Dr. John Hemming was educated at Eton College, McGill University and Oxford University, where he received a PhD in Modern History. He was Director and Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), London, from 1975 to 1996, a time of great expansion in the Society’s range of activities, membership and finance. The RGS was particularly concerned with environmental issues in its many conferences and lectures, in papers in its three learned journals, and in its sponsored and supported field research. John was active in launching and organising the Society’s multidisciplinary research projects in Mulu, Sarawak; Karakoram, Pakistan; Kora, Kenya; Wahibah, Oman; Kimberley, Australia; Mkomazi, Tanzania; and Temburong, Brunei. He was co-chairman of the RGS’s Badia Research and Development Programme in Jordan and personally led the Maracá Rainforest Project in northern Brazil. This grew to be the largest research project ever organised in the Amazon basin by any European country, with some 150 scientists and 50 scientific technicians working from 1987 onwards, and an output of 15 books, hundreds of papers and extensive collections and scientific discoveries.
John has also been on many expeditions in Peru and Brazil, including the first exploration and mapping of the upper Iriri River. He has visited or lived with over 40 tribes, four of them at the time of first contact. He is the author or editor of 16 books including The Conquest of the Incas, Red Gold, Amazon Frontier, Die If You Must: Brazilian Indians In The Twentieth Century, The Search for El Dorado, Change in the Amazon Basin and The Golden Age of Discovery.
John has been active in many charitable organisations including serving as Trustee of The British Council, Chairman of the Anglo-Peruvian Society, President of the Rainforest Club and Founder Trustee of Survival. He is currently a Trustee of Earthwatch UK, Hakluyt Society, Cusichaca Trust and Pro-Natura International, among other organisations. He has received numerous awards, including the Companion of St Michael and St George (CMG) from the British government, Orden al Mérito (Peru) and Ordem do Cruzeiro do Sul (Brazil); medals and awards from Royal Geographical Society, Boston Museum of Science, Royal Scottish Geographical Society, Explorers Club (New York), Instituto Nacional de Cultura (Peru), Andean Explorers Club; and literary prizes such as the Pitman Prize and the Christopher Medal (New York). He holds honorary doctorates from the universities of Warwick and Stirling and was named Honorary Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford. He is currently chairman of Hemming Group Ltd. and of various publishing and exhibition-organising companies.
Isabel Goldsmith-Patiño (France/UK) is an internationally renowned hotelier with longstanding relationships in the entertainment, social, cultural and business communities of London, Paris, Hollywood and Mexico. Born in Paris, Isabel is the daughter of the late British financier Sir James Goldsmith and the granddaughter of “Bolivian Tin King” Don Antenor Patiño, who developed Las Hadas in Manzanillo where the movie “10” with Bo Derek was filmed.
In 1990, Isabel created Las Alamandas, a luxurious beachfront resort located midway between Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo in the fabled “Costalegre” region of Mexico’s Pacific Coast. This world-famous, six-villa hideaway is situated within a 1,500-acre private paradise of lush tropical gardens, exotic wildlife and seemingly endless beaches in their most natural and pristine state. Las Alamandas has become the getaway for many of Hollywood’s biggest stars and the backdrop for many of the fashion world’s most glamorous pictorials. Isabel has long been involved with a variety of philanthropic endeavours, many of which focus on the environment. Most recently, she spearheaded various projects to protect and preserve the Mexican coastline. She became a GDF Trustee in 2006.
Vanessa Branson has enjoyed a life of working in the arts. From 1986 to 1991, she ran the Vanessa Devereux Gallery championing the work of emerging artists, most memorably being the first gallery to show William Kentridge in the UK. Vanessa is the co-owner of Riad El Fenn, a stunning hotel in the Medina of Marrakech. Her respect and love of North African culture led her to found the Marrakech Biennale (formerly AIM Biennale). It is North Africa’s only trilingual arts festival, comprising visual art, literature and film programs featuring acclaimed international and Moroccan artists.
Vanessa is a trustee of the British Moroccan Society and Virgin Unite. She has been a GDF Trustee since 2012.
William Carey started his career serving in The Blues and Royals. Having completed a short service commission, he then worked for a number of well known investment management companies before co-founding Liontrust Asset Management PLC in 1995, a business successfully listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1999. William continued as Joint Chief Executive until stepping down in 2004. During his time, the business grew to approximately £5 billion of funds under management with a market capitalisation of approximately £150 million. Since 2005, he has been involved in diverse projects ranging from investing in a small hotel business in Morocco to a political website called Hustings.com, that aims to get more people to engage in politics.
William became a Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators as an Accredited Mediator in May 2006. In 2008, he was involved in setting up a rally team that enabled two young crew members to compete at a high level where they enjoyed considerable success. His main focus is now photography. William has been a GDF Trustee since 2009.
Yadvinder Malhi is Professor of Ecosystem Science at Oxford University. His research interests focus on the interactions between tropical terrestrial ecosystems and the global climate, and how tropical ecosystems and their biodiversity and functioning can best be maintained in the context of global change. He founded the Global Ecosystems Monitoring (GEM) network of intensive monitoring plots across the tropics. This network also endeavours strongly to strengthen capacity and connect students and researchers across the tropics. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, and in 2018 was awarded a Gold Medal of the Royal Geographical Society for his work. He is currently President of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation.