Status update February 2021

Our assessment of the situation has not changed since the January update.  In a nutshell:

  • Because of the time it will take to roll out vaccines, we expect it will still take some significant time until expeditions are up and running again, let alone back to something approaching normal.
  • In fact, we do not expect operations to approach anything near normal until early 2022, perhaps even later.
  • With all this in mind, our strategy is now to take things (and expeditions) as they come and assess the feasibility of each expedition six to eight weeks before it is due to start. This, by the way, also meshes with scientific data on when it is best to purchase flights (70 days before departure).
  • If we decide an expedition can happen – and if there is enough interest – then we will announce under what measures and circumstances (for example social distancing rules, vaccination requirement, negative test result, etc.) the expedition will take place.
  • Anything else, we believe, would be unrealistic and unprofessional at this point.

We know that this makes forward planning very difficult, but I hope you can understand our reasoning behind this. If you would like to sign up to an expedition now and support us this way, then rest assured that deferment to another expedition or the same expedition in 2022 will be handled very flexibly (see our explanation on this topic here).

The Azores expedition, which was planned for March/April 2021, has been deferred to March/April 2022. The next expedition on our schedule is Costa Rica in May 2021. We will make a decision about this during the first half of March 2021.

Finally, and if you can, please help us get through this very challenging time by contributing to our survival appeal.

The Azores expedition March/April 2021 has been deferred to March/April 2022.
Next in line is sea turtles in Costa Rica in May 2021. We will make a decision about this expedition in March.

Is Biosphere Expeditions the most decorated volunteer organisation on the planet?

We reckon this must be so. Just look at the list of awards & accolades below!

Let us know if you know of another volunteer non-profit with that many awards.

 


 

Biosphere Expeditions has won the following awards (our definition of “award” is a process that requires an entry via an application form and where a winner is chosen on a competitive basis by a judging panel).

 

World Travel and Tourism Council

World Travel and Tourism Council Tourism For Tomorrow Awards: Finalist in the “Environment” category (international award scheme)  

 

First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards

First Choice Responsible Tourism Awards: Winner of the “Best Volunteering Organisation” award (international award scheme based in the UK)  

 

Skål International Sustainable Tourism Awards

Skål International Sustainable Tourism Awards: Winner of the category “Countryside and wildlife” (international award scheme)

 

  UIAA Mountain Protection Award

UIAA Mountain Protection Award: Winner of the category “Best Initiative” (international award scheme)  

Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards

Virgin Holidays Responsible Tourism Awards: Highly commended in the categories “Best for Protection of Endangered Species” and “Best Volunteering Organisation” (international award scheme based in the UK)  

 

ecotrophea

EcoTrophea: Finalist in the category “environmental protection and social responsibility in tourism” (international award scheme based in Germany)  

 

Reef Check

Reef Check Awards: Our executive director is made a “Hero of the Reef” for services to coral reef conservation worldwide (international award scheme based in the USA)  

 

Tripbase

Best Volunteering Holidays Award: Award by Tripbase.com (international award scheme based in the USA)  

 

Future50

Future 50 Award: Our Executive Director, Dr. Matthias Hammer, is named in the Future 50 class of “ones to watch” (UK award scheme based in Norfolk)  

 

Greenstop

Best Practice and Environmental Excellence Award: From Greenstop.Net, who assess eco-friendly practices and responsible tourism (international award scheme based in the UK)  

 

SealSkinz Extreme Award

SealSkinz X-treme Award: Winner (UK award scheme)  

 

Britannica

Website Award from the publishers of the Encyclopedia Britannica  

 


 

Biosphere Expeditions has also won the following accolades (our definition of “accolade” is a listing, usually through an editorial process, which does not require an application).

 

National Geographic

National Geographic “100 places that will change your life” accolade for Costa Rica expedition; National Geographic Adventurer “Best New Trip” accolade for Slovakia expedition.

