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 contingency 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 contingency planning now includes the following options:
- 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
- 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
- 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!