Dr. Hari Mix has his PhD from Stanford University in Environmental Earth Systems Science and is an avid alpinist, making regular climbing trips around the world. Hari climbed in the Himalaya in 2012 and 2013 and worked on a number of ASC projects. In 2014 Hari will attempt to climb Mt. Everest without supplemental oxygen.
Twenty-three thousand four hundred and six feet. I drop to my knees upon reaching the wooden cross that marks the summit of Kyrgyzstan’s Lenin Peak. I unceremoniously polish off the last sip of my water and put the empty bottle back in my pack. “At least I have no need for breaks now,” I think to myself in a high-altitude stupor. After ten hours of excruciating climbing through knee to waist deep snow, I have reached my first goal of the summer--to climb the three highest peaks of the Pamir Mountains of Central Asia.
But then the scientist in me snaps me out of my hypoxic haze. I locate a golf ball sized rock, carefully scoop it out of the snow into a pre-labeled Ziploc bag, mark the location with my GPS and begin the interminable trudge back down toward my high camp. Six hours and several samples later, I stumble back into my tent in whiteout conditions…thank goodness for the GPS!
Women-Powered Science and Exploration
McKenna Peterson grew up in Sun Valley, Idaho and dedicated most of her free time to skiing. After high school she moved to Boulder, CO where she was introduced to big mountain skiing. A former Freeskiing World Tour competitor, McKenna now winters in the Wasatch skiing as much as possible and summers in SE Alaska fishing for salmon and supporting her skiing addiction. McKenna and her friends have undertaken the Shifting Ice & Changing Tides project from Iceland to Greenland and will be collecting data for ASC researchers while pursuing first descents on the west coast of Greenland.
Shifting Ice and Changing Tides is a human and wind powered, female led, ski and sail expedition to the west coast of Greenland. In this remote, fascinating and beautiful region, we will be exploring and skiing first descents while limiting our environmental footprint by sailing and climbing. The expedition serves as a platform for raising awareness about climate change and environmental issues as well as for inspiring and promoting female participation in snow sport adventures.
Our expedition was born in 2013 after participating in SheJumps’ Alpine Finishing School; an all female ski mountaineering course in Canada’s Selkirk Mountains. As a group, we wanted to do something that would inspire others, especially young women, to form a connection with the outdoors while igniting a passion for the environment. Meghan Kelly, the scientist of the group and brains behind the expedition, immediately set her sights on Greenland. The effect of climate change on Greenland’s ice sheet is highly visible, putting Greenland at the epicenter of climate change research.
The Shifting Ice crew consists of professional skiers Meghan Kelly, Natalie Segal, McKenna Peterson and Pip Hunt, master yachtsman Martha Hunt, and photographer/videographer Andy Bardon -- adventurers and passionate environmentalists, yes, but not researchers or PhD students. So, how can we help? This is where ASC came into the picture. ASC has helped us to bridge the gap between what we know -- adventure and exploration -- and what we are passionate about: science and the health of our environment.
Letters from the Prairie
Tomas Ward has collected field data for conservation biology projects throughout the U.S. since 2004. Oregon, Southeast Alaska, and the Great Lakes bioregion are among the places where he has collected data in the field but working in the Great Plains is a new experience for him. Tomas makes a living as a horticulturalist, builder, and cook and is working with ASC as a Landmark crew member this winter while taking a break from The Organic Gardener in Highland Park, IL.
February 1st, 2014
For the past ten days I have been situated at the Lazy J ranch on the prairie of northeastern Montana, between the Missouri River and the Canadian border. I am here as a volunteer adventure scientist for Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) doing wildlife monitoring on a privately held natural habitat refuge. The nonprofit that holds title and leases to this land is American Prairie Reserve, and their goal is to create a 3.5 million acre parcel of continuous land that can support thriving populations of the plants and animals that were present here at the time of the arrival of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
I have agreed to serve on this project until the first of March. The commitment seems daunting at certain moments of the day. The climate of this country is harsh year round, and the winter is not altogether inviting. I drove out here with my brother through the plains of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and the Dakotas, and we were lucky to have temperatures hovering near the freezing point. The ten day forecast that I read today calls for daily highs not exceeding the single digits Fahrenheit and unceasing subzero windchills. Our responsibility as volunteers is to hike out onto the grassland, deploying motion-triggered video cameras to capture wildlife activity and to record observations of animals as we walk. My standard ensemble for this task includes insulated pants, down jacket, heavy gloves, and ski goggles.
Stories from the Olympics (Washington, not Sochi)
Jordan Holsinger is ASC's Scientific Manager and joined the Marten Survey as a guide this year. You can read his bio here.
While the games in Sochi are in full swing, so is ASC's Olympics project. Instead of Russian, however, our events are playing out in the beautiful Olympic National Forest (ONF) in Washington state. The goal there is simple, if not necessarily easy: find evidence of a coastal Pacific Marten. Though there haven't been any confirmed sightings of marten in years, Betsy Howell, USFS Wildlife Biologist for the ONF, is hopeful that they still remain.
Beetles & Whitewater
Paul Gamache is a professional raft guide and whitewater kayaker from Arcata, CA. In January of 2013, Paul traveled to Cameroon, West Africa to explore an area of the world nearly untouched by whitewater exploration. Teaming up with ASC, Paul was able to combine collecting beetle specimens while exploring endless whitewater.
Beetles. I honestly never gave them much consideration or wanted anything to do with them. That all changed when I got connected with ASC.
I left Arcata, California in January of 2013 and headed to Cameroon, West Africa in search of whitewater. As I was packing my bags I received an email from my friend Haven Livingston. She had just had written an article for International Rivers on "citizen science" and went on to tell me about the work ASC was doing.
Excited about adding value to the kayaking expedition as well as helping out others with their research, I filled out the info request on the ASC website. Within a short time ASC had connected my exploratory whitewater kayaking expedition with a group of scientists who were looking to study beetle specimens from the area. After a Skype meeting with ASC in the U.S. and a scientist currently in Kenya, I started collecting beetles.
February 2014 Survey Crew: The Pioneers
Landmark is the groundbreaking project that ASC has undertaken in conjunction with American Prairie Reserve (APR) to provide "boots on the ground" support for the conservation management team at APR. Landmark crews consist of six highly motivated and skilled outdoors men and women who will leave and work on the Reserve for a month at a time, collecting valuable data that will directly influence conservation management on APR. Find out more about Landmark and apply for a crew position.
Meet the inaugural class of Landmark crew members, the pioneers:
Rob Pudner was born and raised in New Jersey, but always felt more at home in Vermont where he attended college. There he caught the adventure bug and in 2010 moved to his current home of Bozeman, Montana. He was drawn there because of its proximity to world-class ice climbing. Rob has a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies with a minor in adventure recreation and is currently applying to a master’s program in urban planning. Rob is looking forward to exploring the wild prairie landscape and taking lots of photos.
Colleen Ferris grew up on the brackish rivers of the Chesapeake Bay outside of Annapolis, Maryland. Early years spent exploring the coastal environment led to a curiosity and respect for the natural world. She went west to study at the University of Montana in Missoula and fell in love with the community, landscape and fauna of the Rockies. After graduation Colleen served as a Community Environmental Developer with the Peace Corps in the Dominican Republic. After 27 months of environmental education, mangoes, and sunshine, Colleen has returned to the States to brave the cold of eastern Montana. Interested in conservation genetics, Colleen is most excited about applying non-invasive wildlife tracking methods to learn about populations on the Reserve.
Meet the rest of the team after the break:
Read the Landmark Notes blog: