The 2018 Expeditions

Applications are now closed.

The 2018 expedition teams have now been chosen and applications have closed. However, you can still get involved! Every team will be hosting lots of amazing fundraising events over the coming year to raise money for their trips and would really appreciate it if you came! Details on upcoming events can be found here: http://glasgowexsoc.org.uk/upcoming-events/ 

2017 was the fifth summer the Egypt expedition has run and the fourth to be based near El Quesir. 8 students from various stages in their university career flew to Hurghada at the start of June to spend 6 weeks conducting marine research in the pristine coral reefs of the Red Sea.

The expedition conducted research for 4 honours projects, 3 of which built upon studies from previous years. Two of the projects, exploring coral cover and fish behaviour, were scuba-based, and worked on the beautiful Abu Sauatir reef. The camera drop study, surveying the diversity of life in mesophotic coral reefs, was a continuation of last year’s and focused on different reefs around El Quseir harbour.

Meanwhile, the rockpool study was a new and successful project examining diversity in the intertidal zone. Despite research focusing on the marine environment, half the team were zoologists.

Aside from science, the team was heavily involved in outreach. While still in Glasgow, some of the team gave a talk to local primary school pupils about our work and the importance of marine conservation. During the expedition, various events were organised in conjunction with local NGOs. These included giving a talk at a local school, a mangrove clean-up plus a day activity camp.

The expedition was hosted at Roots Camp, a holiday camp aimed at divers. Not only is the camp linked to a top-quality dive centre, Pharaoh Dive Club, but it is merely across the road from the main study site, Abu Sauatir reef. Due to the intensity of the projects, all meals were included. Accommodation was in the basic but homely Eco Huts, sharing 4 to a room. Data analysis was carried out in the air-conditioned lab on camp. When work was done, the team could unwind and relax by the pool side.

On days-off, the team have visited the ancient city of Luxor but they would more often go on dive trips together, by taking a boat out from the harbour to dive at sites covered with clown fish or encountering an elusive dugong or some turtles, or venturing to different shore based sites. The more experienced divers also went to the world-famous Elphinstone reef. Not only did this gorgeous reef boast a huge amount of marine life, it also gave an opportunity to spot sleek Oceanic Whitetip sharks…

This year’s University of Glasgow Iceland Expedition returned to Skalanes in Seydisfjordur, east Iceland. They continued their sea bird cliff count project, which monitors the Black Legged kittiwakes and Fulmer populations on a local cliff face, visible from the viewing platform on the reserve.

There were two Honours projects running this year. The first Honours project was an investigation into whether Alaskan Lupin effects the predation of ground nesting birds, the majority of which were Artic Terns and Eider ducks with a few other species too such as Greylag goose. The second Honours project was an investigation into microplastic accumulation through coastal food chains, looking at microplastic presence in sediment, Arthropod species and coastal birds, such as Oyster Catchers and Eider Ducks. Both these projects encountered challenges. There are always some unexpected obstacles to overcome in field work! However the Honours students dealt with them excellently, and have learned the adaptability needed during field research.

Another main project was looking at Endoparasite diversity in Eider Ducks, but was not successfully carried out in the field for the team were unable to access preservative in such a remote location. Lastly, there was a mini project studying Puffin behaviour, as the team found several nesting pairs had taken up residence right next to the platform! This included observation sessions at various times of the day, recording social behaviours and nesting activity.

Work at the reserve was very enjoyable for the whole team. However, limitations with working on a reserve included that some areas couldn’t be accessed to field work, and that research supplies weren’t always available. Skalanes has been well studied by students from the University of Glasgow, so next year the Iceland expedition might relocate to a fresh area, with a wider range of research opportunities. As can be seen from these stunning photographs, taken by the team, Iceland has a wildly diverse landscape just waiting to be explored!

In the summer of 2017 the Tobago Expedition ran for the 10th consecutive year! The team spent 10 weeks of research and conservation work staying in Charlotteville, a village on the North East tip of the island in two cottages right on the beachfront of Man-O-War Bay. They continued the long-running turtle project, which involved working with the local NGO NEST (North East Sea Turtles), patrolling the beaches from 8pm-3am and collecting data when they came up to a turtles nest. The team had three successful turtle Honours projects this year mostly on Hawksbills, but there were some Leatherbacks and Greens too!