 

BBC Wildlife

“Top Wildlife Conservation Holiday” for Sumatra expedition; “Top Ten Conservation Holiday” for Altai expedition.

 

Conde Nast Gold List

Our Tien Shan expedition is honoured on Condé Nast Traveller’s “Gold List” of “the world’s most extraordinary travel experiences”

 

Condé Nast

Our Armenia expedition is honoured on Condé Nast Traveller’s list of “Ten of the world’s most admirable voluntourism trips that will actually make a difference”

 

Travel + Leisure

“Best Adventure Outfitter” and “Best Save-the-Earth Trip” listings

 

Wall Street Journal

“Best Volunteer Travel” for Namibia expedition

 

Merian

“Unforgettable Travel Adventure (Unvergessliches Reiseabenteuer)” for taster days and Honduras expedition

 

responsibletravel.com

“Top Responsible Holiday” for Amazonia expedition

 

Travel with a mate

“Best Volunteer Dive Organisation” (international online magazine)

 

Outside

Biosphere Expeditions makes it on “The Go List” for “novel vacations”; “Trip of the Year” for Maldives expedition

 

Endless Vacation

“Best Trip that Offers a Way Back” for Malaysia expedition

 

Skyscanner

“Great Humanitarian Travel Option” for Amazonia expedition

 

FeedSpot

“Top 25 Wildlife Conservation Blogs” for our blog

 

Get Lost!

“30 Great Escapes / Best Adventure Trips on the Planet” for Slovakia expedition; “Top Trips: Great small group adventure across the globe” for Arabia expedition.

 

The Independent

“Best Holiday for Green-Minded Travellers” for experience days; “Top Ten Outdoor Pursuits” for Altai & Azores expeditions; “Best Desert Adventure Holiday” for Arabia expedition; “Best Activity and Adventure Break” for Musandam expedition; “Best Volunteer Career Break” for Brazil expedition; “Best for the Wild at Heart” for Slovakia expedition.

 

Wildlifeextra.com

“Life-changing volunteering trip” for Tien Shan expedition

 

The Guardian

“Ten Best Wildlife Volunteering Holidays” for Oman expedition; “Ten Best Wildlife Holidays in Europe” for Azores expedition.

 

sundaytimes

“Most satisfying trip of the year” for Altai expedition

 

P.M.

“Top Holiday For Nature” listing in the category “Where can I do something for nature during my holidays?” (Wo kann man im Urlaub etwas für die Natur tun?)

 

Telegraph

“The 50 greatest wildlife holidays on Earth” for South Africa expedition; “Twenty of the world’s greatest adventures” for Brazil expedition; “50 amazing wildlife adventures” for Musandam expedition; “Top 10 rare wildlife encounters” for Azores expedition

 

Business Insider

“Best Volunteer Vacation” for Namibia expedition

 

World Travel Guide

“Ethical experience” for Sumatra expedition, “10 of the best conservation holidays” for Slovakia and Malaysia expeditions

 

de Volkskrant

“Top Ten Ethical Operators” listing for Biosphere Expeditions

 

The National

 “World’s most interesting (and conservation-focused) wildlife trips” listing for Arabia expedition

 

GreatNonprofits

“Top Rated Noprofit” listing for Biosphere Expeditions by GreatNonprofits.org

 

Status update January 2021 – Our expeditions strategy for 2021

There is now light at the end of the pandemic tunnel with vaccines being rolled out across the (mainly industrialised) world. However, restrictions are likely to be with us well into 2021 and beyond, and travel will only be possible gradually. This is mainly because vaccine rollout across industrialised countries will take over a year – and much longer in the developing world, for example an estimated two to three years in Africa. This means that we now expect it will still take some significant time until expeditions are up and running again, let alone back to something approaching normal. In fact, we do not expect operations to approach anything near normal until well into 2022, perhaps even later.

