08 December 2007

Dolphins of Greece expedition: My experience

Student Sarah Marley recalls her experiences on the Earthwatch expedition Dolphins of Greece. The expedition, which she joined in September, was her prize for winning the 2007 BBC Wildlife Young Environmental Journalist of the Year competition.

After travelling through Athens, Vonitsa came – quite literally – as a breath of fresh air. Nestled in a small bay on the southern coast of the Amvrakikos Gulf, surrounded by scenic mountain views, and radiating a “typically Greek” feeling so thick you could cut it with a knife, Vonitsa seemed like the ideal location for a Greek adventure.

Or so I thought until I sat down in my first proper Greek cafe to hear James Blunt emanating from the depths of the bar across the street. Consoling myself with an ice-cold coke and the thought that not everything in life is perfect, I waited for the rest of the Dolphins of Greece Earthwatch team to arrive. Surprisingly, Malvina and Elisa – the two research assistants for this project – recognised me straight away as a volunteer. “You’re too pale to be local” they laugh at me. Finding people of a similar sense of humour to you is always good when working on a project, and my fellow teammate Lesley didn’t let me down either. A bright and cheery Londoner, she was easy to get along with from the start. I could tell this was going to be a fabulous time.

Back at the research station, the Principal Investigator Joan (Gonzalvo Villegas) explained the purpose of the project. The Amvrakikos Gulf has one of the highest dolphin population densities in Greece. This is possibly due to the gulf being one of the most productive coastal areas in the country, with its nutrient-rich waters attracting many fish species. Unfortunately, this also attracts fishermen. This human presence not only impacts fish stocks, but the local environment through pollution, construction of marinas and housing, increased boat traffic, and other factors. The aim of the project is to monitor the dolphin population and understand how these animals interact with their environment. The effects of human activities can then be assessed to determine the impact on the local wildlife.

In other words, this isn’t just a holiday – our contribution as volunteers can influence the outcome of this important research. Here is your mission, should you choose to accept it…

Next morning we were up bright and early for a 7am breakfast. Dragging our bleary-eyed, semi-comatose forms through to the dining room, Joan explained what we were going to do that day. The team would be doing transects across the bay looking for dolphins, turtles, sea birds and any other interesting fauna. When we found some dolphins, we would record the group’s angle and distance from the boat. During the sighting, which could last up to an hour, we would regularly record dolphin group position, size, composition and behaviour. Sounds easy enough we thought, curled up on a sofa drinking tea. No worries.

We walked down to the boat at about 8am and headed out to sea. “Wow, what an adventure!” I thought, as we moved out of harbour, “The sun’s shining, I’m in Greece, and we’re off to look for dolphins – magic!” Two hours and no dolphin sightings later, the magic was starting to wear off while the cold set in. Although Greek afternoons are long and warm, out in the early morning, moving at speed across the sea, there’s not much heat to be found. Shorts and strappy tops are not to be recommended…

Just when I was about to give up hope, Joan perked up. Had he seen something? Dolphins? Where? Frantically scanning the horizon, I thought I could just about make out some distant splashes. How had he spotted that? We headed towards the sprays of water and met our first Greek dolphins.

For me, seeing dolphins is always an amazing experience. As a child I watched them from cliff tops in north-east Scotland, and just recently I experienced them a bit closer out in the Scottish Moray Firth while helping with some research there. It’s an experience that leaves me speechless. To be sitting on a small boat, drifting slowly across the water, and find yourself watching a group of dolphins…it’s perfect. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. And it’s not just a case of you watching them – they’re just as interested in you. Sitting at the bow of the boat, you watch as they swim underneath, lolling onto their side to look back up at you. Sometimes you can even hear their clicks and whistles. It’s like looking into a whole different world, which in effect you are. It’s a privilege.

Which is why we can’t just sit watching all day – we volunteers have work to do. Grabbing a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) we start logging data; calling to each other as a different individual suddenly appears; timing dives and following the dolphins’ progress across the gulf. All the while, Joan drives the boat, takes photos of the dolphins for later identification, and still manages to spot other dolphin groups in the distance. The man is nothing short of a marvel. Watching him in action is almost as inspiring as watching the dolphins themselves.

