The Baytown Sun from Baytown, Texas on April 27, 1986 · Page 25
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The Baytown Sun from Baytown, Texas · Page 25

Baytown, Texas
Issue Date:
Sunday, April 27, 1986
Page 25
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THE BAYTOWN SUN Sunday, April 27, M unay. April 27,19* »C Club matches researchers with thrill-seeke BOSTON (AP) - This year some 2,600 amateur adventurers will scatter throughout the world to hack through jungles, count birds, tag kangaroos, dig up bones, chase whales, track turtles and map uncharted regions. They are members of Ear- thwatch, an international organization based in a suburb of Boston that matches researchers who need field help with volunteers willing to pay for the thrill of being on a scientific expedition. People like Marilyn Boettcher. The 55-year-old St. Louis housewife embarked alone last January on a two-week adventure that sent her into the jungles of the South Sea islands, through the ruins of ancient sacred sites, into the kitchens of modern-day Maoris and to her first 60-pig Polynesian wedding feast. "It's definitely .not my husband's idea of a good time and it wasn't my friends' idea of a good time, but for me, well, I'm trying to decide what to do this year," she says. It's surprising what people are willing to pay to do. A trip of two or three weeks costs from $600 to $2,500 per person, including food, airfare and lodging — often in a tent or primitive dormitory. But the cost is tax deductible and some scholarships are available for teachers and students. Conceived in a living room in 1971, Earthvvatch now has a full- time staff of about -40 and an annual budget of nearly S4 million. In its short history, Earthwatch has sponsored 730 projects in 68 countries, providing researchers with nearly 14.000 helpers and more than S7.6 million in money and equipment. Volunteers range in age from 16 to 80 and include students, teachers, corporate executives, housewives and retirees. They choose among 90 projects a year that could take them anywhere from the reefs of the Canary Islands to a Borneo rain forest to the northwest New .Mexico desert. By its 15th birthday this year, Earthwatch had outgrown its original headquarters in Belmont, two floors of a gracious old mansion, where linen closets bulged with stacks of files and a bathtub had to be removed to make room for the computer. The group recently moved to a former elementary school in nearby Watertown. This y.ear, teams of volunteers will help researchers trap fruit bats in Costa Rica, excavate a French cathedral dating from the Dark Ages, search for Mayan trading villages in Belize and photograph dancers in Japan. Others will catalog traditional medicinal plants in India with a DuPont Co. biochemist who believes Western medicine has something to learn from the 5,000-year-old folk remedies. Three teams will do what Mrs. Boettcher did last year — clear out and restore 1,000-year-old religious sites in the Cook Islands while spending weekends living with native Maori families. The idea for the organization grew out of an armchair conversation between a Smithsonian scientist and several friends who were bemoaning the scarcity of grants for research projects, says spokeswoman Mary Blue Maguder. One of the group, a public relations specialist at Boston University, suggested a clearinghouse where volunteers could learn about projects in need of money, and Earthwatch was born. Leadership was assumed a year later by a frustrated Wall Street lawyer named Brian Hosborough. When Earthwatch began, using volunteers to do field work "was a very radical idea." Ms. Maguder says. "The Ivory Tower simply hadn't felt the need to publicize its research or reach out to the public at all." In its first year. Earthwatch sponsored only four projects. A total of -15 volunteers took part in volcano studies in Costa Rica and the Galapagos Islands, a geological expedition to Ethiopia and an archaeological dig in Zambia. "Since it was a new concept, a new idea, it took a while to catch on," says John Humphrey of the University of Michigan, who this summer will lead his fourth ex- pedit ion of Earthwatch volunteers on an archaeological dig on the site of the ancient city of Carthage. In the early days, many researchers "thought volunteers would come in and mess up the research, that they would get out of control," Humphrey says. "Well, some of them do have their own ideas. The secret is to have enough staff so you are supervising, you're physically watching every volunteer all the time." These days Earthwatch regularly turns down researchers' requests for workers simply because there aren't enough Volunteers to go around. The organization now sifts through about 300 preliminary proposals a year to find 90 or so of the most promising. "People still wonder if they can really trust amateurs, but if you are charting a reef and you have to collect research samples