Ella Al-Shamahi

Explorer, Palaeoanthropologist, Evolutionary Biologist And Stand-Up Comic

Ella is a National Geographic Explorer, palaeoanthropologist, evolutionary biologist, TV presenter and stand-up comic. She specialises in the study of Neanderthals and fossil hunting in Palaeolithic caves, often in unstable, disputed and hostile territories such as Iraq, Yemen and Nagorno-Karabakh as well as locations she can’t publicly admit to. Heading up exploratory expeditions or joining cave excavations, the conditions can be unusual and incredibly challenging, from avoiding landmines to wearing a burqa for security reasons. Ella believes that these risks are worth taking because huge parts of our planet are being neglected due to instability, yet these places represent the frontline of science and exploration.

Ella has presented some of the most brilliant science and history television of recent years and is perhaps best known for Lost Kingdoms of the Amazon (Channel 4), Waterhole: Africa’s Animal Oasis (BBC2), the PBS and BBC science series, Neanderthals: Meet Your Ancestors and National Geographic’s Viking Warrior Women where during filming she discovered what might be the first evidence of a battle injury on a female Viking warrior. This discovery was widely reported on by the international press.

Ella uses comedy both as a coping strategy and as an accessible way to communicate science. She has performed across the globe from the Bloomsbury Theatre to the National Geographic main stage in DC. She has also given a TED talk which has nearly 2.5 million views, is a regular keynote speaker for companies including Disney and Facebook and has taken four shows to the world-renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

A witty and gifted communicator with an incredible story to tell, Ella enthralls audiences. She shares valuable messages about the importance of taking risks but also how to manage risk without burning out. Ella teaches audiences how they can foster resilience and embrace reinvention, showing them how to apply the lessons she has learned during high-risk expeditions – in some of the remotest and most dangerous places on earth – in our daily lives and at work. Her own personal story of resilience combined with her expansive knowledge of evolutionary history makes for a truly compelling event.


Adventure, Change, Education, Fear & Risk, History, Science

Slideshow Items

  • "The perfect blend of wit and sarcasm. This talented scientist turned comedian is fearless"

    Wesley Della Volla, Director
    Live Events & Experiences at National Geographic Society