Then, all too soon, the group leaves us. I’m surprised to find that an hour has passed, the cold of before long forgotten. We head back to Vonitsa, retiring to the Green-Faced-Chef Café to discuss our first survey trip, to a background of James Blunt’s greatest hits. Then it’s back to the research station for lunch, a quick siesta, and back to work. That afternoon, we’re taught how to crop the photos from the morning’s survey, and learn how to match the photos to known individuals in the Dolphin Catalogue.

Afterwards, we attend a short ‘lecture’ from Joan, and watch videos explaining a bit more about the work in and around the Amvrakikos Gulf. Throughout the stay, we also learn about the threats faced by the dolphins – as well as other wildlife – with particular emphasis on the dangers of over-fishing. These are topics familiar to everyone; always cropping up in the news or on nature programmes. But once you’ve been to the areas affected, once you’ve seen for yourself what there is at stake, seen how much can be lost, then you sit up and take notice. And if by supporting Earthwatch and contributing to some of the research as volunteers we can make a difference to the plight of these areas and the wildlife affected, then I can’t wait to go on my next expedition.

Sarah Marley

25 October 2007

Marine Conservation on Paper? An urgent call for action to protect cetaceans

(a statement presented at the 3rd Meeting of the Parties to ACCOBAMS)

We, the undersigned institutions and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), note that despite the positive intent of the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS) and the commitment of ACCOBAMS Parties demonstrated through many Resolutions, Recommendations at previous and in particular at this 3rd Meeting of the Parties, an equivalent degree of essential, tangible conservation activity has not yet taken place.

We are conscious and appreciative of the significant depth of work that has been developed for the Parties by the Scientific Committee of ACCOBAMS in order for them to mitigate threats to cetaceans. We also recognise that several Parties have made progress in implementing Resolutions and some ambitious decisions have been made and Resolutions adopted at this MOP3 of which we highly appreciate. However, although recognizing the overall will by Parties to improve the protection and conservation status of cetaceans in the Agreement area, we wish to express a strong call for action, recognizing that a slow response in implementing decisions and conservation measures would mean the objectives of the Agreement will not be reached.

We note in particular the following concerns:

1. the critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable status of most cetacean populations in the Mediterranean and Black Seas (as recognized in Resolution 3.9)

2. the continued use of driftnets in part of the Agreement area, causing an unacceptable level of cetacean bycatch and a destructive impact on marine ecosystems in general, including in the PELAGOS Sanctuary

3. the continuation of the employment of non-selective fishing methods, the growing intensity of fishing, and the widespread impact of over-fishing leading to ecosystem damage and depletion of cetacean prey

4. the continued lack of implementation of appropriate mitigation measures to reduce underwater noise.

We therefore urge all Parties to take immediate and concrete action to fully meet their commitments under ACCOBAMS and thereby ensure the survival of cetacean populations within the Agreement area.

Signed on 25th October 2007 by:

WDCS, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, International
International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW)
Ocean Care, Switzerland
Delphis, Italy
Oceana Europe
Morigenos – Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Society, Slovenia
Animal Friends, Croatia
Blue World Marine Institute for Research and Conservation, Croatia
Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

14 October 2007

The decline of common dolphins around Kalamos, Greece

This short video shows the movements of short beaked common dolphins Delphinus delphis recorded by Tethys researchers around the island of Kalamos, in western Greece, between 1997 and 2007.

While research effort in this area has been increasing over the years, common dolphin numbers showed a continuous decline, dropping from about 150 animals in 1996 to only 15 in 2007.

Management action is urgently needed to prevent the complete eradication of common dolphins from this part of the Mediterranean Sea - one of the last places where these beautiful and endangered marine mammals still survive.

The Ionian Dolphin Project research team

More information

10 October 2007

The early days of the Adriatic Dolphin Project

Tethys President Giovanni Bearzi reports on his experience with the project

I first went to Losinj in 1987 with my father’s inflatable boat, staying in a camping. I was told that dolphins around Losinj and Cres were easy to find, and could be approached from small boats. That sounded very interesting to me, as I was looking for ways to do a dolphin study for my Biological Sciences thesis at the University of Padua.

By that time I had been surveying portions of the Mediterranean from oceanographic vessels, recording cetacean sightings. However, I was hoping to get a little closer to the animals, rather than just identifying the species and counting them while passing by. I soon realised that Losinj offered amazing opportunities. Bottlenose dolphins were easy to find, they could be photographed individually (which later allowed the identification of most community members) and they could be followed at close quarters during their daily movements, thus allowing to collect information on their behaviour.

The first time I came back home after two weeks in Losinj I knew for sure that my life had changed - I finally had found what I was looking for. I completed my thesis on northern Adriatic dolphins, and then Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara and myself decided that it was worth to continue, under the umbrella of the young Tethys Research Institute. Our aim was to start a long-term study to replicate in the Mediterranean what the likes of Randy Wells and Bernd Würsig had done in other parts of the world.

In 1990 Giuseppe and I crossed the border between Italy and former Yugoslavia with a busload of enthusiasm and hope. With us there was Laura Bonomi, one of the finest field workers I ever met. We managed to find a sponsor for the boat, an outboard engine, basic research equipment (a reflex camera, a tape recorder and the first GPS model available on the market), plus a little money for the renting of a house and for the gasoline. Nobody cared much about earning a salary, or turning the project into some sort of business (which it never became). All we wanted was finding the dolphins and getting to know them better.

And that’s what we did, eventually, facing all sort of difficulties, dealing with damaged boats, broken engines, political trouble, much frustration, cold winters, lack of money, countless hours writing proposals and entering data, personal difficulties and the whole set of problems that come with a field project. But also hundreds of unforgettable hours spent with the animals, known one by one as good friends. The joy of being at sea, alone or with some of the many extraordinary people who joined me in that adventure. Observing dolphins, and eventually understanding at least in part what was going on, what they were doing, what they were likely to do next, and who was there socialising with Taba and Pinna Vibrante.

Although research was our main activity, the Adriatic Dolphin Project developed into something more than just a dolphin study. It soon attracted interest from enthusiastic local supporters such as Arlen Abramic, and then Nena Nosalj and many others. Nena, in particular, was instrumental in enhancing the public awareness potential of the project and allowing us to share whatever we learned about the local dolphins with the general public and the media. The Dolphin Day was one of her many brilliant ideas. She and Arlen also “forced” me to make dozens of presentations in front of a public that ranged from tourists to fishermen, from refugee children to commando soldiers.

Today, I’m so glad I did all that, contributing to the development of what is now one of the most successful and long-lasting dolphin projects in the Mediterranean, and setting the stage for the next round of fine people, Drasko, Pete, Caterina and all the others, to whom we eventually passed the baton. After almost two decades, it is nice to see that the Adriatic Dolphin Project has managed to overcome many apparently insurmountable problems and that Blue World is now doing such an excellent work, with about the same spirit and motivation we had in the early days. I wish that all will continue to produce outstanding conservation results, shining as a testimony that commitment by enthusiastic individuals can make a difference in this world.

Giovanni Bearzi

Venice, Italy, November 2004

01 October 2007

'True' fishery catches

"(...) It may be useful to stress again that reconstructions of the sort presented here do not claim to provide 'true catches'. 'Truth' must remain elusive. But the catches presented in this report certainly represent an improvement over the present situation, and could thus be considered to move towards the 'likely true' catch levels. And often, this is all we can hope for: to improve on things."

Daniel Pauly
Director, Fisheries Centre

from the Director's Foreword of "Reconstruction of Marine Fisheries Catches for Key Countries and Regions (1950-2005)" Edited by Dirk Zeller and Daniel Pauly. FCRR 2007, Vol. 15(2).

16 September 2007

Tethys in Greek mythology

In Greek mythology, Tethys (Greek Τηθύς), daughter of Uranus and Gaia, was a Titaness and sea goddess who was both sister and wife of Oceanus.

