Rob recording data on the way up the mountain. Photo by Clint Valentine.
National Geographic Emerging Explorer Gregg Treinish founded Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation, a nonprofit organization connecting outdoor adventurers with scientists in need of data from the field. He also organizes his own expeditions, contributing to research on wildlife-human interaction, fragmented habitats, and threatened species.
Every day at Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation we are making connections between the adventure and scientific communities. The partnerships we develop between adventure athletes and scientific researchers are varied – no two are ever quite the same. However, one thing is common throughout all of them: a passion for adventure and a desire to protect and preserve the world around us.
I started ASC because I wanted to make more of my own adventures. Our greatest successes come when we can get our adventurers involved in a project and it truly enhances their experience. Recently, two ASC adventurers, Clint Valentine and Rob Debruyn, completed a month-long, human powered tour of Colorado bagging peaks and climbing iconic rock routes all the while collecting valuable data for conservation efforts in the Rocky Mountain West. Clint describes his experience:
“Rob DeBruyn and I have finally completed our month-long tour of the Colorado Rockies. We pitted ourselves against some of the finest rock routes on the Continental Divide and have experienced the camaraderie of wild cyclists and climbers (of which we are both). We spent every sunset, dark night, and sunrise in beautiful and vivid landscapes and spent our days under the hot sun and took refuge under the shade of pinyon pines. Our touring bikes were heavier than ever; our bags were filled taught with metal bits and nylon rope. In my handlebar bag, home to my most needed possessions, were my camera, glacier glasses, compass, and waterproof journal – for thoughts and to record data for ASC.
Photo by Clint Valentine.
Rob and Clint are ambitious college students at Northeastern University in Boston and avid climbers, cyclists and outdoorsmen. Not new to the world of adventure travel Clint and Rob set out to spend more than a month this past summer cycling over 600 miles around Colorado from climb to climb and included over 40,000 feet of climbing on heavily loaded touring bikes. Though they could have just driven from crag to crag Clint describes their decision to rely on human power:
“We chose to tour uninhibited, on bicycles, with our equipment in tow. We met a community of adventure enthusiasts that have further connected us to the sport we love. Our involvement withAdventurers and Scientists for Conservation was an important link between the sport we love and the environment that needs protecting and analysis for research. For one month Rob & I forewent thoughts of school and employment; for one month we cycled, climbed, and collected data.”
Clint in the shadow of Mt. Evans. Photo by Rob Debruyn.
Clint was no stranger to field research, studying biology and environmental science and having participated in a geologic study in Iceland. Ever since his trip to Iceland, he has been eager to be involved in more research efforts, and to leverage his love of climbing and cycling into valuable opportunities for data collection. ASC provided him the opportunity to fuse his passions and to make a valuable contribution to conservation research. Clint says, “What inspires me as an adventurer and scientist is the same – a fervor and curiosity for embedding myself within nature.”
Clint and Rob participated in multiple ASC projects during their expedition by collecting wildlife,roadkill and pika observations. Data for each of these projects are fed directly to researchers who use the information to make effective management and conservation decisions. For Clint and Rob, the experience of participating in citizen science was fulfilling and added a new dimension to their adventure.
“Our traditional ascent of Mt. Evans was crowded – not by other climbers but by marmots, mountain goats, and pika. Rob and I started scrambling to the base of the wall early in the morning, and by noon we were near the false summit. We were surrounded by the cries of rodents below and the amiable glances of white goats on perches too shabby for a rock climber. We rested on a ledge, hundreds of feet above jumbled broken blocks. While Rob powered on his smartphone to input our observations, I regretted my lightweight decision to not pack a zoom lens for my camera. Like camouflaged Where’s Waldos, my distantly-photographed rodents were comical and could hardly pass for scientific evidence.”
Rob searching for pika in the talus. Photo by Clint Valentine.
“We had fun searching for pika. The rodents were skittish, small, and loud. We mostly found them by accidentally wandering into their territory and listening for loud, halting squeaks. Rob and I pulled ourselves to the discernible top where a single pika stood watching. The false summit of Mt. Evans, a formidable obstruction to which we were inextricably stuck, gave way to an expanse of peaks and valleys. The glare of the sun smeared and faded the horizon from rich detail to an intoxicating immense of blue. I looked down again, and the pika must have run off. I thought about the cracked and weathered rock visible for miles… this pika was long gone.”
Trad ascent of Mt. Evans. Photo by Clint Valentine.
- “Extraordinary” Competitors Take Title at 2013 Adventure TEAM Challenge from World T.E.A.M. Sports (prweb.com)
- Rocky Mountain National Park (anotherwalkinthepark.wordpress.com)