Collecting ASC Samples during Great Britain Solo Row
ASC Microplastics Adventurer
ASC adventurer Sarah Weldon, CEO of a UK-based charity Oceans Project, has big summer plans.
The British explorer, neuropsychologist and Diver Medic Technician is planning to carry out the world’s first solo row around Great Britain, as she says “tracing the journey of our Viking ancestors.”
During the 3,000-mile row, Sarah will contend with shipping lanes, fast-changing tides, whirlpools and currents. She also expects to see amazing wildlife and geology. Along the way, she’ll be collecting samples for the ASC Microplastics Project.
“ASC enables lay people like myself to become an integral part of a community doing really important research on issues like plastic pollution,” Sarah said. “In my work abroad, I’ve seen the problem firsthand. People, landlocked, throwing waste into the river, in the belief that it would simply wash away. It’s vital that we get everyone passionate about the oceans, so they feel connected to them, so their actions don’t hurt people thousands of miles away.”
Throughout the 14-week expedition, she will also collect scientific data on the human body, using wearable technology and psychological tests from NASA, as part of a study by University of Roehampton.
Additionally, several British schools are creating educational materials about the expedition, which they will share with peers through a virtual learning platform. She has also teamed up with partners in 53 countries to support their projects to reach 17,000 children who currently have no access to education due to gender or poverty.
By Grace Kay Matelich
Believe it or not, studying the habits and movements of pikas can help us track the effects of climate change.
Since 2011, ASC adventurers have contributed data to a collaborative study of the American Pika led by Erik Beever, an Ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. He has brought more than 55 researchers to the project, which has determined that pikas are among the first to suffer from global warming. Pikas are a climate indicator species, so shifts in their habits have significant implications and serve as a warning to scientists.
Measuring 6-8 inches long, pikas are the smallest member of the rabbit family. They inhabit cool, moist alpine and subalpine areas in the Mountain West—from Colorado and New Mexico to California, and north to Alberta and British Columbia.
Physiologically, pikas are not built to survive in hot temperatures, says April Craighead, a Bozeman, Montana-based pika researcher with the Craighead Institute and a partner scientist with the ASC Worldwide Pika Project. During summer, they take shelter in cool microclimates within talus slopes. “Without the refugia of talus, they will die if exposed to temperature over 80 degrees for more than six hours,” Craighead said.
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, in the northern half of their geographic range, the American pika can be found from sea level to 10,000 feet in elevation, though further south they are almost always found above 8,000 feet.
“Normally, animals and plants would migrate upward as temperatures rise, but pikas, being already ‘at the top,’ [will eventually] have nowhere else to go,” said Dr. Adam Smith, another ASC partner also involved with Beever’s USGS project.
“We already know they have been extirpated from some of the lower ‘sky island’ mountains in the Great Basin, so it stands to reason they may be susceptible to climate change elsewhere in their range,” he explains.
By Emily Wolfe
Imagine standing on the open prairie at night, lightning bolts cracking a couple miles away across the plains, the northern lights wheeling around the sky above you. It’s just you, a tripod and a camera. This was one of Morgan Cardiff’s defining experiences during his stint with the Landmark program on the American Prairie Reserve.
A Masters student in Natural Resource Management at the Technical University of Munich in Germany, Morgan, 31, is originally from Newcastle, NSW, Australia. During his time this fall on the Landmark crew, he produced a film about his crew and the program. Watch the film here:
Q&A with Morgan Cardiff
“Many parts of the Reserve have never been fully explored, thus establishing what is actually out there is vital to supporting the ongoing and future management decisions,” Morgan says.
We caught Morgan between studying for exams and planning another film project—this one following an endurance runner across Russia—for a quick interview about his film and his experiences on the northern plains.
By Emily Wolfe | Photos by the Horangic Family
ASC caught up with the Horangic family this winter, interviewing Teddy, age 14, Helen, 12, and Basil, 8, after their family’s 15-day Atlantic crossing from Gran Canaria, Spain to St. Lucia. While Teddy and Helen both race small sailboats at home in California, none of them had ever done anything like this. During their passage, they collected two samples for ASC’s Microplastics Project.
Here are a few highlights from our chat with Teddy and her siblings:
We are living on the boat for a year, and spent the last six months sailing around the Mediterranean, hopping from island to island in the Aegean Sea. From there we sailed to Spain, Gibraltar, Morocco, and finally Grand Canaria, where we spent a week preparing for our Atlantic crossing.
Sailing the big boat has been quite a change. On a dinghy, every movement counts—where you sit is important down to the centimeter, and how you move your body through the waves is essential. Tiny adjustments in sail trim are vital to winning a race. With sailing a yacht, the small details don’t matter as much. In some ways, we don't feel as much like part of the boat, but more like we are passengers on it.
Helen and Teddy’s school, Castilleja School, and our parents and family members, have encouraged us since we were very young to pursue environmental causes, awareness and action. We had done small projects at home in Palo Alto, California, but decided this trip was an opportunity to take part in bigger, more influential projects.
We took two samples for ASC near the middle of the Atlantic, where it would be hard and expensive to get samples if you were to commission a team of scientists to survey our oceans. We are saving one-liter bottles now so we can continue sampling during the rest of our trip.
The main lesson we took from this project was learning how to conduct an experiment in practice—how to collect samples, and record data with precision.
By Caroline Hedin | Photos by Elisabeth Shapiro
0600: The alarm rings. It’s still dark. Snooze.
0605: More tolerant of early mornings, Ryan and I stumble into the kitchen to prepare a group breakfast. The house is sleepy and quiet.
0700: Aromas of coffee and French toast waft down the hall, drawing the crew to the table. Soft light glows from the horizon. Another day begins on the American Prairie Reserve.
0735: We divide in to teams, with two pairs walking separate 10-mile wildlife transects and the remaining two stationed in our trusty Sequoia as base camp. GPS devices, binoculars, radios and tablets are tucked into packs. Mud scraped off boots. Gators snugged.
0800: Somehow we find the truck under all that mud, and we are now on our way to the field. We slide, swerve and bounce down the network of gumbo roads to the trailhead. There are more than a few white knuckles in the vehicle.
By Jennifer Pate
It’s a distressing experience to stare at something that looks pristine and untouched by human activity, and yet to know the reality is quite different. This is how I felt during my trip sailing across the Atlantic Ocean.
As I admired what looked like clean waters—both in the ocean and in my sample bottles for the ASC Microplastics Project—we pulled up many pieces of plastic in our daily trawls.
In November and December of 2014, I crossed the Atlantic Ocean on board the Sea Dragon, a 72-foot sailboat. Our crew of 14 women included changemakers from scientists to activists, artists to technologists. We were sailors and non-sailors alike.
While loving the adventure of crossing 2,600 nautical miles from Lanzarote, Canary Islands, to Martinique in the Caribbean, we were also on a mission: to make the unseen seen—from the pollution in our oceans to the toxins in our own bodies.
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