Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship
2022-2023 Competition Deadline: Tuesday October 12, 2021 at 5 pm Eastern Time
The Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship, a component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, provides opportunities for selected Fulbright US Student Study/Research grantees to participate in an academic year of storytelling on a globally significant theme. This Fellowship is made possible through a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the National Geographic Society.
For the 2022-2023 competition, the Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship will accept proposals to undertake an in-depth examination of a globally relevant issue as an enhancement to their Fulbright research or arts project. The National Geographic Society’s focus areas are: Oceans, Land, Wildlife, Human History & Cultures, and Human Ingenuity. Storytellers may use a variety of storytelling tools—including, but not limited to writing, photography, video, audio/podcasts, maps, or graphic illustrations to share their stories.
In addition to receiving standard Fulbright benefits (for travel, stipend, health, etc.) and a materials and reporting special allowance, Storytellers receive instruction in storytelling techniques, including effective blog writing, video production, photography, public speaking, and other relevant training by National Geographic staff prior to their departure. National Geographic also provide editorial mentorship for Fellows during their Fulbright grant period. Storytellers provide material for National Geographic Society’s Field Notes blog throughout their grant term and have the opportunity to pitch stories for other National Geographic platforms.
The National Geographic Society uses the power of science, exploration, education, and storytelling to illuminate and protect the wonder of our world. The Fulbright-National Geographic Fellowship seeks individuals with a talent for and interest in storytelling. Projects that emphasize science, technology, and storytelling to help protect species-at-risk, better understand human history and culture, conserve of our planet’s land and oceans and build a more sustainable future are welcome.
Applications will be accepted for Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowships in any country to which there is an active Fulbright Open Study/Research Award.
Eligibility and Requirements for Applicants
Fulbright-National Geographic Fellows must be selected for a Fulbright Study/Research Grant by the eligible country for which they applied and meet the criteria of the Fulbright Study/Research requirements of the host country.
Candidates from all fields are encouraged to apply.
Preference will be given to candidates with demonstrated experience and talent in storytelling. Candidates must have completed at least an undergraduate degree by the commencement of the Fulbright award.
Storytelling Aspect of the Fellowship
In addition to the Fulbright Study/Research Application, the following supplemental materials are required and to be uploaded into the application:
- Storytelling Proposal
- Storytelling Portfolio and Narrative
Check the Fulbright-National Geographic Application Components section for guidelines on submitting these required materials. Applicants must select “Yes” to “Are you applying for the Fulbright-National Geographic Fellowship?"
Email us if you have questions about the Fulbright-National Geographic application.
Current and Previous Fulbright-National Geographic Storytellers
2019-20 Fulbright-National Geographic Storytellers
Melanie Kirby: Spain
’Til Queendom Come: How the Bees as Seeds experience unfurls perfumed stories from the beehive mind to collective human consciousness
Melanie Kirby is a queen honey bee breeder studying bee mating behavior utilizing RFID (radio frequency identification). As a Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow she will travel across Spain to survey bee mating behavior from coastal to alpine topographies. Melanie will also follow the intersection of clay and apiculture, from cave paintings to honey pots and seed saving. She will be chronicling her interactions through writing, photos, videos, and bilingual podcasts to share the stories of beekeepers’ adaptations to shifting climate. Her quest to help build the bridge between the field and academia strives to amplify beekeepers' and farmers' voices. Her study will culminate in a sensory exhibit. Melanie is pursuing an MSc. in Entomology in the Sheppard Apis Molecular Lab at Washington State University.