She was mother of the chief rivers of the world known to the Greeks, such as the Nile, the Alpheus, the Maeander, and about three thousand daughters called the Oceanids.

Considered as an embodiment of the waters of the world she may be seen as a counterpart of Thalassa, embodiment of the sea.

(adapted from Wikipedia)

15 September 2007

What does the common dolphin (and of course other dolphins) mean to you personally?

(one of a series of questions posed to the Tethys president during a recent interview)

Common dolphins are quintessential expressions of beauty and grace in the marine environment. They are elegant and highly-evolved marine mammals that are tightly interconnected with their habitat. As long as they are there, and they are doing well, you know that the sea is alive and you can expect to find a number of other marine creatures all around. Tuna and swordfish, and of course their main prey: anchovies and sardines.

When I started studying common dolphins at Kalamos, these animals would surround our boat every day and swim in its wake. It was the marine equivalent of the Garden of Eden. Today, after the apple was stolen, we see common dolphins once a month. Their formerly healthy population has been reduced by one order of magnitude in only ten years. Common dolphins have become a symbol of how the most beautiful marine environment can be quickly devastated and corrupted by human activities, in the interest of a handful of commercial fishermen.

Giovanni Bearzi

14 September 2007

What has been the greatest success of your engagement?

(one of a series of questions posed to the Tethys president during a recent interview)

I wish I could say actual protection of the animals I have been studying, but this would be far too optimistic.

A Marine Protected Area has been created recently with the intention of protecting bottlenose dolphins around Losinj, 16 years after our initial proposal. But I wonder if the animals there have noticed.

Kalamos has become an Area of Community Importance (Natura 2000) and common dolphins living there make the theoretical conservation targets of international agreements and recommendations. But the dolphins certainly haven’t noticed.

I did my best to promote dolphin conservation in several Mediterranean areas, but has anything happened? At best, I may have contributed to a microscopic increase in public and institutional awareness. Maybe.

So, perhaps the greatest success of my engagement has been influencing the choices of a number of young people and students, who eventually decided to devote their life to cetacean research and conservation. Several excellent people around me claim to have been inspired by my own work (as much as I myself have been - and still am - inspired by the work of my mentors). This makes me proud, and gives a meaning to what I am doing.

In addition, I’m happy to have been working with the Tehys Research Institute for two decades, giving my share to let this ship navigate over troubled waters in a rather hostile Italian reality.

Giovanni Bearzi

06 September 2007

What do the volunteers do, why do they come and help, and what touches them the most?

At Tethys, we have been welcoming volunteers at our field stations and on board our research boats since 1990. These people support our projects financially by participating in 7-9 day courses, and this allows us to work over long periods of time and remain independent. Their contribution is essential. In addition, volunteers engage in field data collection, help us process the data, and provide the researchers with motivation and moral support.

Most volunteers come because they want to see whales and dolphins in the wild, but many eventually realize the implications and challenges of a research project, learn about the problems faced by the animals, and eventually become supporters and advocates of conservation efforts.

Many volunteers joining our field courses see their experience as a special one. Getting close to cetaceans in their natural environment is nothing like watching them on TV. Volunteers are touched by their elegance, beauty and behavioural complexity. They realize how ‘special’ these animals are, and (sometimes) get to understand the link that ties them to their environment. They start seeing them as enormous, and yet fragile creatures exposed to a range of threats caused by human activities. They can also spend much time talking with the researchers and understand their motivations and the reasons behind their unusual choice.

I have been working in the field with hundreds of volunteers, and although there may be personal likes and dislikes, it has been an amazing and enriching human experience. Many of them have become good friends, and even colleagues.

Giovanni Bearzi

02 September 2007

What can and has to be done, so that common dolphins will survive?

I could name a number of management actions likely to benefit dolphins and the marine environment: Marine Protected Areas, fishery reserves (areas closed to fishing), strict enforcement of the existing laws (much of the fishing out there is illegal), and so on. But we should avoid just blaming the governments and seeing ecosystem destruction as the result of somebody else’s choices and activities.

