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Surf traveller? Become a citizen scientist, too.

18:32 1st November 2013 by Alex Dick-Read
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Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 1.50.36 PM‘Hey, Man, what happened to all the whales?’ Most of us would agree that we need all the info we can get about Nature and here’s a good way to help. (Photo:ASC)

 

Here’s some news from an organization we did a story on in TSP Issue 98.
Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation is based on the great idea that if you’re out there in the wilds, you could be making yourself useful to scientists by collecting data, or samples for their research.

For surfers, that could mean counting cetaceans or turtles, studying coral or any other shoreline ecology work that fits for both you and the researchers.
Looks like ASC have now hooked in with Patagonia and they’re hunting for surfers and other ocean people to sign up.
Here’s their announcement and below that, the interview we ran in TSP98:

Did you know that, to date, 100% of ocean samples collected by ASC adventurers show microplastic contamination?
ASC is proud to announce our partnership with Patagonia and the Marine Environmental Research Institute (MERI) to study the extent of marine microplastic contamination in our oceans in order to ensure the health of our marine habitats.
As a Patagonia Environmental Grant recipient ASC is recruiting an army of ocean adventurers to collect seawater samples. These samples are critical to documenting the extent of microplastic contamination. WE NEED YOU! If you spend any time on the water you can help.IanBear2Seen any of these around? If so, you could be useful.(Photo: Ian Battrick/Lunasurf)

Jordan Holsinger of ASC explains how surfers in the wild can help scientists better understand what’s going on with planet Earth.

Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation is an organisation that hooks up outdoor enthusiasts with scientific researchers. Hikers, sailors, climbers and others who play in the wild are already out there gathering samples and data that get used by scientists to further their studies. ASC is the go-between, finding researchers who need data and enthusiasts heading to relevant parts of the world. So far, ASC hasn’t had any surfers on their books, but there’s no reason whatsoever we shouldn’t be able to help.

How does it work? Let’s just say I’m going feral in Indonesia. What happens?
We’re primarily a connecting organisation. We connect the athletes with the researchers, so we help find relevant research projects: who’s doing work in, for instance, Indonesian marine habitats? Is it a university or researcher in Indonesia; is it someone somewhere else in the world interested in data from that region? We then get them together, usually over Skype and email. ASC also helps develop the protocols so that people out in the field know exactly what they’re doing – how to do the sample/data collection and exactly what the purpose is. Then the researcher will actually send some materials – say sampling bottles or something like that – directly to the athlete. When you’re back, those samples will go directly to the researcher.
Another important part of what we do is making sure that all our athletes understand the larger context of the projects we work on because nobody wants to just be a grunt out there collecting samples without understanding why they’re doing it. So it’s really important for all of our athletes to be onboard with the projects, to understand the bigger purpose and to be excited about it.

So we just go to the website and sign up?
On the website you can look through the different projects we have going on. You can also fill out our ‘find an advisor’ forms on there. We work hard to make sure everyone gets connected with a project that fits with what they’re doing. Sometimes we don’t have anything right away but we try and find researchers who are interested and look for the kinds of data-collection that would be possible.

Screen Shot 2013-11-01 at 1.47.14 PM

Water people needed. Sign up if you’re going wild. (Photo: ASC)

How robust is this considered in scientific circles? In the peer review process, will the scientist’s research lose cred because it was collected by a long-haired feral surfer in Indonesia?
That’s part of what we work really hard on. It’s a key role: working with the scientists to develop protocols and making sure that all our athletes know exactly what they’re doing. We make sure all the athletes are well trained in the projects they’re participating in so that we don’t have issues like that. We make sure that all the data collected is usable and valuable.

How did this come about?
It started when our founder Gregg Treinish hiked the Appalatian trail in 2004 and he had the thought, ‘I’m out here playing, but what’s the bigger purpose?’ So this idea was born and developed over a number of years. He decided to throw all his chips on the table and start this organisation in 2011.
At the moment we have people climbing Mount Everest, people sailing around the world, people cycling across South America and so on. We don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves – we want to reach out to all people who love to play outside and give them a greater purpose in their recreation. We offer the scientific community access to data that they wouldn’t be able to get otherwise. It takes a lot of money and a lot of time to gather this kind of data, but what we’re doing is mobilising this army of citizen-scientists – people trained to go out to the far corners of the globe and collect data that researchers just wouldn’t be able to get.

Are you strictly science based? Surfing has humanitarian organisations that travellers can get involved with, groups like Waves for Water ask surfers to carry drinking water units to to communities that need it; SurfAid asks us to bring mosquito nets to malaria-afflicted areas, etc.
We are definitely on board with the humanitarian efforts but our mission is connecting athletes with scientific researchers. What we want to do is help everyday citizens contribute to important research that’s going to help preserve the places they love to play. We want to make a difference so we want to hear from the surf community – the kinds of places they care about preserving. It’s about conservation, whether it’s wildlife or land, we want to make a difference.

To sign yourself up or find out more, go to: www.adventureandscience.org

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