The two other Honours projects were on amphibians and bats. The frog team worked both day and night and found a new species this year for the expedition: Pristimantis turpinorum, which has previously been very hard to find. Two nights a week, the bat team set up mist nets, captured and processed bats and checked them for the presence of parasites. The team managed to capture 16 out of the 24 bat species present in Tobago, including the newly discovered David Attenborough’s bat: Myotis attenboroughi.  Eight of the team members also gained their PADI open water/advanced diver qualification with a local NGO ERIC (Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville). All in all a very diverse and memorable expedition!

The Trinidad team have had an amazing summer! Over ten weeks they have completed 8 different projects on animals including frogs, turtles and bats. There was also a new geography project looking at Trinidad’s waste management and environmental degradation on the island.

Before fieldwork could begin the team had to undergo training as the majority had never handled any of the animals before (especially having four geologists and geographers on board). However, they grew to enjoy every animal encounter making the project work really fun.

Each project was a great success. The leatherback turtle projects were looking at nest site compilation, nest site choice, egg temperatures as a proxy for body temperature and looking at how female leatherback turtles change over the course of the nesting season. The frog team were looking at how early life experiences affect frogs in later life. The bat team were investigating the effect of human disturbance on bat species diversity and how bats use their echolocation to move around in open and enclosed spaces. Finally, the geography project were investigating Trinidad’s waste management by interviewing the public and meeting with some of the countries leading companies in environmental change.

 

Hard work was rewarded with great days out. Some days off included visits to the Asa Wright Nature Centre where the team had the chance to see hummingbirds up close, a tour of Pitch Lake and Caroni Swamp, celebrating birthdays in Port of Spain and sampling some of Trinidad’s beautiful beaches!

Over the ten weeks the team made lots of new friend’s as well future connections for next years expedition. They hope the new team will enjoy it as much as they did and wish them the best of luck. If you have any questions or want to read about our projects in more detail, please visit our Facebook page!

Scotland-based expeditions are the longest standing part of Exploration Society, with the first recorded expedition taking place in 1936 on the Isle of Canna and visits to the Garvelloch Islands, St. Kilda and Foula (of the Shetland Isles) taking place throughout the few decades.

This year, a team of 8 undergraduate students spent 6 weeks conducting both zoological and geological research across the Isle of Islay. The team consisted of two students studying environmental sustainability, one earth science, and five zoologists – two of whom were conducting their honours projects on Islay. This research consisted of a small mammal project investigating the effectiveness of humane trapping grid layouts, an invertebrate study that aims to determine the foraging preferences and habitat distribution of British bee species, an investigation into the landscape effects of glaciation through flint deposits, and a group study of bird species distribution across different habitats.

Previous expeditions studies have covered a wide range of wildlife, with two of the most popular focuses being the bird and bat species of Islay. These include studies on the territorial, breeding and parental behaviours of the chough and herring gulls, studies on bat activity and diversity, behavioural studies on harbour seals and otters, as well as invertebrate studies covering butterflies, bees and more, over various habitats.

Outreach is also a crucial aspect of expeditions, and this was the first year the Remote Scotland team worked in partnership with the islands environmentally conscious recycling team Re-Jig to conduct a beach clean – here there is great potential to continue work each year, and an opportunity to conduct micro-plastic and pollution based research, as well as giving an informative presentation at the end of the six weeks to locals of the Islay Natural History Trust, with whom the team also assisted in conducting a local pollinator survey.

When not conducting their own research, the team spent time exploring the island (and neighbouring island Jura – perfect for red deer and golden eagle spotting!) and relaxing in the wonderful accommodations Islay has to offer – with the expedition returning to Lagavulin Hall for the third year in a row, as well as Ellister Lodge and Balaclava Croft. Islay has many beautiful beaches that on a sunny day make it very easy to forget you are still in Britain! It also hosts 11 separate distilleries, and two major RSPB reserves – with the island in total providing a home to over 250 bird species! The Remote Scotland expedition may be a wee bit closer to home than the rest, but it certainly isn’t lacking in wildlife, research opportunities, and beautiful scenery.

The Glasgow Guyana Expedition 2017 was the first expedition to Guyana from The University of Glasgow in many years. A newly found collaboration with the Protected Areas Commission has opened up incredible and exciting opportunities for student research in the pristine tropical rainforests of Guyana. Four weeks were spent in the Kanuku Mountains Protected Area (a recently established nature reserve of 600,000 acres) in the deep interior of the country.

This year, the expedition aimed to collect baseline data on bats and amphibians, to determine if the disease Chytridiomycosis is present in the KMPA, and to document the presence of any other ground-dwelling wildlife using camera-traps. The region is home to some of the highest biodiversity in the Neotropics, and is comparatively understudied. The potential to continue these projects for long-term monitoring as well as focus on other aspects of the rainforest for the coming expedition an exciting prospect. Honours and Masters projects would greatly benefit the Guyana Expedition in the future.