We are responsible, too. As voters, in the first place. At the last political elections have we voted ‘with our wallet’, or have we attempted to shift the centre of gravity towards a more sensible environmental policy? Have we ever tried to reduce our own consumption rates, recycle, and make our lives a little more sustainable? Ultimately, the ongoing lack of respect towards the marine environment results from our own desires and demands. People sitting in their comfortable car and never considering taking a train instead of an airplane should consider that a link might exist between their own behaviour and air pollution, or even climate change. Those who enjoy eating swordfish and tuna at the restaurant may want to think about the implications for the marine environment.

Whilst there are practical and feasible actions that can at least stop the decline of common dolphins in some areas (at Kalamos this would include an immediate ban of the most detrimental fishing activities), I think that we should realize that damage to the marine environment is also a result of our life styles and collective habits. Changing our own behaviour and giving up something felt as desirable can be as pleasant, and even more fulfilling, than increasing our consumption rates. The reward consists in knowing that we are part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. We do not only blame others for declining biodiversity and beauty all around us. We are actually doing our best to protect the things we treasure, and we enact consistent behaviour. Our choices might even influence those of others and eventually turn into new behavioural trends.

Giovanni Bearzi

01 September 2007

What future for Mediterranean common dolphins?

The future for Mediterranean common dolphins is grim. They have declined greatly during the past 40 years, and their chances of recovery are shadowed by ongoing mortality in fishing gear and overfishing of their key prey.

Common dolphins need a healthy marine environment to survive, but few people in the region seem to be interested in their conservation. Development and exploitation are by far more attractive. Ever-increasing consumption rates and short-term economic benefits bear a cost, and most of the times this cost is paid by the environment.

People everywhere want to eat more fish, spend their holidays in hotels with seaside pools and parking lots, have a second or third house with sea view (where they may live for one or two weeks every year). This results in increasing pressures on the coastal marine ecosystems. Fish stocks get depleted, coastal development increases pollution and disturbance at sea, and the animals there find it difficult to survive in habitats exposed to continuous degradation.

We have been studying common dolphins in the costal waters of Greece for almost two decades, around the island of Kalamos. Initially, there was plenty of these animals and the area was almost pristine. Today, fish stocks have been depleted by overfishing and the area is being ruined by a kind of development that does not take into account the need to preserve the environment. As a result, only a few common dolphins are left, and their chances to survive are linked to an unlikely political determination of including fishery and ecosystem management actions in ongoing development plans.

This kind of things are happening everywhere in the Mediterranean, and common dolphins must bend to short-sighted economic interests. Local human communities are equally impacted, as they see their traditions and cultures being wiped out by companies building immense and ugly hotels near beautiful beaches and villages, while a few large commercial fishing boats take most of the fish away, and little is left for the artisanal fishermen (and the dolphins).

Giovanni Bearzi

30 August 2007

How do you protect a species which is threatened by extinction?

Most of the time, it is an extremely lengthy process that includes research to document the extent of decline, identification of the most appropriate management measures considered necessary to stop the decline and allow for species (or population) recovery, involvement of international agreements, legislative frameworks, NGOs and the media, public awareness and education actions targeting the general public, and communication with policy makers to make them aware of the need to act.

Good scientific evidence is one of the most useful tools, but science alone can do little. A scientist should realize that personal engagement is also necessary. A single person can do a lot in terms of communicating the problem and looking for solutions. In the end, however, it is up to the politicians to listen to this message, and do something to protect the animals. Unfortunately, the typical reaction by policy makers is to call for more research, more planning, a workshop, or whatever can slow down and delay the actual implementation phase. This is what I call ‘conservation on paper’. Scientific reports, conservation plans and good intentions do not actually prevent species extinctions as long as they remain on paper. Timely action is also necessary.

Giovanni Bearzi

Bearzi G. 2007. Marine conservation on paper. Conservation Biology 21(1):1-3. (103 Kb)

27 August 2007

One day in the field

In a recent interview for a Swiss magazine, I was asked to describe a typical day of a researcher on site...

