ASC Microplastics Adventurer
ASC adventurer Sarah Weldon, CEO of a UK-based charity Oceans Project, has big summer plans.
The British explorer, neuropsychologist and Diver Medic Technician is planning to carry out the world’s first solo row around Great Britain, as she says “tracing the journey of our Viking ancestors.”
During the 3,000-mile row, Sarah will contend with shipping lanes, fast-changing tides, whirlpools and currents. She also expects to see amazing wildlife and geology. Along the way, she’ll be collecting samples for the ASC Microplastics Project.
“ASC enables lay people like myself to become an integral part of a community doing really important research on issues like plastic pollution,” Sarah said. “In my work abroad, I’ve seen the problem firsthand. People, landlocked, throwing waste into the river, in the belief that it would simply wash away. It’s vital that we get everyone passionate about the oceans, so they feel connected to them, so their actions don’t hurt people thousands of miles away.”
Throughout the 14-week expedition, she will also collect scientific data on the human body, using wearable technology and psychological tests from NASA, as part of a study by University of Roehampton.
Additionally, several British schools are creating educational materials about the expedition, which they will share with peers through a virtual learning platform. She has also teamed up with partners in 53 countries to support their projects to reach 17,000 children who currently have no access to education due to gender or poverty.
“Essentially, if I see a whale or dolphin or site of special Viking interest, I can update followers via the online platform,” she explains. “They then receive a notification on their smartphone, and can join me live as we ‘hang out.’”
The idea is that when she collects data for ASC, for example, viewers will see exactly what she’s doing, from her perspective, as she does it. She can control much of the technology by simply winking or giving voice commands, which will keep her hands free for rowing or other work.
She adds a caveat that the technology is still experimental. “We’ve no idea if it will even work yet, because it’s never been done before.”
Regardless, she adds, it holds potential for the future of remote adventure science.
Sarah was named by Skype for International Women’s Day 2014 as a “woman changing the world through technology,” and will fly the Wings Worldquest flag during her expedition. The U.S.-based Wings supports the groundbreaking work of female scientists and explorers whose discoveries advance scientific inquiry and lead to better understanding of our world. Notable members include primatologist Jane Goodall and oceanographer Sylvia Earle. British polar explorer Felicity Aston, the first woman to ski solo across Antarctica, passed the flag to Sarah.
For ASC, it’s incredible to have the support of such a talented woman who is seeking to transcend the limits of science and exploration.