With all this in mind our strategy is now to take things (and expeditions) as they come and assess the feasibility of each expedition six to eight weeks before it is due to start. This, by the way, also meshes with scientific data on when it is best to purchase flights (70 days before departure). Anything else, we believe, would be unrealistic and unprofessional at this point. If this assessment changes, we will of course let you know. For the moment, however, it’s obvious that we are all in this same unpredictable boat together, albeit hopefully sailing into a brighter future and calmer waters.

Our next scheduled expedition is to the Azores, starting on 21 March. Our current strategy means that we will assess the feasibility of this expedition towards the end of January and let everyone know, including signed up expeditioners of course, whether it will run or be deferred.

On a side note, we of course realise that forward planning is very difficult at the moment. This is why we are handling signups and deferment very flexibly so that nobody misses or loses out. What this means in practice is described in detail here.

Finally, and if you can, please help us get through this very challenging time of make or break, boom or bust, live or die, by contributing to our survival appeal.

The next expedition, maybe, will be to the Azores.

Status update December 2020 – First we helped our local conservation partners. Now it’s time to think about our own survival.

After the coronavirus appeal to support our local partners, please also now consider the Biosphere Expeditions survival appeal to help us make it through the crisis too

Our coronavirus appeal from 1 April to 1 December 2020 was all about getting our local conservation partners through this crisis. This appeal raised close to €50,000 and enabled community expeditions and projects in 2020.

Although there is now light at the end of the pandemic tunnel with several vaccines about to be rolled out, restrictions are likely to be with us well into 2021 and beyond, mainly because vaccine rollout across the world is going to take well over a year, perhaps even two or three.

This means that on top of the near total loss of income in 2020, it will still take some significant time until expeditions are up and running again, let alone back to something approaching normal. In fact, we do not expect operations to approach anything near normal until well into 2022, perhaps even later.

All this means that after the coronavirus appeal for our local conservation partners, it is now time to think about Biosphere Expeditions’ survival in these very testing times. So please help us survive the crisis, whilst also avoiding redundancies, by giving to our survival appeal. All donations, large or small, are very welcome and highly appreciated.

There is light appearing over the horizon, but for Biosphere Expeditions it is still far away

Community expeditions update December 2020

The coronavirus crisis affects us all. All citizen science for 2020 had to be deferred from March onwards and only two out of a dozen expeditions had a citizen science element to them. Therefore, our partners were and are hard hit by lack of funding and citizen scientist helpers. Yet we were determined that conservation efforts continued despite, and even because of, the very difficult circumstances. This is why we ran a coronavirus appeal from 1 April to 1 December 2020 – to help get our local conservation partners through this crisis. The appeal raised close to €50,000 from 162 donors.

Here is a summary of what the funding has achieved so far:

In the Azores (whales & dolphins) our scientist Lisa Steiner was able to be out on and off the water from April to the end of the season in November. She has a written a detailed blog of what she saw and the data she could collect through the support of the coronavirus appeal.

“The funding from Biosphere Expeditions allowed me to get to sea and document that, for a second year in a row, the number of baleen whales passing by in the spring was lower than it had previously been. I only documented a few blue whales, one humpback and one fin whale, during April/May. There were also fewer Risso’s dolphins, one of the resident species. Sei whales, however, were regularly present throughout July, August, September and even into October. 2020 was a very good year for sperm whales. I was able to document several of the ‘regular’ groups of sperm whales and take over 100 different sperm whale ID photos. I also logged the resident bottlenose dolphins several times – in September with a couple of new calves – as well as false killer whales. Finally there were lots of spotted, common and striped dolphin, sometimes displaying incredible aerial activity. It’s all in the blog. My sincerest thanks to Biosphere Expeditions and those who supported their coronavirus appeal!”
Lisa Steiner
Expedition scientist, Azores

Lisa Steiner

 

In Germany (wolf), a small community expedition took place in July and there is also a blog. The community expedition walked about 250 km, covering 15 cells of the pan-European 10 x 10 km grid and collecting 163 wolf signs. From this they were able to glean evidence of seven wolves, amongst them one known breeding female. Three individuals were new to science, which is exciting.

