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.

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

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!

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”

Status update September 2020 – Arabia and Kenya expeditions shifted to 2022

Arabia and Kenya expeditions shifted to 2022

The virus is biting back hard and most experts think that a vaccine is unlikely to become widely available before mid-2021. Our Arabia and Kenya expeditions were planned for early 2021, but with the situation what it is, we have decided to postpone them for a year to January and February 2022 respectively.

Other, later expeditions may follow suit and we will be keeping you all up to date on here.

Status update August 2020 – We’re still here, hanging on

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

Q: Will Biosphere Expeditions survive this pandemic?

A: The honest answer is that I do not know for certain, but probably. We’ve made contingency plans A, B, C, D etc. But even the best plans are pointless if we run out of money. The contributions that our citizen scientists make constitute the lion’s share of our income. Of course this has collapsed to almost zero since March and it does not look like it will be coming back anytime soon. Even if there was to be a genuine vaccine by the end of 2020, then I doubt many people will have the inclination or funds to travel in 2021. Of course there are some grant and other support schemes that we have applied for, and a portion of our coronavirus appeal was for our running costs, but if the pandemic continues into and over 2021, as we now expect it to do, with no or very few expeditions happening in 2021, then survival will start to become a tough struggle indeed. But we are optimists by default, backed by good planning, and we are also fighters. Watch this space for updates as 2020 continues and turns into 2021.

Q: What is the outlook for expeditions in 2021?

A: Early on during the pandemic we suspended all citizen science elements of our 2020 expeditions and concentrated on continuing our conservation work with local partners and staff, and supporting our local partners in this time of crisis through our coronavirus appeal.

Realistically, we think expeditions are unlikely in 2021, especially those outside Europe. As I have said, even if there was to be a genuine vaccine by the end of 2020, then this would only be the beginning of the end and I doubt many people will have the inclination or funds to travel far and wide in 2021. This means our expeditions in Africa, the Americas and Asia are bound to suffer, and we are doing all we can to support our local partners through this. At the moment, however, all 2021 expedition are online and we will assess how things go as time progresses. If there are enough people to run an expedition and if we decide we can reasonably do so, then we will run expeditions as planned – for conservation, for our local partners, for our citizen scientists and because we strongly believe that conservation work must continue despite, and perhaps even because of this crisis.

Q: How’s the coronavirus appeal going?

A: I was amazed by the generosity of people and would like to say thank you again to all donors here. Today we stand at 113 donors, 52% raised and four projects fully funded. There was a very generous initial surge of support, but things have slowed down now, which is not surprising as almost everyone will be negatively affected by this pandemic by now. We continue to promote the appeal and to fundraise and hope we can find the funding for all our local conservation partners, because it is desperately needed. If anyone reading this can help, please do so.

Q: What can people do to help?

A: The three most helpful things are to join an expedition (European ones are probably the best bet), give to our appeal, or join our Friends.

Q: If someone wants to sign up for a 2021 expedition now, how does that work under pandemic conditions?

A: Good question. Basically things will be handled very flexibly so that nobody misses or loses out. How exactly it all works is described here.

Status update June 2020 – All 2020 citizen science now deferred to 2021

The world remains in the grip of the coronavirus. Many countries that we operate in continue to keep their borders shut and some are still expecting their first peak, let alone a second wave. In fact, in many countries that we operate in, things are predicted to get worse before they get better. And a vaccine will take time, or it there may never be one.

Because of all this, we have decided to defer the citizen science elements of all our 2020 expeditions to 2021. These are:

Expeditions that happened early in 2020 and are now scheduled to repeat in 2021 as normal are

An overview over all expeditions is on our website as a list and a map.

Please note that project work has not been cancelled. It is only the citizen science element that has been deferred to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Project work with local staff only will continue and you can see on our appeal page what is planned in terms of community expeditions and project work. If you can, please support our efforts to raise funds for this!

You can also read about community expedition efforts already under way in the Azores and Tien Shan.

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. We hope you agree. If you do, please give to our coronavirus appeal to enable our local partners & staff to do just this.

Status update May 2020 – Coronavirus appeal update

Our coronavirus appeal for our local conservation partners & staff stands at 38% (EUR 23,296) raised. An overview of where each partner stands is below. Thank you for your generosity so far. Please keep on giving!

ALMOST THERE

  • GERMANY (wolf) – total ask EUR 4,500 / total raised EUR 3,549 (78.9%)

NEED MORE SUPPORT

  • THAILAND (elephant) – total ask EUR 5,500 / total raised EUR 205 (3.7%)
  • ARABIA (sand gazelle) – total ask EUR 5,000 / total raised EUR 250 (5.0%)
  • COSTA RICA (sea turtles) – total ask EUR 6,500 / total raised EUR 495 (7.6%)
  • MALAWI (elephant and African biodiversity) – total ask EUR 9,000 / total raised EUR 862 (9.5%)
  • ARMENIA (Persian leopard, lynx, bear, wolf) – total ask EUR 4,500 / total raised EUR 740 (16.4%)
  • MALDIVES (coral reefs) – total ask EUR 3,000 / total raised EUR 995 (33.2%)
  • KENYA (Big Five and African biodiversity) – total ask EUR 9,000 / total raised EUR 3,200 (35.6%)

FULLY FUNDED

  • AZORES (whales & dolphins) – total ask EUR 2,000 / total raised EUR 2,000
  • TIEN SHAN (snow leopard) – total ask EUR 3,500 / total raised EUR 3,500
  • BIOSPHERE EXPEDITIONS operational costs – total ask EUR 7,500 / total raised EUR 7,500

Status update April 2020 – The world and coronavirus

How the virus is affecting nature, humankind and the world