Dee Boersma


Expeditions Council Grantee, Committee for Research and Exploration Grantee

Two magellanic penguins on beach

Photograph by Tom Brakefield, Getty Images

Photo: Dee Boersma

Photograph by Jeff Smith

Birthplace: Mount Pleasant, Michigan

Current City: Seattle, Washington

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

An entomologist.

How did you get started in your field of work?

I started catching butterflies and moths when I was eight years old.

What inspires you to dedicate your life to your work?

I love wildlife, wild places, and penguins.

What's a normal day like for you?

There are no normal days, which is why I like my life. I teach students, research penguins, write research papers, give speeches, and walk beaches looking for penguins with bands.

Do you have a hero?

I have lots of heroes that have in some way made the world a better place. Many of my heroes are my friends, family, and associates. Dr. William Conway, because he had a vision of what the Wildlife Conservation Society could do for wild creatures and wild places and he led the organization for 40 years to make a difference. Dr. Gordon Orians, because his clear thinking can see solutions where others can't; Dr. Sylvia Earle for trying to save the ocean; and Dr. Estella Leopold, COSMOS prize winner for making the land ethic common knowledge around the world.

What has been your favorite experience in the field? The most challenging?

Living on Fernandina Island in the Galápagos was both my most challenging and favorite experience. Although no people lived on the island, there were lots of marine iguanas, penguins, and sea lions—to name but a few creatures—that made living there an enriching experience. It's scary to be put on an island without a connection to people except that in a couple of weeks a boat is supposed to return to pick you up.

What are your other passions?

Penguins and wildlife are top passions.

What do you do in your free time?

Travel and spend time outside.

If you could have people do one thing to help save wildlife, what would it be?

Everyone can do something to make the world better or an easier place for wildlife to survive. We need to make the Earth sustainable for other species. Humans are out of balance. There are over seven billion humans and that's too many. So as individuals we can change the way we live by altering how we live and what we eat or choosing to not have any children. Collectively and as individuals, we can support institutions that we think are making the world a better place. It's our responsibility, but people forget that they owe the planet and life good decisions based on sound science.


In Their Words

Everyone can do something to make the world better or an easier place for wildlife to survive. We need to make the Earth sustainable for other species.

—Dee Boersma

Our Explorers in Action

See Photos »

Meet All Our Explorers

  • NationalGeographic_1289095-flag.jpg

    Explorers A-Z

    At the heart of our explorers program is the quest for knowledge through exploration and the people who make it possible.

  • Photo: Michael Lombardi diving

    Explorers by Category

    Browse our different areas of exploration and discover the fascinating people behind the projects.