Sea lions, eagles and whales… oh my! This is why people flock to Alaska, for the chance to experience wildlife in a natural setting, and today’s Juneau shore excursion did not disappoint.
Today was a chance to give back while still having a great time, through Holland America’s “Cruise with Purpose” program. Holland America partners with various groups in ports around the world, giving passengers a chance to participate in meaningful community service projects while on shore. It’s an innovative way to give guests an opportunity to meet the locals in port, while also raising awareness about issues local residents face. Our “Cruise with Purpose” excursion was called “Whales and Glaciers: Science Adventure”.
We became “citizen scientists” for the day, experiencing Juneau’s landscape through the eyes of our friendly, knowledgable and enthusiastic guide. A former park ranger, Scott Ranger (yes, that’s his actual name) is a real scientist, with an undergraduate degree in forestry and a Masters in Environmental Interpretation. Yet, Ranger kept reminding us, “You don’t need to be a scientist to make a contribution and advance science. Ordinary people doing real science, that’s what today’s all about.”
We stopped by a salmon spawning area, then it was on to the big show— whale watching. Our citizen science adventure not only provided us with an opportunity to contribute and learn about the local environment, it came with a guaranteed whale sighting. Luckily, our guide and captain gave us our money’s worth!
Being citizen scientists for the day, our guide explained what contribution we’d be making during our next adventure— helping marine biologists at the University of Alaska Southeast collect data about humpback whales.
An added bonus was the chance to view plenty of other wildlife from the boat.
As any volunteers knows, you often get back as much as you give. We learned that today in a big way, on our citizen science adventure.
Andrea Guthmann is a Midwest Emmy Award-winning broadcast, print and digital journalist. She spent many years as a TV producer for WTTW, the PBS station in Chicago. Her writing’s been published in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Parent and on-line travel sites. She’s also the Midwest blogger for TravelingMom.com.
A native Floridian, Andrea’s now a big (windy) city mom of 3, who range in age from tot to teen. She loves sailing Lake Michigan and visiting the world class museums and restaurants in her sweet home Chicago. Being a scenery starved city girl, she loves escaping to the outdoors during vacations. She’s thrilled to be sharing tales of her Alaskan adventure aboard Holland America’s Oosterdam through August 5th, 2012, through daily reports on AvidCruiser.com.
Disclosure: Holland America Line is hosting the author and her guest for purposes of this review.