BGBS 070: Gregg Treinish | Adventure Scientists | Moving at a Human Pace
Gregg founded Adventure Scientists in 2011 with a strong passion for both scientific discovery and exploration.
National Geographic named Gregg an Adventurer of the Year in 2008 when he and a friend completed a 7,800-mile trek along the spine of the Andes Mountain Range. He was included on the Christian Science Monitor’s 30 under 30 list in 2012, and the following year became a National Geographic Emerging Explorer for his work with Adventure Scientists. In 2013, he was named a Backpacker Magazine “hero”, in 2015, a Draper Richards Kaplan Entrepreneur and one of Men’s Journal’s “50 Most Adventurous Men.” In 2017, he was named an Ashoka Fellow and in 2018 one of the Grist 50 “Fixers.” Gregg was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2020 and is a member of their Global Futures Council on Sustainable Tourism.
Gregg holds a biology degree from Montana State University and a sociology degree from CU-Boulder. He thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004.
In this episode, you’ll learn…
- The creativity, optimism, and persistence required of expeditions translate very well into entrepreneurship and keeping a business profitable over time.
- Adventure is pursuing passion and pushing your personal boundaries in the outdoors.
[31:05] Adventure is pursuing passion in the outdoors. It’s certainly outdoor sport based, but that can be hiking for some people and just adventuring into a place you haven’t been before to look at birds, or it can be climbing peaks and skiing down. It’s pursuing your own boundaries in the outdoors.
[41:08] The cool thing about expeditions for me is not like this, “Ooh, adrenaline-seeking.” That’s not my type of Expedition. It’s persistence, it’s creativity, it’s problem-solving. It’s “you’re in this sh!tty situation, how you can get yourself out?” And it’s avoiding those situations to begin with. I think that is exactly what running a business is.
[44:09] We’ve had a tremendous impact on a number of different fields, from antibiotic resistance to microplastics, to improving crop yields, to helping to restore and preserve species that are extirpated from ecosystems. And it’s been amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish in 10 short years, and I’m so proud of the impacts that we’ve already had. But I’m always thinking about how we do that on a bigger scale, and how we make sure that the data we’ve collected and the data we will collect are going to have as much impact on as many lives, human and otherwise as possible.
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Gregg Treinish 0:02
So we got a call. Three weeks after we gave that presentation in a parking lot. It’s in Salt Lake City at a hotel that since burned down the city Creek in and they were like, can you be in Washington and a month or whatever it was there like Why? And he said if you’ve been selected as adventure of the Year by natgeo, and we went there and Andy skorpa had gotten it the year before. So he was on stage presenting and talking about it, you know, his year of adventure the year and then looked at us and just said, this will change your life. And I had no idea what he meant that but it did.
Marc Gutman 0:45
podcasting from Boulder, Colorado, this is the baby got backstory podcast, we dive into the story behind the story of today’s most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like to think back stories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman. What if you could help scientists cure cancer, or develop medicines that save lives? Or find answers to some of our biggest crises that face us today? All while doing what you love doing anyway. I’m Marc Gutman, and on today’s episode of Baby got backstory, we are talking about adventure in science, and how one adventure brings the two to work together to collect data at scale. And before we get into this episode, I want you to live at scale to adventure and truly feel alive. And that all starts by heading over to Apple podcasts or Spotify and giving us a five star review and rating. By this point in our lives. We all know that algorithms rule the world. And as such apple and Spotify use these ratings as part of the algorithm that determines ratings on their charts. But look, we’re humans, not robots. So go show that algo that the humans are in control, and rate this podcast. Thank you for your reviews. I do appreciate it. Today’s guest is Greg rhenish, founder and CEO of adventure scientists. And as you’ll hear, Greg founded adventure scientists in 2011, with a strong passion for both scientific discovery and exploration of helping scientists solve the world’s problems wasn’t enough. National Geographic named Greg and adventure of the Year in 2008 when he and a friend completed a 7800 mile trek along the spine of the Andes mountain range. He was included on the Christian Science monitors 30 under 30 list in 2012, and the following year became a national geographic emerging Explorer for his work with adventure scientists. In 2013. He was named a backpacker magazine hero in 2015 at Draper Richards, Kaplan entrepreneur, and one of men journals 50 most adventurous men. In 2017, he was named in a shoka fellow, and in 2018, one of the grist 50 fixers. Greg was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2020. And as a member of their global futures Council on sustainable tourism. Oh, yeah. And he hiked the Appalachian Trail in 2004. And this is his story.
