Expeidtion Team

Alegra Ally

Founder / Expedition Leader / Expedition Director

Alegra Ally is ethnographer and award-winning explorer and photographer, best known for her in-depth work Wild Born Project focusing on indigenous women. Her ability to produce photographs with profound emotional resonance and sensitivity earned her the Scott Pearlman Field Award for her expedition: ‘Women at the End of the Land’ in 2016 and dozens of other international awards both from the photography and exploration communities. Ally was named “A Modern Explorer” by the New York Times, and her recently published book “New Path- A Window into Nenets Life”, has been titled by photography books critics as one of 2019’s best photography books. Ally’s work is featured in several publications; The New York Times, Huffington Post, The Walt Disney Company, The Guardian, Maptia, Sidetracked, Shackleton Journal London, and the British Journal of Photography.

Ally first travelled solo to Papua New Guinea in 1997 at the age of 17, where she spent months living remote tribes. She crossed the Sepik River by canoe twice, trekked the Kokoda Trail, and became initiated into one of the Sepik tribes as well as into the Kosua tribe. Her first book describing her travels in Papua, “Touching Genesis”, was published in 2001.

She serves as a member in the Scott Pearlman Field award and the Flag and Honours Committees of The Explorers Club. Recently she served as an advisor to the BBC Natural History Unit for a “Human Planet” series. As an internationally recognized speaker Ally was invited to present the Wild Born Project in several midwifery organizations, including midwifery departments at various hospitals, photography schools and the Explorers Club Headquarters. Ally is currently writing her memoir and her thesis as part for her Masters of Research degree with focus on Anthropology at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia.

Melissa Flagg

COMMUNICATIONS AND NARRATIVe

Melissa Flagg is a writer and independent filmmaker and with fourteen years of experience creating uniquely compelling films. She works across multiple genres, including short-film, documentary and narrative. Melissa is also a counsellor and teaches creative dance and embodied movement for adults and children of all abilities. She has facilitated programs and workshops on movement education and embodied dance in Canada and India. 

Melissa is passionate about working with communities and individuals in the areas of health and well-being and works at supporting and guiding projects that bring forth meaningful change. Collaboration is an important element in Melissa’s work and artistic practice, and she has collaborated on film, dance, and writing projects with other artists, filmmakers, therapists and youth from around the world. 

Melissa holds a Bachelor degree in Media Arts from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design and has studied at The Victoria College of Art, The Banff Centre for the Arts, and West Coast Dance/Movement Therapy in Canada. Melissa is an experienced trekker and with a deep wanderlust and love of travel, but returns often to her home on beautiful Vancouver Island, Canada.

Blake Everson

Fixer, guide, cultural liaison, translator

After graduating with a degree in environmental literature, Blake Everson set forth with a plan to explore the world’s less-traveled regions in pursuit of adventure and understanding. It didn’t take long for his itinerary to include the island nation of Papua New Guinea, which, as it turns out was exactly where he had been meant to go. Over 12 years has passed and Blake now leads custom, small-group cultural immersion expeditions, researchers and filmmakers into some of the most remote areas of Papua New Guinea. Working closely with tribes to develop itineraries that highlight the traditional knowledge of indigenous societies, he has witnessed a revival of cultural pride that has helped compel communities to resist the menacing advance of industry. When not out eating insects with the Kosua tribe of Mt. Bosavi, Blake works to educate tour companies and adventure seekers how culturally immersive collaborations with indigenous societies can help protect cultural diversity worldwide.

Qualifications and Experience:

Over a decade of experience guiding researchers, filmmakers, adventure travellers throughout PNG. Vast network of contacts throughout PNG to help ensure trips are safe, efficient, productive, unique and successful. Ten years relationship with the Kosua Tribe of Mt. Bosavi as a trusted advisor, friend and extended family member. Professional working proficiency in Tok Pisin.

