ASC paired Leifer and his team with Emily Johnston, a researcher studying freshwater algae for the University of Hawaii at Manoa. With their help, she is compiling information to better understand the nature of the fragile freshwater ecosystems of Hawaii. “Numerous studies have shown that freshwater ecosystems are among the most heavily impacted by human activities,” said Johnston. “Additionally, these ecosystems are expected to be greatly affected by climate change.” Freshwater algae play important roles in the myriad habitats they occupy, but relatively little is known about their diversity or how their roles might be shifting with climate change.
On his website (Canyonchronicles.com), Leifer wrote, “You would be amazed what you can find when you aren’t looking for anything at all.” Fortunately for the scientific community, he and his team are increasing their odds by partnering with Johnston and arming themselves with the knowledge and ability to actively seek information. The team will likely meet its goal of discovering new species, as Johnston believes that much of the algae the canyoneers collect will be new to science. This will aid her efforts to better understand an imperiled but little known environment, and the information gleaned from their partnership will serve as a testament to the value of uniting science and adventure for everyone’s benefit.