I am here with Greg trennis, the founder and CEO of adventure scientist, Greg, welcome to the show. Hey, thanks so much for having me. Yeah. So Greg, let’s just get right into it. Like what is adventure sciences? sounds really cool. But like, what is it? Yeah, we’re
Gregg Treinish 3:57
a nonprofit organization. We’re based in Bozeman, Montana. And the idea here is that we want to be the world’s greatest field data collectors at scale. So we look for opportunities where we can amplify and accelerate scientists impact and getting them to solutions for the environment. So examples of that are everything from we’re creating genetic and chemical reference libraries for trees, so that they can be used by law enforcement to compare seizures or shipments that they think were illegally sourced with the standing trees across a range of species. So you can use genetics to actually compare wood with trees, and it’s being used for all kinds of things. And we collected the largest data set on earth for microplastics. We’ve collected plant life up at 20,000 feet on Mount Everest, which 22,000 feet which was the highest known plant life on Earth, that is being used to inoculate crops and improve crop yields around the world. So we look for these projects where there’s a solution tied to it, where data can unlock some solution. And we deploy volunteers from the onshore community to go and get those data.
Marc Gutman 5:15
Yeah, and this is the part that I think is really interesting. And I want to make really clear to our listeners is that there are there are these projects where scientists and please correct me if I get this wrong, because I want to, I want to make sure that I put it in, in simple terms, but there’s these projects where scientists are like, hey, it would be really cool to grab this plant life from Everest, but there’s no way that I can get up there, or I’m not going there. Or it’s restrictive, restrictive. And then there’s all these adventurers who are like, I’m going to Everest, or I’m going into the Amazon, or I’m going down to Antarctica. And what you’re really doing is matching these two parties so that adventurers can help out in this collection of scientific data, wherever they’re going. I mean, do I have that right? Is that the what this this is all about?
Gregg Treinish 6:00
Yeah, it is, it’s a lot more detailed and nuanced than that we’ve spent a ton of time building these projects and designing them. That’s something that is so essential for success of the volunteers as they’re out there. But yeah, at the end of the day, there’s this army of people who love the outdoors are traveling around the world and have the skill set that can be really useful. And we find them we give them the mission, we train them, and then we deploy them.
Marc Gutman 6:29
That is an adventure myself, I mean, I can’t think of anything greater than having a purpose behind, you know, beyond just the achievement of whatever we do. And we like to get out and, and, and hit our goals, to have a purpose and to be helping other other scientists and potentially furthering humankind.
Gregg Treinish 6:47
That’s exactly right. And it’s the same for me when I was that on my expeditions. And the reason I started this organization is because of that. It will I had a selfish feeling. I felt really, when I was out hiking the Appalachian Trail, which I did in 2000, for a walk the length of the Andes in 2006, through eight. And on those expeditions, I was just like, Man, I’m spending so much time and couldn’t be doing something much more meaningful with this time. How can I get back to these places and really longed for a way that I can make a difference while I get after it? And and that’s what adventure scientist is.
Marc Gutman 7:24
Yeah, so let’s talk about a little bit let’s go way back to the younger egg. And have you always as a kid, have you always had a penchant for adventuring? and science or did one come before the other?
Gregg Treinish 7:36
I was always fascinated by wildlife and nature, like you know, like most kids are think catching fireflies and Willy bugs and that kind of thing. My family didn’t go camping. We didn’t like we weren’t an outdoors family at all. And it wasn’t until I went on a backpacking trip when I was 16 to British Columbia to the Provincial Park, Garibaldi Provincial Park there. And that was where I really fell in love with outdoors and adventure. And it was the first trip and then you know, I did some more backpacking trips and a few things but it wasn’t until the Appalachian Trail that I really had a big adventure like that.
Marc Gutman 8:20
Yeah. And so you said you didn’t grow up camping? What was life like for you? Where did you grow up?
Gregg Treinish 8:25
I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, East Cleveland and a lot of mountains. No, no, we hills we I grew up skiing on a garbage dump on a covered over garments down.
Marc Gutman 8:34
I did too. I grew up in Detroit. So Maui pine knob, you know, inverted trash heaps. That’s how I learned to ski as well.
Gregg Treinish 8:42
That’s right. Ours are called Boston Mills. The coolest adventure from my kid days was those probably 10 years old and skiing at a place called Boston mills and Glen plake, at the time was on his like World Tour or North American tour trying to hit every ski resort across the US and there’s this run called tiger and I skied it with Glen plake, when I was like 10, which was the coolest thing ever. And then, years later, after I had become a natgeo adventure of the year, and I met Glenn again at the Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake where it was back then. And he remembered me he remembered skiing with me at Boston Mills is like coolest thing ever. For me.
