Sunday, July 5, 2009


The students are hard at work on their On Assignment projects, as well as occasionally speculating on what surprise we (the leaders) have in store for them on the fourth of July-- a barbeque on the beach! Each of the three On Assignment groups has taken a keen interest in their projects, which range from a small underwater census of marine life on a strand of kelp to a report on shark attacks in Monterey.

We spent most of today whale watching and were lucky enough to see two humpback whales breach; they landed in the water with a spectacular splash-- a few photographers even snapped pictures!

Yesterday On Assignment groups broke up to focus on and prepare for the final stretch of our adventure. At the end of the day we reunited and were treated to an engaging discussion with National Geographic expert Tierney Thys, who told us about the remarkable ocean sunfish. Tierney is one of the foremost experts on this bizarre creature, and her presentation was both informative and entertaining. The students were a little starstruck by the experts at first (understandably!), but lately have been quick to ask great questions. We've even seen students go so far as to follow Kip and Tierney out to their cars, asking questions the whole way.

All is well here. We'll be in touch soon!

-The whole crew at National Geographic On Campus at Monterey Bay

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cannery Row and The Deep Sea Super Falcon

Editor's Note: Today, another journalist-in-training, Lucia Lee, takes the reins.

After the dilemma of whether to kayak or snorkle was solved by mother nature (due to low visibility underwater), the students of National Geographic Expeditions set out on the ocean blue in a veritable flotilla of colorful vessels. A few other lucky explorers elected to test the PH levels of run-off water flowing into the beach with the founder of the Save The Whales Foundation.

Lunch was enjoyed at a park adjacent to Cannery Row and overlooking the scenic Pacific Ocean. Next the students witnessed the 30th dive of the Dea Sea Super Falcon submersible piloted by Graham Hawks, who co-holds the world record for the deepest solo dive ever. The submersible featured an innovative design similar to an airplane that made it fly underwater. The co-pilot--who had experience testing all kinds of experimental aircraft--stepped out of the Falcon after his first ride ever and gasped, "That...was really cool." We ended the day with an intense game of the legendary Yoga Ball Soccer.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day 2: The Monterey Bay Aquarium and National Geographic Experts

EDITOR'S NOTE: For our second blog entry, NGSE's blogger-in-residence has elected to pass the keyboard to one of our journalists-in-training, Christina Spiewak. After spending the day blasting aquarium guides with question upon question, Christina still had enough energy to crank out 250 words (like a true journalist).

Day 2

Today, the students experienced their first outing as National Geographic explorers, departing UCSMB campus to explore the world renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium. This former sardine canning factory is home to a number of exhibits ranging from jelly fish to sea otters. As any visitor to the aquarium could testify, it's difficult not to be mesmerized by the wonder that is marine life. Marine biology, journalism and photography students alike took notes on the world below the surface of the ocean.

After two hours of exploration, the students were divided into groups and given behind the scenes tours of the aquarium. They witnessed the workings that go into sustaining these creatures as well as the work required for such a massive undertaking. Stories of octopus escape artists and rapidly growing kelp kept the students interested and curious to learn more. A walk through the lively town of Monterey brought the students to a local beach inhabited by a number of sea lions. Lying lazily on the rocky shores, these sea mammals posed for pictures and entertained onlookers with their stubborn feelings towards humans.

The day concluded with an introduction to the National Geographic experts, Tierney Thys and Kip Evans. Tierney entertained the group with a biology lesson and a catchy rap for remembering the eight phylum that make up the animal kingdom. Kip explained that he would be accompanying the group on a journey to Big Sur on Tuesday. The first official day of exploring gave the students an up and close look at the marine ecosystem along with a glimpse at the beauty of Monterey; an exciting start to the many explorations to come.

Below is a photograph of one of the more popular exhibits at the aquarium: The jelly fish.

Photo taken by student Alex Mastromarchi

Monday, June 29, 2009

Greetings from Monterey Bay

Hello all,

The fearless leaders of National Geographic Student Expeditions fanned out across San Jose and San Francisco today, and gathered up our young, intrepid explorers who soon will be chronicling every nook and cranny of Monterey Bay.

Gathering up so many travelers took time, but we are now all safe and sound on the campus of California State University, Monterey Bay. After a leisurely half-day getting settled into our new digs, we feasted on some food and rallied the troops for a surprise evening trip to the beach. Though the fog rolled in, concealing much of the bay, the students did not hesitate to charge the water and get their feet wet! The moment we felt how chilly the Pacific is (many of us, including me, are east-coasters!) we elected to retreat to the sand.

One of our leaders, Alex, shot our first group photo at night and made it look like the photo was shot in the middle of the day. The photo is below, take a look!

Tomorrow we will head to the aquarium to get the students better acquainted with this remarkable environment.