In my experience, this involves waking up early in the morning, rushing to the research boat after having checked and set up all the equipment, spending hours scanning the sea surface in search for dorsal fins. Sometimes dolphins will be found and sometimes not, but you know that you will come back with useful data that help explaining what is going on out there. And then spending the rest of the day entering data, lecturing to volunteers, training the assistants, discussing and solving personal issues that are inevitable when one shares the same roof with colleagues and students, fixing boats, engines and computers that never stop making trouble, refilling the fuel tanks, buying stuff at the supermarket (if one exists), running, running, running.

On some days you will have a good time over dinner, but on other occasions you may be forced to share the table with people who have little in common with you. Ups and downs, moments of glory and moments of deep frustration. Now enjoying a moment of peace with dolphins all around the boat, and then fixing a leaking toilet in a hell-like summer heat. But always having a sense of living your life at full speed, not wasting a minute, and being fully engaged in something that has a meaning.

To me, what gives a sense to this kind of hectic life in the field is the feeling that you are contributing to an attempt to preserve wildlife. If one loses track of this fundamental goal, life as a field researcher does no longer make sense. You are paid little money to work a lot and take care of a number of logistical, relational and other problems that do not look like research at all. Therefore, it is important to realize that conservation-oriented research needs people who are equally determined and capable of recording good behavioural data during a dolphin sighting, talking to the mechanic about that weird noise made by the engine, transcribing the contract for the renting of the field station, or moping the floor. All that is equally important, and nobody is allowed to sign off the most miserable of duties.

Giovanni Bearzi

26 August 2007

How does one become a dolphin researcher?

My suggestion is to come up with reasonably clear ideas about what you want to do, where and how. Ideally, one should aim to something felt as important, and also feasible based on one’s skills and existing opportunities.

I started working on cetaceans by volunteering on board oceanographic research vessels - looking for dorsal fins and flukes during the day and working in the wet lab during the night. Then I used my father’s small inflatable boat to start a study on dolphins around Losinj, Croatia. Eventually, this became the longest-running study of bottlenose dolphins in the Mediterranean.

Don’t miss opportunities to make experience. You may try to participate in some field or lab activity, doing work as close to your interests as possible to gain practical experience on that particular subject. Find out what is the area where you do particularly well (this may include lab work, photography, statistics or even management, environmental policy, public awareness). If you ‘feel good’ doing something and have a sense of being ‘at home’ whenever you do that, then you may have found your own specialty. Go for it, and try to develop a specific project or an interesting proposal to motivate other people and attract funding.

Do not rely too much on letters and CVs. Try to meet the relevant people in person, at their offices or even in the field. Attend marine mammal and marine conservation conferences, visit various institutes and NGOs. Show that your choice of working with a person or organization is motivated and based on some kind of ‘affinity’.

Courses organized by Tethys (www.tethys.org) can be a reasonable first step for gaining basic experience, knowing how you feel on a boat or at a field station, chat with researchers and possibly identify your areas of interest. You may consider trying different experiences and research groups before deciding what works best for you. In any case, do not put everything in somebody else’s hands: the choice should be yours.

As a general rule, you have better chances of success if you do something based on enthusiasm and passion, and you do not lose sight of your goals along the way.

Giovanni Bearzi

Useful link:
SMM - Strategies for Pursuing a Career in Marine Mammal Science

24 August 2007

Working with Tethys as an assistant

Working with Tethys as an assistant, during much of this summer, provided me with an opportunity to widen my knowledge. Not only about the dolphins, but also about myself.

Going to a foreign country (I'm Hungarian) and facing the challenges of a different culture is always a pleasant experience. But doing research in the field has been even more challenging, and brought about the big issue of what I really want to do in my life.

While I was working on board, collecting data and recording the behaviour of dolphins, my interest in these wonderful marine mammals has ever increased. But this did not happen on my first sighting. To be honest, on my first survey I just wanted to do a proper job, and this wasn't an easy task because I was required to do so many things at once. At times I felt completely lost…

But there was always someone who helped me out of the mist. This was the pleasant part of working in a team. Together, you work hard to achieve the same goals, collect data in the best possible way, and pay much attention to the details. A large number of details!

