Senior Fellow & Stamps Scholar Mike McGovern '21 on National Geographic Project

Last summer, when multiple black bears made an appearance in Hanover, McGovern called Steve Winter, a National Geographic Explorer photographer, to pitch the story. Their subsequent story on the wildlife of New England — specifically black bears, lynx, and bobcats in Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire — was just picked up by National Geographic. This coming fall, McGovern will be working as an assistant to Steve Winter, a world renowned  big cat photographer. 

Mike McGovern '21 is completing his National Geographic project as part of his research as both a Stamps Scholar, a grant that funds research during students' junior and senior years, and as a Senior Fellow. McGovern is studying how media and ecotourism can promote big cat conservation in the U.S. and Asia — a project for which his work at National Geographic has played an essential role. 

McGovern's fall adventures with bears are just the latest step in a lifetime of travel. McGovern has visited over 100 countries and set foot on all seven continents. He's stood in the presence of numerous apex predators in their natural habitats — from lions and tigers to sharks and grizzly bears. He's photographed seagulls on floating ice in Svalbard, the windswept peaks of Denali National Park, sea lions in the Galapagos and the horses native to the South Korean island of Jeju — to name just a few. 

For McGovern's final project in the course, he decided to track tiger populations in Sumatra, Indonesia. McGovern also completed a presidential scholar research project on tiger tourism in Sumatra and an independent study with Jones on international tiger law. That academic background became the framework for his Stamps Scholars project and senior fellowship, a passion which he hopes to pursue after graduation.

McGovern was recently accepted to Oxford University's masters program in biodiversity, conservation and management. He said he is interested in a career in wildlife conservation policy — specifically how megafauna conservation interacts with economic development in low-income communities. 

McGovern plans to defer attending Oxford for a few years as he pursues his work with National Geographic. In addition to the New England wildlife story, McGovern was also chosen to accompany Winter on a future trip to India's Gir National Park to photograph the last Asiatic lion population. McGovern and Winter are also collaborating on a larger project — Big Cat Voices — a media campaign where National Geographic photographers share stories about big cats on one platform. 

"Media is really the key component ... in saving a lot of these animals, whether they're the tigers that are in captivity in the U.S. or a tiger in the wild in India," McGovern said. "Media is the key because it gives the power back to the people. … I think it's important for people to realize that you can make a difference, regardless of where you are."

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