Marc Gutman 9:27
That is the coolest thing ever. I love that. And so, you know at 10 years old, you know, skiena, Boston mills and hanging out in Cleveland, did you think that you were gonna make a life and a career out of adventure? If you wouldn’t have told
Gregg Treinish 9:40
me that I was gonna do that. I had to believe i’d figure out some way to do that. But I would have been surprised that I would have chosen a life of adventure and, and nature and you know, I, I think I was I love Jacques Cousteau and and Jane Goodall. I actually have named my daughter after age. Didn’t get all of my son after john Muir. Their middle names anyway. But back then, like, I think I saw him on TV and I, you know, loved that they were doing good by those animals. I used to have a little statues of whales and wolves. But it wasn’t like, it wasn’t my. I didn’t know I was gonna go into wildlife biology or conservation or adventure. It was cool to me, but it wasn’t like Michael Jordan was cooler to me than Glen plake at that time.
Marc Gutman 10:31
Oh, absolutely. Those were the days. And Jordan was was was a figure against the calves. And so what did you think you were gonna do? Like, what was the plan? Like you’re, you know, you’re in Cleveland, and you’re, you’re starting to get older. What do you what do you what was your plan? Yeah, we’re
Gregg Treinish 10:47
going way back here. I don’t know. Let me think like, after I got out of the firefighter astronauts age, I probably didn’t want to be an astronaut at some point for sure. I didn’t used to, I realized I just said that. It wasn’t like my obsession, or anything I did used to think wildlife or marine biologists were incredibly cool. And I did have a period of time when I said I’d be a marine biologist, for sure. I don’t know, a lawyer, like my dad’s a lawyer. Maybe I was gonna be aware. I don’t know. I don’t know. I think I always knew I would run my own business that I would probably start something or run something. I never really took direction. Well, which is what that’s probably about. I definitely had a period of marine biologist, I think that was pretty consistent. I can’t remember what those ages were. Or why even other than maybe TV shows about the ocean and thinking that was super cool. I had a big cousin who was a surfer, and maybe that was part of it. I have a big cousin who’s a surfer? Maybe that was part of it. I don’t know.
Marc Gutman 11:58
Yeah, you know, my father’s a lawyer, too, out of the Midwest. And all I got out of that was Don’t be a lawyer. That’s what he was told me. He was like, Don’t do this. And he loved it. He was just like, there’s too many lawyers and go do something. Go do something different with yourself. But so when you when you left Cleveland, when you when you when you left high school, would you go do? Yeah,
Gregg Treinish 12:16
I actually got I went to Boulder. And was a junior because I had gotten kicked out of high school and started going to junior college in Cleveland when I was 16. And so I got a two year headstart and went out to Boulder as a junior and had just two and a half years there, moved up to Breckenridge from there and started being a ski instructor raft guide, live in the ski bum lifestyle for a while. And then when I went and hiked the Appalachian Trail, there wasn’t this moment that I’ve talked about frequently, but it was halfway through. And I was pretty low. I’m just asking myself like, what the hell am I doing out here and worn down and it had rained for God knows how many street days. And I just had this one moment where I picked up a rock constructed at a tree and just started sobbing and fell down in frustration and kind of vowed a life of service in that moment. That was where I really decided that I was really fortunate growing up, you know, we weren’t, we certainly weren’t living in bel air or anything, but we were fine. And my dad did well, and my mom was a teacher and did well. And I just think that living a life of purpose really matters. And it was kind of that moment that helped me see that it had been building up to that, obviously. So I went and worked in wilderness therapy and worked with kids who had struggled and I was I struggled as a teenager, for sure, and was labeled an at risk youth and all kinds of things. And so I thought that would be my passion. But the more I was in the outdoors, exploring the more I I realized how much I wanted to understand what I was seeing and understand the ecology around me. But that my passion is really for representing all those creatures that don’t have a voice and representing nature and wildlife and the environment. Because I think it’s one of the greatest atrocities what our species is ever has done to every other species on the planet. I think every other species who were here in many cases before us have been completely disrupted by humans. And I’d really love us to find ways to live in more balance with the rest of the species on this planet. Yeah. And in getting
Marc Gutman 14:36
back to that moment of frustration on the 80 what do you think triggered that? What what brought that all about? Like, where would your life been going?
Gregg Treinish 14:45
Yeah, I mean, I did have the opportunity to go and spend some time in South Africa when I was a kid and I traveled a little bit and just saw poverty and saw how other people live and realize that my life is not like everybody else’s in the world. And I even saw that in the Appalachians, right. Like in the southern Appalachians, man, like, they’re that lifestyle is different than suburbia in Cleveland. And so I just was exposed to that. And it really struck me like, Man, I’m so lucky. The fact that I can go hiking for six months, I feel really lucky, you know, I worked my butt off to receive up enough money to be able to pay for it and, and have always had a really strong work ethic. And yet I was given such a head start at life, when I think I realized that then and, and I just felt like, as I said, selfish for being out there and not doing anything beneficial. I was maybe inspiring a few people to get off the couch. But that wasn’t what I meant by living a life of purpose. And I think it was a combination of exhaustion and being out physically exhausting myself every day mentally exhausting myself. And when you hike like that, when you’re on an expedition, and this is still true for me today is is 99% of what you’re doing is just this mental gymnastics, you’re constantly looking at relationships and interactions you’ve had, and it’s reflective by nature, because you’re you’re just you’re brought down to the core, right? Like, you’re depleted and your and your emotional. And so it was a lot of that. And it was it was thinking about that privilege, combined with the exhaustion, I was feeling that I had a pretty low point at that moment. And decided that that what mattered to me most at that point in my life was that my life mattered, and that my life was gonna be about others. And not just myself.
Marc Gutman 16:56
Yeah, and so you had some time in wilderness therapy, and I’m familiar with how that works, and what that’s all about. And, you know, for people that don’t know, that’s where a lot of times at risk are other other kids that are working through things go. And it’s in a therapy environment. So there are therapists, and it’s in using kind of the, the everything, Greg just talking about getting outside really, really revealing yourself, and figuring some things out. So it’s great, great programs, and you’re doing that. But there comes a point where you and a friend go on a massive trek across the Andes. How does that come about? And what’s what’s the purpose behind that? Yeah.
Gregg Treinish 17:37
So on the Appalachian Trail I just absolutely fell in love with with going at a human pace. You know, when you’re on a bike, you got to get off that bike to go and talk to somebody, same thing on a horse, same same thing with really any other mode of travel. But when you’re on foot, you just, you’re there in the moment, right, like you’re moving at the way our brains evolved to move. So something about that really captured me. And then this idea of Expedition travel like long distances, you know, the Appalachian trails Georgia domain, which is quite a large distance and the topography changes so much that the ecosystems changed so much. So, I just fell in love with that. After about two and a half years working wilderness therapy, I really wanted more of that I really wanted some more personal adventure and more introspection and, and I wanted to do it in a place where I was going to be exposed to new languages to new 20,000 feet. It wasn’t and we looked all around the world, right? Like I looked at, there’s a long trail in New Zealand, there’s this trail of the Great Divide trail, which I’d still love to do someday up in Canada, but
Marc Gutman 18:55
none of them were
Gregg Treinish 18:57
as enticing as the Andes because the Andes was, again 20,000 feet, the Amazon ketua Myra, the Incan history that was there. expanish. Obviously, throughout it, the Atacama Desert really intrigued me. And it was just this. There was so much I just finished reading into thin air, which takes place in the quarter whitewash. And obviously didn’t want to have that kind of experience there. But it was just this this one thing after another and then at some point, I’m sure there was just a confirmation bias taking over where that was where we had to go. And so I’ve researched it and we researched it and and I reached out to about 10 friends and in the end, there was just the one friend Dale who was last who is like, yeah, I’ll go and it was excited to go. And yeah, we thought there would be hundreds of people doing it. We thought there would be so many and it turns
Marc Gutman 19:56
out we were the first to ever do it. And how long did that Taking is that how then you were recognized as adventure of the year because you were the first to to make that Trek.
Gregg Treinish 20:07
Yeah, it was 667 days or 22 months that it took us to do it straight, straight, with the exception of three weeks when I came home with typhoid fever to recover from typhoid fever. So I flew home. And then we went right back after about three weeks. And, and I had other diseases along the way that I probably should have come home for, but I did. So yeah. And then the recognition from natgeo was for that track. I don’t know if it was as much because we were the first or just because how we did it, we kind of went down with no plan. And the plan was just to go to the equator and head south. And and we did, we thought we would probably have to skip the Atacama Desert, we figured out a way to do that. We again didn’t know we would be the first to do it, we just kind of along the way realize that nobody else had done it. There was no information about it. There was three other guys who had done heights, the length of South America, Kyle Busch, B. We actually did it through all the Americas and then got arrested in Russia, once he crossed the Bering Strait. But he had done it on on frontcountry. Really with cart, George meegan in the 70s had done it with a card and then Ian Reeves had just finished it hiking mostly on roads and knowing known pathways. So we were the first to really do it off trail off. We were on trails as much as possible. There’s aren’t that many trails. And we were trying to stay as close to the spine of the Andes as we could without
Marc Gutman 21:46
relying on roads. And so what what happens when your adventure of the year like what don’t mean now
Gregg Treinish 21:54
you get a call. So that happened because I gave a presentation in a parking lot at that Outdoor Retailer. So that I mentioned earlier for granite gear, who was a sponsor, a sponsor, they gave us some free packs. To me, that was a sponsor that I wrote like 300 letters to companies and three wrote back and I was like kotula steri pen and granite gear. So we got a call. Three weeks after we gave that presentation in a parking lot. It’s in Salt Lake City at a hotel that since burned down the city Creek in and they were like, can you be in Washington in a month or whatever it was. And we’re like, why? And he said, You’ve been selected as adventure of the Year by natgeo. And we went there and Andy skorpa had gotten it the year before. So he was on stage presenting and talking about, you know, his year of adventure the year and then looked at us and just said this will change your life. And I had no idea what he meant then, but it did. It was amazing.
