Katie Birch is a Colorado native and graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder. She has a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering and has worked for the City of Steamboat Springs and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environmental Water Quality. She has conducted fieldwork on Rio Grande cutthroat trout and volunteered on water engineering projects in Uganda. Katie is looking forward to expanding her fieldwork experience with a month on the prairie.
The sky darkens and black and blue clouds start to roll in one after the other. A flash in the sky announces the first strike of lightning. It doesn’t rain here, it storms. I wouldn’t call it a hostile land (there’s a certain peace to life out here), but it’s a harsh one indeed.
Though I am once again a sojourner in civilized life, for the past month I have been living cooperatively with other adventurous souls in the Northern Great Plains, miles from any neighbor, in a tent that I built myself, on the aptly named Sun Prairie in Northeastern Montana. As a member of the May Landmark Crew, I earned my keep by the labor of my hands.
Frontier life is everything you could imagine and more. Undoubtedly it can be hard, but it is also filled with pleasures, small and large, every day. The morning chorus of birds at sunrise; long days of walking resolutely through sage brush and river washes, eyes peeled for wildlife; talking with wise companions; and unimpeded views of the sunset at Buffalo Camp were among the highlights of my days on the American Prairie Reserve, each one of them filled with adventure and beauty.
Nightly campfires were spent stargazing with savage intellectuals and awaiting late night visits from adventurous bison in camp (sometimes uncomfortably close to your tent platform!). Days were spent walking the land, collecting data to help ensure this incredible ecosystem is allowed to flourish and capped by afternoon plunges in chilly Fourchette Bay.
To be working on such an important project makes you think differently about nearly everything. The scope of this project dwarfs me as an individual. Wandering through the layers upon layers of grassy ravines and meandering river bottoms makes you realize how much there is to hide in a landscape. But if you look hard enough, you will be surprised by what you find. While we found lots of wildlife, the most important thing I found was adventure with a bigger purpose.
Find out more about the project on the Landmark page or by reading other Landmark blog posts. Keep up with ASC by subscribing to ASC's blog, liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter (@AdventurScience), Instagram (@AdventureScience) and Google+.
Team Row the Pacific is made up of Rebecca Berger and Leanne Zrum, the only Canadians in the inaugural Great Pacific Race. Their goal is to raise awareness for Ocean Health Issues and funds for the Canadian environmental organization, The David Suzuki Foundation. They are also hoping to become the first Canadians to row the Pacific, and the first female pair to complete the history making race. Rebecca and Leanne will have sattelite communications during the row to update their blog and receive messages. You can keep up with their progress on their website, Facebook and Twitter (@RowThePacific).
ASC - What brought your team together?
RTP - We met at a local gym in Vancouver in 2010. Rebecca was looking for a challenging team to join so it was fate that we met by the rowing machines. We both come from a strong backgrounds in water sports and share a similar focus in competition so we knew we would be perfect partners! It was just a matter of getting her (Leanne) to realize she'd always wanted to row an ocean too.
ASC - What's the story behind your team/boat name?
RTP - The Honey Badger is a fierce and fearless African Mammal. It is pretty much impossible to stop a Honey Badger from doing what it wants to do, and it's very difficult to kill. In short, the Honey Badger is pretty bad ass! We love our sense of humor and we love the Honey Badger so it only made sense to name our boat after the lovely creatures.
ASC - What is your training secret?
RTP - In Ocean rowing I think the training secrets are all in the mental preparation. We've been working with a sports psychologist in Vancouver (Roger Friesen) who's given us some "tools" to use in preparation for the row. I'm sure we'll use them while we're out there too!
ASC - Have you ever done anything like this before?
RTP - This is the first time either of us have been this crazy.
ASC - What are you planning to eat during the race?
RTP - Lots and lots of freeze dried dinners, fruit, nuts, Oxylent multivitamines and Vega sports bars and shakes!
ASC - What's the one item you're taking in the boat with you to keep yourself sane?
RTP - Music and a couple photos of our friends and family back home.
ASC - How can we keep up with you while you're out on the ocean?
RTP - Check out our facebook, twitter, and blog. As long as we are able to, we plan to update the blog each day!
ASC - Why are you excited to collect samples for the microplastics project?
RTP - Both of us grew up on the water and have been playing in nature all of our lives. We love our surroundings, and know how precious and fragile our ecosystem is. We're also devastated by the enormity of the plastic pollution issue in our oceans. If we can use the row to bring attention to the issues and convince even just a few people to change their habits we'll feel we've made a difference.
ASC - What's been the biggest obstacle you've had to overcome while preparing for the race?
RTP - So far the biggest obstacle has been the fundraising and training. We've had to raise enough money to take part in the race and we are hoping to raise more for the our primary charity. We've also had to become experts in Marine systems, Navigation, Survival, and Sailing theory in a short time. All while working full time jobs!
Learn more about the Great Pacific Race and our Microplastics project on our website. You can keep up with ASC by subscribing to our blog, liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter (@AdventurScience), Instagram (@AdventureScience) and Google+.
Read the Landmark Notes blog: