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Travelling abroad to a country with which you are unfamiliar is a challenging prospect. As well as the logistics of travel, you have to ensure you have learned about the culture, found out where exactly it is that you want to visit and made sure that you have all the clothing, items and money you need to travel.
Now, imagine this; but instead of marvelling at the idyllic, glowing streets of Paris, or reflecting upon the history of the Berlin Wall, picture instead that you were going into the wilderness.
That’s exactly what some of the students at Lancaster University intend to do as part of an expeditionary group called Operation Wallacea. The trust visits universities all around the world, discussing conservation opportunities, and gives students the opportunity to visit the coral reefs of Indonesia, explore the island of Madagascar, trek through the forests of Guyana and even survey large predators in South Africa and Mexico, all as part of providing scientific evidence which supports multiple conservation plans all around the world.
Furthermore, Operation Wallacea also provides research assistant possibilities for all years, as well as the opportunity to complete a final-year dissertation based around a specific topic of research – for example, studying the niche separation in caiman species in Peru to measure environmental impact on species count. Not only does it provide the trip of a lifetime, but students help to provide evidence which can save fragile ecosystems from human abuse. Imagine writing a dissertation in the savannah, or in a tarp, underneath a torrential rainfall, surrounded by some of the most exotic and beautiful wildlife in the world!
Of course, such a trip is a costly venture, with expeditions ranging from two to eight weeks in length, costing anywhere from £1,210 to £3,950, with extra costs associated with the flights, equipment and visas involved as well, all of which has to be raised by the students participating. Although Operation Wallacea offer a wide array of support and advice on the fundraising part, it still requires a high amount of individual motivation to be able to fundraise. Which begs the question, ‘Why do you want to go on such an expedition? How are you going to fundraise it?’
Visiting the group, I posed these questions, and following the initial response of ‘To get away from the English weather!’ I was regaled with a wide variety of motivations and desires for journeying around the world. Answers ranged from ‘I can see myself doing it as a career’ and ‘being independent from the parents’ to ‘I like the lemurs!” and even ‘crocodile hunting!’ (one particularly excited student informed me). It is evident that the group is motivated and determined to raise the money to travel to the farthest reaches of the Earth! This is compounded by the motivation of one member, who told me that it would ‘increase our own life experience.’
Whilst the group have a long way to go, with each member having to overcome challenges related to their own individual expedition, it would seem the spirit of adventure conquers all, as our students travel the world!
If you would like to support the cause, the students have created a Facebook fundraising page, which can be found at https://www.facebook.com/groups/1683758155178019/?fref. To learn more about Operation Wallacea, you can go to http://opwall.com/