Sweden (June)

Sweden is now preparing to enter lockdown too as its herd immunity strategy seems to be failing, just like it did in the UK, with some arguing that, as a result, the crisis in Sweden is now likely to last months, rather than weeks.

At the same time the majority of expeditioners have already opted to defer to Sweden 2021 (9 – 26 June 2021) or to other expeditions (2021 expedition dates here).

Our local scientist is in the field at the moment in order to get as much work done as possible before restrictions come into force. She will continue the project and collect data as much and whenever possible, but it is now extremely unlikely that there will be a citizen science element to the project in 2020. Our recommendation for expeditioners is now to defer to the 2021 Sweden or another expedition.

Fighting the virus from home

The new EU citizen science platform has just gone online. This is full of projects you can take part in (from home and in the field) and in itself well worth a visit.

Two projects stand out in lockdown coronavirus times. Both use combined human brain and computing power to help fight the virus. The first is called FoldIt and is an online game with real-world outcomes. The second, Folding@Home, allows you to make your home computer processing power available in the fight against the virus.

The EU citizen science platform also has a very useful page with lots of citizen science resources related to the  pandemic.

Armenia expedition (June)

2020 was to be our inaugural year in Armenia with citizen scientists from all over the world helping us with our work. For obvious reasons they will now not be able to come to Armenia, which is a great shame. Still, our local partner will not stand still, because they will not abandon their local conservation efforts. They will use the year to run a reduced project with local staff and rangers only, conducting more preliminary research work and getting even more ready for the arrival of citizen scientists in July next year. In short, we will keep the project going, funding it as best as we can and helping our local partner obtain additional funding too via our appeal.

Costa Rica expedition (May)

Our work in Costa Rica continues, albeit without the citizen science element this year, for obvious reasons. The citizen science element has been deferred to May 2021.

We must continue our work on the ground in Costa Rica, for without beach patrols, even if these are by a skeleton local team only, it is likely that 100% of all eggs and nests will be taken by poachers and sold on the black market, which would be a devastating blow to sea turtle conservation. So we need to keep the project going, throwing the resources we have at it and helping our local partner obtain additional funding via our appeal.

When will it end? What will come after?

The question many people are asking themselves: When will the outbreak end and life get back to normal? Here are three different responses from trusted sources: the BBC, ScienceNews and VOX.

But the real questions should be: What will come afterwards? Will we wake up to the realities that have brought us to this juncture? Will we (in the rich, industrialised countries) finally face the facts of our perilous, unsustainable and exploitative neoliberal lifestyles? Read George Monbiot’s thought-provoking essay on it all and whether we have a chance finllay to overcome destructive neoliberalism through this crisis (after the end of capitalism has been touted for some years) and have governments govern again, not corporations. Will we even learn, finally, how to tackle the climate crisis properly and respect nature and the planet again for what they are: the very bedrock of our existence.

 

2021 expedition dates and options to defer from 2020 to 2021

With the situation what it is now, and as we have previously announced on this blog, our worst case planning includes severe restrictions to all 2020 expeditions. At the same time we have worked with our local partners to confirm all 2021 dates, which are now set as:

ARABIA: 18 – 25 January 2021
KENYA: 31 January – 12 February | 14 – 26 February 2021
AZORES: 1 – 10 April | 12 – 21 April 2021
COSTA RICA: 3 – 10 May 2021
ARMENIA: 4 – 16 July 2021
SWEDEN: 19 – 26 June 2021
TIEN SHAN: 12 – 24 July | 26 July – 7 August 2021
GERMANY: 26 June – 2 July | 3 – 9 July 2021
MALDIVES: 28 Aug – 3 Sep 2021
MALAWI: 12 – 24 September | 26 September – 8 October 2021
THAILAND: 8 – 16 November 2021
SOUTH AFRICA: 5 – 17 December 2021

What we mean by “severe restrictions” is one of three scenarios (also as previously communicated on this blog):

1. Running our projects with local staff and partners only, without the involvement of citizen scientists from abroad; this is our preferred option when the coronavirus crisis makes citizen scientist involvement impossible, because we feel very strongly about the need for continued conservation efforts and supporting our local partners and staff despite, or indeed because of, the unprecedented and very difficult circumstances.

2. Cancelling an expedition entirely without local partners and staff conducting any research and conservation work; this is our least preferred option, because it would leave our local partners in the lurch and would mean that no conservation efforts are being made.

3. Running expeditions where possible as planned and with those citizen scientists who are willing and able to attend; this option now seems increasingly unlikely for expeditions in 2020; if (against expectations) it becomes a reasonable and safe option again, we will act and inform accordingly.

We will announce which path an expedition will go down 4-6 weeks in advance of the expedition’s start date.

Please also see our coronavirus appeal to help our local partners and staff get through this crisis, and give generously, if you can!

