HIGH ALTITUDE RESEARCH EXPEDITION: BOLIVIA, 2021

APEX was founded by medical students at the University of Edinburgh in 2001. Since then, hundreds of students have taken part in expeditions investigating the effect of altitude and hypoxia on the human body. The latest expedition, APEX 6, will be in June 2021...

THE ITINERARY

The APEX 6 expedition will begin on in La Paz (3700m) for an initial acclimatisation period of 3 days, before we ascend to our base on Huyana Potosi (4700m). We will stay on Huyana Potosi for 8 days. 

Data and sample collection will be carried out during the acclimatisation phase in La Paz and throughout our time at Huyana Potosi.

The expedition will conclude on our return to La Paz. 

 

RESEARCH DURING APEX 6

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CIRCADIAN RHYTHMS AT ALTITUDE

We are conducting a pioneering project examining the impact of individuals’ body clocks (also known as chronotype) on physiological and clinical outcomes. This addresses a key knowledge gap in wilderness medicine that affects the interpretation of previous high-altitude studies and has potentially contributed to conflicting data on interventions for preventing/treating acute mountain sickness. As well as the relevance of this research to human health in the context of jetlag and hypoxia, this will also set a new standard for chronotype-control in studies carried out in other wilderness environments.

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DARK ADAPTATION AT ALTITUDE

Sight is critical for orientation, movement, and balance and so visual function is clearly essential for the safety and performance of pilots, mountaineers, and athletes training at altitude. Furthermore, as the only visible part of the brain, studying retinal function at altitude provides a unique opportunity to objectively assess the effects of hypoxia on the brain. In future, changes in retinal function may be used as a new variable in field research on altitude sickness, which was not available previously owing to the impractical nature of traditional methods of measuring dark adaptation. This is an exciting field of research, with
the potential to benefit those exposed to hypoxia due to both environment and illness.

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ALTITUDE AND THE MENSTRUAL CYCLE

This project aims to investigate the link between hypoxia inducible factor (hif) 1 alpha and menstrual blood loss, following on from the work of Edinburgh researcher Dr Jackie Maybin. This will involve female participants self-analysing blood volumes using pictograms and analysis of blood samples collected over the course of this research project. This work is especially relevant to women experiencing the very common condition of heavy menstrual bleeding.

 

THE ORGANISING COMMITTEE

Apex 6 will be lead by six Medical Students from the University of Edinburgh. 

 

SOPHIE HATTERSLEY

Expedition Leader 

Sophie is a fifth year medical student at the University of Edinburgh. As well as leading the expedition, Sophie will be undertaking research into the pathophysiology of high-altitude pulmonary oedema (HAPE). Her academic interests are in expedition medicine, trauma and surgery. Outside of studying, Sophie is a keen photographer, and loves travelling the globe in search of the perfect shot; Bolivia, Peru, Malaysia and Indonesia to name a few. Having been inspired by the amazing team on Apex 5 to lead her own expedition, she can’t wait for all the hard work to pay off. It’ll be great to be back in the beautiful Bolivian Andes, doing cutting edge research and inspiring a new generation!

DENISA STRONCEKOVA

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Logistics Coordinator 

Denisa is a fifth year medical student at the university of Edinburgh, and a lover of travelling, food and salsa dancing. Having taken part in the APEX 5 expedition as a volunteer, Denisa is very enthusiastic to undertake the committee role for APEX 6 as a Logistics Coordinator. Being half-Peruvian and a fluent Spanish speaker, South America is a continent that has always drawn her in.  An adventurer who enjoys challenges, Denisa is looking forward to travelling back into the remote terrains of Bolivia, this time with an exciting aim of conducting research alonside fellow commmitte member Sarah,  on how night vision is affected by altitude.