Emily Koch: Vietnam
With No Other Fish to Fry: Declining Fish Stocks and the Impacts for Fish-Dependent Communities in Vietnam
Emi Koch is a former professional surfer and founder of Beyond the Surface, a nonprofit working in partnership with fishing villages to build social-ecological resilience. In Vietnam’s Mekong Delta and along the South Central Coast, Emi will facilitate participatory photography workshops for fish-dependent communities to share how fishery scarcity, in concert with environmental stresses such as growing populations, pollution, extreme weather events, and coastal development, critically undermine social-ecological well-being. Emi will create an interactive map featuring both stakeholders’ multimedia stories and her own, and will analyze qualitative data on human insecurity in fisheries. Emi studied Psychology with concentrations in Anthropology and Justice and Peace Studies at Georgetown University and recently earned a Masters in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Alyea Pierce: Trinidad and Tobago
The Revitalization of Oral Storytelling & Folktales
Alyea Pierce, Ed.M, is a West Indian-American writer, poet, and educator. As a child of immigrants, Alyea greatly values the sound, power, and rhythm of language. For her Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling project, she will examine the revitalization of oral storytelling and folktale traditions in Trinidad and Tobago through present-day spoken word and rhythm poetry. While studying contemporary Afro-Trinidadian literature, Alyea will document the memory, history, and experiences of people. She will explore the intricacies of oral storytelling and folktale traditions in Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival, which is greatly influenced by its legacy of slavery and colonialism. Alyea will use performance and digital media, specifically photography and videography, to capture the sights and sounds of Trinidad and Tobago to create a manuscript of poetry and fictional short stories that will be performed on the island. Alyea holds a B.A. and M.Ed. from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Madison Wrobley: Nepal
Working for Water: Stories of Scarcity in Kathmandu
Madison Wrobley is an anthropologist and writer studying the social effects of unequal and unstable water access in Kathmandu, Nepal. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow she will learn about the lived realities of water scarcity and create mapped narratives to show how a lack of available water shapes ideas of belonging in the city, use patterns, and coping strategies. Water scarcity is quickly becoming a problem every nation must address and, although Nepal is one of the most water-rich countries in the world, people across the capital city have limited access to potable water in their homes. Madison’s stories will be available through the Fulbright-National Geographic blog and other media outlets. Madison studied Anthropology and Art History at Washington University in St. Louis.
2018-19 Fulbright-National Geographic Storytellers
Jennifer Gil Acevedo: Panama
The invisible world of Microalgae
Jennifer Gil is an environmental scientist working with the microalgae of South Florida at Florida International University. She has interned at the Smithsonian twice. She was also an AAAS Mass Media Science & Engineering Fellow 2015 who worked at CNN español. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow, she will travel to three Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute facilities in Panama, collecting microalgae samples. She will be documenting it both in Spanish and English through blogging, microscopic pictures and videos. She will display an exhibit where visitors will use their five senses to discover the invisible world of microalgae. Jennifer studied Interdisciplinary Science at the University of Puerto Rico. She recently completed her Master’s in Environmental Science at Florida International University.
Jen Guyton: Mozambique
Rebirth: Photographing Wildlife Oases in an Ecosystem Recovering from Civil War
Katie Thornton: United Kingdom / Singapore
Death in the Digital Age
Katie Thornton is a Minneapolis-based audio producer and cemetery historian. As a Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellow she will travel to the United Kingdom and Singapore to produce “Death in the Digital Age,” a podcast exploring the relevance of cemeteries in an era when land is strained, communities are physically distant, and digital documentation is pervasive. She will also use writing, visuals and social media to share the stories of those working at the intersection of land use, public memory and technology. Katie holds a B.A. in History from Oberlin College, has supported public programs and history initiatives at multiple cemeteries, and has worked with media outlets including American Public Media and the Association of Minnesota Public and Educational Radio Stations.
Emily Toner: Ireland
Peatland Profiles: Stories from Ireland's carbon-rich bogs
Emily Toner is a geographer and journalist studying soil carbon in Ireland's carbon-rich boglands. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow she will travel around Ireland to understand how climate change-driven policies to preserve peat bogs are impacting people and the soil. Though covering only 3% of the world's landmass, peat soil holds as much carbon as all vegetation combined. Preserving peat bogs and keeping that carbon in place is seen as a low hanging fruit of climate change policy. However, in Ireland, bogs have a rich history of use and are tied to Ireland's energy economy. Emily's stories will be available through the Fulbright-National Geographic blog and other media outlets. Emily earned a geography M.S. and journalism M.A. at University of Wisconsin - Madison.
