Another Super Saturday

Beautiful Skies

Its been a very blue skied but chilly and blustery day today, and as I write this, I’m having issues typing because my fingers have gone all creaky and stiff, even though I came home 30minutes ago.  Hopefully they will warm up soon!  Fair to say I’m also k-nackered, but also buzzing from another amazing day with the kids on project.  And we also had our first meeting about how to run the International Award for Young People here in Georgia with the other three Independent Operators (IOs).

Questionnaires

I’m also exhausted, because I finally completed the sports psychologist’s questions for the South Pacific Ocean row  (if I get through): http://coxlessrowers.com/ and was up very late last night (cough – this morning!) thinking about PhD options for scientific data I can collect on the ocean row, and looking into possibilities for my PhD and some new ideas and supervisors and things for that, which is all incredibly exciting.  I still have the other two universities on the table as potentials, but since I’m doing it for interest rather than out of necessity, I’d like to push the boundaries a bit and do something a little bit more ‘out there’ and one very exciting opportunity raised it’s head this week, which fits in perfectly with my Steiner educated side, and my inner hippy.  That is a joint PhD between the Schumacher College in Devon, and Plymouth University through this research group: http://trans-techresearch.net/. It would be really holistic and span a range of subjects, and definitely get me the reputation of being a typical student I think!  But I’m very excited, especially looking at funding options for it and the range of topics I could choose from.  I’m really passionate about plastic pollution and the oceans, and that could be the central theme of my thesis, but with elements of anthropology, media, environmental psychology, cognitive psychology, sociology, biology, marine science, technology, medicine, public health, scuba diving, and industry.   So, I’m interested to see how that develops!!!

The Wonderful Mr Paulius Rosius

Today was super though.  I really love watching the BBC Oceans series with the kids, and the fact that our Oceans Project is built around the television series and Paul Rose is our patron.  Also exciting that Paul has a new television series called ‘Frank Wild: Antarctica’s Forgotten Hero’ which airs on BBC One tomorrow night (18th March) in the north of England and 22nd April in the rest of the UK:  Read more here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-17373459  There is a video on the website too.  And more on Paul’s blog: http://paulrose.org/news/2012/02/pauls-new-bbc-two-work-frank-wild.html

Mystical Sea Horse

I get really excited to imagine our kids meeting with Paul Rose over the summer on their Earthwatch expeditions, and maybe even having the chance to have their first ever scuba dive session with him.  I find myself bursting into tears a lot these days, because I’m so proud of the guys and the team, so I’m sure to be a super proud but gibbering wreck come expedition time!!!  Here is a peek at what we were learning about on our project today:

And I’m so excited to think that our young guys could be doing just this kind of scientific research on their expeditions in the summer, learning all sorts of new things and putting their team work into practice, then bringing this experience back to Georgia to help conserve the Caucasus.  Blows my mind, especially to see them watching the BBC Oceans series and being so captivated and fascinated by what they see.  It really is just magical.  Its my dream to be able to get them out on expeditions with Earthwatch, and I just hope that we can make it happen for them, as it will change their lives completely.

Log Books

Today was also really cool, because we started our 14-24 year olds on their Duke of Edinburgh/International Award for Young People today, issued log books, completed paperwork, talked through what activities they wanted to do for each of the sections (physical activity, volunteering, skill, and adventurous activity).  And it is just incredible to think how many hours each of them will be giving to Georgian society over the next 3-6months.  Some have plans to teach English and other subjects to students in their school who struggle academically, one boy plans to hand out khinkali and khajapuri from his parents’ shop to poor people for free, one wants to knit scarves for women with breast cancer who receive very little in terms of treatment, recovery, or prosthetics here, some want to donate time to the orphanages, and some want to do conservation work and work in the zoo or planting trees.  They are also making plans to do physical activities: fencing, swimming, water polo, football, running, skiing, and many of them are especially excited about developing their skills in photography, jewellery making, art, and better still, using this talent as a way of raising money for their expeditions.  Given that Georgia doesn’t have a strong culture of volunteer work or fundraising, I think their enthusiasm is just immense, and the room was electric with excitement today.  I’m going to show you some of Artur’s photo from the day, just to give you a taster.  Artur is an amazing young man, and a great photographer.  He is profoundly deaf and doesn’t know sign language, but he communicates really well in English, Georgian, and Russian, which is really thanks to his mum who has always pushed and helped him to communicate and be involved in mainstream school.  It is not as easy for him as being at a western school and disability can be seen as taboo or hidden, but Artur’s mum is an amazing lady and a teacher at my old school, and I can’t wait for Artur and his mum to be on Earthwatch expeditions together, snorkelling and undertaking research with dolphins in the Red Sea and seeing Artur put his love for photography to good use by photographing the dolphins so that they can be identified by scientists.  Here are some of Artur’s pictures from today:

Everyone was super excited to receive their International Award logbooks too!!!!