“Thank you so much to Biosphere Expeditions, its coronavirus appeal and all donors towards our community expedition in Germany. Without the funding provided by the appeal, and in the absence of a citizen science expedition in the summer of 2020, there would have been no data collection and we would have had a big gap in our knowledge about wolves in our study area. Instead we were able to get out into the field, producing some exciting results. Thank you for making this possible despite the challenging circumstances.”
Peter Schütte
Expedition scientist, Germany

Scientist Peter Schütte (left) with a Germany community expeditioner

 

In the Tien Shan (snow leopard), our community camera trapping team have done very well to capture more snow leopard photos and to run a community expedition in September, collecting valuable data in the absence of our annual citizen science expedition. This meant we could produce a combined 2019/2020 research report showing snow leopard presence and making conservation recommendations.

“On behalf of Ilbirs Foundation and myself, I would like to express our heartfelt gratitude to Biosphere Expeditions for providing financial support for wildlife monitoring and environmental protection in collaboration with local communities, despite the fact that the pandemic is growing worldwide and the world is facing a very difficult situation. I express my solidarity with the fact that Biosphere Expeditions is continuing its work this way, providing opportunities to all worldwide conservationists in protecting wildlife around the globe.”
Askat Dabyrovich
Ilbirs Foundation, Kyrgyzstan

The Tien Shan community expedition team (with Askat Dabyrovich on the left)

 

In Costa Rica (sea turtles), the project continued with just the local leaders, one research assistant and the biologist. The nesting season finished in October and the research station is closed until next year, when our partners are hoping to reopen it again in time for next season, pandemic permitting. The green turtle season in 2020 was slow (just 34 nests), for reasons that are not known, but not because of the pandemic. Because of this, the success rate of saving nests from poachers was almost 100%! For leatherbacks, there were 150 nests with hatchling numbers similar to previous seasons. There were also five hawksbill nests. The eventual poaching rate was around 40-50%, depending on the month. The percentage of nests saved at the end of the season and across three species was 59%. The poaching rate was of course higher than in years with citizen science support and therefore the percentage of nests saved was lower. But is still very good, given the very difficult circumstances.

In another positive development, a reusable hatchery was constructed for the first time in 2020. Hatcheries are built each season to translocate and protect nests to ensure maximum hatchling survival. We now have reusable fence and other structures that should last many years and make for a much better hatchery.

The 2020 hatchery with its reusable fence and other structures

 

In Thailand (elephant), our partners are working hard, and are succeeding, to get their local study herd of elephants through the crisis, plus those animals that are returning to the forest with their mahouts because they cannot make a living during lockdown. There are now 50+ elephants around the mountain villages or deep in the forest with their mahouts and food is running low, but fundraising has helped to buy extra fodder to sustain the animals through the crisis.

“Your tireless efforts for fundraising have helped us to continue to provide for our elephants. Our community has also assisted us to care for the many elephants that have had to return to our area for the crisis period. Every donation has contributed to this and has ensured our survival over these difficult times. Thank you to everyone who has contributed.”
Kerri McCrea
Expedition scientist, Thailand

Elephants in Thailand

 

In the Maldives (coral reefs), our local partner has instigated a new coral reef conservation project using coral nurseries to grow baby corals.

Coral nursery table

 

In Kenya (African biodiversity), we empowered local communities through technology with great success during the last international expedition that ran just before the pandemic hit and have published the report of this already. “Enonkishu is thriving as far as the wildlife goes. There were eleven lions, four wild dogs, and Kisaru, the cheetah, just on one walk last Sunday. It looks like Kisaru is pregnant again and sticking around to have her cubs in Enonkishu for a second year in a row,  which will be fantastic”, says conservancy manager Rebekah Karimi.