Adventurous Midwives

We have 4 available spots for this expedition

Sarah Smits

Sarah Smits is an Australian registered midwife, who has a drive to help protect the sacredness of birth within an over medicalised system. She has a passion for knowledge sharing and for supporting women to come into their power during the transformational time that is pregnancy, birth and early parenting.
Sarah assisted in setting up a continuity of midwife care model in the Australian outback, working with many First Nations Australian families. An avid traveller, Sarah has practiced midwifery in Cambodia, Vanuatu and India and incorporates traditional knowledge and practices learnt from these travels into her care. Sarah shares her experiences at conferences, through press and podcasts in Australia and abroad.
Down to Birth Midwifery is Sarah’s latest venture, offering services to women both face to face and online. Alongside which she is studying her Masters of Midwifery as Primary Healthcare through Griffith university and working towards become a lactation consultant and private practice midwife.

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Gabrielle Lodge

Pronouns: She/They
Gabrielle Lodge is a Black, disabled, Queer, Muslim, Non-Binary woman, and a child of a Jamaican immigrant to the U.S. They are an abortion and birth doula, a Reiki practitioner/energy worker, and a Master in Public Health (MPH) candidate in Community Health Sciences concentrating in Maternal and Child Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago. They received their Bachelor of Arts degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences from the University of Southern Maine (Lewiston-Auburn College) in 2018 and will finish their MPH in May 2020. They have worked on a variety of University projects that addresses maternal and child health, and breast cancer inequities in Chicago. Gabrielle also worked in Kenya in a family planning clinic, and a women’s lawyer’s organization during the summer of 2019. Their primary areas of interest are reproductive and sexual health, mental health, and queer health. Their passion is to alleviate health inequities concerning Black, Indigenous, and communities of color, and LGBTQ+ populations. Gabrielle aspires to become Certified Nurse-Midwife, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, and Medical Anthropologist in order to have a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach to support communities. They work at many intersections to contribute to the sustainable building of healthy communities.

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Samantha Beard

I am a lifelong Alaskan and a Certified Direct-Entry Midwife since 2018. During my undergraduate career I studied wildlife ecology in Kenya and Tanzania and classic studies in Greece. After graduation I prepared for a career in the medical field and returned alone to East Africa to travel and research opportunities, but soon discovered the idealism in my desire to work in developing countries was not enough to protect me from joining a legacy of inadvertently harming communities working towards cultural sovereignty. I returned to Alaska humbled, but with a continued desire to develop tangible skills to address health, resiliency and generational trauma caused by colonization and forced assimilation. For several years I work in social service programs including refugee resettlement, sexual assault victim advocacy, and homeless youth shelters. Though I remained interested in public health and medicine, I felt called to a more holistic approach to wellness. In 2014 I was granted the opportunity to start an apprenticeship in midwifery, opening the door to actualize my interests in both evidence-based science and ancient wisdom. This work has cultivated a fierce belief in the resiliency of the human spirit and the transformative power of a self-determined and embodied birth experience. I believe that by bringing peace, power, and personal autonomy into the birth room (or hut!), we have the ability to subvert power structures that have caused immeasurable damage to our communities and planet. Since welcoming my daughter Inga in 2018, I have continued both midwifery and advocacy with a renewed sense of urgency about the importance of this work for the future we leave for our children. I am incredibly honored to be included in this group and am eager for the opportunity to share knowledge and wisdom with healers across the world.

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Kate Wierenga

Kate is originally from Australia, but has spent the majority of her life living in the UK. She qualified as a registered midwife in 2016, and then worked for the NHS contracted Caseloading team called “One to One Midwives” for three years. The team specialised in providing continuity from conception through to 6 weeks postnatal, and in promoting and supporting home births. Since the team was unfortunately closed down, Kate has been working for Private Midwives basing herself in North East London. She is also in the process of completing the Newborn Initial Physical Examination (NIPE) course for Midwives, at Masters Level.
Kate has recently set herself up to work in an Independent Midwife partnership, under the name “The Modern Day Midwives”. Their philosophy is to bring the ethos of traditional midwifery practice back into the modern day, as well as having a fun, relatable and approachable stance to Midwifery care.
Kate’s approach to midwifery is centred around educating women and their partners throughout pregnancy so that they feel well informed, confident and empowered to make decisions regarding their pregnancy, birth and caring for their newborn. She is very passionate about promoting home birth as a safe and beneficial option.
Kate has a real passion for travel and adventure, and hopes to provide care for families of different cultures, in different and exciting places across the globe.

