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A rowing adventure around the UK

This is part of an email we recently received from Sea Change, an-all female rowing team aiming to row the circumference of Great Britain this summer.

“As part of our safety equipment we need a belt to attach our individual GPS devices to. Past teams from ocean rowing events recommended that we cut the leg sections off climbing harnesses. 

It seems so wasteful to buy new equipment only to cut it to pieces. Not to mention that part of our mission is to draw attention to ways everyone can reduce their environmental impact and think more circularly.

We were wondering if Go Ape has any old harnesses that can no longer be used?”

As natural fans of adventure (and recycling!) we were all for this on one condition… that they also share their awesome story with us. Over to Aoife to tell us all about the challenge!

 

Hi, I’m Aoife and I grew up in north west London, very close to Go Ape Black Park. Then, and now I love outdoor adventures with my family and friends and trying new experiences.

I am part of a crew of six women all working in environmental professions. Our aim is to row the 2,000 miles of the British coastline without support. This has only been completed twice by a female crew.  

The race is organised by the GB Row Challenge and is one of the toughest rowing races in the world, not only due to the length of the course but because of the nature of Britain’s tidal waters and the weather patterns around the coast. 

As individuals we all work in the fields of nature and climate, which are constantly changing and under threat. Through our challenge we hope to highlight the positive human moments which are happening around the world to restore nature and the environment. 

This is an all-new team, a coming together of like-minded individuals who are crazy enough to undertake this challenge, but also want to shine a light on the changing marine ecosystem and the positive human moments which are already happening around the coastline! 

 

The Team

  • Dr Kat Bruce, our Skipper is the founder of Nature Metrics, a leading climate tech company specialising in eDNA.

  • Aoife Luscombe – Net zero and ESG Consultant, working to reduce impact on a global scale.

  • Jess McIver – works for ERM as a Cultural Heritage Consultant.
  • Lorena Nichols – Director of business and finance at Property Risk Inspection LTD
  • Laura Fantuzzi - PhD student, University of Portsmouth.
  • Chrissy Durkin – Founder of Wildmon, a leading nature tech company

  • Madeline McSherry - environmental researcher and writer. 

Our Mission

Whilst completing the row we aim to collect data and scientific samples which will help us map the health of our changing environment. These samples are collected every year, and so build a picture of the changing marine environment. 

The salinity levels and temperature of our oceans

Temperature and salinity are key components of what makes a location inhabitable by any given species. In recent decades, scientists have observed a shift of warm-water species moving towards the poles, as higher latitude ocean waters get warmer and suitable for warm-water wildlife.

This also means commercial, rare, or keystone species will change where they live, with implications for many countries’ economies and ecosystems.

Therefore, monitoring these parameters goes hand in hand with the biodiversity monitoring. The sensor is fully autonomous and is attached to our rudder – it will run independently as we row.

Acoustics  

Using underwater sounds, both biodiversity and anthropogenic noise pollution can be monitored. Many marine animals use sound to communicate or feed. Not just dolphins and whales – fish and crustaceans too!

Anthropogenic noises like ships, dredging and sonars, have changed the natural marine sound scape, and it can disturb animals by covering up their sounds or even cause them physical damage. With a hydrophone or underwater microphone, we can study which animals live where, as well as around what levels of human-made noise.

We will carry a hydrophone in our rudder, which will run continuously, creating terabytes of data for the analysts at the University of Portsmouth to sort through, to detect biodiversity and anthropogenic noise. 

Microplastic samples 

Microplastics are an increasing concern. They are present in every ecosystem on the planet, due to their nature and size, and are available to even the smallest animals on the food chain.

We don’t fully understand the implications of microplastics in our environment and within the food chain. On our journey we hope to create the first coherent map of microplastics in coastal waters around Britain, which will further help marine scientists to understand the effects of them on our environment.  

eDNA Samples

A single eDNA sample can carry the genetic code of hundreds of animals and provide us with information about which animals have recently been present in an ecosystem.

After taking a sample we will stabilise it with a chemical solution for analysis by Nature Metrics when we return after our trip. The outcome of this will enable us to understand what marine wildlife is found around the coastline of Great Britain.

In past years samples have found DNA of dolphins, seals, basking sharks and most recently orca whales! 

The highlights ahead

 

I am really looking forward to seeing the coastline in all its glory - we live in such a beautiful part of the world, with a fantastic array of wildlife which I am sometimes guilty of taking for granted. 

It would be AMAZING to see a Puffin – I have never seen one in the wild before!

The challenges ahead

 

I am under no illusion that there are parts of this challenge which will be tough, from dealing with the rapidly changing sea states, bad weather and some difficult sections of the coastline. As a team we are preparing for all of this and have talked through a number of scenarios.  

The second life harnesses!

The harnesses Go Ape provided are great, and an essential part of our kit. To stay safe at sea, we will use them to attach our PLB’s (personal locator beacon), so that if the worst happens and we fall overboard we can easily contact the coastguard and get help! 

It’s brilliant to use end of life climbing gear as we only need the waist section of the harnesses and not the leg loops! This is in-keeping with our mission to create less waste and be an environmentally conscious crew. 

We have not been to Go Ape as a team yet as we are using all the time, we have together on the boat to prepare for the challenge, but possibly after we complete GB ROW Challenge 2024, we would be tempted - after a little rest perhaps! 

 

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GB Rowing team