By: Victoria Ortiz
Are some people more prone to accepting change? Changing something requires a level of risk. It means venturing into a new territory where things are outside of your control and relying on one’s skills, creativity, and optimism to succeed. Many of our volunteers actively seek change, not just in their adventures, but also in their everyday life.
One of our Gallatin Microplastic Initiative volunteers, David Breck, made a big change in 2013. He had spent years working as a conservation engineer in Bozeman, Montana, doing stream restoration projects for his co-founded company, Spanish Peaks Engineering & Consulting. In March of that year, however, he and a friend quit their jobs to start a brewery.
To say that Bridger Brewing is a success would be an understatement. When I sat down with Breck and Chelsea Kaderavek at 4pm on a Thursday, almost every table was taken and there was a line to be seated. After tasting their home-brewed ginger beer I understood why – they strive for quality and invest a lot of thought into all of their business decisions, whether it’s how much fresh ginger to include or how to minimize their plastic waste.
Microplastics are tiny plastic particles smaller than five millimeters in size that likely pose a significant environmental and human health risk when they enter our waterways. Adventure Scientists has amassed the most diverse and likely the largest global data set recording microplastic distribution and concentration data thanks to adventure volunteers collecting samples from oceans and waterways all over the world. Even though nearly 75% of these samples contain microplastics, many people aren’t aware of the issue.
“I was an environmental biologist and I had never even heard of microplastics,” says Kaderavek, who has been leading the charge for Bridger Brewing’s environmental initiatives. “They’re so small, micro, really, that I didn’t give the issue the attention it deserved,” adds Breck.
They reached out to Adventure Scientists to learn more and quickly signed up to take samples for the spring collection of microplastic samples along the Gallatin River and its tributaries.
In mid-March Kaderavek, Breck, and his fifteen-year-old son snowshoed six miles off-trail up a remote stream only to find that their collection site was buried under four feet of snow. They ended up finding open water a bit further downstream and collected their water sample, but the overall volunteer experience had an effect.
“The fact that there are microplastics that far in the backcountry is pretty shocking,” begins Breck, shaking his head. “You wouldn’t have much of a reason to be there unless you were taking a sample, so if they can exist in places like that then they must be everywhere.”
On the back end, Bridger Brewing has also started purchasing 60 lb refillable jugs of locally sourced honey twice a month instead of dozens of 5 lb plastic tubs of Argentinian honey from Costco. They’ve also started dumping all of their individual trashcans into one bag. “A lot of our waste is paper from receipts, so the bags don’t get smelly anyway,” says Kaderavek. “If things get stinky we’re going to have to change it, but it’s been fine so far.”
It can be hard to get customers and our employees (60 people and counting) on board with these changes, but overall, they say they’re getting a positive response.
“What we’re doing is small but I think the public influence could be really big. We’re such a community-driven place and we have a responsibility to this town to raise awareness about this issue,” says Breck.
So what’s next? “We’re looking at ways to compost our food scraps, trying to purchase things locally from places that use less plastic packaging, and are exploring ways to make our summer concert series less wasteful,” says Breck. “And of course, we’re going to continue to be Adventure Scientists volunteers.”
Change begins with individual actions and ripples into the community, business practices and ultimately government policies. We believe that quality data helps drive these changes, and are dedicated to unlocking solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental issues by filling in those data gaps.
Share your ideas for how Bridger Brewing can further improve their business practices and show your support for data driving local change at the Pints for Purpose event on August 28th.
By: Victoria Ortiz
Nearly 65% of the population are visual learners that absorb and recall information best by seeing,* which is why our volunteer training includes both written and video protocols. We develop training materials in coordination with our partners for every project in order to prepare our volunteers for field work.
Our main goal in building training materials is to ensure that our partners get the data they need - meaning completeness, accuracy and consistency. To conduct work in the field, volunteers must pass protocol tests with a 100% score. They also need to retake the tests periodically to ensure continued protocol retention. All volunteers also regularly interact with Adventure Scientists' staff to make sure they are prepared to participate.
