WHO ARE THE DARWIN AMBASSADORS?
The Darwin Ambassadors are at the heart of the Darwin 200 project. They are two hundred of the next generation’s top, young (18-25 year old) science and conservation leaders, selected via a global competition involving 200 countries and states around the world.
Each Darwin Ambassador will be offered the chance of a lifetime to join the Darwin 200 tall ship for one week in one of the ports Charles Darwin visited during his voyage on board HMS Beagle.
During their placements aboard the Darwin 200 ship, the Darwin Ambassadors will be immersed in an intensive, life-changing program of science, natural history and conservation research and training.
Under the guidance of the an on-board team of resident conservation experts, active PhD researchers and professional wildlife film-makers, each of the Darwin Ambassadors will engage in their own active research projects, experiments and fieldwork, to explore a subject Darwin himself studied and analyse what change has occurred since Darwin’s time, and what solutions and conservation strategies are required for sustainable management and survival.
Each Darwin Ambassador also has the specific goal of communicating their findings to one million people or more via social media (enabling 200 million people to be engaged through the Darwin 200 project’s total of 200 Ambassadors).
These elite young “new Charles Darwins” will be the conservation leaders and decision makers in the world of tomorrow. They will spearhead global efforts to tackle the world’s problems over the their coming careers (the next 50 years or more).
SKILLS AND TRAINING
The activities which the Darwin Ambassadors will undertake during their placements on the Darwin 200 ship are carefully crafted to train, inspire and equip each Darwin Ambassador with key skills to:
- study environmental issues.
- identify threats and problems.
- develop sustainable solutions.
- communicate findings to the wider public.
Equipping the world’s brightest young conservationists with these skills will create a living legacy that lasts for decades, throughout the Darwin Ambassadors’ careers and all they go on to achieve.
Throughout their placements, the on-board team of conservationists, PhD students, volunteer researchers and wildlife film-makers will guide and support the Darwin Ambassadors’ efforts to complete their research projects, experiments and fieldwork.
Each Darwin Ambassador will be encouraged to develop unique ideas and methodologies in their placement activities. Free-thinking and initiative will be strongly encouraged.
SELECTION OF 200 COUNTRIES / STATES
Sponsors and partners of the Darwin 200 project will choose the particular countries and states from which the Darwin Ambassadors are selected (see “Supporting Document 4: Funding Opportunities”).
This is intended to allow organisations with special connections to certain countries or states the opportunity to enable a Darwin Ambassador to take part from the region with which they are connected (e.g. a Chilean environmental charity may sponsor a Darwin Ambassador from Chile).
For the sake of fairness, multiple Darwin Ambassadors may be selected from large and populous countries. In such cases, each Darwin Ambassador may be selected from different states, provinces or territories.
Sponsors and partners have the option to forego their involvement in the selection process, and allow the Darwin 200 operations team to choose the countries and states from which the Ambassadors are selected. Several sponsors have already indicated their preference for this option, which will allow some discretion to enable an even and fair representation of countries across all continents of the world.
The Darwin 200 operations team will specifically encourage sponsors and partners to enable Darwin Ambassadors to take part from less developed parts and less well-resourced parts of the globe where conservation skills and training are especially needed. One of the project’s goals is for 50 languages to be represented in the selection of countries from which the Darwin Ambassadors will be chosen.
Starting in December 2019, the Darwin 200 operations team will coordinate a worldwide call out for applicants in the 200 countries and states that take part in this project. A wide network of partners who will assist the call out has already been established, including embassies, governments, NGOs, environmental organisations, charities, newspapers, magazines and internet forums. Additionally, £250 has been allocated in the project budget for advertising each Darwin Ambassador place via social media (which will give each Darwin Ambassador place exposure to hundreds of thousands of potential candidates).
Eligible applicants will be between 18 and 25 years old on the start date of 11th May, 2020, and a citizen of one of the 200 countries and states taking part in the Darwin 200 project.
Each applicant will complete a detailed application on the Darwin 200 website which will include the following questions:
- the applicant’s career ambitions as an environmentalist or conservationist and why.
- summary of environmental and conservation work which the applicant has undertaken and all results achieved to date.
- a short essay concerning the environmental issues afflicting the area in which they reside and possible solutions that could be carried forth.
- the applicant’s greatest interests in Charles Darwin’s life’s work, and which of the fifty stops along the Darwin 200 voyage they would most like to join and why.
Applications will open on December 1st, 2019 and close on February 29th, 2020.
A judging committee involving academics, conservationists and other partners will review all applications and select one Darwin Ambassador from each of the 200 countries and states taking part in this project.
