Explorers

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Sandra Knapp is a specialist on the taxonomy of the nightshade family, Solanaceae, and has spent much time in the field in Central and South America collecting plants. Her particular focus of research is the taxonomy of Solanum, the genus that contains potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants. She has described more than 50 new species of plants, mostly in Solanum and mostly from the Neotropics. She came to the Natural History Museum, London, in 1992 to manage the international project Flora Mesoamericana - a synoptic inventory of the approximately 18,000 species of plants of southern Mexico and the isthmus of Central America.

Knapp is also the author of several popular books on the history of science and botanical exploration, including the award-winning Potted Histories (2004). She is the author of more than 150 peer-reviewed scientific papers and actively involved in promoting the role of taxonomy worldwide. In 2009 she was honored by the Peter Raven Outreach Award by the American Society of Plant Taxonomists and the UK National Biodiversity Network’s John Burnett Medal. She served as the President of the Nomenclature Section of the 18th International Botanical Congress in Melbourne, Australia in July 2011.

Knapp’s current projects include Flora Mesoamericana, a world-wide taxonomic monograph of the some 1500 species of the megadiverse genus Solanum (Solanaceae), collaborative research in phylogenetics and genomic evolution of Solanaceae, research into the domestication of Solanaceae crops such as eggplants in China, and a variety of conservation and biodiversity monitoring projects in the Neotropics, most recently in Paraguay.

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About the Global Exploration Fund

The National Geographic Society has funded the work of curious and inquiring men and women in every corner of the Earth—filling gaps in human knowledge, sometimes in spectacular ways. Since 1888, National Geographic has awarded more than 10,000 grants representing a combined value of $153 million. Scientific field research, exploration, conservation, and adventure are the backbone of National Geographic’s grants, which have led to countless discoveries that continue to shed light on the planet’s rich variety and diversity—and help to preserve it. The results from fieldwork are shared with audiences around the world through an array of National Geographic media, including print, broadcast, and online outlets, as well as events, exhibitions, and educational platforms.

The Global Exploration Fund is a global initiative modeled on National Geographic’s century-long approach to funding research, conservation, and exploration projects through targeted grant programs. Supported through funding partnerships, National Geographic plans to launch regional Global Exploration Funds around the world. Each fund will rely upon an intensive peer-review process to evaluate projects seeking funding and an advisory board of scientific and innovation experts to help guide the program to achieve regional priorities. The grantees and outcomes supported by the fund will benefit from National Geographic media and outreach.

National Geographic launched the Global Exploration Fund in 2011 in Sweden to extend support to scientists, conservationists, and explorers from the Northern Europe region who are advancing research and exploring solutions for the benefit of the planet. In 2012, the Global Exploration Fund expanded to China with a dedicated Air and Water Conservation Fund designed to focus China’s most creative scientific and conservation talent on solving problems confronting the country’s air and water resources.

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