Talk about "thinking outside the box": In an effort to raise funds for the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus, bassoonist/oceanographer Dr. James Swift is offering a 38-day research trip to the Arctic Ocean on a Coast Guard icebreaker to thank the highest bidder.
The recent economic downturn has put the pinch on funding for many nonprofits, forcing organizations to look for new and enticing ways to raise money and keep donations coming in. In appreciation for a donation of $25,000 or more, Swift, a research oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, will select one bidder to accompany him on a research trip to the Arctic.
"(The idea) came up in a meeting I had with Jim in early fall, but there were a lot of things that needed to be confirmed," said Diane Salisbury, executive director for the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus. "He's always looking for unique fundraising opportunities, and he came up with what I think is a completely new idea."
Salisbury is handling the bidding process, which starts at $15,000. Additional bids must be made in $1,000 increments, with the top amount being posted on the group's Web site each week. Bidding will remain open until March 22 or until a top bid of $25,000 is received. The donor need not be the research trip participant, but final acceptance of the candidate is up to Swift.
The Coast Guard Cutter Healy (WAGB-20), the United States' newest and most advanced polar icebreaker and research vessel, will depart from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, on June 12 and return July 22. The only requirements for the participant are that he or she be older than 18 years and in reasonable physical condition. A background in science is not required, as Swift will be training the individual on basic assisting duties.
"The person will have an opportunity to get used to life onboard the ship before we have to start working," Swift said.
During the expedition, several teams will be conducting many different types of research. Swift and his crew will be retrieving water samples with a large instrument panel that is submerged into the icy ocean. Swift expects to repeat the process between 70 and 100 times. He calls the experience "hands wet oceanography."
This cruise, Swift's 30th, is being funded by NASA in an effort to improve its ability to monitor biological productivity from space.
"The Arctic Ocean is the least well known of the oceans due to its ice cover," Swift said. "Now that the ice cover is changing so dramatically, there is extra impetus to understand the Arctic Ocean and how it will respond to and influence global climate change. The data we're gathering from this cruise will help NASA provide better estimates of how the plankton ecology of the Arctic Ocean is changing as the ice changes."
Swift, a resident of University City since the late '80s and a bassoonist with the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus for 15 years, said thanking a supporter with this trip is a great way to combine his love of science and music.