Marc Gutman 23:00
In what ways I mean, I’m sure you can’t say all of them, but like, how did it change your life? Like, like what happened? Yeah,
Gregg Treinish 23:07
right. Like I can’t say all cuz I don’t know, like, I don’t know what my life would have been the other way right without that. But what it did is give me access to World Class explorers, it gave me a credential to be able to really have some momentum behind what I wanted to do and and my path from there. I hadn’t known that I was gonna start this when I got adventure year by any means. But it gave me the, I guess the credibility to be able to start adventure scientists. And yeah, it was from deepening the relationship in that geo and being able to lead expeditions around the world to having some public awareness about what we had done, being featured in magazines and stuff like that really gave us the the, again, the opportunity to then go out and get additional sponsorship to do biological expeditions, which we started doing after that. And it just, it was just the opportunity. It was a stepping stone for sure.
Marc Gutman 24:16
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Yeah, and that’s, that’s a great segue. So like, what was the impetus or the inspiration or the lightbulb moment for adventure scientists, because your things are going good, right? Like why? Why why start this business? Yeah, so
Gregg Treinish 25:46
I totally kill it, I think just continued doing mega expeditions and, and live that life and now would have been incredibly fun. But as I said, like, purpose was what really mattered to me and the enemies. You know, ostensibly, we’re, we are trying to learn about sustainability and and we’re really passionate about human sustainability. Even then, you know, we learned a lot we saw people who had been living with traditional methods of light of agriculture and and solar cookers and all kinds of things, we learned a ton there, how to treat water with just the pop bottle, throw it up on your roof, and UV light works like pretty cool. So there was some purpose there. And we had hoped to share some of the lessons we learned. I think we were in our early 20s. And, and still, like a new adventure, and a little naive as to how real change happens in the world. But anyway, on that trip, I was asking myself like what’s next, and really fell even deeper into the ecology space and thought I would work with lions and learn how to save lion some way and wrote a professor Scott Creel, who’s here and asked if I could come study, how to save lions with him, and came up here and started working on my second degree, which was in wildlife ecology. And started before I ever made it to Africa with Scott, I started tracking links, and Wolverines, and grizzly bears here. So I’d go out on my boss’s truck and take his snowmobiles out and would park as far as we could go. And then I’d hop on my skis, and go for two or three days following Wolverine tracks and documenting their behavior and collecting DNA samples. And it was awesome. What a fun trip, or projects really. And then we were I started working on owls in California, and I worked with other species, and just really felt like I was making a difference. And using my outdoor skill set to do it. In my outdoor skill set, let’s be clear, I’m not a world class climber. I’m not a I’m not really good at any sports, I just have persistence and creativity and optimism was, is so translatable to the business world and what I do now. But anyway, yeah, I was doing those things and feeling good about it. But it just occurred to me that if we could rally, others who love the outdoors and get them to do it, the impact would be so much bigger. I had also been taking biological expedition. So I’ve worked with some scientists. In the course of my degree, they actually used it for part of my degree and developed a protocol to put my brain in the in the headspace of a grizzly bear Wolverine and make decisions like they would make as they moved across large landscapes. And so I walked from the eastern end of Yellowstone to the western end of Idaho, which is about 600 miles and a month, and tested these least cost path analyses or predictions on how wildlife will move across the ecosystem and documented how many fences they have to cross and got a lot of information that way. And then went on to do expeditions in Mongolia tracking Wolverines. And, and I just saw that that there was this real opportunity to mobilize people who wish there was a way they could give back, we thought it would be cool to do that, at least, maybe they didn’t have the same selfish feeling I did, but they thought it would be meaningful and cool to do that. And then I was doing these things as a scientist that I didn’t know much about, like, take seven years of training to learn how to track hours and it didn’t take seven years of training to learn how to identify Wolverine tracks. So I just knew that that possibility was there and I googled how do you start a nonprofit and reached out to Conrad Anker, who’s one of the world’s greatest mountaineers here in Bozeman and he said he joined my board and then it was just one thing after another with Conrad, I was able to get Celine Cousteau and john Bower master and and Ross savage who’s the first person to row across all three oceans and first woman to row across the Pacific and Atlantic. And I just got these heroes of mine together and and started doing started figuring out how do you run a nonprofit?