at different depths, then you'd jump at the idea of 10 divers," Ms. Magrudersays. Earthwatch's project-selection arm, the Center for Field Research, has become adept at spotting proposals that can attract willing laborers. Midwinter trips to the tropics are predictably popular, and kangaroos and dolphins are always a big draw, but other subjects require some creative recruiting. For a study of potato plant pollination in the Peruvian Andes, for example, Earthwatch is advertising for spud-lovers in Maine and Idaho and in "Peelings." the official publication of The Potato Museum in Washington. "There aren't a whole lot of people who want to watch bees pollinating flowers, so you have to be creative about where to look." Ms. Magrudersavs. Baker to address Baytown group Johnny Baker, former Houston Oilers linebacker, will speak at the Baytown Christian Business Men's Committee dinner set for 7 p.m. Monday at the Holiday Inn, 300 S. Highway 146. Baker was all-Southeastern conference during his playing days at Mississippi State University. He is currently president of a commercial real estate development and management business in Houston and is a member of Second Baptist Church in Houston. Tickets for the all-you-can-eat dinner are $6. They can be purchased at the door or in advance from Ondie Brum, 573-1806; or Joe Moore, 421-1375. JOHNNY BAKER 119 W. D«f«« Advanced Communication Technologies, Inc. kytown, Tx. 77520 Business Telephone & Computer SystensfSales SOTice/lRstallation/QufleesJMoves/Mfe. ********************************* HIGH QUALITY-LOW COST ********************************* "REPRESENTING" AT&T -ITT 'IBM -COMOIAl 'MITEL *SW BELL 'TIE OKI 'MOTOROLA -PANASONIC 'TOSHIBA •NORTHERN TELECOME 'B06EN *TRIPP LITE * ami more ! {Preparing TODAYS Businesses for the FUTURE) BAYTOWN (713) 422-5386 ABILENE (915)692-1621 HOUSTON (713) 776-4215 4 'In his 28 years of judicial service, Judge Jimmie Duncan has set the standard for uncompromising dedication to principles of law and the fair and impartial administration of justice." RE-ELECT JUDGE JIMMIE I He has earned your support "You look for a project that needs labor that you could train interested people in doing in a couple of days. You might have a vet who's done poodles, but he's never looked at a baboon except in a zoo. Almost anybody who applies could do almost any of the projects, but you do have some self-selection." That's where the Earthwatch staff comes in, helping volunteers sift through the options to find an expedition they will really enjoy. "You might get someone who says, 'I always wanted to go to Katmandu.' And then you say, 'But did you always want to get up at 4 a.m. and bicycle uphill to a site and work all day?' And then they might say, 'Well, no, maybe I didn't.' So, you suggest something else," Ms. Magruder says. The success of projects often depends more on the personality of the researcher than on the kind of work being done. "You have to like to teach, because teaching becomes a large part of the operaton," says Humphrey, whose Carthage trip is an Earthwatch favorite. "You can't treat Earthwatch volunteers as paid workmen, where you might expect them to do the same job day in and day out. You have to treat them more like people, and vary their routine and instruct them at the same time." Still, there are occasional failures. Cacti in Uruguay didn't sell. Neither did sand wasps in western Australia. Monk seals in the Mediterranean fizzled when would-be volunteers learned there was almost no chance they would see one. A popular project asks volunteers to patrol a Caribbean island shoreline from dusk to dawn looking for half-ton leatherback turtles, a critically endangered species. Volunteers who have taken part in "save the turtle," ex- peditions on St. Crobt in the U:S, Virgin Island? for the past four years are so enthusiastic that they now hold regular reunions. Ellen Goff, 44, a psychiatric nurse from Lexington, Mass., who has been on five trips in as many years, spent half of one frosty January recording the types of birds she sighted as she hiked up to 10 miles a day along the lonely, coastal cliffs of Scotland. "I found it wonderfully exhilarating to be just walking 'in the fresh air. And you have such a feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day. You come back and you might go to the pub and talk, "she says. More than a few volunteers have been changed by the experience. One banker who went on an Earthwatch expedition ended up joining the Peace Corps in Africa. Another man who wrote software for computers was inspired by a trip to enroll in archaeology school. Radio /hack CHARGE IT (MOST STOHCS) For Prices This Low, Act Now! Tandy® 1000 Computer With Color Monitor! TANDY 1OOO ,999 Reg. Separate Hems 1298.95 Low As S46 Per Month On CftiLine » Get a CM-4 Color Monitor At No Charge When You Purchase Our Tandy 1000! IBM ? PC compatible! 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