William Tyner: RomaniaWilliam Tyner is an anthropologist and filmmaker studying the role of civic technology in strengthening the relationship between civil society and government and redefining civic engagement. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow, he will create a documentary exploring the emerging civic technology movement in Romania, telling its story from multiple perspectives — including Romanian organizers and advocacy groups, residents, policymakers and public officials, technologists, and funders. Tyner has worked as a user experience researcher for organizations including Code for America, Google, Facebook, and the San Francisco Mayor's Office of Civic Innovation. William studied Cultural Anthropology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.
2017-18 Fulbright-National Geographic Storytellers
Toby Cox is interested in the diversity in Islam and Muslim identity across cultures. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow, she will explore the story of Islam in the Kyrgyz Republic by examining the development of its religious identity - its roots in Tengrism, its history with Islam, and its history as a post-Soviet country. Through interviews, she will learn more about how these collective experiences impact the religious identity of individuals and the multidimensional Kyrgyz identity. She will use writing, photos, and maps to offer insight into the religious landscape of the Kyrgyz Republic, simultaneously shedding light onto the diversity of Muslim identity. Ms. Cox studied Foreign Affairs and Middle Eastern Languages at the University of Virginia and is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer from Jordan and the Kyrgyz Republic.
R. Isaí Madriz
R. Isaí Madriz is an entomologist and zoologist studying aquatic insects of freshwater rivers and streams. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow, he will tell the story of deglaciation of the Northern Patagonia Ice Field in Chile, focusing on its vanishing aquatic insect diversity through images and stories of exploration, science and human connections. He will combine hiking, bikepacking, and packrafting to transect unexplored areas and secluded fjords in search of some of the rarest insects on the planet. This low carbon approach will utilize renewable energy sources to capture never before seen footage of remote glacial outlets and hidden valleys of wild Patagonia. Mr. Madriz will document the largely unknown endemic aquatic insect fauna of this vital region before Aysén’s biodiversity is transformed forever.
Sketch biologist Abby McBride once harbored aspirations of becoming a Victorian-era naturalist explorer. Adapting her career goals to the 21st century, she now travels globally to sketch wildlife and write multimedia stories about science and conservation. In New Zealand, home to the most diverse and endangered seabirds in the world, as a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow, Ms. McBride will report on extraordinary efforts to reverse centuries of human-caused harm to penguins, prions, storm-petrels, shearwaters, shags, gulls, gannets, mollymawks, and more. Through art and digital media she aims to convey a visceral sense of the beauty, fascination, and importance of seabirds, which are quickly disappearing from seas and shores worldwide. Ms. McBride is based on the Maine coast and has degrees in biology and science writing from Williams College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Lillygol “Lilly” Sedghat
Lilly Sedaghat is a multimedia storyteller and artist studying waste management in Taiwan. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow, she will travel the island to discover how the Taiwanese interact with their waste management system and document innovations in plastics and electronics recycling. Using blog posts, photo galleries and the Instagram campaign #MyWasteMyWay, Ms. Sedghat seeks to inspire people to think more about how their consumer choices affect the environment and spark a global discussion to reevaluate the way we perceive and dispose of waste. Ms. Sedghat received her B.A. in Political Economy at University of California, Berkeley and is an avid Taiwanese milk tea drinker and “b-girl” (breakdancer).
