A Thousand Adventures

For 20 years, Research Expeditions Program Has Taken Participants to Earth's Corners

by Marie Felde

In 1976, the University Research Expeditions Program matched its first group of volunteers with University of California researchers in need of hands-on help and financial support.

Today, 20 years later, the program has launched more than 1,000 expeditions, many with Berkeley faculty and researchers.

Along the way teams have discovered a 17th century West African palace, replanted 8,000 native trees in Central America, sought out ancient insects encased in amber like those that inspired the "Jurassic Park" tale--and in its most infamous expedition, found an 18-inch leech in French Guiana.

The UC program, based in Berkeley, has made other less exciting but equally important contributions, says its director, Jean Colvin.

It has created the nation's first comprehensive research participation program for K-12 teachers and has developed a model code of ethics for undertaking research in developing countries.

In 1976, the program offered three expeditions--tracking monkeys in the forests of Cameroon, studying agriculture in Haiti and searching for 50,000-year-old fossils in Wyoming.

This year, the program offers two dozen expeditions around the world, but the intent and the adventure remain steady.

As is the case with all expeditions, the goal is to support important research by joining UC scholars and researchers in field study worldwide.

Accommodations are often basic, but not always, and locales are typically remote, but can be as domestic as the dacha gardens of Russian communities. Expeditions are offered year-around and run from two to three weeks. No special experience is needed to join an expedition, and participants range from 16 to 80 years old.

The cost of expeditions varies and include lodging, meals, ground transportation and field research expenses. Airfare is not included. This year's expeditions cost from $790 to $1,865. These tax deductible contributions subsidize the research.

Among this year's expeditions are:

* Searching lagoons and rivers of Costa Rica for manatees, which had until recently been thought to be extinct there.

* Collecting frogs in Kenya to study DDT

* Searching for prehistoric rock art images in Baja California

* Surveying vineyards in Portugal to learn about sustainable farming

* Gathering data on gardening methods and productivity of the dacha gardens of Russia

To learn more about University Research Expeditions or to request its 1996 expeditions catalog, call 642-6586, or fax 642-6791.


Copyright 1996, The Regents of the University of California.
Produced and maintained by the Office of Public Affairs at UC Berkeley.
Comments? E-mail berkeleyan@pa.urel.berkeley.edu.