Intrepid Travel has launched its first-ever “Citizen Science” program in Antarctica for passengers onboard the polar expedition ship, Ocean Endeavour. The ship will sail on its inaugural voyage in November 2022.
“Citizen Science” is voluntary research collected through public participation, in which people can share and contribute data they observe to a variety of projects, with the goal of advancing scientific studies by increasing the capacity of information gathered.
There are a total of five programs which will be facilitated by three “Citizen Science Coordinators,” new roles that Intrepid created to carry out and support research through its Antarctic operations. The five “Citizen Science” programs include:
- “NASA Globe Observer: Clouds” – Clouds affect how much sunlight the earth absorbs and how much heat escapes back into space. While NASA can survey clouds from above, it is impossible for to see the clouds from below. By observing and recording cloud cover timed to NASA satellite fly-overs, the program helps scientists understand how surface and air temperatures are affected by cloud covers and how clouds respond to climate change.
- “Seabird Survey” – By conducting bird surveys while at sea or on shore, participants can help scientists understand seabird distribution patterns and habitat usage in the Southern Ocean. They will work in small groups with an ornithologist out on the deck counting and identifying the seabirds that fly around the ship.
- “Happywhale” – This program engages participants to identify individual marine mammals for fun and for science. Every guest is encouraged to take photos of whale sightings and upload them online, after which scientists can identify them by their unique markings and track them around the globe.
- “Secchi Disk” – Climate change is threatening the phytoplankton that underpins the marine food chain. Hence, understanding its distribution, composition and abundance is important. This program supports the Secchi Disk Foundation and is named after the white disk to measure the clarity of the seawater. A Secchi Deck will be used to record the Secchi Depth and will be lowered vertically into the seawater from a Zodiac. This study offers participants insight into the marine food chain.
- “Fjord Phyto” – Phytoplankton are the sea’s most important inhabitants and underpin the marine food chain. They account for 50 percent of all the photosynthesis on earth, with every second lungful of oxygen humans inhale was created by phytoplankton. During this program, travelers will collect phytoplankton as they visit various fjords throughout the austral summer.
While the five programs will be available on all Intrepid Antarctic sailings, Intrepid will also launch two exclusive departures in collaboration with WWF Australia. Travelers will be joined onboard by scientists from WWF and the University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC). The 14-day “WWF Journey to the Circle” departing on February 17, 2023, and the 11-day “WWF Giants of Antarctica” departing March 1, 2023 will host a team of marine biologists conducting scientific research on Antarctica’s great whales to better understand their ecology and migration corridors under a changing climate. The project will be led by Chris Johnson, global lead of WWF’s “Protecting Whales & Dolphins Initiative.” He will be part of both Intrepid sailings in 2023 along with guest researchers from UCSC, including whale ecologist Dr. Ari Friedlander.
The Intrepid Foundation has committed an additional $150,000 to support the WWF initiative. The research collected onboard, along with this additional funding, will help inform strategies to safeguard whale superhighways and their critical feeding grounds including establishing a network of Marine Protected Areas around the continent and along the Antarctic Peninsula. WWF is working to protect 30 percent of the most critical ocean areas for wildlife globally by 2030.
For more details, visit www.intrepidtravel.com.