Primatologist and National Geographic correspondent Mireya
Mayor found her destiny in the palm of her hand. Speaking before a crowd of
4,000 at the opening ceremonies, Mayor showed Intel ISEF attendees what it
means to live with no boundaries, no limitsthe theme of the evening's event.
Embracing every opportunity as a learning adventure she's traversed the jungles
of Madagascar, swam among great white sharks, and camped on the narrow ledge of
a sheer rock wall 14,000 feet above the ground.
"I didn't take the typical scientist route...As a child any
interest in science was quickly dispelled by my teachers." While in college she
became an NFL cheerleader for the Miami Dolphins. Then in 1996 she took her
first anthropology class and was hooked. "I started asking questions. I found
the more I asked, the fewer answers there were. There was still a lot of
mystery out in the world."
About a year later, having never been on so much as a family
camping trip, she set off on her first expedition to a remote part of
Madagascar, the only place on earth where lemurs are found. More than 60
species of lemurs are found on the island, but at least 15 more have become
extinct. On one of her frequent field expeditions there, in 2000, Mayor
discovered a new lemur speciesmicrocebus, or mouse lemur. Nestled between
her thumb and forefinger, this rare, small creature inspired her to tackle
another great challenge. Presenting her field work to the Prime Minister of
Madagascar, Mayor was able to convince him to declare the region a national
park to protect and conserve the remaining ten percent of the island's original
vast forests. "That's what the inability to see boundaries can accomplish."
At the close of her speech, Mayor reminded everyone to "dream
big. Don't let anyone discourage you. And save the lemurs."