Keynote Presenters


AFE 2023 Keynote Events to be announced, check back soon!
Every year, the Alaska Forum on the Environment brings top keynote speakers from around the world. These speakers cover a multitude of environmental topics, presenting daily during the conference.

2020 Keynote Presenters

Joost van Haren

University of Arizona • Biosphere2 • Monday Morning Keynote

A broadly trained earth scientist, Joost van Haren has researched topics from 20km deep in the earth's crust to soil-plant-atmosphere interactions. Joost joined the University of Arizona in 1995 to run the analytical facilities and is an assistant research professor of U of A's Biosphere 2. He is currently investigating carbon uptake by weathering basalt in the Landscape Evolution Observatory and drought effects on carbon cycling rates in the tropical rainforest.

Join us is welcoming Joost to Alaska and learn more about Biosphere 2 and how his current research relates to Alaska's Tongass National Forest.


Jenna Jambeck

University of GeorgiaNational • Geographic Fellow • Monday Lunch Keynote

Jenna Jambeck is an award-winning explorer, associate professor, and director at the University of Georgia. She has been conducting research on solid waste issues for over 20 years with related projects on marine debris since 2001. She also specializes in global waste management issues and plastic contamination. Her work on plastic waste inputs into the ocean published in Science magazine has been recognized by the global community and translated into policy discussions by the Global Ocean Commission, in testimony to U.S. Congress, in G7 and G20 Declarations, and the United Nations Environment Programme. She conducts public environmental diplomacy as an International Informational Speaker for the U.S., including multiple global programs of speaking events, meetings, presentations to governmental bodies, and media outreach around the world. In 2014, she sailed across the Atlantic Ocean with 13 other women in eXXpedition to sample land and open-ocean plastic and encourage women to enter STEM disciplines. She is co-developer of the mobile app Marine Debris Tracker, a tool that continues to facilitate a growing global citizen science initiative that has documented the location of over 1 million litter and marine debris items removed from our environment throughout the world.

Join Jenna in learning more about Jenna’s environmental research on plastic and solid waste.


Melissa Farlow

National Geographic Photographer • Wednesday Morning Keynote

Melissa Farlow has worked extensively for National Geographic magazine in the American West for stories on public lands, environmental issues and wild horses. Primarily known for her personal approach when photographing people, Farlow documented diverse cultures and landscapes while in South America, Quebec, Alaska, the Alps, and the Okefenokee Swamp in over 20 National Geographic projects.
Awarded a Pulitzer Prize with the staff of the Louisville Courier-Journal, Farlow received a National Headliner Award as well as Pictures of the Year portfolio honors while at the Pittsburgh Press. Named Distinguished Alumni by the IU School of Journalism, she was inducted into Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame in 2013.

Farlow’s National Geographic books include Wild Lands of the West and Long Road South on the Pan American highway. She photographed in Ecuador and documented women’s roles in three African countries—Ethiopia, Mali and South Africa—for Women in the Material World. Her images are printed in over 70 books including Day in the Life series and a number of Geographic’s books including The Photographs, Best 100 Wildlife Photographs and in Women Photographers at National Geographic.

Join us to learn and see more of Melissa’s adventures that have taken her across the globe.


Randy Olson

National Geographic Photographer • Thursday Morning Keynote

Randy Olson is a photographer in the documentary tradition. He often works with his wife, Melissa Farlow and their work has taken them to 50 countries over the past 20 years. Even though they are published in LIFE, GEO, Smithsonian and other magazines, they have primarily worked on projects for the National Geographic Society. They normally work individually but have co-produced National Geographic magazine stories on northern California, American national parks, and the Alps. They photographed the southern United States for a book by Collins Publishing and have collaborated on over 70 books by various publishers.
Randy’s 30+ National Geographic projects have taken him to almost every continent. National Geographic Society published a book of his work in 2011 in their Master of Photography series. Olson was the Magazine Photographer of the Year in the 2003 Pictures of the Year International (POYi) competition and was also awarded POYi’s Newspaper Photographer of the Year in 1991—one of only two photographers to win in both media in the largest photojournalism contest operating continuously since World War II.

In 2011, Randy founded The Photo Society ( that is open to any photographer who has produced a full-length story for National Geographic magazine. The purpose of the organization is to find economic opportunities and provide exposure to members as the economics of print dwindles. The National Geographic photographers elected Randy to represent them on the Photographer’s Advisory Board (PAB) for National Geographic and The Photo Society grew from Randy’s work on the PAB and his realization that the management at the National Geographic Society didn’t really understand the hazards their photographers endured.

Most recently, Randy’s work features National Geographic stories on plastics. Join us to see where Randy’s photography has taken him.


Paul Hawken

Environmentalist • Entrepreneur • Author • Activist • Thursday Lunch Keynote

Paul Hawken, environmental activist and author of Drawdown, The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reserve Global Warming. Hawken is an environmentalist, entrepreneur, journalist, author and activist who has dedicated his life to environmental sustainability and changing the relationship between business and the environment. He is one of the environmental movement's leading voices, and a pioneering architect of corporate reform with respect to ecological practices. On top of that, Paul is the Founder of Project Drawdown, a non-profit dedicated to researching when and how global warming can be reversed. The organization maps and models the scaling of one hundred substantive technological, social, and ecological solutions to global warming.

Join us for an opportunity to learn about environmental sustainability and Hawken's comprehensive plan to reverse global warming.