Marc Gutman 30:15
It’s incredible. And, and I want to pick that up there. But as you’re talking, it also really dawned on me. And you may have a different definition than most people have two words. And so I’d like you to think about, like, how do you define adventure or an adventure? And then how do you define science or scientist? Because you were just talking like, to me, a scientist is someone with a bazillion years of training and they wear a lab coat and they you know, and they do all this stuff. But clearly, you found sort of a different definition. Yeah,
Gregg Treinish 30:53
so adventure. First of all, like, I think it’s more traditional than than not, I don’t know, Explorer is a different term and is pushing any boundary in my mind. But adventure is is pursuing passion in the outdoors. It’s it’s like, it’s certainly outdoor sport bass, but that can be hiking for some people and just like, adventuring into a place you haven’t been before to look at birds, or it can be climbing peaks and, and skiing down or whatever. Yeah, it’s pursuing your own boundaries in the outdoors is my definition of adventure adventure. People who volunteer for us are everything from day hikers to World Class climbers. So it’s a huge spectrum. Scientists are scientific, you know, I do think it takes training, I do think it takes method and following a scientific process. But man, there are field technicians, which is what I was a field technician that are doing real science and really important science and our volunteers are doing science and really important science. So would they call themselves scientists? No. What a lot of people allow me to call myself a scientist, absolutely not. No way. Any PhDs who are listening to this, like, I get it, you guys are scientists. I am a wannabe for sure. But it’s like I hang around a lot of scientists and I’ve learned a lot about science and how science works. And, and it’s exploration, right, it’s under, it’s pushing boundaries. It’s looking at things with a new lens, it’s looking at things with innovation and technology and entrepreneurial spirit behind it. You know, at the end of the day, I’m not really an adventure. Most I’m an adventure, but I’m not a scientist, I am an entrepreneur, I’m a community organizer. I bring people together with a common purpose and a common goal. And make sure they have the skills that they need to be successful. In order to go out and pick up animals, cats so that a Harvard Medical School can read research, I can look at them for antibiotic resistance, you don’t have to be a PhD, you have to know how to identify scat. Like say this is poop, you don’t even have to know whose poop it is. And you have to be trained how to properly pick it up. So you don’t can’t contaminate the sample. That’s not rocket science. It’s important, it’s meaningful. It’s contributing to science. But you know, so you’re a citizen scientists or community scientists you’re not a you’re not a PhD Nobel Prize winning scientists for doing that though.
Marc Gutman 33:38
No and and I wouldn’t make that assertion right but the the idea that we can be additive that we can use our day hiking our adventures these things that you know, I have the same feeling I feel self for sometimes when I’m up in a helicopter going through a mountain or you know, doing whatever, it’s, it’s really an amazing opportunity. And, you know, a moment of confession, my 11 year old daughter and I last night we were doing a word game around poop yet it’s a different word for poop. And scat was one that you know, I had that helped to stump her but to think that you know, us having this like, you know, how many words can we come up with poop? that we could go out and be additive to a harvard medical researchers project is really empowering and really amazing. So when you started this business, you googled it you got Connor at anchor, you got some other famous people to help me your board and give you some visibility. I mean, was it an immediate success? Did it take off or what happened?
Gregg Treinish 34:36
Yeah, it was pretty cool. Like so that was in January or February maybe it was late January, and then by May, we have collected the highest known plant life on Earth, up to 22,000 feet and we started that got a bunch of press. And then it was like one thing after another there was people rolling across the Arctic Ocean and we met up we connected them with a researcher looking at whale olfaction and playing plankton and trying to understand how whales track points and and then we, we had projects that would just build back then it was actually the adventurers who were saying, like, I’m going here, I’m doing this, I’m going there, what do you have for me to do? And then I would find a researcher and put them together, we realized after some time that the impact, there’s tough, you’ve got these one off expeditions, in many cases, yeah, you get some great samples for scientists. But what we do now is everything is driven by the scientists. So the scientists come to us and they say, I need samples from here, I need this many samples over this period of time. And the real value proposition is scale, they can’t get the temporal or spatial scale that we can get, and certainly access to these places, too. But there’s a lot of scientists, scientists go into this because they love the or these field scientists do. Science is a huge, huge category, obviously, everything from solving the pandemic to field biologist studying tree kangaroos and Papa New Guinea. But so a lot of them do have outdoor skills. But the reality is, is you can go to one peak, and you raise a ton of money and to be to be able to do that you get a grant to be able to do that. And it’s $40,000 expedition and go climb one of these Himalayan peaks. And what we do is, it’s like, oh, you need data from every 8000 meter peak on the planet, or in the Himalaya, you need data from everything above 6000 meters on the planet, it’s just not possible any other way. And so when we flipped it and started being scientist driven, the impact really became clear and what this organization can be really started to crystallize.