Virtual expeditions, citizen science, learning and teaching

First of all, the pandemic is leading to a huge drop in air pollution, showing what’s possible if we scale down.

Secondly, with the situation being what it is and with many of us marooned at home, here are some options for virtual expeditions, citizien science, conservation and learning or helping from the comfort of your home:

Online citizen science and home projects

You can  help our local scientists with projects such as analysing coral reef quadrant, camera trap or whale fluke photos from home or other citizen science-based jobs. If this is something that interest you, please get in touch and we will connect you with our scientists.

You may also want to look at the list of home projects we offer on our website, although many of them help with our operations, rather than being citizen scientist-based.

Finally, Wikipedia has a great list of all sorts of citizen science projects you can take part in from home.

Reading

For lighter reading to get you started, you can browse through our annual Magazine or the expedition diaries on this blog. Or have a look through our media coverage archives, delight in our achievements, find out about our history and people, our mission and policies, or read through some personal stories and testimonials.

You can also study our campaigns on how to be (radically) greener, how to do more for the planet, yourself and Biosphere Expeditions, and how to beat the charlatans in volunteering.

Delve deeper into things via our expedition reports or our publications in the scientific literature.

Our social media channels are full of news, views and updates.

Viewing

Our YouTube channel has hours worth watching on it, including lots of videos for each expedition and other themes such as trailers & expedition summaries; vlogs and diaries; TV coverage; testimonials, reviews & feedback; our scientists and more.

We also have thousands of pictures from our expeditions in our Facebook picture archive and in our Google photo albums (current expeditions: Armenia, Arabia, Azores, Costa Rica, Germany, Kenya, Maldives, Malawi, South Africa, SwedenThailand, Tien Shan; formers expeditions: Altai, Amazonia, Australia (marsupials), Australia (turtles), Brazil, Caprivi, Honduras, Musandam, Malaysia, Namibia, Oman, Poland, Romania, Scotland, Slovakia (summer), Slovakia (winter), Sri Lanka, Spain, Sumatra, Ukraine.

Elsewhere on the internet, there are excellent virtual museum tours such as the one of the London Natural History Museum and others. There are also channels on wildlife conservation, science & conservation, citizen science, science and of course thousands of TED talks on all sorts of subjects.

Learning

There is a myriad of distance learning opportunities nowadays ranging from full degree to short courses.  There is a wide range of online learning sites and portals to find the course you want. Many of them are free and there is lots of choice amongst topics such as citizen sience, biodiversity, ecology and conservation. Portals include FutureLearn, StudyPortals, Class Central and MOOC list. There’s even an online happiness class.

Teaching

If you are an educator and need support for virtual teaching, we can help. Topics include any number of talks, presentations and online teaching materials centered around expeditions, citizen science, biodiversity conservation, community-based conservation intiatives. We can cater for all ages and provide phone-ins, chats, pictures, presentations, talks, Q&A sessions and more. If this is of interest, please get in touch to discuss your requirements.

 

Our contigency planning in times of crisis

We at Biosphere Expeditions had hoped – along with most others, we believe – that the coronavirus pandemic would be over more quickly and not be as severe as it now turns out to be. Whilst there continue to be signs of hope (for example, China today reporting no domestic cases of coronavirus for the first time since the outbreak began), the outlook for the rest of the world is serious, with experts predicting severe disruption from anything from a few months to a year or more.

With this in mind, our contigency planning now includes significant restrictions to all expeditions in 2020. At the same time we continue to feel very strongly about the need for continued conservation efforts and supporting our local partners and staff despite, or indeed because of, the unprecedented and very difficult circumstances.

In practice this means that our contigency planning now includes the following options:

  1. Running our projects with local staff and partners only, without the involvement of citizen scientists from abroad; in this case we will offer our citizen scientists the chance to defer to the same (or another) expedition in 2021, at a time when we can be sure we can run expeditions with citizen scientist involvement again
  2. Cancelling an expedition entirely without local partners and staff conducting any research and conservation work; this is our least preferred option for the reasons given above
  3. Running expeditions where possible as planned and with those citizen scientists who are willing and able to attend; this option now seems increasingly unlikely for 2020; if it becomes a reasonable and safe option again, we will act and inform accordingly

Please note that no final decisions have been made for any expeditions from May onwards. For the Azores expedition in April, we have gone with option 1 and approximately 80% of participants have deferred to 2021, the rest are still deciding. (The island of Faial, where the Azores expedition is based, mercifully continues to report zero suspected or confirmed cases of infection and our local staff and partners are willing, able and keen to continue the project’s research and conservation work).

Please watch this blog for further announcements and decisions on which path each expedition will go down.

Thank you also for your many messages of support and the thanks and compliments for the way we have communicated. This is much appreciated and certainly helps us to keep going as we work flat out in this time of crisis.

Stay healthy, stay safe!