Tien Shan (June/July/August)

Kyrgyzstan has declared a state of emergency and is in lockdown.

At the same time the majority citizen scientists have already opted to defer to Tien Shan 2021 (12 – 24 July or 26 July – 7 August 2021) or to other expeditions in 2021.

Our community monitoring group (see below), set up by Biosphere Expeditions with help from the Nando & Elsa Peretti Foundation over the last few years, is planning as we speak to continue monitoring for snow leopards. Details about their plans (and a call for donations to enable this) are on our coronavirus appeal page. So we will continue the project and collect data as much and whenever possible, but, regrettably, it is now highly unlikely that there will be a citizen science element to the project in 2020.


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!