This article is an adaptation of our weekly Travel newsletter that was originally sent out on August 27, 2021. Want this in your inbox? Sign up here.

By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor

Travel always asks more questions than it answers. Recently, in Boulder, Colorado, I hiked around the Flatirons. How did these slanted sandstone wedges, which rise skyward like craggy alien spaceships, emerge from the Earth? Answer: Geologic uplift. What holds them together? Answer: A potassium-rich cement called adularia (aka “moonstone,” when it’s fancy). Why did this happen? Answer: Go ask a scientist.

We rely so much on scientists to explain the world around us, but is there a way to help scientists out? Answer: Yes.

“Professional scientists are constrained by funding, time, and location, which can limit their ability to conduct their work. Laypeople can fill in the gaps, while helping people engage with science,” writes Kristen Pope in our article about discoveries volunteer scientists are making.

She zeroes in on volunteers working with Adventure Scientists, a Bozeman, Montana-based nonprofit (founded by conservationist Gregg Treinish, a 2013 National Geographic Emerging Explorer) that harnesses the skills of outdoor recreationists to help scientists collect data.

While contributing to research, these volunteers get an up-close view of gorgeous geographies and outrageous ecosystems. Their efforts contribute to projects like the largest known microplastics data set ever recorded, illustrating the global reach of microplastics pollution.

You don’t need to know a beak from a beaker to be a volunteer scientist. A willingness to learn and help is all that’s required. And you don’t necessarily need to be a grown-up, either. Participating in crowd-sourced projects can empower children to protect the planet. National Geographic Society and iNaturalist’s BioBlitz has families, teachers, and scientists cataloguing the biodiversity of neighborhoods and even backyards. (Above, local students participating in a humane fishng program at New York’s East River; below, volunteers with NASA’s Space Grant Ballooning Project prepare a test launch for an upcoming solar eclipse.)

How else can you pitch in? The National Park Service and other federal agencies have volunteer projects ranging from air quality monitoring to marine ecosystem work on More than 1.5 million volunteers have participated in NASA’s citizen science projects, which range from analyzing air quality and soundscapes to recording sightings of fireballs and asteroids.

Nonprofits such as Earthwatch and Biosphere Expeditions connect volunteers to research projects around the world, from bee conservation to plastic pollution clean-up efforts. SciStarter, founded by Nat Geo Fellow Darlene Cavalier, lists more than 3,000 projects, from a slug survey to community mapping to working with medieval manuscripts. You can contribute to some without even leaving home.
Why be a wallflower…when you can help scientists study wildflowers?

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Looking for an escape? The village of Olympos—on the remote island of Karpathos, Greece—sometimes seems to be suspended between the sea and the mountains. Due to its isolation, it’s historically been able to preserve ancient traditions that have disappeared on other islands of the Aegean Sea. Even though Olympos is now connected to the rest of the island by a long, winding road, the village retains its magic, its dialect, and its festivities.

Subscriber exclusive: This rooftop monastery in Greece is surprisingly accessible



Amtrak’s vision: For those hoping for a more robust, developed U.S. rail system, Amtrak’s 2035 map may provide hope. With a frequent rider in President Biden, the nation’s passenger rail service is pushing a multibillion-dollar expansion plan that would open opportunities for train service to more cities and towns. Take a look at the map.

All aboard: Night trains are making a comeback in Europe, as carriers across the continent increase service. The E.U. has declared 2021 the Year of the Rail, an initiative that encourages travelers to reduce their carbon footprint, the Wall Street Journal reports. In April, French lawmakers voted to approve a ban on domestic flights on any route that can be made by train in 2½ hours or less.

Island oasis: Since the 1800s, Martha’s Vineyard has been a renowned getaway for Black people, both elite and middle-class. Barack Obama is said to have celebrated his birthday there this month, in his seven-bedroom mansion. “I don’t have to catch my breath here,” Skip Finley, an author and former broadcaster whose family has vacationed on the island for five generations, tells Vox. “It’s the freest place I’ve ever been.”

Glamping 2.0: Trailer park resorts, sometimes with vintage-chic Airstreams, are popping up across the country, the Los Angeles Times reports. Today’s trailers have everything you need to take glamping to a new level: air conditioning, full kitchens, decks, flat-screen TVs, and Wi-Fi. Most of the parks are multifunctional, with pools, playgrounds, and bikes. The downside? If you want to buy your own vehicle it could take a year before it’s delivered.



Still standing: California’s Dixie Fire, currently the second largest in the state’s history, has burned nearly half of Lassen Volcanic National Park and thrust this storied landscape once more into the spotlight. Often overshadowed by Yosemite, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Parks, the park is a geological wonderland of ancient volcanoes and bubbling hot springs. (Pictured above, a blaze burns through Canyondam, a small town near the park, on August 5).

Skip the crowds: Where to avoid the people but not the natural wonders



Saddle up: Dude ranches from Colorado to Wyoming offer visitors of all ages wide-open spaces and outdoor adventures—naturally socially distanced and suitable for a pandemic. Most ranches offer all-inclusive packages that include lodging, food, and horseback riding; pools, hot tubs, and yoga are extra. (Pictured above, horses and riders at Wilson Ranches Retreat in Fossil, Oregon.)

Subscriber exclusive: How getting outdoors helps your brain



published 2022-06-08 09:03:18