EcoBlitz Team

Kimi Waite, Ph.D.

Team Lead/PI & Teacher Educator

Dr. Kimi Waite is a social justice educator and is passionate about inspiring and leading PK-12 students and teachers to take local action for global change. An Asian American educator-activist-scholar and critical qualitative researcher, her experience in education spans from K-5 public school teaching, K-12 in-service teacher professional development, and pre-service teacher education for future elementary educators. She has received awards and fellowships from organizations such as The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE), The California Council for the Social Studies, The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, UCLA Center for Diverse Leadership in Science, and The National Geographic Society. She has an M.Ed. from UCLA and a Ph.D. in Sustainability Education from Prescott College. She is an Assistant Professor of Child & Family Studies at California State University, Los Angeles. 

Kimi is a 2021 Civics Environmental Education Fellow with NAAEE, and currently serves as an alumni advisor. As the EcoBlitz team leader, she is leading the expansion and scaling of EcoBlitz as a continuation of her NAAEE fellowship project, with the support of a National Geographic Society grant. She is the instructor for the EcoBlitz microcredential course which was co-designed with EcoBlitz team member Jessica Lura. Kimi taught the spring 2022 online course through Teachers College of San Joaquin, and the spring 2023 course through Cal Poly Humboldt College of Extended Education & Global Engagement. The course will be offered in spring 2024 through Cal Poly Humboldt.

Explorer Community HUb: Philippines

Led by Ellie De Castro and Erina Molina

The EcoBlitz Team is honored to partner with the National Geographic Explorer Community Hub in the Philippines, led by Ellie de Castro and Erina Molina. The goal of the Community Hub is to build the next generation of planetary leaders by empowering Philipino communities through sciencetelling, storytelling, and collaborative action. Their hub goals are: 1) Build a community of National Geographic Explorers in the Philippines and spark collaborations for impactful projects within and outside the community; 2) Build empathy and instill curiosity among Filipino communities through opportunities led by the Explorer Community Hub. 

Ellie and Kimi will be working with teachers in Olongapo for the 2023 to 2024 school year. 

Learn more about the National Geographic Explorer Community Hub in the Philippines. Link to their website.

Jessica Lura


Jessica Lura, a National Board Certified teacher, works with K-8 students, parents, and teachers so that teachers are supported and empowered as leaders and professionals and students develop the skills, attitudes, and knowledge necessary to be successful in today's global society. She leads professional learning around project-based learning and design thinking methodologies, how to integrate of technology and digital citizenship into the core curriculum, and how to design learning experiences that provide opportunities for problem-defining, problem-solving, and real world interactions.  She helped co-design the EcoBlitz microcredential online course. An explorer at heart, she is a National Geographic Educator Certification Mentor.

Fields of Study & Technical Disciplines

Elementary Education, Environmental Education, Global Education, Professional Learning, and Curriculum Design

Rebecca Tarvin

Evolutionary Biologist, National Geographic Explorer

Dr. Rebecca Tarvin is an evolutionary biologist, a National Geographic Explorer, and an Assistant Professor / Assistant Curator of Herpetology in the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology and Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. She studies the evolution of animals that acquire chemical defenses from their environment, including poison frogs, nudibranchs, and snakes. As a young girl she was known to fill kiddie pools with frogs so she could learn how to swim like them. Dr. Tarvin helped design the first EcoBlitz and was the Project Leader for EcoBlitz 2.

Scientific Disciplines

Biologist, Ecologist

Technical Disciplines

Adventurer, Computer Scientist, Educator, Researcher

Fields of Study

Poisonous Animals, Adaptations, Evolution, Genomics, Frogs

Anna S. Antoniou

Anthropological Archaeologist

Anthropological archaeologist Dr. Anna S. Antoniou draws on a mix of storytelling and archaeological methods to help communities across the globe regain crucial parts of their cultural heritage. She believes that understanding our trash can help us to make the world a better place. Her dissertation research uses evidence of prehistoric fishing and shellfish harvesting practices from ancient trash piles to help indigenous communities regain their legal fishing rights and revive traditional foodways. As a Cypriot-American, Antoniou's National Geographic Society grant-funded project brought her academic interests home. Antoniou conducted a 400-mile walking expedition around the island of Cyprus to gather narratives and images that pertain to the 40+ year-long segregation of the island and to explore the cultural and political dynamics of the division. Antoniou earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, and is a 2016 National Geographic Young Explorer grantee. 

Scientific Disciplines

Archaeologist, Anthropologist (Cultural)

Technical Disciplines

Educator, Researcher, Adventurer

Fields of Study

Expeditions, Political Geography, Indigenous Rights

Joe Cutler 

Ichthyologist, Freshwater Conservationist

Dr. Joe Cutler is an ichthyologist and conservationist based in central Africa. He currently works with the Nature Conservancy in Gabon and over the past four years, has conducted seven fish sampling expeditions, collecting hundreds of fish species — including dozens new to science. Using this data, coupled with museum records, Cutler provides guidance to central African governments and conservation NGOs on balancing development and freshwater conservation. Cutler earned a Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and currently serves as the president of the pilot National Geographic Explorers Chapter — a group based out of the San Francisco Bay Area. Cutler’s stories, writing and photographs have appeared in National Geographic’s Explorer magazine, National Geographic Learning, and on National Geographic Adventure's website.

Scientific Disciplines

Biologist, Ecologist

Technical Disciplines

Adventurer, Diver, Photographer, Researcher

Fields of Study

Lakes, Genetics, Evolution, Cichlids

Jim Bentley

2018 National Geographic Fellow, Educator

Jim Bentley is a lifelong student and educator who empowers kids to make the world a better place by integrating environmental literacy, civic education, and filmmaking with project-based learning. Currently, Bentley teaches 5th grade in Elk Grove, California. His students compose Curiosity Films, a studio making short educational films about things that matter. They have tackled a variety of topics ranging from landscape blight to light pollution, and from household hazardous waste disposal to improving middle school literacy rates. Bentley serves as a KQED Media LIteracy Innovator and is a National Faculty member for PBLWorks. He's contributed to books on teacher effectiveness and prosocial education and blogs for and consults with numerous edtech organizations and nonprofits. In 2017, he co-created the National Geographic Geo-Inquiry Process and was selected to serve as a National Geographic Fellow in 2018. Bentley has spent the past two decades exploring big ideas with young people—sometimes leading, sometimes following, yet always recognizing there’s more to learn.

Scientific Disciplines


Technical Disciplines

Filmmaker, Elementary and Middle School Educator

David McGuire

Marine Biologist

David McGuire is a National Geographic Explorer, an Adjunct Professor at the University of San Francisco, and a research associate at the California Academy of Sciences. David is the founder and director of the Ocean Health and Shark Conservation non profit Shark Stewards. He is also a documentarian, notably producing the Emmy Award winning Reefs to Rainforest. For the first EcoBlitz, McGuire paired with schools in Los Angeles and contributed in the design of the trash survey.

Scientific Disciplines

Marine Biology, Environmental Health

Technical Disciplines

Sailing Captain, Dive Master, Filmmaker

Fields of Study

Ocean Health, Shark Conservation, Education, Public Health