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I was in Washington D.C. at the National Geographic Society headquarters a few weeks ago, attending the orientation week for the National Geographic Young Explorer Leadership and Development Program. I was lucky to be chosen as a part of an incredibly talented group of 15, the first cohort selected for leadership development by the Society. Our group comprised people from 11 countries, and professions ranging from conservation biologists to photojournalists and storytellers. This is an amazing bunch of inspirational people doing amazing work and I am glad to have found a lot of friends.

Enjoying the Solar Eclipse. ©Hannah Morales

The week in the U.S. capital was an orientation for the yearlong leadership program. It was intensive but full of fun and learning. It included leadership and public speaking training for the first two days, followed by storytelling, mentoring, blogging, grant writing, photography and use of social media for conservation purposes. In the evenings, we had dinners with influential people at the Society and other National Geographic Explorers. I was especially excited to be at the office of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone and many other things, and the second president of the Society.

During an intense class session. ©Shivan Parusnath

One key component of the orientation was the launch of the mentoring program. Each young explorer was paired with an experienced National Geographic explorer who would guide us in defining our life goals, at least for the next year, and help us build the necessary skills to realize those goals. While applying to this program, I had expressed both my love for photography and my desire to do science that can make a difference, and luckily, I was given two mentors: Steve Winter, who is an award-winning wildlife photographer and a storyteller, and Luke Dollar who heads the Big Cats Initiative at the National Geographic. We have been constantly in touch over mails and skype calls.

Over the next months, I will be attending webinars and I will also be working with National Geographic educators, doing professional exchanges with them and connecting with classrooms through virtual hangouts.

The program will conclude next year in June 2018 at the National Geographic Explorers Festival in Washington D.C.

Editor’s Note: Follow the Voices blog for dispatches from the first class of the Young Explorer Leadership and Development Program.

Fighting for a piece of Jumbo Slice pizza. ©Anusha Shankar

Tashi participated in the National Geographic Society Sciencetelling Bootcamp in Washington. D.C. The 15 National Geographic explorers in his group partnered with a team of National Geographic storytellers to develop personal and professional storytelling skills through public speaking, videography, photography, social media and blogging. The multi-day Sciencetelling course was created especially for scientists and conservationists to effectively communicate their work to audiences beyond peer-reviewed journals. A selection of their blog posts, photographs and videos are published on the Sciencetelling Stories blog. Learn more about National Geographic’s Sciencetelling Bootcamp program.

Bhutan-native Tashi Dhendup is a forestry officer at the Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research under Bhutan’s Department of Forest and Park Services. He has used camera traps in central and eastern Bhutan to document and study mainly endangered species, including the tiger and other smaller felids. Tashi also serves as a member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature/Species Survival Commission Cat Specialist Group. He is interested in understanding the ecology and conservation of wildcats using noninvasive monitoring tools. Tashi is also a World Wildlife Fund Russell E. Train Fellow pursuing a master’s degree in wildlife biology at the University of Montana. For his dissertation research, he is studying tigers in Bhutan using noninvasive genetic sampling. Tashi is a 2015 National Geographic Young Explorer grantee and is part of the 2017 Young Explorer Leadership and Development Program.

He participated in the National Geographic Society Sciencetelling Bootcamp in Washington. D.C. More than a dozen National Geographic explorers partnered with a team of National Geographic storytellers to develop personal and professional storytelling skills through public speaking, videography, photography, social media and blogging. The multi-day Sciencetelling course was created especially for scientists and conservationists to effectively communicate their work to audiences beyond peer-reviewed journals. A selection of their blog posts, photographs and videos are published on the Sciencetelling Stories blog. Learn more about National Geographic’s Sciencetelling Bootcamp program.