Marc Gutman 36:46
Yeah, and what is your sort of day to day in life? Like is the CEO and founder Are you just off on expeditions hanging out? Like just you know, hanging off a mountain being cool? Or like, what’s what’s your day to day? Like?
Gregg Treinish 36:59
Yeah, no, I am doing that I, I try to do at least one awesome adventure every year. And and I have two small kids. So admittedly have have slacked at that a bit. I’ve had to do Alaska on attended packraft this year, in the Brooks Range. But those are the exception. Those are the most fun parts of my job, for sure. I raise money, I manage a team, I set vision and strategy. I work on developing new projects and finding leads working with our networks, through the World Economic Forum, or TED or National Geographic, to come up with new projects, and what’s going to be the most impactful work with our donors on understanding the opportunities that their connections could provide on partnering with them to build these projects and actually get them off the ground. I spend a lot of time managing the team and dealing with the, the ups and downs of that. And yeah, and and thinking strategically about what’s next what the chess pieces are, and what the moves are, that are going to help grow this organization and help it reach its potential.
Marc Gutman 38:18
Yeah. And so is there anything that you didn’t share? that reveals like, what’s hard about this, like, what’s hard about running a nonprofit that not only just a nonprofit, but that one that deals with kind of this idea of adventure in science and putting it all together? Like, what, what’s hard about this thing?
Gregg Treinish 38:36
Yeah, there’s the kind of the basic layers of everything that any business owner or entrepreneur deals with, right? It’s like, you got to sell your idea, you got to market your idea, you got to have proof of concept. You have to, you know, have good market strategy and all this. So it’s those basic things for sure. I think nonprofit is not always taken as seriously in the business community. I think there’s challenges with that. Yet, we have a fee for service revenue stream, too. So I’ve had to build out the business model on the business as well. We also have philanthropic support, which has been essential to our success. With a with a for profit, you take on investment, and you know, and that really to get it off the ground. You can’t do that with a nonprofit, you can’t sell equity in the company. And so you have to be profitable from day one. That that’s a huge challenge. You have to be in the black every year, unless you’ve got a reserve fund, which we now do, but you’ve got to build that up and it’s taken a decade to be able to even think about spending more than we make in a year. So that’s a huge challenge. I think that the the competition with for profit for getting talented individuals is real. You know, by being able to take on that debt and can offer bigger salaries right away, it’s hard to compete with those salaries, though, I’m really proud of what we can offer our staff now. But it’s taken a long time to get there, I spent the first nine months doing this selling bumper stickers. So I would like I brought those three letter like BGN, bumper stickers to Bozeman, and nobody was selling me here. So I print off a bunch. And then I’d walk around to the people who sell bumper stickers and then say, Hey, you know, I didn’t tell him this, but it was, Hey, I just bought these for 30 cents, you want them for $1. And they would sell them for $4. And it was like, that’s how I had enough money to eat. So it took starting the second business to be able to do that. And I didn’t pay myself until probably September of that first year. And that was eight bucks an hour. So it was it was a long slog to do that. And then I think by March, I was able to hire my first employee. So it’s it’s been slow incremental growth. And, you know, it’s no different than adventure and expeditions to like, the cool thing about expeditions for me is not like this, like, ooh, adrenaline seeking. That’s not my type of Expedition. It’s its persistence, its creativity, its problem solving. It’s you’re in this shitty situation, how you can get yourself out. And it’s avoiding those situations to begin with. I think that is exactly what running a business is. It’s looking ahead and coming up with where you’re headed and your route or your strategy, and it’s avoiding pitfalls and trying to see around corners, and then inevitably, you’re in shitty situations that you didn’t foresee. And it’s using creativity, optimism and persistence, navigate around those things. And keeping a clear head while you’re doing it and making sure that you’re looking at all options, getting advice where you can, can’t always do that on expeditions, but you can sometimes, and and looking at people who have been there before you so that you’re not reinventing the wheel all the time. So it translates really well. Absolutely. And you must be doing something right, because I’m doing the math correctly.
