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

Status update April 2020 – Coronavirus appeal update

We’ve reached the milestone of one-third of funds (EUR 20,000) raised, thank you!

Still in need of funding are:

  • ARABIA (sand gazelle)
  • ARMENIA (Persian leopard, lynx, bear, wolf)
  • COSTA RICA (sea turtles)
  • GERMANY (wolf)
  • KENYA (Big Five and African biodiversity)
  • MALAWI (elephant and African biodiversity)
  • MALDIVES (coral reefs)
  • THAILAND (elephant)

Fully funded are:

  • AZORES (whales & dolphins)
  • TIEN SHAN (snow leopard)

Our local partners need your help to continue their conservation work! Please keep giving.

www.biosphere-expeditions.org/appeal

Status update April 2020 – Expeditions that have been deferred to 2021

Given the situation, the below will now run as expeditions with local partners and staff only in 2020, with all citizen science elements of the projects deferred to 2021. As such the 2020 dates for these expeditions have come offline and the 2021 dates are now online. Where possible, we will send updates, results and reports of local expeditions. You can also see local expedition plans (and contribute towards them) on our coronavirus appeal page.

The following expeditions will operate under this scheme (and other expeditions may join this scheme as the situation develops):

We do this, because 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 April 2020 – Costa Rica sea turtle 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.

Status update March 2020 – 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 newly instigated coronavirus appeal to help our local partners and staff get through this crisis, and give generously, if you can!

Status update March 2020 – Our contingency 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 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:

  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!

 

 

Status update March 2020 – 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.

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