Kisaru cubs (c) C Flechtner

 

In Armenia (leopard, bear, wolf), the community expedition was planned for November, but had to be cancelled when the war in Nagorno-Karabagh, which is too close for comfort to our study site, broke out. With winter approaching, plans have been postponed to 2021.

Autumn in the Armenia study site

Status update November 2020 – Will there be expeditions in 2021?

Since our last status update and interview with our founder in October and his interview with “natur” magazine, light has appeared at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines are in sight and our community expeditions and coronavirus appeal to support our local partners are going well.

But what does that mean for expeditions in 2021 and will Biosphere Expeditions survive this crisis?

With no expeditions since February 2020 and therefore the almost total loss of income, survival still hangs by a thread, but we are fighting hard and are rising to the challenge. In a few months, we will be able to see whether we can pull through. Chances are looking increasingly positive and we will soon start another campaign to get us over the line.

As to expeditions, we are now hopeful that at least some European expeditions will run in 2021. The first one, the Azores, is scheduled for March/April 2021. This may be too soon. The next few weeks will reveal this and we will keep you updated on here. Thereafter it’s Sweden in June and Germany in June/July. For those, things are definitely looking up, especially because experts think we may be able to get back to some sort of normal by late spring / early summer.

As to other expeditions around the world, it’s too early to make predictions now. Much will depend on vaccine rollout across the planet, as well as on how confident people will be to travel again to remote, far-flung places, and of course whether they will have the funds to do so. We expect to be able to make some more confident predictions by January, so watch this space. in any case, the expeditions to Arabia and Kenya, scheduled for January and February respectively, were deferred to 2022 quite a few weeks ago.

What you can do to help in all this and make sure it comes true is give to our appeal, join the Friends, join an expedition (Germany and Sweden are your best bet), get vaccinated and make sure people around you get vaccinated too.

See you on the other side!

Expedition diaries up to 2011

Diaries between 2002 and 2011 were mainly text-based and are archived below as PDFs.

Diaries were not kept for the early period from Biosphere Expeditions’ foundation in 1999 until 2001.

Research output for all expeditions and years is on Research Gate.

pdf Altai 2003
pdf Altai 2004
pdf Altai 2005
pdf Altai 2006
pdf Altai 2007
pdf Altai 2008
pdf Altai 2009
pdf Altai 2010
pdf Altai 2011

pdf Azores 2004
pdf Azores 2005
pdf Azores 2006
pdf Azores 2007
pdf Azores 2008
pdf Azores 2009
pdf Azores 2010
pdf Azores 2011

pdf Brazil 2006
pdf Brazil 2007
pdf Brazil 2008
pdf Brazil 2010
pdf Brazil 2011

pdf Caprivi 2008
pdf Caprivi 2009

pdf Honduras 2006
pdf Honduras 2007
pdf Honduras 2008
pdf Honduras 2009
pdf Honduras 2011

pdf Maldives 2011

pdf Musandam 2009
pdf Musandam 2010
pdf Musandam 2011

pdf Namibia 2002
pdf Namibia 2003
pdf Namibia 2004
pdf Namibia 2005 (spring)
pdf Namibia 2005 (autumn)
pdf Namibia 2006
pdf Namibia 2007
pdf Namibia 2008 (Caprivi)
pdf Namibia 2009 (Caprivi)
pdf Namibia 2010
pdf Namibia 2011 (rotation 1)
pdf Namibia 2011 (rotation 2)

pdf Oman 2006
pdf Oman 2007

pdf Oman 2008
pdf Oman 2009
pdf Oman 2010
pdf Oman 2011

pdf Peru 2003
pdf Peru 2005
pdf Peru 2006
pdf Peru 2008
pdf Peru 2009
pdf Peru 2011

pdf Slovakia 2004
pdf Slovakia 2005
pdf Slovakia 2006
pdf Slovakia 2007
pdf Slovakia 2008
pdf Slovakia 2010

pdf Spain 2008

pdf Sri Lanka 2005

pdf Ukraine 2003

pdf Western Australia 2010
pdf Western Australia 2011

Azores: Wrapping up the 2020 season

2020 is drawing to a close.