I think you are going to be seeing quite a few little blue books around Georgia from now on! These are their logbooks, and they have been provided to us free of charge thanks to generous sponsorship from the UK.  But if they lose them, they will be in a lot of trouble!!  These books are where we get to sign them off for their Bronze, then Silver, then Gold Awards.  They are like passports, and once each award is completed, we will send the little books to London to be validated, and then awards will be sent to us.  When the kids get their Gold award, then a member of the Royal Family will come all the way from Britain and present their awards to them, and probably see their little books too.  So, this is going to be a very important life skill for them.  Some organisations look after the logbooks for the young people, but we have decided to give them that responsibility because it is so important in life as an adult and we trust them enough to do their best.  If they lose them, then they will lose all the signatures they have received and will have to pay for a new one to be sent from the UK, so there is a lot at stake for them.  I’m pretty sure that at least one logbook will be lost, but it is all part of learning, and we hope it will encourage them and give them a sense of pride.

Money, Money, and Silence

We also had a big session in our expedition teams, talking about fundraising and coming up with ideas for how to raise money, which they really seemed to love, and now there is a lot of activity on facebook with them sharing some truly inspirational ideas.  Some have made appointments to meet with businesses and banks to see if they can get sponsorship, some are organising a sponsored silence, and some are planning to make a documentary about nature, which will also count towards their International Award and another award which I will tell you about in a moment.

We were using the UK based crowdfunder fundraising platform to raise money, but it hasn’t been working for us as paypal won’t accept donations from Georgian bank cards and we don’t have a UK based bank account now that they changed their paypal agreement a few days ago.  This is really frustrating for us, especially having been promoting the site.  I would have preferred to use the USA based crowdfunding platform called ‘kickstarter’, but you need to be a US citizen to use this one.

Sponsume

But we now have a new strategy, involving another crowdfunding platform called ‘sponsume’, except that with this one, whatever we raise, we get to keep, and they also accept donations in pounds, dollars, euros, etc.  You have to upload a video before they will approve the site, but they have been really good at corresponding with us and advising us and the whole site is just a lot more user friendly, and looks much better.  Because of that we have changed our entire approach, and I think this will work much better, and it falls in line with the very first plans I had for project, way back in May last year.  Instead of raising the entire amount we need, the sponsume site also lets us have multiple pitches, which really makes life easier.  So now each expedition team has their own pitch and link, and we can also have other pitches for each aspect of Oceans Project.  Money raised can also be transferred to our charity account here in Georgia rather than via paypal to a UK based account, so that will save us in transfer fees. Having an account for each team, also helps them to focus on their own goals, and we have decided that they can continue to raise funds right up until they have enough to go on expedition, so now they can go at their own pace, which seems a lot more fair on those who work really hard, and who have been held back by less energetic teams.  Each expedition team also has a dedicated project leader to encourage them, and I will continue raising money too, and promoting their pages wherever I can, so I think this will work a lot better.

Belize

The shark conservation in Belize team had already made their video, so we have now launched their fundraising campaign, and my next job is to promote it for them.  It is a four pronged approach that includes:

  1. crowdfunding page: http://www.sponsume.com/project/shark-conservation-project-belize
  2. justgiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/teams/Belize
  3. direct donations into our Bank of Georgia charity account via Pushkin Street branch (Freedom Square)
  4. by raising money through their own fundraising events, which they can deposit in the charity account.
The sharks in Belize team are one of my favourite teams and they have a super team dynamic and energy.  There are 14 people in total, the youngest member will be 12 years old by summer, and the oldest is 16.  The team includes 3 IDPs/refugees from South Ossetia, and students from 6 different state and private schools in Tbilisi. (School 89, school 14, school 157, New School, school 47, and British Connection School).  One student grew up in Denmark, one in Croatia, and one plays waterpolo for Georgia and last week met the President of Georgia.  7 of them are taking their International Award for Young People, and one of them speaks 8 languages. 9 of them have never been outside of Georgia before and will need passports.  They need to raise $50,000 (£25,000approx) to cover the cost of their expedition for 14 of them, flights from Tbilisi to Belize, insurance, visas, vaccinations, passports, and small expenses like sunscreen and transfer costs.  We are currently approaching the Marriott Hotel to see whether they might host our teams on arrival in in each country, and well as hosting the Ocean Rowing team next year and allowing myself to use the gym so I can train for the row here in Tbilisi.  
International Award for Young People in Belize
I’m also excited about the expedition to Belize, because there are young Belizians also taking their International Award, and the hope is that the young people from Georgia and from Belize will meet up together on their afternoon off, and if Paul Rose can join us on expedition, then we may be able to offer a ‘try dive’ session for them all, and attract some local media attention.  Our guys plan to make some documentary footage of their experiences with Earthwatch in Belize and we will share these with young people around the world through our ETE (Education through Expeditions) webpage (http://www.etelive.org/content/contentete.numo?id=171) which is used by children at schools, especially in the UK and on Baffin Island in the arctic.  We also want to use our new knowledge to contribute to our Oceans Project educational workbook which we hope Amazon will sell alongside the BBC Oceans DVD, and if we can raise enough funds, then we would like to donate copies of these to other schools who may not have funds, but who wish to do environmental projects like ours.  So there is a huge potential for our guys to really develop some fantastic skills and experiences.  
About our Shark Conservation Expedition to Belize