Stephen, Kim, Brianna, Alex, and Peter

Monday, June 1, 2009

Meet the On Campus Leaders

2009 On Campus Monterey Bay A Leaders, left to right: Kim McCabe, Brianna McCoy Chapman, Peter Robbins, Stephen Brown, Alex Verrron


Alex Verron. St. Lawrence University, B.A. Alex majored in Fine Arts and Asian Studies at St. Lawrence, where he received the Jean Scribner Cashin Endowment for Fine Art Students. He spent a semester of his junior year at Rajasthan University in Jaipur, India, where he studied Hindi language and the Devinagri script. His six-month photo documentary on textile production in India was a featured exhibition in the Brush Art Gallery. Alex has worked as an events coordinator for Save the Whales in Connecticut; as a corporate photographer shooting conditions in textile mills for the Nissho Iwai Corporation in Shanghai, China; in New York City as a studio assistant for the Coastal Group, a Manhattan/Hong Kong based advertising agency; and as a sports photographer in Aspen, Colorado. His work has been published by several international outdoor magazines. Alex spent two summers teaching Intro and Advanced Photography at Putney Student Travel’s Excel at Amherst College Program. He co-led the National Geographic Student Expedition to India in 2008. He is currently based in Brooklyn, NY, where he is building his commercial portfolio.


Peter Robbins. Kenyon College, B.A. Pete majored in Chinese Language and minored in Religious Studies at Kenyon, where he also took numerous courses in film and digital photography. His interest in Mandarin brought him to Middlebury for the Middlebury College Summer Language School intensive Chinese program, and to Beijing and Hangzhou where he studied abroad at the CET and Middlebury programs. After leaving Hangzhou, Pete backpacked through rural parts of China in Guangxi, Guizhou, and Sichuan provinces, taking photographs, living with farmers, and learning about their way of life. His landscapes and portraits of life in rural China have been featured in several exhibitions at his alma mater, Kenyon College. In 2007 Pete worked as a journalist and photographer for a Chinese language newspaper in Portland, Oregon, and in 2008 he taught Chinese language in Putney Student Travel’s Excel China program. In his spare time he enjoys hiking, skiing, sailing, playing frisbee, and experimenting with odd films, filters, and homemade cameras. Among other things, Pete constructs and sells his very own pinhole camera kits.

Marine Biology

Brianna McCoy Chapman. University of California, Berkeley. B.A.; B.S. Brianna received simultaneous degrees in Integrative Biology and Conservation & Resource Studies at Berkeley. She was an undergraduate instructor in a marine mammals course and a volunteer at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, where she dissected and prepared reptile skeletons. Brianna completed a Wildland Studies field course in Big Sur, California, where she conducted an otter census and a steelhead stream survey. She participated in a semester-long field project in fall 2008 on the island of Mo’orea, French Polynesia, where she completed a research project on Himantura fai, the pink whipray. Brianna is a certified SCUBA diver and has been diving in Polynesia, the Mexican Caribbean, and Australia. She is passionate about marine biology and is intimately familiar with the ecology and resources of the Monterey coast.

Marine Biology

Kimberly McCabe. Connecticut College. B.S. Kim graduated cum laude from Connecticut, where she majored in Biological Sciences. She participated in the Sea Semester program based in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, where she researched population dynamics and ecological relationships within the Atlantic Ocean’s Sargassum seaweed ecosystem. She spent a summer as an ordinary seaman on the U.S. Brig Niagara, in Erie, Pennsylvania, and another summer as a deckhand on the Ocean Classroom Foundation’s vessel, the Harvey Gamage. In the fall of 2007 Kim returned to the Ocean Classroom Foundation, where she spent three semesters teaching marine science, leading hiking and snorkeling expeditions, and chaperoning and managing students as a marine educator. Kim worked on an organic coffee farm in Costa Rica and taught snowboarding at the Breckenridge Ski Resort in Colorado. She is an active member of the Pembroke Watershed Association, helping to preserve and restore the ponds near her hometown in Massachusetts. Next fall Kim will return to the Ocean Classroom Foundation as head educator and science educator for the foundation’s semester at sea program.


Stephen Brown. University of North Carolina, Wilmington; New York University, M.A. Stephen recently completed a Master's in Journalism and Latin American Studies at NYU and is now working for The Daily Beast, a Web-site run by magazine maven Tina Brown. He has reported from indigenous communities in Ecuador, and written for the New York Post and The New York Times. Stephen majored in Spanish at U.N.C. and spent a summer in Quito, Ecuador. A year later he was abroad again, this time in Curitiba, Brazil, studying history and literature. Stephen worked for UNC-EP, a statewide university exchange program in North Carolina, and has traveled extensively throughout southern Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Costa Rica. He led Putney Student Travel Community Service programs to Ecuador (2007) and Costa Rica (2008).


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 program will help keep you informed about the activities, projects and successes of the program. Please keep in mind that 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. 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.

Best wishes from us all at National Geographic Student Expeditions