22 August 2013
Palaeoanthropologist Lee Berger from the Institute for Human Evolution at South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) has been named an explorer-in- residence for US magazine National Geographic.
Berger is renowned for his discovery of the most complete early hominin fossils discovered, Australopithecus sediba, at the Malapa cave at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in Gauteng.
“The explorers-in-residence programme was created to enhance National Geographic’s long-standing relationship with some of the world’s best explorers and scientists,” the magazine said.
“Our explorers’ groundbreaking discoveries fuel the kind of critical information, conservation initiatives and compelling stories that are the trademark of the National Geographic Society.”
Berger will continue his work at Malapa as an explorer – leading one of the largest palaeontological projects of over 100 scientists studying fossils.
“We’ll be opening excavations again at the Malapa site and creating a virtual online laboratory where people from around the world can observe and interact with the preparation of early-human fossils,” Berger said.
“We’ll also be developing an exploration academy to impart basic and advanced skills in exploration sciences to the next generation of explorers.”
Berger was awarded the National Geographic Society’s first Prize for Research and Exploration in 1997 and has written over 200 papers, several of which have been awarded “top science stories of the year” by Time, Scientific American and Discover magazines.
“Lee Berger perfectly embodies the new age of exploration that the National Geographic Society is celebrating in its 125th year,” said Mission Programs’ executive vice-president, Terry Garcia.
Mission Programs is run by National Geographic and offers conservation, research and exploration grants; the explorer programme falls under it.
“We’re honoured to have the chance to work directly with this dynamic explorer who is a pioneer in his field,” Garcia said.