For our newest project, Conserving Biodiversity - Pollinators, we worked with Bozeman-based videographer Aidan Weltner to film short, funny (if we do say so ourselves) and informative protocol videos. We went behind the scenes with Aidan to learn more about the creation of this video.
What was the most challenging aspect of this film? The most exciting/fun?
The most challenging aspect of the film was finding flowers and butterflies. Extended rain storms and fickle wind conditions are the nature of late spring and early summer. I learned that butterflies and flowers do not like wind and thus it took us a little longer to film than expected. On top of that, butterflies are hard to catch and even harder to film!
Which part of the protocol was most confusing to you? How did you find a way to demonstrate the proper method via the video?
Illustrating the tagging of flowers that grow in bushes/groups was the most difficult. We decided that it was best to tell viewers how to do this in the voice overs. I didn't think any aspect of the protocol was confusing. It all seemed pretty intuitive!
A short clip from our Conserving Biodiversity - Pollinators protocol video.
Did anything about this filming process surprise you? How has it affected your perception of Adventure Scientists?
I always thought that Adventure Scientists’ projects required a lot of prior experience to participate. Now, I think that people who enjoy recreating outside could and should apply to contribute in these studies.
Edward Abbey used to measure driving time in six packs. How many six packs did it take to produce this film?
At least four. Maybe 4.33
Anything else you’d like to mention/includes?
Bring ankle braces. Those damn ground squirrel dens seem to be easier to find when you're focused on the butterfly flying erratically 10 feet in front of you.
Join our online network of people around the world working together to unlock solutions to pressing environmental issues.
By: Emma Bode
Each year, 8,000,000 tons of plastic enter marine environments*. An astonishing 80% of this plastic comes from terrestrial sources. Among this plastic are tiny plastic fragments and fibers, five millimeters or smaller, known as microplastics. How are these minuscule pollutants entering our waterways?
At the headwaters of the Missouri River, the Gallatin Watershed provides a great opportunity to observe the effects of urbanization on freshwater microplastic levels. Through the Adventure Scientists’ Gallatin Microplastics Initiative, volunteers like myself collect water samples from a multitude of sites across the watershed. These samples are then analyzed for their microplastic content.
A couple weeks ago, Adventure Scientists founder and Executive Director Gregg Treinish spoke at the 2017 National Geographic Explorers Festival. The National Geographic Society celebrates exploration every day of the year, but during Explorers Festival they bring together the most fascinating and innovative scientists, conservationists, explorers, and storytellers to share—with one another, and with the world—how their discoveries and ideas are creating change for the better.
Gregg spoke on the Citizens for Science panel about inspiring the next generation of explorers and activating citizen scientists around the world to help answer critical questions. We hope you enjoy!
By: Michelle Toshack
How robust are butterfly populations in wilderness areas? What management strategies can be adopted to address the conservation of these species? These are some of the questions that Adventure Scientists is tackling with our Conserving Biodiversity - Pollinators project. We’ve pulled together four peer-reviewed articles* that helped us understand how to best approach this effort. They serve as important background reading on current issues around butterfly conservation.
Phenology Asynchrony in Plant-Butterfly Interactions Associated with Climate: a Community-Wide Perspective. 2016. Isabel Donoso, Constantí Stefanescu, Alejandro Martínez-Abraín and Anna Traveset. Oikos.
This article investigates timing mismatch between butterfly emergence and their host plants in the Mediterranean. They looked at the different factors that may affect this mismatch, such as aridity and temperature. Many butterfly species, including both generalists and specialists, are vulnerable to phenology mismatch. This will continue to have an impact on butterfly populations in the face of environmental change.
By: Dr. Katy Prudic
Butterfly caterpillars are nature’s hot dogs, which acquire large amounts of fat in order to prepare for the magical body transformation known as pupation. Birds, spiders, wasps, mammals, lizards, and even humans all dine on juicy caterpillars. I can say from personal experience that some caterpillars are nutty, some are buttery, and many are excellent with garlic. The name butterfly is quite appropriate for the caterpillar stage.
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