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Nature + Progress

Blueprint: Nature + Progress focuses on reconciling the natural world with the inevitability of human progress. Humans have exploited ecosystems to support growing societal demands. While beneficial in the short term, these disruptions have led to a widespread degradation of ecosystem services, the often overlooked things nature does for us.

Consider, for example…

    • the deterioration of urban air quality by deforestation and fossil fuel use
    • the cost of artificial pollination due to the honeybee crisis
    • the damage from tropical storms no longer tempered by barrier reefs

This year’s event aims to inspire actionable blueprints for sustainable and regenerative technologies that address and reverse degradation by humans in order to prevent the exponentially growing costs of replacing these ecosystem services.


Planet Analytics


The planet does a lot of things for us that we take for granted. Despite our modern advances, we still cannot recreate photosynthesis or the water cycle at scale. We rely on nature for our existence, so it makes sense to optimize how we utilize the planets resources – hence, planet analytics.

Green Lifestyles


Technology may also be designed to promote a lifestyle that is more sustainable by presenting opportunities to become more efficient or conscious of our impacts. There is a huge opportunity to design technology that connects people with nature in a way that also benefits ecosystems. 

Unexplored Frontiers


The world is full of amazing new discoveries – CRISPR, bioengineering, robotics. Often these advances are stuck in the academic silo in which they were produced, but imagine the possibilities if they were applied to ecology and the environment.

Schedule and Map


Eric Berkenpas

Senior Director of Exploration Technology, National Geographic Society

Eric Berkenpas leads a highly focused technology group at National Geographic called Remote Imaging. Remote Imaging is tasked with developing and deploying specialized equipment to help NG media groups, collaborating researchers, and explorers meet their technology needs in the field. Projects include a camera and instrument package for obtaining environmental data and imagery from the perspective of marine animals called Crittercam, a one year time-lapse of the demolition of old Yankee Stadium, a small portable stable aerial camera platform for capturing aerial shots in difficult to reach regions, a camera system which has captured imagery from the deepest locations in the ocean, and the most powerful omnidirectional deep ocean light for its size ever made. His work has taken him around the world in support of National Geographic initiatives.

Jason Somarelli

Medical Instructor, Duke University Department of Medicine and Duke Cancer Institute

Jason Somarelli is a Medical Instructor in the Department of Medicine and Duke Cancer Institute. Dr. Somarelli received his Master’s degree from SUNY Brockport, his PhD from Florida International University and completed his post-doctoral training with Dr. Mariano Garcia-Blanco at Duke University where he studied the role of phenotypic plasticity during cancer metastasis. As Director of Research for the Duke Comparative Oncology Group, Dr. Somarelli co-leads a team focused on understanding cancer through the lens of comparative and evolutionary biology.

Kasper Kubica

Co-Founder, Carpe Lotion

Kasper Kubica is co-founder of Carpe Lotion, a startup that has grown rapidly as it expands into the retail realm. Kasper has been involved several startups in the past. He has pitched his Carpe Lotion startup on TV shows and has been published on Business Insider. Kasper studied computer science and physics at Duke, where he was a Robertson Scholar and a member of the Cube entrepreneurship SLG. He enjoys building and delivering products and experiences that people love. In his free time, he enjoys scuba diving, taking flying lessons, and learning to play the piano.

Meaghan Parker

Science Officer, Forest Legality Initiative, World Resources Institute

As WRI’s science officer for the Forest Legality Team, Meaghan leads the strategic plan on how best to incorporate innovative technologies to combat illegal logging. She partners with academic, government and private sector labs along with timber industry experts to identify where and when different technologies are applied most appropriately, enabling the private and public sector to raise the bar on ‘due diligence’.

Meaghan comes to WRI from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History where she was heavily involved in a multitude of different DNA barcoding projects such as the Moorea Biocode Project and most recently, the Barcode of Wildlife Project.

Meaghan’s education and career have focused on applying genetic methods to address questions in conservation and biodiversity. Meaghan received a Bachelors degree from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a Masters degree from San Francisco State University.

