In the wake of Cousteau, or the New Odyssey for Russian crowdfunding

    Dear friends! We continue to talk about the most interesting Russian crowdfunding projects. This time we met (and want to introduce you) to the Aquatilis expedition, which was also called the New Odyssey. As you can see, the project needs to collect 1.5 million rubles by October 31 . In general, get acquainted with the author, whom we call "Cousteau" on the channel "Simple Science"


    About the expedition
    Hello, Habr! My name is Alexander Semenov, I am an underwater photographer and marine biologist. Together with my team, I am working on a popular science project of incredible beauty, which, in our opinion, will turn out to be interesting and more than useful in a variety of circles. Never before has scientific research and discovery been presented as easily and beautifully as can be done today, using all the power of media platforms and social networks. Now you can bring any content directly to an interested audience with just one click. And we can show people the ocean. Show the way no one has ever seen him. Since the days of Captain Cousteau, no one has tried to start a new odyssey, armed with modern technology and keeping pace with progress. And the ocean, meanwhile, as it was, remains virtually unexplored.


    Therefore, we decided to organize our expedition, an underwater odyssey of the 21st century, equipped with the most advanced photo and video equipment controlled by deep-sea robots and with the Internet on board. In the most pleasant form, this can be read directly on the boom starter. There is quite a lot of text, but I will be glad if you read it. Nobody has done such a thing in Russia (and in the world), and it is unlikely that anyone will get together, because in addition to simple desire, a combination of very many factors is necessary here. I will tell a few details beyond what is written on a boom starter, explain in detail the reasons and my vision of the expedition's goals.


    The scientific leitmotif of the expedition is the study of yellow plankton: jellyfish, ctenophores, salps, siphonophores and other extremely gentle oceanic animals, which can fall apart (and most often do) even with a single touch. Observation of such creatures is possible only under water, in their natural habitat. And this is either diving in open water, when divers plunge into the bottomless blue space on a special rope system, or controlled inhabited and uninhabited vehicles. Due to the mass of technical complexities of expeditions for soft plankton, the history of science was catastrophically small, and a decent fragment of our knowledge of the ocean is still leisurely soaring somewhere in its depths.


    We have a team of young scientists, divers and real sailors, a reliable yacht and vast experience in underwater filming and marine research. And we want to share all that we know now, and the amazing that we will see there, in the depths. We can literally show that the study of the ocean and the strange creatures that inhabit it is truly interesting and exciting. This expedition is organized by people with skills that almost no one in the world has - this is scientific macro photography and video, and underwater, which greatly complicates the task. We can shoot half-centimeter almost invisible living creatures that hang in the water column, with such quality and detail that no picture can be compared. That is, we produce scientific illustrative material of the highest quality. Since Haeckel’s drawings, few have been able to do something better, but there is a need. Ancient schemes and drawings, blurry photographs of shaggy years wander from textbook to textbook, from poster to poster, and publications and books are often illustrated with pictures taken on a soap dish through a microscope eyepiece. And no one is trying to do better.


    Project goals
    We want (and we can) raise the bar for the quality of scientific illustration, show what “beautiful” science is and generally make people understand that scientists are smart, peppy and cool guys who can explain in normal language what they are doing for of what. And, in our case, great luck is to show it. Because photos and videos are something that you can practically “touch,” see the result of work. And now the quality of these results is such that the whole world is surprised.


    Illustrations are illustrations, but science itself? Quite often they ask what results we expect from this expedition, and what it will be useful for the field of science in which we are engaged. I answer: with science, which goes through the viewfinder of the camera, everything is fine. We have been using the scientific methods of photo and video surveillance under water for more than one year at the Belomorsky Biostation of Moscow State University. And in recent publications by Stephen Haddock (the world's coolest planktonologist), the idea is being advanced that observation in the natural habitat with high-resolution cameras is the future of studying yellow plankton. And there is.


    In photographs of 20-30 megapixels, you can consider such details that you can not always see under the binocular, study the structure of captured objects, and record certain points in behavior. All this comes out on the video in dynamics, albeit with less detail. At the exit, the scientific world receives several thousand photographs and videos of the highest quality with reference to coordinates and other parameters, can understand the structure, can illustrate textbooks and articles, can study behavior and nutritional relationships. And it just receives images of animals that only a few people in the world have seen, but many have not yet seen at all. If you climb into Google and look for pictures of plankton there, you will be surprised how bad everything is. This is a gap to be filled. And we can do it better than most scientific groups in the world.