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Advisory Council

Midwives

DR. ROBBIE DAVIS-FLOYD

Senior project

Dr. Davis-Floyd is Senior Research Fellow, in the Dept. of Anthropology at the University of Texas Austin. She is an international speaker, published author, medical/cultural anthropologist, and an expert in the fields of childbirth and midwifery. 

As a cultural anthropologist, she has spent over 20 years researching issues in the anthropology of reproduction, focusing most closely on childbirth, obstetrics, and midwifery.

DR. SARAH BUCKLEY

Dr. Sarah Buckley is a New-Zealand-trained GP/family physician with qualifications in GP-obstetrics and family planning. Dr. Buckley’s bestselling book Gentle Birth, Gentle Mothering: A Doctor’s Guide to Natural Childbirth and Gentle Early Parenting Choices, was published by Celestial Arts/ PenguinRandomHouse (US, 2009). 

She is a PhD candidate at the University of Queensland, where her research is focused on oxytocin and the autonomic nervous system in labour and birth, and the impacts of interventions. 

Dr Buckley’s work critiques current practices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting from the widest possible perspectives, including scientific, anthropological, cross-cultural, psychological, and personal.

CAROL GAUTSCHI

Carol Gautschi is a Certified Professional Midwife (NARM certified) and is also licensed by the state of Washington. Carol is the longest continuously practicing home-birth midwife on the Kitsap & Olympic Peninsulas. She has attended home births for more than 40 years and worked as a Classical Holistic Midwife since 1979. 

She is president and co-founder of the Washington Alliance for Responsible Midwifery (WARM), founding and board-member of Global Midwifery Council and chairs Olympic Peninsula Birth Matters.

Honorary Advisor

ZOË TRYON

Zoë Tryon is a renowned activist, speaker, and artist known for her work with indigenous communities globally. She is the Founder of One of the Tribe Journeys, a travel company that offers, privately led, immersive experiences with indigenous communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon and Andes. Through One of the Tribe Zoë has led journalists, filmmakers, celebrities to witness places in the world few will ever see. Zoe also founded the One of the Tribe non-profit to raise awareness for the issues facing indigenous communities and has acted as a cultural liaison between indigenous and Western leaders since 2006 when she first began living with the Achuar Tribe in the Amazon. Since then Zoe has lived and worked with the Achuar, Shuar, Kichwa, Sapara and Waorani peoples across Ecuador. She has supported education, health and economic capacity building projects, advocated for environmental and constitutional rights, and worked closely with indigenous partners on the largest environmental lawsuit in history. Zoë speaks worldwide on the interconnected issues of environmental stewardship and corporate responsibility and how we can apply extraordinary wisdom from tribal cultures to our lives today. Zoe is currently completing her memoir, The Jungle Within, as well as a TV series, bringing to screen her own experiences with tribes. She is an ambassador for Amazon Watch, a champion for the Clearwater Campaignand a creative activist for the Creative Visions Foundation. Her artwork is held in private collections around the world and Zoë is currently based between Wiltshire, England, Ecuador and the US.

Cultural Anthropologist

DR. SOPHIE CHAO

Dr. Sophie Chao is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Sydney’s School of Philosophical and Historical Inquiry. Dr. Chao holds a PhD from Macquarie University where her research was based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork in West Papua, examining how deforestation and monocrop oil palm expansion reconfigure the multispecies lifeworld of indigenous Marind communities. Her research explores the intersections of capitalism, ecology, and indigeneity in Southeast Asia. 

Dr. Chao is currently Secretary on the Executive Committee of the Australian Anthropological Association (AAS), Co-Convenor of the Australian Food, Society, and Culture Network (AFSCN), and Member of the Charles Perkins Center Early and Mid-Career Researchers Committee (University of Sydney).

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