Wildlife in the Changing Andorran Pyrenees

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Help scientists understand the effects of climate change on flora and fauna of the beautiful Pyrenees Mountains.

15 16 17-18 2020 Careers International Outdoors STEM
About the Trip

Scholarships available for this Destination! See application below. 

In the high slopes of the Andorran Pyrenees, as in other mountain regions, climate change has already begun to alter the landscape. Some species are moving to higher latitudes, while some shift to higher elevations (though at some point you run out of “up”!). Some have not been able to shift their range and have begun to decline. The ways humans use the land also causes shifts in the natural order of things, but little research has been done on how people have impacted this particular place. Questions of how climate change and human encroachment continue to alter this alpine world need answers as local organizations work towards sustainable solutions.

While trekking through this striking landscape, you’ll be among the first to search for these answers. Not much is known about the amazing biodiversity of the forests and alpine meadows, and your team will help identify the key species in the ecosystem and how they are changing. You will weigh and measure small mammals, check camera traps for larger mammal presence, assist with banding bird species at their nest boxes, documenting other species’ presence through binoculars, and assess what insect foods are available to them through insect sampling. You will also study alpine wildflowers and other plants, survey snowbed vegetation, assess soil decomposition rates, and follow the growth of tree species. These tasks will help researchers find out how animals are faring, and how to best protect key species. The research will also help to determine when natural events, like plant flowering and pollination, are occurring. Understanding the timing of such processes can help scientists learn if species’ life cycles are becoming out of sync with each other, which could have serious consequences for the health of this ecosystem.

Your days in this stunning environment will vary. Sometimes you’ll work at a research site close to home, and on other days you’ll walk amidst the mountains at high elevations. Throughout the expedition, you’ll see much of the countryside, from wooded mountainsides to quiet valleys and open pastures. You will help:

  • Monitor small mammals. Keep an eye on the health of vole, mouse, and shrew populations by capturing them, collecting measurements, and safely releasing them.
  • Track biodiversity. In each of the 12 sampling stations, you will take note of all the plants and animals you see, check some of the more than 100 nest boxes for birds and owls installed, and monitor camera traps set up for larger mammals by the researchers.
  • Follow daily growth of tree species (Pinus uncinataalong the elevational gradient using high-tech equipment.
  • Survey endangered vegetation of the currently disappearing natural snowbeds, and study how artificial snow is affecting the accompanying vegetation.

In the late afternoon, the team will return to the hotel to rest, record data, and identify photos of animals taken by camera traps. Evenings will include a communal dinner and time to rest, see some local sites, or learn more about the research.

NOTE: Field conditions and research needs can lead to changes in the itinerary and activities. We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.

This Destination is hosted by Girl Scouts of the USA in collaboration with Earthwatch Institute. The group leaders are Girl Scouts National Volunteers, and the program will be delivered by Earthwatch. Read more about this program on the Earthwatch website.

Where You Go

El Serrat, Andorra

What to Know

To participate on this Destination, you must:

  • be able to hike up to 5 miles per day in rocky, off-trail, steep alpine terrain
  • have an interest in science and climate change
  • enjoy being outdoors ALL DAY in all types of weather, in the potential presence of insects and wildlife
  • be able to acclimate to high elevation (up to 8,000 feet)
  • be able to carry personal daily supplies, such as water, lunch, and some small field equipment weighing 10 lbs or less
  • be able to get along with people of different backgrounds in close proximity

The Dates

July 21 - 29, 2020

You must be at least 15 years old at the time of this Destination.

What to Bring

A complete packing list will be provided upon acceptance. Well-worn in hiking boots with ankle support are required, and hiking poles are highly recommended.

The Cost

$2,595. Program Fee does not include airfare. Our group will be meeting in New York, and flying together to Barcelona, Spain (ground transportation from Barcelona provided to Andorra). Specific flight information will be provided after acceptance.

Girls applying for this program are also eligible to apply for a $500 scholarship made possible by the Elliott Wildlife Values Project. Please download the form on the right and submit this to destinations@girlscouts.org. Submit this at the same time, or after, you have applied to participate in the program.

Download Application Forms
Destinations Application Worksheet Scholarship Application Form
Contact Information

destinations@girlscouts.org