences at University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands.

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Media

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Scott Ressler
Senior Producer
Scott Ressler
 Senior Producer
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As senior producer, Scott Ressler is responsible for all of Pristine Seas’ production and leads the media team. He has filmed and produced documentaries for multiple Pristine Seas expeditions, in addition to creating policy videos and graphics spanning all of Pristine Seas’ interests. Ressler also produced and directed The Last Ice, Pristine Seas’ first feature-length film. Ressler has worked in television and documentary for over 15 years, producing, shooting, and editing video for networks including National Geographic, A&E, the History Channel, and Discovery. He graduated from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University with a degree in film production, focusing on documentary and screenwriting.

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Manu San Félix
Underwater Cinematographer
Manu San Félix
 Underwater Cinematographer
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Manu San Félix is a marine biologist and has been a professional diver since 1981, he has conducted approximately 12,000 dives. He is an open circuit and rebreather instructor with more than 20 specialties as a dive instructor and professional skipper. During his university studies he linked science and photography to become a “biologist with a camera.” He has worked for Pristine Seas since 2009 as an underwater image director. San Félix has won Wildlife Photographer of the Year and World Festival of Underwater Pictures, two of the most prestigious underwater photography awards.

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Jon Betz
Director of Photography
Jon Betz
 Director of Photography
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Jon Betz is a cinematographer and producer specializing in science and natural history storytelling. Filming for National Geographic since 2010, Betz has covered stories in 25 countries across the globe, including subjects such as steppe wolves in Mongolia, paleontology expeditions in the Arctic, and cutting-edge health research in Madagascar. Originally trained as a biologist, Betz is passionate about the natural world and is an avid scuba diver and outdoorsman. As a cinematographer he has broad experience across diverse areas of production, from commercial and political work to feature documentaries. Always willing to push the limits to tell the most compelling and cinematic story, Betz has found himself face-to-face with tigers in India, on an island covered with snakes in northern China, wading through croc-inhabited waters in Botswana, and, of course, diving with sharks. Betz has worked as a field producer and cinematographer on five Pristine Seas expeditions since 2016. His work has also been featured by Smithsonian, Discovery, and Animal Planet.

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Brian Newell
Senior Editor
Brian Newell
 Senior Editor
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Brian Newell writes and edits documentary films and shorts about ocean conservation. He graduated with a B.A. in film studies from Connecticut College in 2005. He has edited shows for History, Discovery, Travel Channel, PBS, and others.

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Alex Verville
Producer
Alex Verville
 Producer
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Alexandra Verville has a wide variety of experience producing stories about science and conservation for television, digital media, and independent documentaries. For Pristine Seas, she produces and edits videos about the team's expeditions, including an expedition to Tristan da Cunha, the most remote inhabited islands on the planet. Previously, she worked on productions for PBS, Frontline, and Smithsonian. Verville received a bachelor’s degree in film studies from Wesleyan University, with a focus on documentary filmmaking and anthropology.

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Steve Spence
Producer
Steve Spence
 Producer
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Steve Spence is a producer and cameraman who has traveled the world on numerous film shoots for National Geographic. He has interviewed over 20 world leaders, taken a five-month canoe trip down an African river, sledded with pack dogs on Arctic ice floes, visited tropical Pacific islands and navigated the fjords of Patagonia. He holds a bachelor's degree in broadcasting from Western Kentucky University.

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Ashley Green
Production Manager
Ashley Green
 Production Manager
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Ashley Green works closely with the video, operations and policy team on all video production needs. Ashley brings a decade of experience in production ranging from public access television, broadcast network television, digital streaming services and independent feature films. Ashley holds a bachelor’s degree in communications and media production from Salisbury University.

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Sam Deleon
Associate Producer
Sam Deleon
 Associate Producer
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Samuel Deleon primarily works in postproduction for all Pristine Seas documentaries and is also assisting with the feature-length documentary The Last Ice. Deleon’s experience includes producing feature films, documentaries, reality TV, commercials, and educational content. He received a B.S. in film and television production from Full Sail University.

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Tess Goldhagen
Associate Producer
Tess Goldhagen
 Associate Producer
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Tess Goldhagen supports the pre- and post-production work of multiple documentaries, including the upcoming feature-length film The Last Ice. Before working at National Geographic, Tess worked at non-profit organizations based in the United States, Ecuador and Uganda focused on social and environmental rights. Tess holds a bachelor’s degree in international development from McGill University.

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Exploration Technology

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Alan Turchik
Product Development Manager
Alan Turchik
 Product Development Manager
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Alan Turchik is the product development manager for the National Geographic Exploration Technology Lab. He started with the Exploration Technology Lab as a mechanical engineer, designing a variety of devices for use in conservation and exploration, from camera systems to underwater robots. Alan currently leads the Deep Sea Research Project, which takes deep ocean video data from Pristine Seas expeditions, and analyzes it to create a better understanding of global deep ocean biodiversity.

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Brad Henning
Electrical Engineer
Brad Henning
 Electrical Engineer
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Brad Henning is an electrical engineer for the Society’s Exploration Technology Lab. He designs electrical hardware and software systems that the group uses to produce custom imaging and lighting equipment. His work has taken him around the world on scientific expeditions and photographic assignments with scientists, explorers, photographers, and filmmakers. He received a B.S. in electrical engineering from South Dakota State University. Previously, he was a research assistant with South Dakota State University’s Satellite Image Processing Laboratory where his research involved the performance characterization of Landsat 8’s multispectral imaging sensor.

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Founding Sponsor

Blancpain


Additional Support Provided By

The Brook Foundation, The Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment, Jean and Steve Case, Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, DAVIDOFF Cool Water, The Don Quixote Foundation, Roger and Rosemary Enrico, Helmsley Charitable TrustLindblad Expeditions–National Geographic Fund, Oracle, Philip Stephenson Foundation, Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, Vicki and Roger Sant, The Waitt Foundation, and other individual donors

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