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.

2. Cancelling an expedition entirely without local partners and staff conducting any research and conservation work; this is our least preferred option, 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.

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.

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.

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!

 

 

Expeditions update Azores and beyond

Azores expedition update

The island of Faial, where our Azores expedition is based, continues to report zero suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus. Because of this and because our local staff and partners are willing, able and keen to collect data as planned, if need be with a skeleton crew, we will run the project as planned. We also feel strongly about the need for continued conservation efforts and supporting our local partners despite, or even because of, the difficult circumstances.

However, because of travel restrictions to and on the Azores, many expeditioners have deferred to the Azores expedition 2021, which will run in April also.

Other expeditions

The next expeditions are Costa Rica and Armenia, both scheduled for May. With the situation in flux as it is at the moment, it is far too early to tell whether these can run, as it is for expeditions beyond June. Please refer to this blog for updates closer to the time.

Conservationists set the record straight on COVID-19’s wildlife links

The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has been characterized by the World Health Organization as a pandemic. As the virus spreads, so too does misinformation about its origins.

Rumors that COVID-19 was manufactured in a lab or that we know with full certainty which animal host passed the disease to humans are unfounded.

Given the clear risks to animals as well as to human health, the Wildlife Conservation Society and Global Wildlife Conservation are calling for a permanent ban on wildlife trafficking and live animal markets.

> full article on Mongabay.com

Here is some hopeful news amongst the pandemic

China, where the outbreak originated, said the peak had passed as it reported just eight new cases in Hubei province on Thursday. More businesses reopened as authorities cautiously eased containment measures.

Beijing’s senior medical officer, Zhong Nanshan, an epidemiologist renowned for helping to combat the Sars outbreak in 2003, told a news conference that the pandemic could be over within a matter of months if countries mobilised properly to fight it and were prepared to take firm measures.

Zhong said that “my advice is calling for all countries to follow WHO instructions and intervene on a national scale”, and further, “if all countries get mobilised, it could be over by June … But if some countries do not treat the infectiousness and harmfulness seriously, and [do not] intervene strongly, it will last longer.”

Let us all work together to prove him right!

Coronavirus now a pandemic, but signs of recovery in China and South Korea

With the WHO declaring the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic and countries increasingly going into lockdown and closing borders on the one hand, but also signs that the rate of new infections and deaths is continuing to fall in China and South Korea  and of China beginning to return to a new normal, the situation remains fluid.

We continue to monitor the situation daily, but our intention remains to run all expeditions, because conservation efforts must continue and because local partners rely on our support in collecting data and running projects. This includes the next three forthcoming expeditions to the Azores in April, and to Costa Rica and Armenia in May.

For some expeditions this may mean running them with a skeleton local staff and with citizen scientists who are willing and able to attend.

We will continue to update everyone via this blog. Because the situation is so fluid at the moment, we will make final decisions and announcements a few days prior to the start of an expedition only, but will of course continue to supply regular updates via this blog.

Next expedition: Azores

There are no confirmed cases of Coronavirus on the Azores so far and the archipelago remains open for flights, with things continuing as normal. Contingency plans have been announced and one report even goes as far as saying that the Azores is one of the safest destinations to go on holiday.

Our plan at the moment is to run the expedition as planned, but please note the following:

  • If you are planning to use hand sanitiser or a face mask, please bring your own
  • If you are showing any symptoms, do not come on the expedition
  • If you have been to a risk area within the last month, do not come on the expedition
  • If you belong to a group at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19 (the illness caused by coronavirus), then you may want to consider staying at home too
  • Make sure you have adequate health insurance cover (EU citizens should carry their EU health insurance card)
  • On the expedition, we will brief everyone on risks and behaviours during the expedition, and follow accepted guidelines

Obviously the situation is quite fluid at the moment. We will keep everyone informed.

 

Coronavirus: our policy and outlook

Much has been written about the new coronavirus already, which we do not need to repeat here.

Needless to say that Biosphere Expeditions is taking the situation very seriously. We are constantly monitoring it and what it may mean for expeditions, our staff, partners and citizen scientists. At the moment all expeditions are scheduled to run as planned, including the next one to the Azores starting in April. But please keep referring to this blog for updates.

However, we also believe there is a strong need for some sensible, fact-based context to combat the fake news and hysteria that appear to be prevalent in the media (social, online and traditional) at the moment.

To put the outbreak into perspective, and without belittling the impact it is having, please consider the data below and how much coverage the diseases below, which are not related to the coronavirus, are getting in the media in comparison to the coverage the coronavirus is getting at the moment.

Coronavirus data at the time of writing (from Johns Hopkins CSSE website)

Coronavirus outbreak at the time of writing (4 March 2020)
94,250 persons infected
51,026 persons recovered
3,214 deaths

Measles outbreak 2015 (WHO data)
20 million persons infected
73,400 deaths

Influenza season 2018/19 (CDC data)
900,000 hospitalisations (USA only)
80,000 deaths (USA only)

HIV (UNAIDS data 2019)
1.7 million persons newly infected in 2018
38 million persons infected worldwide
770,000 deaths in total worldwide

Tubercolosis (WHO data)
1.5 million deaths in 2018

Malaria (WHO data)
300 – 700 million new infections per year (estimate)
1 – 2 million deaths per year (estimate)

Also, fatality as a result of Covid-19 (the disease caused by the coronavirus) seems to be strongly skewed towards older people with pre-existing ailments, especially those of the respiratory system.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has useful advice on protective measures against the coronavirus. There are also useful worldwide trackers of cases and recoveries by  Johns Hopkins CSSE and Worldometer.

And finally, yes, Covid-19 is serious, but context is key and the world is well placed to deal with the  situation.

Having said all this, we will continue to monitor the situation and keep everyone updated via this blog.

Regards

Dr. Matthias Hammer
Executive Director
Biosphere Expeditions