Marc Gutman 42:14
Your business is coming up on 10 years, or did you just celebrate 10 years of Yeah, January
Gregg Treinish 42:20
this year was our 10th anniversary, and we’re using the whole year to celebrate our 10th
Marc Gutman 42:25
year anniversary. Congratulations. That’s an amazing accomplishment. Most businesses don’t make it to like year two. So to make it 10 years is huge. So 10 years for adventure scientists, what you mentioned a big part of your, your job is thinking about the future, thinking about the future vision. What What’s next? What’s the future for adventure scientists? What’s that look like? Yeah, we
Gregg Treinish 42:47
want to be the greatest data collectors at scale on the planet. And we’ve got some work to make that true. We want to gain experience internationally and are exploring projects in many different fields, but in timber and, and in wildlife connectivity and in agriculture, and really helping to improve crop yields using natural nature based solutions is the field. And we’re looking at how to really do that, with this organization. And what we’ve built here has incredible potential to accelerate impact accelerate the ability for our species to operate with less impacts with less negative impact on the planet. And I there’s this line in a Bronx tale, which is great movie from God knows when in the 90s I think and Robert De Niro’s in it, and he’s talking to his son, and it’s, there’s nothing worse than wasted potential. And that’s what this organization is, isn’t certainly not wasted potential, but so much potential, and is just look forward to the future of us becoming a real resource for problem solvers to get there quickly, more quickly than they otherwise would. And we’re not we already there. And it’s important to recognize the accomplishments already. And it’s important to recognize that we’ve had a tremendous impact on on a number of different fields, from antibiotic resistance to microplastics, to improving crop yields to helping to restore and preserve species that are extirpated from ecosystems. And it’s been amazing what we’ve been able to accomplish in 10, short years, and I’m so proud of our impacts that we’ve already had. But I’m always thinking about how we do that on a bigger scale and how we make sure that the data we’ve collected and the data we will collect are going to have as much impact on as many lives human and otherwise as possible.
Marc Gutman 44:47
Yeah. And so with that in mind, if people want to help you collect data at scale, how do they get involved? How do they learn more about adventure scientists?
Gregg Treinish 44:56
Yeah, adventure. scientists.org is a great place to go where on all the social media channels on adventure scientists, as well, you know, we need a lot of people, this is a movement, and we need a lot of people working together to make it happen. It’s the volunteers. Absolutely. If you like being in the outdoors, we don’t always have project everywhere on Earth, we are working towards that, and hope for that to be true at some point. But we have great opportunities to use your outdoor skills to further a number of different fields. And we need money to do what we do. We need that through philanthropy and and also through projects. If you’re scientists who could benefit from data collection at scale, you got to reach out to us talk to us, we also really need a lot of business acumen that like I said, we’re building the fee for service revenue stream at the same time that we’re learning how to market our overall mission and overall organization better, as well as marketing these projects better. So we need support like that as well. advice, and, and connections. So we welcome everybody to come and reach out through the website. And I’m Greg and adventure scientists.org. So people can email me as well.
Marc Gutman 46:17
Fantastic. And we’ll make sure to link to all those resources in the show notes. So it makes it really easy for people to click and be able to, to contact you and either volunteer, donate or help in other ways. So Greg, as we come to the end of our time here, I’d love you and I, we kind of touched on this, but I’d love you to think back to that that young version of yourself whose skin at eight years old and living in Cleveland, and, you know, what do you think he would say, if he saw you today? See, cool, do more.
Gregg Treinish 46:51
I don’t know. He’d say, that’s pretty cool, man. I think he would be proud of me. You know, more importantly, I think I’ve got an amazing wife and two amazing kids and the organization is is great. But I think that those other things matter as much to me and, and my family, my parents are still with me. And I’m amazing. And my brothers, my little brothers just had a baby two days ago. And I’m really close with both my brothers. And I think those are the things that matters much to me as anything I’ve built at work, and it’s just one part of a much broader picture for me. So I think he would be proud that all those things are true for me today too.
Marc Gutman 47:37
And that is Greg reinisch, founder and CEO of adventure scientists. I love this idea that we as those that love the outdoors can help contribute to science by doing what we love. I want to stress that you can be an Everest mountaineer, or a day hiker or anything in between. Adventure scientist probably has a project for you. Congratulations to Greg and the entire team that adventure scientists is they celebrate their 10th anniversary this year. Here’s the 10 more 10 more years of creating impact. This is truly the entrepreneurial spirit, rewriting the script and impacting our world. The big thank you to Greg trench and the team it adventure scientists. We will link to all things Greg and adventure scientists in the show notes. If you know of a guest who should appear on our show, please drop me a line that firstname.lastname@example.org our best guests like Greg come from referrals from past guests and our listeners. Well that’s the show. Until next time, make sure to visit our website www.wildstorm.com where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS so you’ll never miss an episode. A lot big stories and I cannot lie to you other storytellers can’t deny