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Wits researcher invited into her second exclusive global explorers club

- Wits University

Dr Keneiloe Molopyane joins the EC50 class of 2023, after also being selected as an Emerging Explorer for the National Geographic Society in 2021.

Keneiloe Molopyane

Wits University archaeologist, Dr Keneiloe Molopyane, has been invited to join her second exclusive explorers club, the prestigious Explorers Club 50 (EC50), class of 2023.

The EC50 is branded as a group of “50 people changing the world that the world needs to know about”.

Molopyane, a researcher in palaeoanthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand, and currently the principal investigator of the Gladysvale Cave site, was one of 50 explorers selected out of 300 nominations from across the world.

First selected as an Emerging Explorer for the National Geographic Society in 2021, Molopyane says her nomination into a second global explorers’ organisation is proof that she is “doing the right thing”.

“It is difficult for a woman of colour navigating the world of palaeosciences that is mostly dominated by white men and women. You constantly have to work hard overcoming internalised ‘imposter syndrome’. So being recognised by a second global institution such as [EC50] provides that professional acknowledgement that you are doing the right thing at the right time,” says Molopyane.

The EC50 comprises a group of people who do extraordinary things in their own field, whether it is photography, conservation, science, or advocacy.

The programme amplifies explorers from around the globe and across a wide field of disciplines that push the boundaries of exploration,” says Richard Garriott, President of The Explorers Club.

Molopyane is as far as can be established, the first South African woman from Africa to join the club since its establishment in 1904.

Headquartered in New York City with a community of Chapters around the world, The Explorers Club has been supporting scientific expeditions of all disciplines for over a century. Some of the achievements of some of its members include the first exploration teams that reached both the North and South Poles in 1909 and 1911 respectively, as well as the landing on the moon by the Apollo 11 mission in 1969.

Molopyane, who was nominated to the EC50 by Joe Grabowski, the Director and Founder of Exploring by the Seat of your Pants, after she gave a virtual talk at the Women Blaze Trails Festival, says the platform provides her another opportunity to advocate the role of women – and especially women of colour – in the world of science.

“Not all scientists are seen as equal. More often than not, a person of colour is still not seen as a true counterpart. It is a horrible feeling and I would like to shield others from going through that,” she says.

The announcement of the EC50 class of 2023 was made on February 1, 2023.