Help Save Our Oceans! Join ASC's Microplastics Project
By Mike Kautz
When paddler, filmmaker and ASC adventure scientist Steve Weileman bottled his first sample of sea water off a remote, undeveloped section of the Alaskan coast it looked transparent and pristine. Weeks later when ASC partner scientist Abby Barrows looked at the same sample under her microscope she found what she finds in more than 85% of surface sea water samples: microplastic particles.
Large plastic litter is easy to see in our oceans. Plastic bags drift in the Atlantic like processed petroleum jellyfish, water bottles wash up on shores, and a massive collection of debris called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch swirls in the North Pacific. Microplastics, however, are only visible under a microscope and until recently they have been overlooked by scientists and the public. Yet, work by Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) and research partners at the Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI) is finding more than 85% of surface samples contain microplastic particles. These particles can resemble phytoplankton and are ingested by marine life. Consumed by larger species plastic and toxins may then bioaccumulate in larger marine mammals, sea birds and humans.
I Hate Cold Water
Carl Battreall is an Alaska based, professional mountain and glacier photographer who has explored and photographed over two hundred glaciers in twelve mountains ranges in Alaska. His glacier images have been published in countless books and magazines are displayed in numerous exhibits on glaciers and climate change. This past summer Carl started a multi-year project called "The Alaska Range Project" during which he will be collecting data for ASC ice worm and water isotope studies and ASC's glacier photography project with Project Pressure.
I hate cold water. I always have. I have never liked like cold swimming pools or swimming holes, no matter how hot the outside temperatures were. When I moved to Alaska, my dislike of cold water grew. I learned that is was possibly the most dangerous thing in the state, more dangerous than the bears or avalanches. Cold water was an unforgiving killer and I swore to avoid it as much as possible.
We were a group of four, on a two-week, fifty mile glacier traverse of the Neacola Mountains in Alaska. I was there to photograph the mountains and glaciers for my book project, The Alaska Range. I was also there to collect water samples for one of ASC's scientific research projects.
It was on our second day that we came to a cold, glacial river that needed to be fjorded. We searched and searched for a decent crossing but weren't having any luck. Finally, we found a spot. It was only ten feet across, but moving fast. We were all starting to shiver after attempting multiple times to cross in different locations. Quickly, we set up a pack line, Andy, then Patrick, Colin and me at the tail. We listened to Andy's commands " left, right, left, right!" I kept my head down, swearing to myself that I wouldn't swim. We were hardly moving, I looked up and witnessed water boiling deeper up Andy, nearing his naval. Colin was shaking, so was I.
And then it all ended.
Who Says Work Can't Be Fun?
Gregg Treinish is the founder and Executive Director of Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation whose passion to protect wild places is all consuming. Gregg is both an adventurer and a scientist and his resume boasts of ecology degrees and the first trek of the Andes chain from the Equator to the southern most point of Patagonia and he has been recognized for both by National Geographic, being named Adventurer of the Year (2008) and an Emerging Explorer (2013). Gregg recently travelled to Africa to scout and develop new adventure science opportunities in one of the wildest places on Earth.
It was less than eight hours after I landed in Johannesburg that I found myself on the Limpopo-Lipadi reserve in southeastern Botswana. ASC is exploring a potential project with the reserve to develop an ongoing adventure science effort to support their management team. Less than 20 minutes after arriving on the reserve I found myself crouched down peering around the Mopani trees to see the four, then eight, then twelve and finally twenty-two wild dogs that had slowly surrounded me. With my heart pounding, my hosts and I drew together and agreed not to run should the dogs decide to stop being friendly. I snapped photo after photo and interacted with the pack from a distance. The young pups would approach and retreat, playing with us and testing their limits. The experience immediately connected me to the reserve, to Africa and to myself. By the end of my stay at the reserve I had seen leopards, rhino, wildebeest, impala, kudu, eland and hippos – all from a distance of less than 20 ft! I reluctantly left the reserve having seen everything on my “list” with the exception of elephant and lion, the latter of which are not currently on the reserve.
Life Aboard the Orion
Edwin Butter is a HSE certified commercial diver and a pilot. He has traveled around the world for the past 15 years now and experienced wildlife in different regions from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Marjo Boertien is a business consultant and has sailed and lived on a boat for the past four years, and experienced the outdoors by hiking, kayaking, biking and rafting. Marjo & Edwin are now on a journey around the world and along the way are collecting data for ASC's microplastics and humpback whale projects. We recently sat down w/ Marjo to hear more about their journey.
ASC: Tell us a bit more about your journey and the route you plan to take.
M&E: A sailing trip around the world is about as exciting and adventurous as it gets! It is actually not a journey but a way of life. We simply chose to live in a small apartment that floats, and has an enormous backyard: the world! Of course we do have a certain route that we would like to follow, but as it turns out at the moment, that can change overnight. For example: our plan was to sail from the south coast of UK to Spain and then, down the west coast of Portugal and from Lisboa, head for the Canary Islands. Currently we are in the south of Portugal on the border of Spain on a beautiful river called Guadiana, because a guy we met told us it was not to be missed. So instead of heading further south, we took a detour east, and it has been well worth it.
ASC: What motivated you to plan such a monumental voyage – and how long do you guess you’ll be at it for?
M&E: Edwin has been living on a boat (off and on) for the past two decades, has circumnavigated twice, which says a lot about his motivation... Marjo has always wanted to travel, never thought of sailing though, and meeting Edwin and his lifestyle 5 years ago was enough to motivate her....We will be at it as long as we enjoy it. Which we hope will be for a long time.
TrekWest: John Davis' Journey to Conserve the West
John Davis is a wildways scout, editor, and writer and co-founded the Wildlands Network 20 years ago. In 2011 John completed TrekEast, a 7,500-mile human powered exploration of the wilder parts of the eastern North America to promote the restoration and protection of an Eastern Wildway. This year John set out to do the same thing out west. TrekWest was an ambitious journey across the west, hugging the Spine of the Continent from Mexico to British Columbia to promote a Western Wildway. En route John collected data for a number of ASC projects including wildlife, ptarmigan, pika and roadkill observations.
When my San Juan Mountains hiking buddy, Paul, quietly signaled for me to stop and pointed quickly to a large shy bird sheltering from the storm in a small rock alcove, my shivering stopped. Following a wildlife observation protocol established by Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) Paul and I had recorded sightings of an extensive list of animals during that thunder and smoke filled week in the Weminuche Wilderness of southwest Colorado – American marten, black bear, cougar, moose, elk, mule deer, yellow-bellied marmot, American pika, golden eagle, American pipit and now white-tailed ptarmigan.
Africa from Gregg's Perspective
This past week ASC's fearless leader, founder and executive director Gregg Treinish has been halfway across the world on the wild continent of Africa. While the rest of us in Bozeman suffered at the hands of -30 degree days (yes, Fahrenheit), Gregg was in the balmy southern hemisphere tracking wild dogs and giraffes in Botswana. Its not all fun and games though (well... maybe its all fun). Gregg is visiting potential collaborators and partners exploring the possibilities for ASC projects in that region of the world.
Here are some of our favorite updates & photos from Gregg while he's in the field. More after the break.
"Such an amazing day! I haven't slept since leaving Bozeman, but man what a day. I saw Baboons, got surrounded by a back of 22 wild dogs, saw kudu, countless impala, bushbok, 2 porcupines, elans, and so much more!"
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