Alaska Endeavour runs 12-day natural history research expeditions for high school juniors and seniors and college students in teams of six with a faculty member from their school, plus the captain and crew.
We pick a well-defined wilderness site – an island, a lagoon, a glacier, or a river mouth – go there, and conduct a census – a benchmark study – with each student focusing on one aspect of natural history – land mammals, marine mammals, birds, fish, botany, geology, paleontology, and so forth – or photography or illustration.
While on board, the students are trained in safety protocols (which will have been introduced before departure). They are also responsible for certain chores, rotating daily: two for cooking, one for kitchen cleaning, one for weather and tide check, several for fender and line handling (they’ll learn basic knots), and others for helm lookout and deck patrol.
After the expedition, each student writes a section in the paper describing their observations, and then we publish the paper. Each student earns an author credit (as does the faculty member).
This is real, valuable science. A benchmark study is a snapshot of the location at a certain point in time. It tells other researchers what is there now and gives future researchers a way to measure the effects of logging, fishing, mining, pollution, and climate change over time. Benchmark studies are important conservation tools.
Each student gains an appreciation of wilderness and natural history that will last their whole lives. Some may become scientists. Almost all will become scientifically literate advocates for conservation. And the author credit is a valuable addition to a college application.
Study sites can be anywhere in maritime Alaska but will always be within two or three days by boat from a commercial airport, to keep travel to and from Alaska as inexpensive and simple as possible. Study sites will have all-weather anchorages, will be interesting to get to, and won’t require long open-water passages. Study sites are determined, in part, by our sailing schedule, here.
The expedition is led by Bill Urschel, a US Coast Guard licensed captain, and a second crew member, on board the Endeavour, a US Coast Guard designated research vessel.
To request more detail on our student expeditions, including our pre-expedition and on-board curriculum, click here.
We support professional researchers, filmmakers, and others in their projects, wherever they may be in maritime Alaska.
The Endeavour sleeps seven plus two crew, is comfortable any time of the year, and can stay out a month or more. See the ship page for more on the ship and its equipment.
As a non-profit organization with a science and conservation mission, we ask that you allow us to publish a few of your photographs, videos, and other output from the expedition on our website, logs, and social media, and assist us in our writing by providing detail and reviewing for accuracy.
See our sailing schedule for where we will be in the coming season. This schedule is flexible if you book your expedition early enough.
To ask about chartering the Endeavour for your expedition, click here.
Student identifying a crab (Photo: W Urschel)
Finding fossils (Photo: D Craig)
A successful mission in Wrangell (Photo: R Troll)
Wrapping up in Kodiak (Photo: P Urschel)
Glaciologists on the bow (Photo: W Urschel)
End of the expedition in Yakutat (Photo: P Urschel)
Captain at the wheel (Photo: K Kristensen)
Exploring the Spiridon River, north side of Kodiak Island (Photo: T Menely)