The Lead Scientists for our expedition will be Demian Chapman and Elizabeth Babcock.  Demien is from the School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at Stony Brook University, and Elizabeth is from the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science,  at the University of Miami.  We will be with them for the whole of the expedition and learning everything we can from them whilst stationed at the Glover’s Reef Research Station.

Here is some more info on the scientists we will be working with:

Demian Chapman (Ph.D.) is an assistant professor at the School of Marine and Atmospheric Science at Stony Brook University and assistant science director of the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science. Originally from New Zealand, Dr. Chapman received his undergraduate degree in zoology/ecology from Victoria University of
Wellington. He received his Ph.D. in 2007 from Nova Southeastern University (Florida) and was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Miami. Dr. Chapman is an internationally recognized shark expert and has published papers on shark genetics, virgin births, the shark fin trade, and shark tracking, among other topics. Dr.
Chapman is passionate about shark conservation and has been working on it in Belize since 2000. He is also an avid runner and diver, and loves dogs. Dr. Chapman is the project director.

Elizabeth Babcock (Ph.D.) is an assistant professor at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Dr. Babcock, who received her Ph.D. from the University of Washington, is a quantitative fisheries scientist, with experience in fisheries stock assessment and marine fish conservation for species
including sharks, billfishes, and sturgeons. She is especially adept at using advanced mathematical approaches to inform management of fisheries for which traditional fisheries data are lacking. Dr. Babcock is increasingly interested in spatial management measures (e.g. marine reserves) and ecosystem impacts of fisheries, an interest that stems in part from her ten years working at Glover’s Reef in Belize. Dr. Babcock is the project codirector.

Here are some videos of what our guys will be doing in Belize:

and this is why we want to conserve them:

this is the video made by our Shark Conservation in Belize team:

So what else did we do on project today?????? Well, let me tell you…..

Project Leader Dave decided he wanted to join the kids in making presentations about what we saw on today’s BBC Oceans episode, and he chose the topic of climate.  He was very good, very interactive, and everyone really enjoyed it, and learning about the very special climate and different biomes of Georgia.  In fact, he was so good, we are hoping he will make a presentation every week now!

And we also learnt about a very special award called the John Muir Award, which is offered to young people in Britain to help promote wild places and to get people out of doors and enjoying nature.  We have decided to incorporate this into Oceans Project Georgia as an extra award and incentive for doing things for the environment, and the guys were really happy to hear this.  John Muir is considered to be the father of ecology!  Here is a little bit of info about him from wikipedia:

John Muir (21 April 1838 – 24 December 1914[1]) was a Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation ofwilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books telling of his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevadamountains of California, have been read by millions. His activism helped to save the Yosemite ValleySequoia National Park and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is now one of the most important conservation organizations in the United States. One of the most well-known hiking trails in the U.S., the 211-mile (340 km) John Muir Trail, was named in his honor.[2] Other places named in his honor are Muir Woods National MonumentMuir BeachJohn Muir CollegeMount MuirCamp Muir and Muir Glacier.

In his later life, Muir devoted most of his time to the preservation of the Western forests. He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing both Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. Because of the spiritual quality and enthusiasm toward nature expressed in his writings, he was able to inspire readers, including presidents and congressmen, to take action to help preserve large nature areas.[3] He is today referred to as the “Father of the National Parks,”[4] and the National Park Service produced a short documentary on his life.[5]

Muir’s biographer, Steven J. Holmes, states that Muir has become “one of the patron saints of twentieth-century American environmental activity,” both political and recreational. As a result, his writings are commonly discussed in books and journals, and he is often quoted in books by nature photographers such as Ansel Adams.[6] “Muir has profoundly shaped the very categories through which Americans understand and envision their relationships with the natural world,” writes Holmes.[7] Muir was noted for being an ecological thinker, political spokesman, and religious prophet, whose writings became a personal guide into nature for countless individuals, making his name “almost ubiquitous” in the modern environmental consciousness. According to author William Anderson, Muir exemplified “the archetype of our oneness with the earth”,[8] while biographer Donald Worster says he understood his mission to be “saving the American soul from total surrender to materialism.”[9]:403 

So all in all, I think you will agree that it was a pretty cool day, and another regular Saturday on Oceans Project Georgia…….!

 

 

 

 

About Sarah Rows Solo

British YouTuber and Founder of Environmental and STEM education charity Oceans Project, preparing for a solo row around the coast of Great Britain.
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