Earthwatch Announces Three New Expeditions for 2015
Rescuing Coral Reefs in the Cayman Islands
Scientists predict a dire future for coral reefs because of climate change and overfishing. By some estimates, they could disappear from the world’s oceans by 2050.
But Dr. Carrie Manfrino, the lead scientist of this new expedition, isn’t giving up on coral reefs or the wildlife that depends on them. “I want Earthwatch volunteers to know that we all have an important role in saving biodiversity,” she says. She’s playing her part by exploring ways to grow new coral and researching the ocean conditions that reefs need to thrive.
Volunteers who join her on Little Cayman, a Caribbean island with only about 170 residents that’s famous for its scuba diving and bird-watching, will snorkel and record the condition of coral and the location of certain endangered species. The reefs off this island have managed to stay relatively healthy, so they may hold clues to what will make reefs around the world more resilient. Volunteers will also help grow staghorn coral in the ocean “nursery” that will then be transplanted to strengthen wild reefs.
Learn more about Rescuing Coral Reefs in the Cayman Islands, or sign up today.
Saving Joshua Tree
Climate change could dramatically reshape the fate of the Joshua tree, the iconic desert plant (actually a type of yucca) that gives California’s Joshua Tree National Park its name. One model predicts that, if temperatures rise at the predicted rate, Joshua trees will disappear from 90% of their current range by the end of the century.
The entire desert ecosystem, not just the Joshua tree, could face grave threats from climate change. But scientists can’t know what will happen to deserts, or how to protect them, without careful monitoring of changes over time. “We live for data,” says lead scientist Dr. Cameron Barrows.
He and his fellow researchers can’t get the amount of data they need without volunteers. Those who join them will hike Joshua Tree National Park, which has a stunning array of wildlife because it’s at the meeting point of two different desert habitats, the Mojave and the Colorado. They will track and measure birds, reptiles, amphibians, and vegetation. Volunteers will help build a collection of, as Dr. Barrows says, “More data than will exist anywhere in the world on this ecosystem.”
Learn more about Saving Joshua Tree, or sign up today.
Discovering Sharks in South Africa
One-quarter of the world’s shark and ray species face extinction because of overfishing and habitat destruction. To protect these species, researchers first need to understand them.
“South Africa has such diversity of sharks,” says lead scientist Katie Gledhill. “Almost nothing is known about some of these species.” Those are the animals you’ll observe, catch, measure, and safely release on this expedition: species such as shysharks, catsharks, and pajama sharks, some of which live nowhere else in the world.
Gledhill and her team are taking the first comprehensive look at how these sharks use their habitat in Walker Bay, South Africa, and how big their populations are. Those who join this expedition will help them find out which areas are most crucial to these sharks’ survival and if current seasonal fishing bans work. They also may have a chance to see southern right whales from their research station—Walker Bay is one of the best places in the world to spot whales from land.
Learn more about Discovering Sharks in South Africa, or sign up today.
Earthwatch plans to announce six additional new expeditions in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!