Destry Maria Sibley
Destry Maria Sibley is a freelance multimedia producer and educator based in New York City. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow, Ms. Sibley will document the oral histories of Los Niños de Morelia, a group of child refugees, including her grandmother, who fled the Spanish Civil War and settled in Mexico. As she interviews this now-elderly population and their descendants, Ms. Sibley will develop a podcast series and website dedicated to their stories. Her hope is that by discovering their pasts, we might have something to learn about the futures of the millions of children who have been rendered refugees in our own time. Ms. Sibley studied at Amherst College and the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center, most recently completing a Master’s in Data Visualization and Narrative Non-Fiction.
2016-17 Fulbright-National Geographic Storytellers
Serbia and Croatia
Shifting Cultural Landscapes of Former Yugoslavia: Charting the Impact of Mass Migration
Christiana Botic is a Serbian-American documentary photographer and filmmaker who, while traveling to Serbia to document her own family history, learned that, like many families in the former Yugoslavia, it was influenced by migration and impacted by the creation of borders. She will travel to Serbia and Croatia to document the impact of mass migration of Syrians and other refugees/migrants on the cultural landscape of these two countries, divided by the EU border. Christiana plans to travel the Balkan Route and create an interactive map featuring stories of those who are moving through or residing along this path. Currently based in New Orleans, she received her BA in Screen Arts and Cultures from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Lauren Ladov is a local food systems advocate and educator based in Atlanta, who received her BA from Emory University with a dual focus on Film and Media Studies and Philosophy. Through partnerships with local farms and nonprofits, Lauren facilitates food education programming, manages community gardens, and develops training and multimedia resources for educators. In working with youth in urban gardens, she witnessed how growing food has the power to heal communities, both physically and spiritually. For her Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling project, she will share stories of the seeds sown in India by connecting with those striving to create sustainable, community-centered food systems. This project will produce educational media materials and platforms to engage and empower youth as advocates for future generations of seeds, farmers, and diverse ecosystems.
Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda
How Climate Change Is Fueling a Food Crisis in Africa
Tim McDonnell is a digital multimedia journalist based in New York City. He will document how a changing climate is compounding longstanding problems with food insecurity and rural poverty in Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda. These three countries are all exceptionally vulnerable to climate change, but host unique challenges and opportunities as a result of their distinct political and environmental climates. His reporting will address science, technology, economic development, public health, and other stories at the intersection of climate change and agriculture, using video, blogging, and other digital reporting tools. Tim has a BA in English and Ecology/Evolutionary Biology from the University of Arizona and is currently Associate Producer for Climate Desk, a collaboration of Mother Jones, The Guardian, Huffington Post, Slate, The Atlantic, Wired, Grist, Newsweek, and the Center for Investigative Reporting, which produces multimedia journalism on climate change.
Malaysia and Ecuador
Looking Up: An Expedition into the Rainforest Canopy
Kevin McLean is an ecologist studying wildlife in tropical forest canopies using motion-sensitive cameras (camera traps). As a Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellow he will travel to Malaysian Borneo and the Ecuadorian Amazon to survey canopy wildlife in two of the most biodiverse areas of the world. As he collects his scientific data, he will use writing, photos, and videos to provide a view of some of the least-known species in the forest. His research and stories will be made available to the public through a museum exhibit which will highlight canopy wildlife and the conservation threats they face. Kevin studied Earth Systems at Stanford University and recently completed his PhD in Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.
Ishan Thakore is a multimedia storyteller and global health researcher who uses film and writing to tell powerful stories. His project focuses on the tension between economic development and water resource management, and the trade-offs countries might make for economic growth. He will be documenting stories of people and industries impacted by South Africa’s Orange River Project, and he'll create a series of short films portraying a nuanced look at the individual benefits and costs of large-scale development. Before his Fulbright, Ishan worked as a researcher/fact checker for the television show Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. His research experience also includes work with USAID’s Digital Development Team, the Duke Reporters’ Lab, and Structured Stories NYC. Ishan has a BA in Public Policy from Duke University.
