The first time we heard of NatExplorers was in February 2022, when Barbara Réthoré contacted us to see if they can use our river basin map of France to aid their next project. Loire Sentinelle in the summer of 2022 was a hybrid project, both scientific and artistic - so a perfect match to our map. Barbara and her partner Julien Chapuis walked and canoed along the Loire river in 80 days, covering 1000 km altogether, and carried out the very first joint assessment of plastic contamination (via microplastics sampling) and global biodiversity (via environmental DNA sampling) across the entire Loire continuum. During their stopovers they met the locals, organized creative programs for the public and, with the help of local artists, raised awareness about nature conservation in the Loire watershed.
There are many volunteers helping NatExplorers in the important work they are doing. One of them is Estelle, who developed pedagogical tools to help educate the public about the overall health of the Loire river and its biodiversity. Our colourful map of France seemed to provide a perfect base for a puzzle that people of all ages could enjoy.
The puzzle seemed to be so successful that they felt the need to improve it and recreate it from a sturdier material. With the help of a professional modeller, and after several weeks of learning and experimenting, Estelle managed to finish the puzzle. The finishing touch was to hand-paint all the pieces: a long and thorough work but as you can see, every minute was worth it. The final piece is 34x36 cm and made out of local cherry wood. It's the best thing that ever happened to our map of France, for sure.
The new puzzle will be used during some events in the summer and in Barbara and Julien's new expedition later in the year. We are very much looking forward to see the puzzle in action, and we wish all the best for NatExplorers in their journey.