The judging committee will assess all candidates and specifically look for passion, enthusiasm, talent, confident and competence in communication, but above all raw ability, passion and motivation to address environmental problems and deliver tangible results.
A (fictitious) example of an ideal Darwin Ambassador candidate is:
Andrea Myboto, 21-yrs, from Gabon. Andrea grew up in a remote village. During her teenage years, she witnessed the destruction of natural forests along the banks of local rivers near to her village. She observed the wide scale erosion of the river banks, the depletion of top soil (resulting in the impoverishment of local farmers) and the disappearance of wildlife. As a sixteen year old, she lobbied local politicians but to no avail. She single-handedly liaised with land owners, and organised a community effort to replant trees along the river banks. Especially passionate about native freshwater turtles, she began a captive breeding program of locally-caught turtle stock and a reintroduction project. Today, for 4 km in both directions along the banks of the rivers near her village, the vegetation has recovered, topsoil erosion has ceased, and the river ecosystem and reintroduced turtle population is recovering.
The judging committee will be looking for proven abilities to change the world for the better. The raw ability to bring about environmental change and deliver conservation benefits will be values above all other skills, including literacy.
The judging committee will select the best candidates that they regard as the most capable and most likely leaders of tomorrow’s conservation and environmental movements. No discrimination of any nature will enter into the judging process.
WHAT DO THEY DO ON BOARD?
During placements aboard the Darwin 200 ship, each Darwin Ambassador will be given a budget of £1,000, freedom to use the ship’s laboratory and resources, and encouraged to seek advice from their Academic Mentor, the on-board team of conservation, naturalists and support staff to undertake the following activities.
Each Darwin Ambassador will undertake the following during their placement on the Darwin 200 ship:
FIELD STUDY: each Ambassador will select a wildlife subject Charles Darwin studied in the same approximate location as the Darwin Ambassador’s placement. Study subjects may include specific plant or animal species or ecosystems.
Guided by the team of on board experts and using the ship’s laboratory, each Darwin Ambassador will research, observe and postulate how their chosen subject has changed or been impacted over the 2 centuries since Darwin’s studies, what new knowledge we have gained since Darwin’s time, what Darwin discovered, understood correctly, misunderstood or missed altogether. Focus should be given to analysing threats that the study subject faces, and particular thought should be to conservation solutions, ways to mitigate threats, future management and conservation recommendations.
At the end of their stay, each Darwin Ambassador is to present a two-page written report for release online on the Darwin 200 website. In addition to active field research and observations, Ambassadors may consider conducting interviews and consulting historical archive material.
An example of an ideal study subject is an analysis of frigate bird population changes across the Galapagos since Charles Darwin’s visit, discussion of the factors behind any changes identified, and thoughts and recommendations concerning future conservation and management strategies.
MINI-DOCUMENTARY: each Ambassador will film, narrate, edit and release a short (circa 5-minute) mini-documentary summarising their field study activities, findings and conservation/management recommendations for the future.
Guidance will be offered by professional film-makers on board the ship, including training in professional filming techniques and drone operation. Videos will be released on YouTube and the Darwin 200 website at the end of each Darwin Ambassador’s stay.
RESEARCH: Darwin Ambassadors are encouraged to engage in the research programs and experiments being undertaken on board the ship to experience and communicate modern-day discoveries. It is hoped that Ambassadors will show some initiative in:
- shadowing the resident PhD students and supporting their research and analyses.
- taking part in the ocean plastic surveys, including trawling, filtering, and taking back ocean-water plastic samples for study with colleagues at their home schools.
- taking part in the global coral survey.
- participating in the habitat loss impact surveys, and searching for new species along the voyage route.
LIVE STREAM LECTURE: each Ambassador will beam a 20 minute lecture to global audiences. Subjects might include a summary of their experiences on board the ship, evaluation of their field study findings, reflection on making a mini-documentary or commentary on the research projects that they followed. Each talk will be streamed live, with a Question and Answer session, allowing millions of students to follow and engage, particularly in each Ambassador’s home country and language. After live broadcast, each completed talk will be permanently released on YouTube and the Darwin 200 website.
OUTREACH: during their placement on the Darwin 200 ship, each Darwin Ambassador has the specific goal to reach at least 1 million people online to communicate their experiences, observations and discoveries (enabling the Darwin 200 project to reach a total of 200 million people collectively through the 200 Darwin Ambassadors).
Each Darwin Ambassador’s communication activities may include daily video blogs, YouTube videos, online photo essays, Facebook posts, Instagram posts and tweets that document their studies, observations and experiences. Initiative, individual creativity and free-thinking are strongly encouraged. The resident team of experts, researchers and professional film-makers will offer support and guidance.