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New Zealand

Fulbright-National Geographic U.S. Fulbright

Bringing Seabirds to the Mountains: Environmental Storytelling Through Fulbright

July 10, 2019

Fulbright-National Geographic program alumni Kevin McLean & Abby McBride recently attended the Mountainfilm Festival in Telluride, CO to speak about their work as fellows—offering a glimpse into some of the most groundbreaking storytelling of the modern age.

Held every Memorial Day weekend, Mountainfilm is a documentary film festival featuring nonfiction stories about environmental, cultural, political, and social justice issues. Along with exceptional documentaries, the festival goes beyond the medium of film by bringing together change makers and visionary artists like Kevin and Abby for interactive talks, gallery walks, and presentations.

At the festival, Kevin and Abby took the stage to share stories from their Fulbright experiences during the “Emerging Storytellers Presentation.” Abby also exhibited some of her nature illustrations during the festival’s gallery walk. From Northern Harriers in flight to gulls alighting on rocks and horseshoe crabs crawling on the beach, the art she presented displayed the remarkable and magical qualities of nature and science.

Abby explores nature and science through an artform she dubs “sketchbiologizing.” She travels globally to sketch wildlife and write stories about science and conservation. As a Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellow, she spent National Geographic’s “Year of the Bird” in New Zealand, home to the world’s most diverse and endangered seabirds. While there, she reported on efforts to reverse centuries of harm toward birds that make their living from the ocean: penguins, prions, storm-petrels, shearwaters, shags, gulls, gannets, mollymawks, and others. Her nine-month adventure involved roaming New Zealand’s coasts in an old station wagon named “Indy,” living out of a coffin-sized tent, rappelling down sea cliffs, following conservation dogs in search of nest burrows, hitching rides on sailing ships, being chased by sea lions on remote subantarctic islands, and helping with remarkable seabird conservation efforts around the country. All the while, she sketched copiously and recorded vertigo-inducing GoPro footage to illustrate her stories for the National Geographic Explorers blog.

“Fulbright gave me the opportunity to spend a year in the seabird capital of the world, writing and illustrating stories about these endangered species that are the coal-mine-canaries for the ocean,” said McBride. “Through this festival I was able to bring those seabird stories to the mountains. It feels like a fitting metaphor for how interconnected these global systems really are.”

Kevin McLean, a graduate student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, is particularly interested in expanding human knowledge of hard-to-reach species and ecosystems, as well as making science communication more palatable to public audiences. As a Fulbright-National Geographic storyteller, he traveled to Malaysian Borneo and the Ecuadorian Amazon to survey canopy wildlife in two of the most biodiverse areas of the world. As he collected his scientific data, he used writing, photos, and videos to provide a view of some of the least-known species in the forest for the National Geographic Explorers blog.

“Fulbright gave me the opportunity to study species that are rarely seen, even in the most biodiverse places on the planet. Spending time immersed in these places allowed me to make lasting connections with students and researchers in my host countries, and the platform I had as a digital storytelling fellow allowed me to share the species I was studying with a global audience,” McLean said. “The spirit of curiosity, adventure, and environmental justice at Mountainfilm creates a really engaged audience, and the conversations I had with fellow adventurers and storytellers gave me great ideas and inspiration for where to take my work next.”

The Fulbright-National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship supports young and promising scientists, adventurers and journalists as they venture across the globe to document and share some of today’s most pressing stories through multimedia platforms. Learn more about the fellowship on the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website.

U.S. Fulbright

Climate Change in Kiribati, a Small Pacific Island Nation

April 6, 2016
Michael Roman-1

Michael Roman, 2010-2011, New Zealand, at the New Zealand Fulbright Commission in Wellington

In 2010, I had the honor of receiving a ten-month research grant to study the lives of I-Kiribati living in New Zealand. The I-Kiribati are citizens from the Republic of Kiribati, a small Micronesian country located in the Central Pacific Ocean. Their islands, consisting mostly of low-lying coral atolls, rise just inches above sea level, and are under severe threat from higher tides and stronger storms. The purpose of my study was to gain an understanding of migrant experiences in New Zealand, in preparation for possible large-scale relocation due to climate change.

I first went to Kiribati as a Peace Corps Volunteer in 2000 and was “adopted” by an amazing host family.  In 2005, some members of this family moved to New Zealand. There, they lived amongst a large community of I-Kiribati migrants. I lived with my family throughout my Fulbright year and gained an intimate view of their lives in New Zealand. I experienced their joys, sorrows, and challenges on a very personal level. They were not the only ones facing challenges though. Back in Kiribati, our friends and family were struggling with surmounting impacts from climate change.

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Foreign Fulbright

From a Fall to a Fulbright: Navigating Academia with Disability

July 22, 2015

Ailsa Lipscombe, 2015-2020, New Zealand, with service dog Connie.

In honor of the 25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, today’s post spotlights the story of current Fulbright Foreign Student from New Zealand, Ailsa Lipscombe, who shares how she has come to re-define her disability and pursue a Fulbright grant in the United States.

Changing attitudes towards disability both here in New Zealand and abroad have been invaluable in me gaining the confidence to continue my studies overseas as a young adult living with chronic pain and vision loss. After falling over at high school and developing a rare nerve disorder – Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) – that, among other things, causes constant pain throughout the body, I never dreamed that ten years later I would be preparing to move to the United States of America as part of the Fulbright Foreign Student Program; yet in September, I will move to Chicago where I will be studying towards my Ph.D. in Music at the University of Chicago.

Having completed my Master of Music at the New Zealand School of Music, I am excited to study in a new environment and alongside a new cohort of students, who I know will inspire and challenge me every day. My key research interests are in the way popular music intersects with narrativity and narratology, and in the multiplicity of ways listeners approach, interpret, understand, and share musical experiences. My work here in New Zealand has begun to explore these questions and I am ever grateful to the Fulbright Foreign Student Program for giving me the opportunity to unpack this research in a new academic and cultural context. As a musician and music scholar, I am thrilled to have the chance to study at an institution that values performance and/as research and I can’t wait to immerse myself in Chicago’s dynamic music scene both from inside and outside the classroom.

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U.S. Fulbright

Calling All Fulbrighters: Embrace Social-Entrepreneurship and Reach for the Stars

January 1, 2015
Brinkley-2

Brinkley Warren, 2012-2013, New Zealand, pitching his creative startup to the largest gathering of angel investors in New Zealand history on stage at Te Papa Tongarewa (the Museum of New Zealand)

A Fulbright grant is an opportunity-accelerator. Forbes Magazine recently ranked New Zealand as the #1 best place in the world to start a new venture, and I suppose it is fitting that my 2012 Fulbright art project transformed – most serendipitously – into a social-tech startup.

My MFA exegesis explored the notion of entrepreneurship as art form and art as entrepreneurship, and I wanted to challenge the notion of being an artist in the digital age. As founding CEO of the venture, I attracted and led a team of Kiwis (native New Zealanders) into what became New Zealand’s first technology accelerator. We built an innovative product, and I pitched it on Demo Day in front of the largest gathering of “angel” investors in New Zealand history. We raised a seed round of investment, and in three months we attracted over 10,000 users from 82 countries and launched the world’s first crowd-produced public media platform. It was a thrilling experience to launch such an impactful creative venture during my Fulbright, and it has proven to be a foundational experience. In the years since, I had my first successful “exit” after selling my startup to a larger firm and I’m already working on my next ventures. I love tech entrepreneurship because it’s the best way to make bold creative ideas come to life that positively impact the future of humanity. My Fulbright experience helped to galvanize my role as a startup artist.

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