OLIVER VICK 

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Logistics Coordinator

Oliver is a senior medical student in charge of the Expedition Operations for APEX 6. He will be making sure everything is ready for us flying out, and that the expedition runs safely and smoothly. A keen traveller, Oliver will have been to 55 countries before APEX 6 as well as every continent besides Antarctica! Through travelling, as well as other areas, he has gained extensive experience in getting people and equipment from A to B. Aside from travelling, Oliver has an active interest in health policy, healthcare management, events management and politics. Oliver is not yet planning to undertake any research on the expedition, instead focussing on organisational aspects, but may yet be open to persuasion!

ERIN BENNETT 

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Funding Coordinator 

Erin is currently a fourth year medical student. During this expedition, she will be taking the lead on a projects. The first  investigating the effects of altitude and hypoxia on the menstrual cycle. As a volunteer on APEX5, she thoroughly enjoyed exploring South America and is looking forward to seeing more of the beautiful continent. In her spare time, Erin loves a good book (slowly making her way through some non-fiction these days) as well as walking at home in the Borders and the occasional run with Volunteer Coordinator Sarah!

ALASTAIR WOODHEAD

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Funding Coordinator

Alastair is a fourth year medical student at the University of Edinburgh, who developed a keen interest in expedition medicine as a volunteer on the APEX 5 expedition. Alongside Erin, Alastair has taken on the role of Funding Coordinator. Alastair will also be undertaking a research project investigating sleep at altitude. Outside of medicine, Alastair’s interests lie in sport and spending time away from his beloved bikes will certainly be his greatest challenge! Don’t be surprised to see him hiking up Huayna Potosi in search of signal to check on the latest sporting news!

SARAH LEWIS 

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Volunteer Coordinator & Publicity

Sarah is in her fifth year of medicine at the University of Edinburgh. During the APEX6 expedition she will be working alongside Denisa investigating the effects of altitude on the eye. In the committee Sarah is our Volunteer Coordinator and heads up publicity for the expedition. Sarah loves to travel - the previous APEX expedition was her first time in South America and she cannot wait to return to Bolivia and explore. Outside of medicine and APEX Sarah loves music, dancing and trying out new experiences - the latest challenges include a sky dive and a marathon!!! 

 

VOLUNTEERS

APEX6 has recruited a fantastic group of volunteers. Meet the rest of the team!