I was able to get out to sea a few more times in October and twice in November.

On 15 October we headed once again to the South of Pico, where the lookout had seen some sei whales and dolphins. After a quick look at the common dolphin, because the lookout was impatient that we get to the sei whales, we headed further down the coast. But first we found a group of bottlenose dolphin, followed by spotted. As we were about to head out, another boat found some Risso’s dolphin closer to the coast. There have not been many Risso’s sightings this summer, so we headed in to see them first. And it was a good thing that we did. I sent the ID photos to Karin Hartman of the Nova Atlantis Foundation, who has been studying the Risso’s for a long time. One of the individuals we saw was S9c, who was first seen in 2002! She had not seen him for some time, so was extremely pleased with our sighting. There appeared to be some bottlenose dolphin interacting with part of the Risso’s dolphin group too, which isn’t seen very often.

In the end, we were lucky to find the sei whales, because the lookout had lost them. In the morning, it is sometimes difficult for the lookout to see to the east, depending on the glare (past expedition members will know this term well!) of the sun on the surface of the sea. At first, they were travelling very fast, up to 13kts to the NW, but eventually slowed up and may have found some food or decided to socialise, because we saw a head out from one of them. The angle that we saw from the boat, made it appear to be a sperm whale to start with! Which would have been extremely surprising, since the lookout hadn’t seen any around. It was confirmed by the photos, that it was the underside of the jaw of a sei whale that we saw. We thought there were two sei whales, but in the end there were three based on the ID photos.

On 16 October, there was a huge group of spotted dolphin feeding with 100s of Cory’s shearwaters and tuna! The dolphin, shearwaters and the tuna are all after the same bait-fish, in this case snipe fish. The whole feeding frenzy was spread over about a mile or so. And then we were lucky to find a group of bottlenose dolphin that had escaped the eagle eye of the vigia.

On 28 October we went to see some bottlenose dolphin, using the dorsal fin IDs, it is the same resident group that we have been seeing the last few trips out. Most of the dolphin were not interested in the boat, but a couple did come over and bowride as the group moved to the southeast. There were some quite large swells around and those made for some good photos as the dolphin either came out of them or surfed down them. One of the bottlenose dolphin had a cookie cutter shark bite on the tail stock. These small sharks attach and take small circular bites out of whales usually, but sometimes they can also have a dolphin snack.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

On 6 November, I made a road trip to Pico, since that was the only likely place to get to sea. Unfortunately, the sea down there was really rough. And although we saw some spotted dolphin, the camera stayed in the case!

My last day out of 2020 was 7 November. And that was unexpected. I was not planning to go out, but the vigia called to say he had sperm whales! This was the first time in a while that sperm whales had been seen instead of sei whales. So I decided to go out on my own and see who was around. Some more surprises, 1019’s group was still hanging around! They have been here since the middle of June, with another sighting at the beginning of September. This group has been to the Canary Islands in the past, so not sure if they will be sticking around here or making the trip south. Anyway, it was a good decision to go. The whales were only a mile or so from the area we covered on the 6th. We also came across a dead Cory’s shearwater, probably a young one that had just left the burrow. It is a steep learning curve when they get out onto the water for their first year. There was no obvious cause of death and we didn’t have any thing to bring it back to shore in, for a more thorough investigation.

During the downtime in between trips, I have been working with a new fluke matching algorithm. The results are amazing, with the program finding matches that had not been previously found. Attached are a few examples. One where instead of three separate IDs there is only one, another where there were some significant changes to the fluke, but the algorithm saw that the basic contour was still the same and another with a few changes. There will be more to come on this program soon, it is almost ready for its public launch.

Thank you very much to Biosphere Expeditions and its donors for the support to get out to sea whenever possible this summer. Hopefully things will be different in 2021 and the expedition will be back up and running as usual.

