The Next Generation Explorers Network (NGEN) is a community within The Explorers Club members who are leading the next generation of exploration. This January, NGEN is holding the first, of what we hope is a series of expeditions put entirely together by some of the "younger members" of the Explorers Club. It incorporates science, adventure, physical exertion, and foremost exploration, where we hold an expedition to a region of the planet (this year Cambodia), and where the objectives for expedition are collectively highlighting our research, training, and passions. Through the NGEN network, ten explorers (myself included) have come together to embark on a journey down Cambodia’s Mekong River, traveling intoremote areas using inflatable packrafts. The interdisciplinary team brings together the next generation of scientists, researchers, and outdoor professionals to complete a variety of objectives that will advance our collective knowledge of the region.
During our Cambodia expedition, the team will paddling the Mekong River and along the way will be teaching wilderness first aid, conducting water quality and micro plastics tests, conducting fisheries observations, amongst other objectives. My role on the expedition is to lead our fisheries studies for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). A new dam has been installed on the Se San River which is the largest tributary to the Mekong, about 1/3 of the way through our route down the Mekong. We will be conducting interviews with fishermen to determine if the new dam has affected fisheries and their livelihood. Our route on the Mekong will bring us both above and below the confluence of the Se San and Mekong, so any changes above the confluence would not be caused by this dam. Surveys may also be applied to the floating villages of the Tonle Sap Lake where fisheries, rookeries, and communities rely heavily on the annual flood of the Mekong to reverse the flow of the Tonle Sap River. The flood of the Mekong is typically significant enough to fill the lake, creating a uniquely abundant environment; however climate change and dams have the potential to negatively affect these areas and the lives of people who depend on it for their food security.