Revelstoke-based geologist Agathe Bernard is hoping she’ll be on board the chance of a life time. She has been chosen as one of 14 women who will travel by ship across the Atlantic Ocean from the Ivory Coast to Central Brazil, collecting scientific data about plastics in the ocean as part of Exxpedition Africa to Brazil 2015 (Ascension Islands).
When Bernard found out about the project, she knew she had to apply. She currently works for the North Columbia Environmental Society as the sustainable living coordinator. Previously, she lived and worked in Trail, B.C., where she worked on a project alongside BC Health studying toxins in the area and the impact they were having on the population. Bernard was responsible for coming up with an action plan to help reduce the toxins.
“The project was an awareness campaign,” she said. “My strategy was to make a video and afterwards go talk in schools.”
Each female taking part in expedition has a specific task. Bernard will be taking water samples, as well as creating a film.
“I’ve always liked filming,” she said. “Last year I did a short ski film in Iceland. I’ve done a few Kickstarters. Right now I’m working on sustainability. I want to inspire people to make change. It can be a small change.”
For Bernard, one of the biggest struggles with the issue of plastics in the ocean is the lack of regulation.
“The ocean is under-explored. There’s so much we don’t know about it. The ocean regulates the climate,” she said, noting that fish travel beyond international boundaries in the water.
One of the most significant issues with plastic being put into the oceans is that it breaks down into microbeads. Bernard explained that these microbeads attract other pollutants and toxins, and that fish often mistake them for food.
Taking part in the project comes at a high cost of $25,000. That fee includes the cost of crossing the ocean, flights, gear and insurance. What it does not include is any wages for Bernard. That’s why she’s started up a crowd-funding campaign to help cover her costs.
“It’s a pretty big investment of my time, so I’m doing it all or nothing,” she said. “If I do it that way I have more chances to meet my end goal.”
The ocean crossing itself will take three to four weeks, and Bernard will have an opportunity to work with female scientists from all over the world. The crew is all-female in order to promote healthier consumer choices for women and make them more aware of the toxins they are not only eating, but also putting on their skin, she said.
“This project is large scale, but it’s also about our every day life with chemicals,” she said. “I’m hoping people will think beyond the mountains to the ocean.”
Bernard’s KickStarter Campaign is underway June 1 and will continue for 30 days. You can find out more by visiting /www.kickstarter.com/projects/exxpedition/exxpedition-2015