Monday, June 1, 2009

Meet the Expedition Leaders

2009 Ecuador B Expedition Leaders, left to right: Elie Gardner, Jes Therkelsen, and Alex Silva

Wildlife & Conservation
Alexandra Silva. Cornell University, B.S. Alex was an Animal Science major and a Natural Resources minor at Cornell, with a special emphasis on wildlife and habitat preservation. She spent a semester at the Universidad San Fransisco de Quito’s Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation in the Galápagos program, where she studied and traveled the varied regions of Ecuador, including Quito, the rainforest and the Galápagos Islands. She served as a volunteer veterinary technician at CEMEII, an animal hospital on the island of San Cristóbal, where she worked directly with the Galápagos campaign to limit the damage caused by domestic cats and dogs, and as an animal keeper at the Santa Marta Rescue Center in Tambillo, Ecuador. At Cornell, Alex was a teaching assistant for a course on domestic animal biology, a journalist for the New York Forest Owner Association newsletter, and an administrative assistant for the Cornell Cooperative Extension. She worked as a veterinary technician at the VCA Berwyn Animal Hospital in Berwyn, Illinois. In the fall of 2009 she begins a two-year fellowship with Environment America, an environmental advocacy organization. Alex has traveled throughout Ecuador, Venezuela, and Chile. She is fluent in Spanish.


Elie Gardner. University of Missouri, B.J. Elie is an award-winning, St. Louis-based photojournalist and educator. She majored in Journalism at the University of Missouri and spent six months studying in San José, Costa Rica at the University of Costa Rica. She studied journalism and photography with the Associated Press’ Diverse Voices/Diverse Visions program and in a six-week fellowship at the Poynter Institute. Elie was a crew member for the Missouri Photo Workshop in 2003 and 2005, and directed the photo sequence at the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists’ Minority Journalism Workshop in 2007 and 2008, a position she will hold again in fall 2009. She completed photography internships with the Columbia Daily Tribune, the Grand Forks Herald, and The Tico Times in San José, Costa Rica, and worked as the online photo editor for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She is currently an adjunct professor at Webster University and a staff photographer at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Elie is proficient in Spanish. Some of her photography, multimedia and editing work may be viewed online at

Jes Therkelsen. Amherst College, B.A.; American University, M.F.A. Jes is a Washington D.C-based photographer, filmmaker, media consultant, and educator. He graduated magna cum laude from Amherst, where he majored in Geology and collaborated with NASA on his thesis project. After receiving a one-year Hellenic American Educational Fellowship to teach in Athens, Greece, he relocated to Washington DC to study social media at the Center for Social Media at American University. Jes has written, produced, and directed several award-winning independent films, and is the owner and founding director of Sensory Media Arts LLC, a Washington-based media production company. He serves as a lecturer in Film and Visual Media at American University and Catholic University in D.C. As a 2008 Advocacy Peace Fellow in Nepal, he initiated The Clean Hands Project – a media campaign meant to empower and mobilize Nepali Dalits by teaching them photography and video-making. The project may be viewed on-line at Jes’s photographs have been exhibited at numerous venues in Washington, including the Washington School of Photography, Touchstone Gallery, Tryst Café, Healing Arts Gallery, and the New Media Center at American University. He is currently a 2009 Washington D.C. Artist Fellow. Besides filmmaking and photography, Jes is an avid musician and composer.


Welcome family and friends of National Geographic Student Expeditions participants!

We have created this blog in order to keep you updated on the progress of your child’s National Geographic Student Expedition this summer. We hope that occasional updates throughout the expedition will help keep you informed about the activities, projects and successes of the program.

The expedition leaders will post entries approximately once per week during the program. The leaders’ first priority is the students and the program. If updates are infrequent, it is likely due to the group’s very busy schedule and inconsistent internet access. Please know that any important issues that arise during the program will be discussed and resolved with leaders and parents by phone, not through the blog.

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Best wishes from us all at National Geographic Student Expeditions