Gavin Woodbridge
Gavin is a fifth Year Medical Student at the University of Edinburgh, navigating his way through
clinical attachments. He has so far gained interest in Emergency Medicine, General Medicine or
Practice and Remote and Rural Medicine. Holds a strong interest in natural history, particularly bird – current President and founding member of Edinburgh University Ornithological Society.
Suzanne Green
Suzanne is a second-year medical student. This is her first expedition and she is keen to explore more of South America. She is wishing to improve her basic Spanish and salsa skills on her travels and maintain her interest in sports and running. Furthermore, having an interest in expedition medicine she is excited to increase her experience in this area.
Fiona Howells
Fiona is a 5th year medical student. She spends a large portion of her time drinking tea and knitting but also (unsurprisingly) loves being outdoors which mainly involves hillwalking and looking after 13 cheeky Exmoor ponies in the Pentlands.
Chris McColm
Chris is a fifth year medical student with an interest in sports medicine and surgery. Outside of medicine he loves all things sport, especially cycling – this is what he’ll miss most on the APEX6 trip! Having never visited South America before he can’t wait to get out there to explore.
Thomas Park
Tom is a second-year medical student at the University of Edinburgh. He is looking forward to getting his first real taste of medical research, and for it to happen in such an amazing place. In his spare time, he’s often found on a run, on a bike or in the kitchen.
Lizzie Drinkwater
Lizzie is a third year medical student, intercalating in Neuroscience. She is excited to discover more about what happens to her body at high altitude and to explore the beautiful landscapes of South America whilst also seeing some Alpacas!
Maeve MacLeod
Maeve is a 3rd year medical student. After giving myself a year off from exams
during my intercalated she has decided to squeeze in a little science this summer before clinical
years hit. She love travelling and is excited to explore South America, fill up on local cuisine
and then work it all off with un poco de salsa dancing.
Gemma Woodhead
Gemma is a third-year medic who loves the outdoors and enjoys cycling and running. Having never visited South America before, she is really excited to be a part of APEX6 and looking forward to exploring this part of the world!
Freya Oswald
Freya is a 5th year medical student at Edinburgh with particular interests in sport and exercise medicine and physical activity for health. Outside of studying, she spends a lot of time dancing and is now in her 5th year with the Edinburgh uni dance soc. On the Apex6 trip she is going for the world record of the highest recorded splits… She does a bit of cycling and have recently began running! She also loves cooking (and eating), so is very excited to eat my way through South America!
Clara Duncan
Clara is a fifth year medical student at the University of Edinburgh. She is very excited to return to South America, having done some travelling there before, and is looking forward to her first expedition as an APEX volunteer! In her spare time she enjoys trampolining, football and eating.
Amy Lussiana
Amy is a second year medical student at the University of Edinburgh. She spends most of her free time playing volleyball, dancing bachata or cooking Italian food for potlucks. She’s a keen traveller but APEX 6 will be her first time in South America!
Maddie Edgoose
Maddie is a second year medical student who is currently keen on rural, wilderness and expedition medicine. She can usually be found playing trad fiddle in various bars, pubs and ceilidhs! Outside of music and medicine she enjoys wild swimming, skiing, walking and climbing. It’s her first time to South America and she’s very excited for the expedition...and also to see wild flamingos and llamas.
Eilish Murphy
Eilish is a third year medical student, currently intercalating in primary care. When not working in the North face shop, she enjoys being outdoors, particularly in the high mountains. She can’t wait to head out to Bolivia and be part of the APEX6 expedition.
Cameron Peattie
Cameron is a first year medical student interested in sports and expedition medicine and orthopaedics. Cameron loves the outdoors and travelling, and has always wanted to travel in South America so can't wait for the expedition. Outside of medicine, Cameron loves most sports including football and basketball and loves music.
Danial Imseeh
Daniel is a first year medical student volunteering for APEX 6. He loves to travel, dabble with magic, and practice with his Bo-staff. He is very excited to see South America for the first time, and is keen on practicing the 3 years’ worth of Spanish that he forgot.
Robbie McLaren
Robbie is a third year medical student currently intercalating in Health Sciences-Academic Medicine. He first heard about the APEX expeditions a few years ago and have been really keen to go on one since. Outside of uni he love being outdoors with interests in running, cycling, mountaineering, skiing… the list goes on!
Sean O'Reilly
Sean (aka Jeni x) is a 4th year. The gorgeous pic is from that one time he went skiing - most of my photos are either topless or in clubs so he applied to APEX to get more wholesome outdoor pics. He HAPE to have a fun time up in the mountains and completely revolutionise altitude physiology by offering myself as a guinea pig for all the experiments.
Vivien Jowett
Vivien is a second year medical student at the University of Edinburgh. When not studying, Vivien enjoys travelling and long walks with her dog through the countryside. Vivien took a year off before coming to university and is keen to jump back into travelling.
Isla Petrie
