Few of the female explorers we’re celebrating can claim Lynn Fowler’s childhood pet roster: a cheetah, an Andean condor, raccoons, a sparrow hawk and more. All thanks to growing up with her Uncle Jim— Emmy-award winning Jim Fowler of Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom fame.
We think of Lynn as our own Jane Goodall, and love her photos of her year and a half on Volcan Alcedo, Isabela Island, Galápagos, studying interactions and competition between giant tortoises and introduced donkeys for her PhD. She lived on her own, a "one woman nudist colony,'' in a tent, gathering rain and heavy mist for drinking, seeing only the occasional hiker.
In and around research stints in the Ecuadorian Amazon, and other exotic locales, Lynn worked as a guide in Galápagos. (Certified by the Galápagos National Park in 1978, Lynn is one of the first female guides—officially, naturalist #49). When her daughter Melina was 8 weeks old, Lynn began working as an Expedition Leader with Lindblad Expeditions (conveniently her then-husband was Captain of our ship of that era, the Isabella II). She has led expeditions for us in Baja, Amazonia, Costa Rica, and along the South American Coast, as well as Galápagos.
Lynn was expedition leader on the inaugural voyage of National Geographic Islander, in December 2004 and the ship has been her exclusive home for the 15 years since. This year, after four decades in Galápagos, 30 of them with Lindblad, Lynn is retiring— to the 600-acre family farm in Georgia, where in a large pasture dubbed Africa, eland, zebra, emu and ostriches freely roam.
Hands down–Galápagos! Having worked for 32 years for Lindblad, and with a PhD in Zoology, I certainly could have led trips anywhere that Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic explores. But mostly I choose to work in the Galápagos. I never tire of the unique and fearless wildlife, the opportunity to watch behavior from just feet away, the remarkable occasional experience of a Zodiac ride with orcas, or snorkeling with dolphin—and the chance to watch a booby being incubated, then hatched, fed and ultimately, fledged!
I haven’t yet been to Madagascar. I would like to see lemurs in the wild.
I have always admired Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas—the three women who went into the wilds of Tanzania, Rwanda and Borneo in the 1960-70’s to study primates under isolated and physically tough conditions. As a young girl, I remember reading about their studies in National Geographic, and dreaming of doing something similar with my life, to find field research in a unique and unusual setting.
I really like to be alone! After all, I am one of 7 children, and have worked as a guide and expedition leader for 40 years, but still I was surprised when I found out how much I don’t mind being completely alone.
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