Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant (Mark Thiessen / National Geographic)
California School of the Arts

National Geographic explorer Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant’s journey in science

National Geographic releases a new documentary special “Women of Impact: Changing the World.” As a companion to “Women: The National Geographic Image Collection,” the one-hour special showcases more than 40 extraordinary women making history and breaking boundaries. Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant is a large carnivore ecologist who will feature on the documentary. 

“I was a little girl… watching National Geographic shows decades ago. Now, to be on a National Geographic program is completely surreal and it is such an honor,” Wynn-Grant said, in an interview over the phone. “I’m so grateful to be included with so many tremendous role models and icons. It is an incredible honor and highlight of my life.”

Her expertise lies in using statistical modeling to investigate the influence of anthropogenic factors on carnivore behavior and ecology. She studies the movement of grizzly bears and the paths they take to find new habitats as their population grows. 

“I grew up in a big city but loved to watch nature shows as a kid. I always wanted to do what the people in nature shows were doing,” Wynn-Grant said. “Although I was pre-med when I first started college, I quickly learned about environmental science. I was hooked. I have been studying different aspects of the environment ever since.” 

Like many other students, Wynn-Grant struggled with achieving A’s from high school to the beginning of college. She considered music as an alternate path, as she maintained A’s in her music classes, but remained determined to fulfill her dream of becoming an environmental scientist.

“I was surrounded by people getting straight A’s in my science and math classes. It made me feel like I didn’t belong in science,” Wynn-Grant said. “A big challenge was mentally getting over that hump and realizing that my grades aren’t necessarily a reflection of how great a scientist I can be. Once I was able to understand that, things got a lot smoother for me.”

In 2016, National Geographic Society gave her the opportunity to travel to an unexplored rainforest in Madagascar with other scientists to do a bio-diversity survey. She discovered the existence of ring-tailed lemurs in a tropical rainforest that was unknown to have existed in science before. 

“It was amazing for me, even in that point in my career when I had done lots of research and field work,” Wynn-Grant said. “It was pretty incredible to be apart of something that exciting and full of discovery.”

National Geographic magazine’s November issue will celebrate the power of women’s voices and feature diverse perspectives on modern womanhood, releasing online at ngm.com in mid-October and on print newsstands on Oct. 29.

“Always focus on your passion more than your performance. Make sure you’re following your passion, instead of worrying too much on your performance on tests or evaluations,” Wynn-Grant said. “If I had used my math grades as a decision-maker for [becoming] a scientist, I wouldn’t be here today.”

“Women of Impact: Changing the World” premieres Saturday, Oct. 26, at 10/9c or 7 p.m. PST on National Geographic.

“Women of Impact: Changing the World” premieres Saturday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. PST on National Geographic. (Image courtesy of National Geographic)

The TV special serves as a companion to a new landmark National Geographic book, “WOMEN: The National Geographic Image Collection,” publishing Oct. 22. The book features more than 400 stunning photographs, drawn from National Geographic’s unparalleled image collection, spanning three centuries and more than 30 countries. Each page creates a portrait of a singular aspect of women’s existence and demonstrates for readers how the depiction of women has evolved since National Geographic’s founding in 1888.

National Geographic’s TV special “Women of Impact: Changing the World” which premieres Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. PST serves as a companion to new book, “WOMEN: The National Geographic Image Collection,” publishing Oct. 22. (Image courtesy of National Geographic)