We give the Mountain pulpit to Gregg Treinish, Executive Director of Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation.
Tears running down my cheeks, I chuck a rock in frustration. It's one of those days that through-hikers on the Appalachian Trail know well. I've been walking for three months. On this day, the rocks, the rain, the cold, the blisters, the heavy pack—everything conspires against me at once. A sunken, miserable, and selfish feeling begins to eat at my core.
I fall after bloodying an ankle on a rock that Boy Scouts clearly had sharpened in the middle of the night. The world is justifiably angry with me, I think. It wants revenge for my selfish six-month adventure. The sound of the rock echoes through the empty forest as it tears through the trunk of a tree. Great, now I'm doing more harm than good in the world. I want to quit. Instead, I stand up and keep walking. The selfish feeling, I later learn, isn't unique to me. I've talked about it with hikers, climbers, paddlers, and mountaineers—adventure-minded people. As a group, they all wished there was some way to contribute to society and the broader planet, while getting after it on expeditions or routine adventures.
Nearly 10,000 trekked miles, six years, and a wildlife biology degree later, I came up with the idea for Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC). By connecting the science community with the outdoor crowd, the organ–ization provides the opportunity for adventurers to collect usable scientific data while they're in the backcountry. And by turning outdoor athletes—with or without backgrounds in the sciences—into de facto research assistants, ASC can help fill the void in our collective understanding of the planet and the impact we're having on it.
Years later, I again find myself with a partner on yet another ambitious through-hike, this time from Yellowstone National Park to the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. We're here to connect these two ecological "gems" of the Northern Rockies, but as we trek we're also doing research collecting DNA samples of grizzly bears, and documenting infringements to wildlife connectivity. Our goal is to put ourselves in the brain of a bear or other big carnivore and determine what obstacles such an animal would face moving between the two ecosystems. We're working directly with the Craighead Institute and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. It's been more than 300 miles since we've seen our last sign of a grizzly in the park, and we know that despite the vast area of what should be core grizzly habitat now in front of us, we won't be seeing any more. In so many cases, it isn't the landscape standing in the way of wildlife, but rather human conflict.
By engaging adventure athletes in science, we hope to become a force to reduce that conflict and help the world to see that humans are not the only important life-form on this planet.
Please visit adventureandscience.org for more information. From the Summer 2011 issue. Subscribe today, get the magazine at the iTunes store, or find Mountain at Whole Foods, Barnes & Noble, Gander Mountain, and other natural foods and outdoor stores.