Scott Loarie


Scott Loarie is co-Director of iNaturalist a citizen science social network. He is a Fellow at National Geographic and a Patterson Scholar at the California Academy of Sciences. Scott's conservation research focuses on how land-use and climate change impact biodiversity across ecosystems ranging from the savannas of Africa and the Brazilian Amazon to the California Floristic Province. His interests focus on the application of technology to confront these conservation challenges. Scott has a Ph.D. in Environmental Science from Duke University and undergraduate and master’s degrees from Stanford University. Formerly, Scott was a research fellow at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University and a lecturer in the Department of Geography at University of California Berkeley and has published numerous scientific articles in journals such as Nature and the Proceedings of the Academy of Sciences.

Shah Selbe

Engineer and Conservation Technologist, Conservify

I am an engineer and conservation technologist who works with communities, NGOs, and developing countries to identify and deploy technologies that can help with their greatest conservation challenges. Past projects have integrated crowdsourcing, smartphone apps, drones, satellite data, and sensors to address conservation issues, including illegal poaching and the monitoring of protected areas. I was named as part of the National Geographic Society's Emerging Explorer class in 2013, and named a Fellow in 2016. In 2016, I founded the first solely conservation technology focused makerspace and prototyping lab named Conservify ( The organization focuses on how open source technologies can be leveraged to gather data and empower local communities through innovative tools aimed at changing our planet’s future. In the last year, Conservify has built and deployed low-cost conservation drones for coastal monitoring, open-source environmental monitoring sensor networks in the Okavango Delta, acoustic monitoring buoys in the Pacific, seismic recording stations in Canadian glaciers, and a water sampling robot in Peru’s Boiling River. I am also a New England Aquarium Ocean Conservation Fellow and PopTech Social Innovation Fellow. We are developing an open source hardware and web open science platform called FieldKit ( that will help field researchers, students, and explorers share live environmental and field data on an interactive open data site. This includes various types of sensors (weather, water quality, air quality and a handheld version that can be used during Bio Blitzes and expeditions), a smartphone app, and a website. FieldKit will include an extensive library of open source sensor systems that can be used in science and conservation research.

Will Travers

President, Born Free

Will Travers is an internationally-renowned wildlife expert who has dedicated his life to wildlife issues, since he lived in Kenya with his parents, Virginia McKenna and the late Bill Travers, who starred in the film Born Free (1966). In 1984, he and his parents co-founded the wildlife charitable organisation now known as The Born Free Foundation, which works to stop individual wild animal suffering, protect threatened species worldwide, and keep wildlife in the wild.

Will has been involved in rescuing elephants, tigers, lions, and dolphins, and is always willing to share his experience and knowledge to further Born Free's vision for a more compassionate future.

Will is also a Board Member of Born Free USA, which he co-founded, and is President of the Species Survival Network (SSN), an international coalition of more than 100 organizations committed to the promotion, enhancement, and strict enforcement of CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora). He also advises the United Kingdom Government on matters relating to zoos, the use of wild animals in circuses, and international wildlife trade.

Will has appeared on numerous TV and radio shows, speaking out against canned hunting of lions highlighted in the documentary, Blood Lions, the international ivory trade and the trade in chimps as exotic pets.



Check back soon for more details!

Hotel Info

Flight Info

Participant Travel

Blueprint has reserved a block of rooms at preferential rates with our exlusive hotel partner, the 21c Museum Hotel in downtown Durham, NC.

The conference can provide hotel accommodations for some mentors and offer rooms at negotiated rates to others. Please contact to learn more.

Delta Air Lines is the exclusive air travel provider of the 2018 Blueprint Nature + Progress conference.

Please contact to reserve air travel to the event.

Blueprint will arrange buses to a number of Universities to make it easier for students to attend. An exact list of bus routes and stops will be shared very soon. Please contact with questions.

For students coming from Universities that will not be serviced by a bus, Blueprint can offer up to $50 per participant in reimbursements for travel expenses. These reimbursements will be offered until our funds are exhausted.