Making a Bodacious Dream Come True
Earthwatch has partnered with Dave Rearick, captain of the 40-foot ocean racing sailboat Bodacious Dream, to incorporate citizen science into his solo journey around the world.
An avid sailor who first began piloting boats in his teens on Lake Michigan, Dave Rearick always dreamed of circumnavigating the globe alone—one of the most solitary journeys imaginable. Now the journey has begun, and he's taken the Earthwatch commitment to research along with him.
Dave Rearick, captain of Bodacious Dream, on his solo trip around the world
On October 2, 2013, Dave and Bodacious Dream launched their 30,000-mile voyage from Newport, Rhode Island. As of December 9th, he had traveled 8,000 miles south and arrived in Cape Town, South Africa—and he’s still got seven months of sailing to go. Along the way, he’ll visit New Zealand, traverse the Straits of Magellan, and stop by the mouth of the Amazon River in Brazil.
But how does one guy with a sailboat contribute to scientific research? Dave has partnered with Earthwatch to make important observations as he steers Bodacious Dream across the world’s oceans.
Whales, dolphins, seabirds, and other ocean dwellers have long captured the imaginations of sailors and landlubbers alike. But scientists still lack data about where these species live, the status of their populations, and their behavior.
Dave is helping to fill in some of these gaps by photographing marine animals along his route. He then uploads his photos to inaturalist.org, a network where amateur naturalists can share their findings. So far, he’s encountered a leatherback sea turtle, a large group of Atlantic spotted dolphins, and many bird species.
Bottom half of leatherback sea turtle with hind flippers out of the water
Phytoplankton—microscopic plants and bacteria—form the basis of the ocean food chain. They also produce at least 50% of the oxygen we breathe. These important organisms have declined, though, by as much as 40% worldwide since 1950. Using a Secchi disk—a round, white plate attached to a measuring tape—Dave records water clarity at stops along his route. He then uploads these measurements to SecchiApp so scientists can use them to estimate the amount of phytoplankton in the water.
A Secchi disk for measuring water clarity
Plastics in the Ocean
Sadly, Dave will likely encounter plenty of our trash even out in the middle of the ocean. Plastic debris breaks into small pieces that get eaten by marine mammals and accumulate in their stomachs, which can cause them to starve to death. These bits of plastic also absorb toxins in the water, which enter the food chain when animals eat them. The toxins can make it all the way up the food chain into human bodies—essentially making us victims of our own litter.
To fully understand the problem of plastic debris, scientists need to know more about the types, locations, and amounts of plastic in the ocean. With a simple coffee filter, Dave scoops up samples of the plastic debris he encounters and will deliver those samples to researchers at the end of his voyage.
Although Dave works alone, he's still part of a global network of citizen scientists connected through the Internet and a common passion for conservation—and he's taking the Earthwatch model into a new realm. Learn more and follow Dave’s journey at bodaciousdreamexpeditions.com.
Bodacious Dream at night