Renowned duo share their adventures with students and faculty as part of exclusive NTU-Nat Geo partnership
Not many can lay claim to having circumnavigated the globe in search of the rarest species of shark, or risking danger to film a documentary to reveal hard truths about the illegal ivory trade in Africa.
But veteran award-winning American underwater photographer Brian Skerry and up-and-coming Hong Kong conservationist Laurel Chor can. The duo were at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) on Friday (22 Jan) and Monday (25 Jan) for National Geographic Live, where they share their experiences and knowledge with students, faculty and the public.
The session “Emerging Explorer” by Chor and “Ground Process” a photography lecture by Skerry both drew strong turnouts on Monday. More than 1,100 people had also registered to attend Monday evening’s public talk titled “Ocean Wild by Nat Geo underwater photographer Brian Skerry”.
NTU has partnered National Geographic since 2014, bringing a series of exclusive sessions to NTU students and faculty, where National Geographic explorers share their experience and knowledge, including behind-the-scenes stories from the front lines of exploration.
NTU Provost, Professor Freddy Boey believes events like the National Geographic Live can help the University achieve a greater level of buy-in from its students and faculty by raising awareness and understanding of environmental and conservation issues.
“We could not have found a better partner than National Geographic in our mission to create greater awareness and understanding about environmental sustainability among the public,” said Prof Boey. “Indeed the National Geographic Live series complements NTU’s own efforts to promote environmental sustainability. NTU today is a global leader in this area, and is at the forefront of addressing the world's sustainability issues through education, research and outreach.”
Apart from playing a leading role in sustainability research, NTU has invested in physical infrastructure and amenities as part of its aim of becoming one of the world’s most sustainable and energy-efficient campuses by 2020.
Through its Eco-Campus Initiative, NTU aims to achieve a 35% reduction of its energy and waste consumption through research, test-bedding and implementation of the latest sustainable technologies on its 200-hectare campus.
Bringing science and the environment alive
The strong turnout for the National Geographic Live at NTU over the two days was hardly surprising, considering the pedigree of both speakers (see Annex). And they lived up to their impressive billings.
In her talks, Chor emphasised the importance of exploration and the wildlife found in urban areas. She also spoke of how she pushed for a crowd-based campaign to build an online database on Hong Kong’s local wildlife and help shed its image as an urban jungle.
In his presentations, Skerry spoke about what inspired him, his experience from working in various locations worldwide, and explained how he prepared for his National Geographic assignments. He also highlighted key concerns and issues facing the environment.
Skerry and Chor believe that the collaboration between NTU and National Geographic can offer perspectives that cannot be found in the classroom.
“Having access to professionals outside the classroom allows students to open their minds to what is truly possible,” said Skerry. “They can learn from our success and failure in real terms, and from the stories we share about the experiences we’ve had and can be inspired and motivated by the enthusiasm evident in a live presentation.”
Chor, who regards her time spent working in a gorilla conservation in the Central African Republic as among her most memorable, added: “Sometimes, in our over-stimulated society, we get a bit emotionally and mentally fatigued, and our minds and spirits become stagnant.
“For me, meeting people who are doing different, exciting things or simply have big ideas is inspiring. It makes me think about all the other people I could connect to, all the other projects I could do, and it gets my creative juices flowing. Hopefully when students meet people like National Geographic explorers and photographers, they would be inspired to pursue their dreams or do something they’ve always wanted to do but never had to courage to.”
Although their presentations were global in outlook, Skerry and Chor believe what they shared are relevant to Singapore and the region.
“Singapore is a key ocean region and a leader in ocean matters,” said Skerry. “I believe that the stories and information I shared will add perspective by examining other regions and the issues faced globally.”
Chor also said: “Like in Hong Kong, children (here) are spending too much time inside and looking at electronic devices rather than getting their hands dirty and exploring the outdoors,” she said. “Both cities – like the rest of the world – have a lot to lose if we don’t encourage our future generations to become environmental stewards who believe in the importance of nature with every fibre of their being.”
The National Geographic Live series are held in more than 30 cities, including New York, Los Angeles and Sydney.
In August last year, NTU co-hosted the National Geographic Live with the Esplanade which featured Skerry and renowned space engineer Kobie Boykins from the United States’ National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA).
In 2014 NTU co-sponsored the inaugural National Geographic Live series in Singapore which featured legendary underwater photographer David Doubilet and intrepid filmmaker Bryan Smith.
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About Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
A research-intensive public university, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has 33,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students in the colleges of Engineering, Business, Science, Humanities, Arts, & Social Sciences, and its Interdisciplinary Graduate School. It has a joint medical school, the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, set up with Imperial College London.
NTU is also home to world-class autonomous institutes – the National Institute of Education, S Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Earth Observatory of Singapore, and Singapore Centre on Environmental Life Sciences Engineering – and various leading research centres such as the Nanyang Environment & Water Research Institute (NEWRI), Energy Research Institute @ NTU (ERI@N) and the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI).
Ranked 13th in the world, NTU has also been ranked the world’s top young university for the last two years running. The University’s main campus has been named one of the Top 15 Most Beautiful in the World. NTU also has a campus in Novena, Singapore’s medical district.
For more information, visit www.ntu.edu.sg
About Brian Skerry
Brian Skerry is a photojournalist specialising in marine wildlife and underwater environments. Since 1998, he has been a contract photographer for National Geographic magazine, covering a wide range of subjects and stories. An award-winning photographer, Skerry is famed for his aesthetic sense and journalistic drive for relevance.
He has spent more than 10,000 hours underwater over the last 30 years, and worked on assignment for or had images featured in magazines such as Sports Illustrated, U.S. News and World Report, BBC Wildlife, GEO, Smithsonian, Esquire, Audubon, and Men's Journal, as well as countless publications worldwide. National Geographic Books released his latest monograph, Ocean Soul, in November 2011.
Skerry frequently lectures on photography and conservation issues at venues such as TED Talks, Harvard University, the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and the Royal Geographical Society in London. He is also a regular guest on programmes such as NBC’s Today, CBS’s Sunday Morning, and ABC’s Good Morning America.
He has been recognised with numerous accolades, including the British Natural History Museum/BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year award (underwater category) in 2007, and the Peter Benchley Award for Excellence in Media in 2012.
About Laurel Chor
Laurel Chor is an adventurer, a conservationist, and a multimedia storyteller from Hong Kong. She is currently the writing, photographing and video-producing associate editor for online news website Coconuts Hong Kong. Having been to 60 countries by age 25, she was named a National Geographic Young Explorer, for which she received a grant to launch the Hong Kong Explorers Initiative to encourage people to appreciate the outdoors and wildlife.
She was appointed by famed British primatologist Dr Jane Goodall to be an ambassador for the Jane Goodall Institute Hong Kong. She also posed as a buyer and documented an illegal ivory market in the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is a member of the Explorers Club and is on the board of the Hong Kong Shark Foundation, which aims to stop the shark fin trade.
Chor graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., with a BS in International Health and a certificate in International Development, focusing on sexual and reproductive health and rights. She was also a global youth sexual and reproductive health and rights advocate, and lobbied the United States Congress to improve their international policies.
Fluent in French, and proficient in Cantonese, Mandarin and Spanish, she was born in Canada and raised in Hong Kong and Taiwan. She plays rugby, and is a member of the Hong Kong’s National Women’s 15s training squad, and reigning Hong Kong Women’s Premiership champions Valley Football Club.