    The second point is new species. There is a very non-zero probability that we will discover new species. Now a little more than 7060 species of planktonic organisms are described, of which 1180 species are yellow plankton. What is the use of the fact that after the expedition there will be, for example, 7082 and 1189? How will the discovery of these species affect humanity as a whole?


    The fact that we are likely to find and describe new species is simply excellent! Twenty-five people in the world who do this will be just happy. The rest will say: “Cool, yes,” they will admire the photos from the video and forget. For science, this is very important, because the discovery of new species and a detailed study of the life of each jellyfish is a deepening of our knowledge of the world. Without separate fragments, the puzzle of the world scientific picture does not develop.


    The scientific results that we can get will be a significant and pleasant addition to the main program, because our expedition is not a science for the sake of science. Our goal is to open the underwater world to everyone and make knowledge more accessible. Enlightenment, broadening of horizons, popularization of science - this is our main goal. We are in love with the sea and we want the next generation, like us in our time, to grow up with the dream of the sea and travels into the unknown, so that people learn new things, become interested in the world and become smarter. We want to show that several people can do the impossible and turn around the idea of ​​modern science.


    The other day, I made a small presentation at the biology faculty of Moscow State University, I was a little worried, because for the first time I was talking about something very important for myself, but I managed to convey the essence. An hour and a half of answers to questions we did not insert :)

    This dream, as it turned out, is shared by many. More than 800 people have already joined the crowd, gathering together more than a million. Now we have the last frontier when we need to collect the remaining 400 thousand. And here we turn to the collective conscious.

    Financing needs
    Boom starter crowdfunding is only the beginning, the first step that will speed up the preparation of the expedition. We still have a lot to do before embarking on a journey. 1.5 million is 1% of the total cost of the expedition. We need this percentage to do some urgent and important things, without which we are still sad: register and open our company (NCO), through which we can work with sponsors and carry out all purchases, approximate the start of repair of the yacht, filling out all the necessary documents and permission, and prepare an English-language project at a very serious level in collaboration with professionals to establish relationships with major sponsors. Plus, there’s a whole bunch of small things that all cost a little, but in the end they add up to a decent amount.

    Since the amount is not very small, we will launch another crowd on kickstarter / indigougou, but for the western market you need to be very well prepared. Now, at the stage of “preparation for preparation”, our project looks a little blurry, it’s stupid to argue, it’s just very difficult to put an expedition of this magnitude into rigid frames and designate monosyllabic goals. We work with the best experts in the scientific and technical fields related to the expedition, define and specify the range of tasks and the possibilities for solving them, so in the next six months the project will become much more formalized. I can summarize what is now:

    Scientific tasks:
    • filling in significant gaps in knowledge about yellow zooplankton, one of the main links in the ocean’s food chain, by studying animals in their natural habitat;
    • search and description of new species;
    • collection and fixation of planktonic organisms for DNA and RNA analysis;
    • creation of a database on zoogeography: photographs and videos of certain species of animals with reference to coordinates, depth, temperature, salinity and time;
    • creating a voluminous bank of photo and video materials about the oceans, which can be used for scientific and educational purposes;
    • development of methods for underwater scientific observations, development and testing of methods for studying bioluminescence and fluorescence;
    • development of satellite mapping methods for “garbage islands” and giant clusters of plankton;
    • search and development of new / promising diving sites in the oceans;
    • implementation of local research projects in collaboration with laboratories and researchers from around the world;

    Social tasks:
    • the acquaintance of millions of people around the world with the unknown, little-studied life of the world's oceans;
    • popularization of science through an adventure show: living science in action, real research, understandable and accessible to everyone;
    • creating the image of a modern researcher using the latest technology and modern technology, ready for discoveries, to communicate with the world and to work in extreme conditions;
    • drawing people's attention to the environmental problems of the ocean;

    Common tasks:
    • launch of the new “Underwater Odyssey”, continuing the work of the great researchers of the past at a fundamentally different level;
    • raising the bar for the quality of scientific illustration;
    • bringing adventure romance to our prosaic world;

    In fact, I can still talk for a very long time about all kinds of technical details, about the techniques, about the route, about the yacht and other details of the expedition, but then the post will stretch to unimaginable sizes. Therefore, I will be happy to answer all questions regarding the expedition in the comments and I will be glad if you join the sponsors of our project!

    Expedition Aquatilis on the Internet:

    Taking this opportunity , we recall that our book for children with simple experiences is already approaching printing. The book’s pre-order is still open.

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