By Aisling Force, Adventure Scientists Project Creation Coordinator
Adventure Scientists has been a part of more than a hundred research and conservation projects since our creation in 2011. Many of those projects have involved government agencies and they’ve often involved our volunteers exploring and collecting data on public lands. Through all of it, we’ve learned a thing or two that can help any agency or group working on research and conservation in similar areas.
The recent Public Lands Alliance conference in California was a great opportunity for me, as our Project Creation Coordinator, to share our lessons and to listen to our agency partners––to become even more in tune with their needs. It also gave us a chance to share and celebrate the great outcomes we’ve seen from working together.
It was truly inspiring to be surrounded by people so directly involved in the protection and management of our public lands.
I was grateful to meet hundreds of people engaged in work that leverages resources, personnel, and expertise to safeguard our nation’s open spaces and the wildlife dependent on them. I learned about the ways agencies build partnerships and how we can respond to their research needs, and I discovered more tools nonprofits use to support their local parks.
On the convention’s third and last day, I hosted an educational session called Designing Citizen Science: Partnerships That Maximize Public Lands Benefits. I shared Adventure Scientists’ approach and the critical role that we play in supporting partners in collecting data crucial to improving management actions, plans, and policies. I offered several tools that have enabled our organization to be effective in providing services such as our volunteer management systems, project selection criteria, data quality assurance processes, partnership agreements, and storytelling.
In particular, I highlighted the Pacific Coastal Marten Survey we conducted with the US Forest Service in 2013 and 2014. The story of this successful government-nonprofit partnership offered a few key takeaways for group. First, it often takes the firsthand experience of working with organizations like ours to be able to envision what we make possible. Second, partnerships like this can free up government staff to focus their limited time on other priorities.
To turn the tables and learn from those attending, and to give them an opportunity to learn from each other, I asked participants about words they associate with citizen science. Education, research, stewardship, data collection, and volunteer support all emerged as top contenders. Here’s more of what I heard:
In the end, learning from my colleagues in these sessions was the highlight of my experience at the conference.
At Adventure Scientists, we leverage resources and networks to efficiently develop projects and collect data to drive real-world change. Working with government agencies and on public lands has been an incredibly productive part of our work. And there’s much more work to be done.
Learn more about how we develop projects and start thinking of how we can work together to better understand and protect our natural treasures.
Aisling Force is Adventure Scientists’ Project Creation Coordinator. She holds a masters degree in Sustainability Solutions focusing on international and community development as well as tourism from Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability. She believes that relationships with nature are critical to fostering sustainable decision-making and maintains her own personal relationship with the environment through mountain biking, rafting, hiking, and skiing.
While serving as a Global Perspectives guest speaker on board a Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic Antarctic tour in December, our founder and executive director, Gregg Treinish joined a shipful of thrilled travelers when the crew spotted a pod of extremely rare Type D killer whales.
Filmmakers on board recorded the first-known underwater footage of these hunters who have only recently been scientifically described, and have only been encountered by chance in far southern waters. (See full coverage from National Geographic.)
The killer whales were first identified as a distinct type in a review of archival reports from carcasses. Earlier generations had believed their small size, round heads, and thin, horizontal eye patches were simply individual flukes (so to speak) within a standard population. With so few encounters with them in the wild, there was little to challenge that view in the popular mindset until careful description and DNA analysis made the distinction clear.
While this wasn't an Adventure Scientists expedition, the experience struck Gregg as indicative of the power of the Adventure Scientists model and mindset. Because Type D killer whales live in such remote and inhospitable regions and have been observed so few times, no scientific expedition has yet studied them in the wild. That means every chance encounter poses the opportunity to learn more about their population dynamics, hunting behavior, preferred locations, and more.
Travelers and adventurers are often in these areas though. Even when they are outfitted with nothing more than cameras and a scientific mindset, they can contribute meaningfully to scientific research.
And not only can travel and adventure contribute to science, the connection to the larger story of nature and the way the world works can enrich even the most already-satisfying experience abroad.
Want to have that experience yourself? Take a look at our current projects and become an Adventure Scientists volunteer this summer!
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