From Marco Polo to Lewis and Clark wide open grasslands have long inspired adventurous spirits, and voyages of discovery. However, very few of these vast landscapes still exist unaltered. Only the steppes of Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Patagonia and the Northern Great Plains of America have never been plowed and shelter remnants of their original biodiversity. Beginning in January 2014 Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) and American Prairie Reserve (APR) are partnering on an adventure-science wildlife study on the prairies of northeastern Montana.
Charles Scott is an author, family adventurer and United Nations Climate Hero based in New York City. Charles is travelling across the US on the famed Lewis and Clark Trail by bicycle this summer and recording road kill observations for ASC along the way. He is joined by his family including his son, Sho (age 12) and daughter, Saya (age 6) and is planning to writing a book about their experience. Keep up with the Scott family on their blog.
I spent this past summer cycling 1,700 miles of the Lewis & Clark Trail with my children, ages 12 and 6. We worked with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC) to collect data for a roadkill project, hoping to help reduce the impact of roads on wildlife.
After we returned to our home in New York City, my 12-year-old son said, “Before this trip, I didn’t think much about roadkill. I just assumed that, where you have roads, you’re gonna have dead animals. But I learned that so many animals don’t have to die, if people care enough to give them safe ways to cross.”
Clint Valentine is an undergraduate at Northeastern University and an avid adventurer and photographer. He enjoys pursuits of endurance and distance which have included summiting many peaks in New England during winter alpine ascents, sailing the Atlantic in a vintage gaff-rigged schooner, rock climbing across the US, and cycling 5,000 miles across North America. This past summer Clint and his friend Rob cycled and climbed across Colorado while collecting data for a number of ASC projects.
Rob DeBruyn and I have finally completed our month-long tour of the Colorado Rockies. We pitted ourselves against some of the finest rock routes on the Continental Divide and have experienced the camaraderie of wild cyclists and climbers (of which we are both). We spent every sunset, dark night, and sunrise in beautiful and vivid landscapes and spent our days under the hot sun and took refuge under the shade of pinyon pines. Our touring bikes were heavier than ever; our bags were filled taught with metal bits and nylon rope. In my handlebar bag, home to my most needed possessions, were my camera, glacier glasses, compass, and waterproof journal - for thoughts and to record ecological data for ASC.
Dave and Amy Freeman have been travelling the country for the past three years by kayak, canoe and dog sled with The Wilderness Classroom, an educational organization that seeks to instill a lifelong appreciation of the natural world while improving basic skills like reading, critical thinking, and communication by highlighting the joy of discovery. Along they way they have participated in several ASC projects including Gull Monitoring and most recently Wildlife Observations. Keep up with their adventures, lesson plans for classrooms, and blogs at www.wildernessclassroom.com
We experienced an abrupt change this week when we left the Suwannee River and paddled out into the Gulf of Mexico. When we saw a dolphin I said,”wow, we have not seen a dolphin in a long time.” Then I remembered that the reason we had not seen dolphins - we had been traveling on rivers for the past few weeks. Now we see dolphins every day. Plus, we are seeing lots of other plants and animals like stingrays, sea turtles, ospreys and pelicans, which are all common along the Gulf Coast. We have also entered a new habitat, the mangrove swamp.
Mangrove swamps are coastal wetlands found in tropical and subtropical regions. Mangrove swamps are made of halophytic (salt loving) trees, shrubs and other plants growing in shallow brackish and salt waters. Mangroves are often found in estuaries, where fresh water meets salt water and are infamous for their impenetrable maze of woody vegetation. We camped in a mangrove swamp a few nights ago and it was really hard to climb through the tangle of roots and limbs in search of a flat, dry place set up our tent.
Karen and Markus are world travellers and avid adventurers. They are backpacking through Argentina and Chile for the next few months and recording observations for the Wildlands South America Biodiversity Inventory. They recently hiked through Isla Navarino and recorded observations there. For more on their trip, visit their website
After 10 great days on Isla Navarino in southernmost Chile, I feel like I could write a book. However, because we head out into the mountains of Torres del Paine in 2 short hours, I will do my best to condense some of the most poignant thoughts and stories quickly (though perhaps not so concisely :).
Arriving by ferry and bumpy van ride in the small town (pop. 2000) of Puerto Williams on Jan. 17th, it felt like a world away from touristy Ushuaia just 50 km to the west. Kit-style houses and the buildings of a naval base are lined out along gravel streets where you are equally as likely to meet a grazing horse or a dog trotting down the street as you are to meet a person (and much more likely to see any of these than a vehicle driving by). Businesses are non-descript with small signs and shop-keepers who remembered us and greeted us with "Hola, Alaska!" when they saw us again. Walking around Puerto Williams our first day we were struck by its numerous similarities to a rural Alaskan village. Backyards were stacked with crab pots, equipment, and staked out dogs. Primary industries include tourism, fishing, shipping, the military, a scientific research station, and (historically) mining. The town is now the center of the indigenous Yaghan culture, where gatherings of Yaghan craftspeople and an excellent museum and cultural center seek to keep Yaghan language and cultural practices a part of the local landscape and community. But even more than these similarities, it was just the vibe of the village that really reminded Markus and I of parts of rural Alaska we have spent time in. People are personable, doors are open, and you easily find yourself in conversation or, as at our hostal Lajuwa, a part of family life. It is a place that seems arranged much more about living in place and in community than in manicured outward appearances of shiny storefronts and sharp work clothes. I loved being there and would love to return.
For the past three years, Dave and Amy Freeman have been trekking across North America on an 11,700 mile odyssey, during which they’ve traveled via dogsled, canoe and kayak. In the third and final 5,000 mile leg of the journey, Dave and Amy have partnered with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation to contribute data to two studies as they kayak the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean on south to the Florida Keys.
When they’re not collecting data for ASC, the Freemans operate Wilderness Classroom, a Minnesota-based program designed to educate young students about wild ecosystems through live presentations and internet seminars from remote locales. According to Dave, the program participants tend to respond to the adventure aspect with enthusiasm.
“The teachers use scientific data that we collect like temperature or miles traveled, and they’ll use that for graphing exercises, but I think the students like the animals and the sense of adventure, like the sled dogs. Those types of things are the hooks that really get the kids excited. It’s a good way to incorporate reading and math and critical thinking and all sorts of basic skills that come along with that,” Freeman said.
“The night was clear, I saw all the beautiful stars up there, I listened to some night birds, saw a praying mantis right next to my head and in the morning I saw the sun rising over this red-brown-gray-green semi-desert.” – Irina Muschik
Irina Muschik is on a mission to meet some truly incredible people. Irina has been backpacking on her own from Germany to the far eastern portions of Russia, and interviewing researchers and conservationists along the way. Her cross-continental journey is as inexpensive as possible; she has been hitchhiking and using buses and trains while camping and staying on couches whenever possible. From Eastern Europe through the Caucasus, Russia and Northern and Central Asia, her goal is to show a lesser seen side of conservation by documenting the people who have dedicated themselves to science and research in these areas.
Andrew Schleif, an engineer from Oregon is in the middle of the trip of a life time. He quit his day job and is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Washington. Along the way he is looking for signs of Pika for ASC researcher, April Craighead. The Pika is an important indicator species for climate change, and the data recorded by Andrew will contribute to an important body of knowledge.
I was so inspired by our Centennials grizzly bear survey that I made a short movie from the photos and video clips I shot that weekend. Thank you Gregg, Jamie, NRDC and everyone else who made possible this cool project! Dave Gaillard, Defenders of Wildlife.