Photograph by Alexandria Bombach, Nat Geo Image Collection
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National Geographic Explorer, Greg Treinish
Photograph by Alexandria Bombach, Nat Geo Image Collection

Gregg Treinish, Founder of Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation

Charged by a hippo and temporarily blinded by gorilla poop, this explorer gets into sticky situations.

Gregg Treinish founded Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation in 2011 with a strong passion for both scientific discovery and exploration.

The organization addresses the world’s environmental challenges, where access to physical data is crucial to overcoming them. By leveraging the skills of the adventure community, the group is uniquely able to gather difficult-to-attain data on any scale in any environment. An example is the Harvard Medical School project, where a collection of scat samples is helping to identify a common ancestor of the Enterococcus genus of bacteria—ultimately to identify the gene responsible for antibiotic resistance.

Where does your work take you?

I was recently in Denali National Park learning about their zero-landfill partnership with Subaru. (I was mostly there to shoot a commercial.) In April, I was in Uganda volunteering with a group that monitors gorilla scat to see if humans are transmitting diseases to the gorillas. Our work happens around the world; therefore, my travel happens around the world.

What’s the most surprising thing that’s happened to you while traveling as a National Geographic explorer?

Getting charged by a hippo in the Okavango Delta was quite something. We had been poling for days in the heart of the delta when we were navigating our way through a hippo pod. After one went under the water, 20 heads slowly emerged. We were in shallow water that held the makoro (canoe) back from moving quickly and a male bull began to bluff charge us. I remember feeling his breath a mere 15 feet away. It was intense.

Have you encountered any sticky situations while traveling?

Openness, creativity, persistence: This is my key. I remain calm and deal with the situation at hand. I search for the solution, which is almost always there to be found, and I never give up. My expeditions are full of sticky situations—that is what makes them adventures.

When traveling, what do you never leave home without?

A conservation mission.

Have you encountered any travel snafus along the way?

Most recently in Uganda I woke up in the middle of the night and I was blind in my left eye. Now, I'm still not fully sure if this is a result of playing with gorilla poop, or if it was from mountain biking with zebras and eland, or if it was simply from wearing my contacts at night (which I have done for more than 20 years), but I woke up and couldn't see; my eye was swollen and raining down tears. It took about two or three weeks before I could see out of the eye again. No doctors have been able to tell me what happened.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve eaten in the field?

In Mongolia, I ate dried yogurt. It was hard, and without much taste—not that weird. I've eaten so many bugs I can't count. One taste that has always surprised me is ants. They taste like lemons! Not just a little bit, either; they really do taste like lemons.

Tell us about a time you surprised yourself.

I am constantly pushing my limits. I am constantly pushing the boundaries of what I "know" I can do. From hiking the length of the Andes Mountains to skiing for 26 days across frozen Mongolia, I am always on the edge when on expedition.