The living conditions and travel situation is challenging. Hammock and tarpaulin are your defence against the elements. The remote camp was entirely isolated and contained within the rainforest reserve. The terrain is difficult and days of travel in a minibus, boat, pick-up truck, quadbike, and ox-cart are to be expected.

The relatively small team and short time of the expedition (6 expedition members and four weeks in the field) requires a hardworking and committed group. Days began at 6am with DNA swabbing of frogs caught the night before, and ended at 11pm after returning to camp from capturing bats with mist nets.

The adventure of a lifetime and a chance to gain skills and learn things about yourself that you may have never imagined. Check out our facebook page for more information about the 2017 expedition.

The Sri Lanka Expedition piloted this year with an interdisciplinary team of marine biology, zoology and geography students. They traveled to the town of Nilaveli, on the East coast of Sri Lanka and stayed there in a house for six weeks.

The main focus of the expedition was to collect a data set on coral reefs and their associated fish assemblages fringing the area of Trincomalee and Pigeon Island, a marine protected area. The team snorkelled to survey the shallow reefs and went scuba-diving for the deeper reefs, which were around 10 meters deep. The method was to swim along a randomly placed 20 meter transect line at a steady debt. Fish abundance was taken by video and coral cover by photographs. This baseline study can now be used for future expeditions to use for marine orientated honours and masters projects.

There were 2 Rescue Divers, 1 Dive Master and 1 Dive Instructor on the team before embarking on the expedition. One student acquired his Advanced Open Water certification and three students their Rescue Diver at the Poseidon Diving Sri Lanka.

Out of the water, the team carried out beach clean-ups to measure the difference in micro and macro plastic abundance in exposed and sheltered bays around the Trincomalee area, a study that can also be build on by next year’s expedition. And they also visited local schools to indulge in Sri Lankan culture and in return teach students the basics on ocean conservation.

Last year the Bolivia expedition took place for its fifth summer, having run from 2009 to 2012, as well as in 2014 and then again in 2016 (alternating with the Peru expedition). One of the most intense and challenging expeditions, the 2016 team of eight zoology students spent 9 weeks camping within the Barba Azul Nature Reserve, within the Beni Savannah of Bolivia.

Barba Azul, Spanish for ‘Blue Beard’ is so named as it is the only known place home to the critically endangered Blue-throated macaw (hunted and captured to near extinction for its plumage). Research on this species is a key element of the expedition, with the team working alongside local BirdLife partners Armonia for the duration of the time within the reserve. Due to the reserve being co-utilised by ranchers, there is the opportunity to rent horses on a daily basis, allowing team members to travel further afield than they would be able to on foot – visiting distant forest islands.

Specific studies in 2016 included mapping and comparing the biodiversity of the reserve, and investigating the inter- and intra-specific interactions of the blue-throated macaw. Several other endangered birds have been focuses of previous studies, including the Cock-tailed tyrant and Black-masked finch, as well as more abundant species such as Greater Rhea and various vulture species. The 2016 expedition saw two new areas of research on the reserve – observing the succession of scavenger species via camera traps, and comparing ground to aerial observations using a Phantom Drone (later donated to the reserve to be used for their own research, as well as producing promotional footage to attract tourists to the area).

This area of Bolivia is home to many more exciting species including caiman, howler monkey’s, ocelot and puma – all of which have been previously spotted! The main focus for the group project was a tri-weekly point count, in which team members observed the evening mass-flight patterns and directions of macaw species to try and determine where the nesting sites may be located. This, along with drone footage allowed Armonia to successfully begin working to expand their reserve boundaries (shared with local ranchers) to cover the area now known to host nesting macaws.

In summary, this is an incredibly worthwhile expedition. If you have a passion for new places, new people, living right among the action and contributing to the research and conservation of various vulnerable species, this is the expedition for you!

The Uganda Expedition has ambitious research goals, with geology at the core of all research we aim to undertake. We will visit the Rwenzori Mountains, part of the East African Rift System, which is an area of active tectonics, dynamic topography with deep lakes, high mountains and active volcanoes. The huge variability of this changing landscape, local climate and it’s richness in natural resources poses opportunities as well as challenges for local communities and consequently regional and global interests. We intend to show how this unique geological environment results in a fascinating area of study relating to environmental, social and educational challenges, and this expedition will challenge the typical view we may have when tackling these issues.

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