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Kenny Broad

Cave Diver

In Kenny Broad’s line of work, exploring submerged caves and blue holes, one mistake can equal death. He and his team must take every precaution to avoid such dangers as stirring up sediments that can wipe out visibility, succumbing to nausea as they pass through a toxic layer of hydrogen sulfide, or getting lost in maze-like passageways with a limited supply of diving gasses.

 

The need to study blue holes is urgent, as they are among the least studied and most threatened habitats on Earth. Over 90 percent of the Earth’s unfrozen fresh water is in underground aquifers. These systems are a source of drinking water for locals, boast a unique biodiversity of microbial and multicellular life that shed light on the evolution of life, and, due to their unique water chemistry, perfectly preserve skeletal remains of long extinct species and indigenous people. Cave formations such as stalagmites can be used to reconstruct climate as the Earth passed in and out of the ice ages, allowing us to better judge the rates and possible impacts of modern changes in climate.

 

These cave systems—with their reversing tides—can transition from giant rooms to narrow holes that divers must remove all of their gear in order to squeeze through. “You can’t send a remotely operated vehicle in to explore caves because the technology simply doesn’t exist,” he says. “It’s one of the few environments left on the planet where you must physically go to learn about it. It’s great for job security.”

 

An entertaining and witty presenter, Broad’s work combines the study of risk perception, exploration, and environmental anthropology. His interdisciplinary training includes an M.A. in marine affairs and policy from the University of Miami and a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University. He is currently a professor in the University of Miami’s Division of Marine Affairs and Policy and is director of the Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. He is also a co-director of the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University. Broad has led or participated in extreme scientific and filmmaking expeditions on every continent—from urban jungles to the deepest caves on the planet—to gather information and samples that shed light on little-known environmental and cultural subjects. He was elected a National Geographic Emerging Explorer in 2006, a Fellow National of the Explorers Club in 2009, and was selected as the 2011 National Geographic Explorer of the Year. His work was featured as the cover story of the August 2010 issue of National Geographic.

Highlights & Accomplishments
2011 National Geographic Explorer of the Year
Professor at the University of Miami’s Division of Marine Affairs and Policy
Co-Director Center for Research on Environmental Decisions at Columbia University
Broad Bio Portrait

Watch

Risky Science Video Poster

The Risky Science of Exploration

13:20
The Risky Science of Exploration
National Geographic Explorer Kenny Broad takes the stage to talk about the passion that drives him to risk his life for adventure and exploration
Best Job Video Poster

Best Job Ever

2:03
Best Job Ever
Are you ready for some serious job envy?
Public Policy and Climate Video Poster

Public Policy and Climate Change

24:42
Public Policy and Climate Change
Dr. Kenny Broad explores why our culture and political system make it so difficult to address climate change.

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