2015-16 Fulbright-National Geographic Storytellers
Ryan Bell is a writer and photographer who travels the world documenting “cowboy” cultures. He’s ridden with the horsemen of Argentina, Canada, Mongolia, and the American West. For his Fellowship project, “Comrade Cowboys,” Bell will explore rural Russia and Kazakhstan where pastoralists are working to rebuild cattle industries decimated by the fall of the Soviet Union.
Ari M Beser, a graduate of University of Colorado, Boulder will travel throughout Japan for nine months, from the span of the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki until the 5th Anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima. Ari’s blogumentary, “Hibakusha: The Nuclear Family,” will give voice to the hundreds of thousands of people directly affected by nuclear technology (called Hibakusha in Japanese).
Janice Cantieri, a journalist and recent graduate, will be spending nine months between the Pacific island nations of Kiribati and Fiji. She will use written stories and journals, images, and video footage to tell the stories of the Banaban Islanders, who were displaced to Fiji in 1945, and the stories of those currently facing displacement from Tarawa, Kiribati to Fiji as the sea level rise inundates parts of the islands.
Hiba Dlewati is a Syrian American writer most recently based in Istanbul. Hiba will be spending nine months moving throughout Jordan, Turkey and Sweden to document and narrate the stories of the Syrian diaspora using multimedia storytelling. By the end of the project, she hopes to produce a film that expresses the frustrations and triumphs of a people without a place, or perhaps, a people of many places.
A Tennessee native, Christina Leigh Geros is a designer, researcher, and educator currently in Jakarta, Indonesia using videographic, photographic, and written narrative to give voice to the Ciliwung River and communities through an interactive website, cartographically registering each story and exposing the relationships between urbanism, ecology, and politics.
2014-15 Fulbright-National Geographic Storytellers
Ann Chen is a multimedia artist and researcher from New York. In 2014-15, she traveled across Canada, documenting and collectively mapping the geographies and communities along the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Project through sound, photography and video. She was also a fellow in the English and Film Studies Department at the University of Alberta during her Fulbright year. From 2015-16, she will be a Collaborative Productions Fellow at UnionDocs, an experimental documentary arts center in Brooklyn, NY.
Filmmaker Daniel Koehler embedded himself in communities in Gaborone, New Xade, and Metsiamanong in Botswana to produce an intimate coming-of-age portrait of two young San men charting a course between tradition and modernity in the wake of relocation from their ancestral homeland. The final documentary, with the working title LOOKING FOR LIFE, will run the spring and fall film festival circuit in 2016. Daniel hopes to continue combining his passions for film and African studies to produce socially significant and compelling documentaries in sub-Saharan Africa.
Erin Moriarty Harrelson, a PhD candidate in anthropology at American University, traveled throughout Cambodia for ten months, exploring the emergence of a post-Khmer Rouge deaf culture. She herself is deaf and used video, text, photographs and drawings to document the lives of deaf Cambodians. During her time in Cambodia, Moriarty Harrelson worked closely with Deaf Development Programme (DDP) and Krousar Thmey to raise awareness about sign language and deaf people through mainstream and social media. In May 2015, Moriarty Harrelson curated a photo exhibition, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy Phnom Penh, with Karen Bortvedt, a colleague from DDP. Continuing her work in a different capacity, Moriarty Harrelson recently joined the board of Discovering Deaf Worlds, a non-profit organization based in Rochester, New York that works towards advancing the self-determination of signing Deaf communities by strengthening local capacity in developing countries. Moriarty Harrelson is now writing her dissertation and looks forward to completing it by May 2016.
Mimi Onuoha is a New York City-based researcher and artist who is in the United Kingdom visualizing information about groups of Londoners based on digital data collected from their phones. Her project, which consists of a website and artwork outputs, uses data to explore the stories of how our increasingly networked relationships unfold across on and offline spaces. After the Fulbright-National Geographic fellowship she will continue to examine data's effect on sociocultural systems as a fellow at the NYC-based Data & Society research institute and through initiatives with Columbia University's Tow Center for Digital Journalism. She also is a practicing artist whose work will be shown at various exhibitions over the summer.
