Ocean Talks 2022: Meet the scientists that need your help

8 June 2022• Written by Charlotte Hogarth-Jones

Want to turn your next trip into a research mission? Charlotte Hogarth-Jones introduces six leading scientists, all hoping to find their way onto a superyacht this year...

Leading scientists like Simon Holborn are looking for yachts to join this summer

Whether it’s an elegant classic schooner, a big volume catamaran, or a slick new superyacht packed with the latest tech, there’s one thing all owners have in common: a profound love of the ocean. And, what better way is there to learn more about the waters around us, and play a key part in their protection, than by volunteering to host a scientist onboard your yacht? BOAT International is a founding partner of the Yachts for Science programme, which can help you do just that.

Getting involved is simple. Visit Yachts for Science and you can either peruse the science projects on offer to see if any take your fancy (manta rays in the Maldives anyone?), or sign your yacht up to the initiative, and wait for the right match to come to you.

Still in need of a little inspiration? These six scientists are all looking to travel in the near future, and most require just a couple of berths, for a week or so, to carry out their much needed research. You can learn more about who they are and what they do below, and if you’re interested in taking things further, just drop a line to info@yachtsforscience.com, where the team can talk you through the next steps. 

So, whether you’re keen to enjoy a deep-sea dive with a difference, or hoping to give your children the science lesson of a lifetime, what are you waiting for? Your one-of-a-kind adventure awaits…

Simon Holborn
Project: Searching for giant manta rays
Location: Maldives
Berths: 2-4
Wants to travel: Jan-April 2023
Boat needs to have: nothing in particular, but a manned submersible and the use of some crew would be a plus

Oceanic manta rays are some of the most thrilling animals to snorkel and scuba dive with, but the population down in the Maldives is threatened by fisheries and nearby countries. Simon Holborn’s project aims to track these fascinating creatures, and would suit any keen diver looking to join the team, as they explore the area around the South Maldives in particular. Holborn is also a keen underwater videographer, so his hosts may expect some top-level, National Geographic style footage too, in return for lending a hand…

Name: Rebecca Helm
Project: Discovering life at the ocean's surface
Location: Global
Berths: 1
Wants to travel: Any time
Boat needs to have: Cameras, plus interested yachts can be provided with nets

“Believe it or not, for the last 50 or so years marine researchers have largely been diving down,” says scientist Rebecca Helm, whose project homes in on the ocean surface, rather than life beneath the waves. Those with a love of Darwin might appreciate this project in particular, as her research involves discovering new species. “Most of the animals there are really understudied,” she says, “we want to find them - and we want to put them on the map.”

Name: Dr Kristen Brown
Project: Great Barrier Reef project
Location: Great Barrier Reef (Capricorn-Bunker group or Lizard Island)
Berths: 2-4 berths
Wants to travel: 1-2 weeks; anytime this year
Boat needs to have: A diving compressor, dive tanks and weights

In the past six years alone, the Great Barrier Reef has experienced four mass coral bleaching events, affecting at least 98% of all corals. It’s a shocking state of affairs, but, according to Dr Brown from the University of Pennsylvania, “it’s not all bad news”, as some corals have been found to be regenerating and surviving. Her research focuses on what factors are causing this, and requires visits to two specific areas of the Great Barrier Reef - the Capricorn and Bunker group at the southern end of the reef, or the stunning Lizard Island.

Name: Emma Bolton
Project: Basecamp Research Water Sampling
Location: Flexible
Berths: 2 or more berths
Wants to travel: Flexible
Boat needs to have: Electrical power

Having spent the past 18 months on a research station in Antarctica, Emma Bolton is part of a team of expedition scientists carrying out interesting and valuable research. Her work - which focuses on finding unseen natural organisms – aims to use biotechnology to understand these new organisms, and to go on to develop clean and environmentally friendly solutions with a range of potential commercial applications. An exciting project that might suit an owner with an eye for a good business opportunity, Bolton is also completely flexible on where she needs to go and when, laughing that she’s also “used to seasickness,” having completed a choppy, five-week trip back to the UK after her latest posting.

Name: Dr Francesco Ferretti
Project: Mediterranean White Shark Search
Location: Sicilian channel
Berths: 7 berths
Wants to travel: 1-2 weeks, June 2022
Boat needs to have: Basic navigational equipment

There’s nothing like a last-minute change to your itinerary, so, if you’re one of the many yachts cruising the Med this summer, why not set course for Dr Ferretti and his project researching Mediterranean White Sharks? The “least known and most endangered” of all the white shark populations, Ferretti began an ambitious project last year to find, tag and video all remaining white sharks in this area, and continues to utilize cutting-edge technology and knowledgeable locals to move the project along. Your yacht could help this programme edge ever nearer to completing its final goal.

Name: Luke Gordon
Project: Manta Project Fiji
Location: Lau Group, Fiji
Berths: 1
Wants to travel: June, July and August
Boat needs to have: Drone, underwater camera, snorkel equipment and would be a huge benefit to have scuba kit also

Any yacht owner who has been to Fiji can attest to the area’s unbeatable natural beauty, and this unique manta ray tracking project with scientist Luke Gordon offers a golden opportunity to explore remote areas, and to come into contact with mantas that might never have come into contact with humans before. Using drone photography and underwater photography, he aims to build up the first ever database of its kind for the Lau region - sure to be a valuable resource both now, and in the future. Not only a unique chance to contribute to new scientific work, Gordon is also sure to be a valuable guest come suppertime. “I know how to make a good daal,” he smiles, “and I love a game of chess.”

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