A Voyage Inspired by Darwin

From British Mensa’s IQ Magazine (Nov/Dec 2023)

Mensa member Andrew Fox and Stewart McPherson, directors of DARWIN200, describe DARWIN200 as an extraordinary life-changing adventure designed to nurture a fresh generation of conservationists.
This August, a 105-year-old historic tall ship cast off her ropes from the dockside in Plymouth and set sail on a two-year journey around the world. The Oosterschelde is the centre of the DARWIN200 project and will voyage more than 40,000 nautical miles to every major port that Charles Darwin visited. DARWIN200 is so-called because the project will empower 200 of the world’s most exceptional young conservationists. Aged between 18-30 and known as ‘Darwin Leaders’, these young environmentalists are selected for their extraordinary drive and track record of outstanding conservation achievements.
Each Darwin Leader stays on board the Oosterschelde to complete a life-changing, immersive training programme. Using the ship as a floating laboratory and media platform, the multinational Darwin Leaders are mentored by local conservation experts to study species of animals or plants that Darwin encountered. They assess the population status of their chosen species and how it has changed during the two centuries since Darwin’s visit, investigate the success of current conservation initiatives, and develop their own ideas for conservation strategies. The mission is to drive a valuable exchange of skills so that Darwin Leaders return home empowered with knowledge they will use during their careers as conservationists.
DARWIN200 also offers an immense platform of free, online educational resources known as the ‘World’s Most Exciting Classroom’. 100 weekly one-hour lessons are streamed to schools across the globe to engage with millions of students via DIY experiments, research projects, lectures, competitions, quizzes, and live uplinks to conservationists in the field. In continuation of Darwin’s work aboard HMS Beagle, the DARWIN200 ship also offers a unique platform for researchers studying some of the world’s critical environmental problems.
While at sea, studies of marine micro-plastic pollution are carried out, along with surveys of wildlife, trends in sea-surface temperature data, and hydrophone recordings of whales and dolphins. And when in port, researchers undertake biodiversity surveys, reforestation projects and studies of methods to mitigate impacts of petrochemical pollution.
When Oosterschelde reaches Falmouth in July 2025, DARWIN200 aims to have had an immense ripple effect by empowering a new wave of exceptional conservationists and engaging the global public in practical ways in which we can contribute to a brighter future.

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