Los Angeles native Michael Waldrep is a documentary filmmaker, multimedia artist and researcher focused on cities. He spent his 2014-15 grant period in Mexico City, documenting the suburbs of the most populous metropolitan area in North America through writing, photography, mapping and video. He’s currently working toward a physical exhibition of the project, and is building laciudadactual.com to host the research online.
What is the Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship?
Who is eligible to apply? Who is the ideal candidate?
For the 2021-22 academic year, the competition is open to applicants for the Fulbright Open Study/Research and arts awards to all countries. The ideal candidate will have a demonstrated talent for storytelling (including but not limited to publications in print, online or multimedia platforms) and an academic or professional background relevant to their proposed project.
Who is ineligible?
Non-U.S. citizens and permanent residents are not eligible.
Applicants to the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program are not eligible.
Current State Department and National Geographic staff, or persons currently on assignment or who are currently working with grants funded by either organization, are ineligible to apply.
Former National Geographic staff, explorers and grantees are eligible to apply. Employees of the U.S. Department of State, and their immediate families, for a period ending one year following termination of such employment. This provision does not include part-time or temporary employees, consultants, and contract employees of the Department of State, unless such persons perform services related to the Bureau’s exchange programs.
Applicants with a previous association with National Geographic, State Department, or Fulbright, will be judged strictly on the merit of their projects. No special consideration will be given to applicants with previous ties to either organization.
Candidates may not apply to the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and the Fulbright Scholar Program in the same competition cycle.
Candidates may not apply for more than one type of Fulbright U.S. Student grant, including Study/Research and ETA grants, in a given competition cycle.
Please refer to the Eligibility/Ineligibility section for more specific requirements.
Will applications for projects in the U.S. be accepted?
Can I apply to more than one country?
Will my work be published by National Geographic?
Will I be permitted to publish in other media outlets while on my Fellowship?
National Geographic will retain the “Right of First Refusal” on all materials produced by Fulbright-National Geographic Storytellers during the period of the award. Storytellers will be required to first propose all stories to National Geographic. If National Geographic declines to publish a story, Storytellers may request approval to propose stories to other media outlets.
Who funds this Fellowship and what level of financial and in-kind support will be provided?
Funding for this Fellowship is provided by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, through the cooperating partner organization implementing the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the Institute of International Education (IIE). All Storytellers will receive standard Fulbright Program benefits, including funds for travel, a living stipend, and health benefits as well as a modest professional allowance for materials and reporting expenses. Living stipends will be calculated based on host-country cost-of-living indices.
In addition, National Geographic Society mentoring draws from a range of experts in many disciplines, including researchers, explorers, regional specialists, and storytellers. Fellows will each be assigned a mentor who is a National Geographic staff member or explorer with relevant experience. The mentor will provide goal-setting and planning support at the pre-departure orientation and will be available for advice throughout the fellowship. Mentors will help fellows pitch their work to National Geographic platforms and find other ways to integrate into the National Geographic community.
When will decisions on awards be finalized and announced for this Fellowship?
Finalists will be notified of finalist status in Spring 2022. Storytellers are required to participate in an interview as well as a mandatory pre-departure orientation, both of which will be held in Washington, DC. The dates for the interview and the pre-departure orientation will be provided to invited candidates in early 2022. Storytellers depart for their overseas programs in Summer or Fall 2022.
How is the Institute of International Education (IIE) involved with this Fellowship?
The Institute of International Education (IIE) is the U.S. State Department’s implementing partner for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. IIE will publish the application materials and receive all applications for this Fellowship, administer the selection process in partnership with the U.S. State Department and the National Geographic Society, and provide planning and administrative support to Storytellers before and throughout the duration of their fellowship.