Isla is a second year medical student and is looking forward to her first apex expedition to Bolivia. She is excited to explore South America and gain first hand experience into the research and the data collection process. She is keen to develop her Spanish and fitness on the beautiful hikes across the South American vista.
Elisha Tateno
Hi! – I’m Elisha, a huge fan of the outdoors whether mountains, seas, jungles, wet, hot or snow – anything that isn’t concrete! (Type 2 fun is especially welcomed). Having never been anywhere in South America, I am bursting with excitement! Please don’t think I’m weird if I try to climb every rock I see!
Ella Crowther
Ella is a second year medical student (unfortunately that’s not her degree in the picture!). Outside of medicine, she likes riding ponies and playing the violin at a questionable standard. She loves the outdoors and is very excited about getting to explore completely new scenery, having never been to South America before!
Max Zinn
Max is a Year 4 Medical Student at the University of Edinburgh with a love of travel, food and all things outdoors. His goal is to visit every continent and looks forward to exploring Bolivia and South America while also broadening his experiences of research outside of the lab.
Heather McAdam
Hi! I’m Heather, a third year medical student intercalating in Global Health Policy. Alongside my studies, I enjoy advocating for better mental health and wellbeing through research, volunteering and running a peer support group. I am also a keen traveller, having travelled through over 50 countries via tuk tuk, slow boat, kayak and more! South America is the only continent I have not visited and I am keen to learn about a new mix of cultures there.
Chris Jervis
I’m Chris and am super excited to be a volunteer on the APEX expedition. I am looking forward to gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges altitude poses on humans and how it might be applied to endurance athletes. I love sports (particularly hockey) and travelling so I can’t wait to embrace the Bolivian culture and see where the adventure takes me!
Louisa Cary
I’m a fourth-year medical student, with an interest in space medicine. I love traveling (hopefully out of this atmosphere in the near future!) and climbing. This will be my first time in South America- I’m excited to join this amazing group to see all that it has to offer.
Charlie Simms
Hi! I’m Charlie and I’m very excited to be a volunteer on APEX 6! I am currently in my final year
studying Chemistry and I am looking forward to seeing how research is done at 4700 m in
comparison to 70 m (Kings Buildings)! In my spare time I love to cook (and eat…), go to gigs and
explore Edinburgh and Scotland. I’m most excited to spend time in South America and make new friends, human and llama alike.
India Daniels
I'm a Year 4 medical student who loves being up mountains and on the sea. Being in the Andes has long been a goal of mine and so I'm really looking forward to the expedition and getting a taste of extreme medicine research.
Finlay Wallis
Finlay is a 5th year medical student at the University of Edinburgh. His other interests are generally outdoorsy and he often goes climbing or cycling, and has also done plenty hill-walking, running and some mountaineering too. He is also a keen bagpiper, although the purpose this serves on APEX6 is up for debate! Looking forward to his first trip to South America, he aims to experience the wilderness of the Andes as much as possible.
Katharine Welch
I am a fourth year chemistry student at the University of Edinburgh and am really excited to travel to South America for the first time. Outside of chemistry I enjoy dancing with the university and you can always find me relaxing with a good book!
Freya Hunter
Freya is a 1 st year medical student who has a keen interest in emergency and expedition medicine. Her hobbies involve rock climbing, skiing and mountaineering. She loves to travel and can’t wait to explore a new part of the world on APEX 6!
Alistair Higgins
Alistair is a second-year medical student at the University of Edinburgh. Alistair is interested in
research and expedition medicine and loves sport of any kind. He has experience travelling and
working abroad. Always up for a challenge Alistair is looking forward to the expedition.
Show More
 

ENDORSEMENTS

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Tom Avery

One of the UK's foremost explorers

"I am proud to support APEX 6. The Bolivian mountains are amongst the more beautiful in the world, but they are also a real test of human endurance. The work of the APEX6 team will be invaluable in gaining better understanding of the effects of altitude on the human body.  I wish them a safe and successful expedition."

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Sir Chris Bonington

British Mountaineer

“I am delighted to endorse APEX 6. APEX has been hugely successful over the past years, with much exciting research being done into the intricate effects of altitude and hypoxia on the human body. This year, students will take on this challenge once again, with a further aim of collaborating with local Bolivian researchers. The group have my full support, and I wish them all the best on this journey.”

SPONSORSHIP AND GRANTS 

APEX 5 has been fortunate to be sponsored by the following organisations. We thank all of our sponsors for their continued support for our expedition.

 
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Suzanne Green

Suzanne is a second-year medical student. This is her first expedition and she is keen to explore more of South America. She is wishing to improve her basic Spanish and salsa skills on her travels and maintain her interest in sports and running. Furthermore, having an interest in expedition medicine she is excited to increase her experience in this area.