Stay safe everyone and see you on the water!

Lisa Steiner

P.S. SEAFARI sightings are now online for August/September and October.

Community expeditions update November 2020

In the Azores (whales & dolphins) our scientist Lisa Steiner has been out on and off the water all the way back since April and has a written a detailed blog.

Lisa Steiner

In Germany (wolf), a small community expedition took place in July and there is also a blog.

Scientist Peter Schütte with a Germany community expeditioner

In the Tien Shan (snow leopard), our community camera trapping team have done very well to capture more snow leopard photos and to run a community expedition in September, collecting valuable data in the absence of our annual citizen science expedition. This means we can produce a combined 2019/2020 research report, the publication of which is imminent. Check the Tien Shan research output page for details soon.

The Tien Shan community expedition team

In Costa Rica (sea turtles), work to save turtle nests from poachers continued successfully, despite the pandemic, with a skeleton crew. The nesting season is now over and the research station closed.

The hatchery in Costa Rica

In Thailand (elephant), we are working hard to get our study herd through the crisis.

Elephants in Thailand

In the Maldives (coral reefs), our local partner has instigated a new coral reef conservation project.

Coral nursery table

In Kenya (African biodiversity), we empowered local communities with technology with great success during the last international expedition that ran just before the pandemic hit and have published the report of this already. “Enonkishu is thriving as far as the wildlife goes. There were eleven lions, four wild dogs, and Kisaru, the cheetah, just on one walk last Sunday. It looks like Kisaru is pregnant again and sticking around to have her cubs in Enonkishu for a second year in a row,  which will be fantastic”, says conservancy manager Rebekah Karimi.

Kisaru cubs (c) C Flechtner

In Armenia (leopard, bear, wolf), the community expedition was planned for November, but had to be cancelled when the war in Nagorno-Karabagh, which is too close for comfort to our study site, broke out. With winter approaching, plans have been postponed to 2021.

Autumn in the Armenia study site

Status update October 2020 – Our expeditions and fight for survival

Biosphere Expeditions is still here, albeit with all hatches battened down in an effort to survive the storm. Here’s an update to an interview with our founder and executive director, Dr. Matthias Hammer, about the situation at the moment.

Q: Our last interview was on 18 August 2020. What has changed since then? What’s the new situation and thinking?

A: When we last spoke, there were hopes for a vaccine by the end of 2020. Now most expert think mid-2021 is more realistic and even this will not be a “silver bullet” that will bring a swift end to the pandemic and a return to normal. We should expect masks and social distancing to be in place for 2-3 years.

Of course this presents a huge challenge to what we do. We are not expecting there to be many expeditions with citizen scientists in 2021. In fact, we recently postponed our Arabia and Kenya expeditions, planned for January and February 2021, for a year to 2022. I expect many other expeditions to follow suit. If conditions are favourable, we may be able to run the odd expedition in Europe later in 2021, but our honest assessment is that not much else will be possible in 2021. It may even not be possible to run any expeditions at all in 2021.

Q: What does that mean for the survival of Biosphere Expeditions?

A: To be honest, it will be very tough. We can probably weather the storm until the end of 2021. Getting there will be hard and we have to be very careful and plan well, which we are doing, of course, but beyond that it will become very difficult indeed to survive without expeditions running.

Q: What can people do to help?

A: First and foremost support our coronavirus appeal. The focus of the appeal is on our local partners and enabling them to continue with their critical conservation work despite the crisis. They too face a tough struggle and the more we can support them, the better for them and their conservation initiatives around the world. The appeal will finish on 30 November and we’re going for a final push over the next few weeks. We’re 80% there (from 124 donors) and hope to raise the last 20% (just under €10,000) too as we reach the home straight. Please give generously! Thereafter we will run a Biosphere Expeditions survival appeal to help us come out the other end.

Continue reading “Status update October 2020 – Our expeditions and fight for survival”