During my first sighting I was fully focused on my duties and unable to realise how wonderful these animals are. This would come later on, when I felt more comfortable with my duties. Then, I realized how amazing every single sighting can be.

I could find beauty in every survey. Even if we did not find dolphins, there were so many interesting situations in the wild - you just had to pay attention.

Once we stopped next to a mussel farm, waiting for a sea turtle to surface. While we were in a complete silent, the wide vocal repertoire of a number of terns standing fiercely on the mussel buoys hit our ears. It was an amazing listening to their communication, in their own territory.

If you work at sea, you need to observe wildlife and appreciate that all animals are part of the ecosystem. Even if your focus is primarily on dolphins, it is by paying careful attention to whatever happens around you that you can call yourself a researcher.

If you do so, your days end with a feeling that tomorrow, again, you can go out at sea and be blessed by a sense of wildlife. You can step out of your narrow human path and participate in the larger painting of Nature.

This has been my first experience doing field work, and I must say that it doesn't compare to my previous work in the neurophysiology lab, which I still love. Being in contact with the animals in their natural environment makes a difference, and now I know that this is what I really wanted to do.

I owe a lot of thanks to Joan, Giovanni and Silvia, who taught me so many things. Besides my duties I had opportunities of doing photo-identification, driving the boat, spending long hours on dorsal fin matching, and committing to many other activities that are essential to the project. I also enjoyed sharing my little knowledge with the volunteers. Seeing how interested they are provided me with extra energy, and gave additional meaning to what I was doing.

Overall, this summer has been one of my best. I got involved in a research project, I tried out my skills as a field researcher, and I was motivated to move confidently towards meaningful goals.

Susanna Pereszlenyi

19 August 2007

A mother bottlenose dolphin mourning her dead newborn calf in the Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece

On the 3rd and 4th of July, 2007, one common bottlenose dolphin Tursiops truncatus was observed interacting with a dead newborn calf in the semi-closed waters of the Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece.

The behaviour of the presumed mother was observed by Tethys researchers Joan Gonzalvo Villegas and Zsuzsanna Pereszlenyi and by Earthwatch volunteers for approximately 4.5 hours under an oppressive summer heat, in a dead-calm sea.

Whilst researchers must avoid being driven by their own feelings and make arbitrary interpretations, in this case it was quite clear that the mother was mourning. She seemed to be unable to accept the death, and was behaving as if there was any hope of rescuing her calf.

She lifted the little corpse above the surface, in an apparent late attempt to let the calf breath. She also pushed the calf underwater, perhaps hoping that the baby could dive again. These behaviours were repeated over and over again, and sometimes frantically, during two days of observation.

The mother did never separate from her calf. From the boat, researchers and volunteers could hear heartbreaking cries while she touched her offspring with the rostrum and pectoral fins. Witnessing such desperate behaviour was a shocking experience for those on board the research boat.

From time to time, other dolphins from the Amvrakikos Gulf population (estimated by Tethys researchers at approximately 150 individuals), approached briefly to see what was going on. But they did not show much interest, and the mother was soon left alone with her grief.

A source of concern for the researchers was that the mother was never observed diving or feeding during about 2 hours of observations on the first day, and another 2.5 hours on the second day. Bottlenose dolphins are large warm-blooded marine mammals with high metabolic rates, and are supposed to take much food to stay healthy. Spending long hours or even days after a dead calf could potentially weaken the mother and threaten her survival.

The observations were documented by 532 digital photos taken on the first day, and 138 photos taken on the second day. A selection of 48 photos has been posted online and can be viewed at http://www.tethys.org/projects/IDP/deadcalf2007/. The photos refer to both observation days.

Because of the heat, the calf - floating dead at the surface - was quickly decomposing, and the last photos show a bloated calf lacking large pieces of skin and with wounds caused by the decomposition processes. The mother was seen removing pieces of skin and tissue from the corpse - possibly an attempt to 'clean' the calf.

The researchers on board did not feel like taking the calf away from the mother to perform scientific investigations (e.g. a necropsy of the calf). Their decision was intended as a form of respect towards a highly-evolved animal, the deep suffering of whom was obvious enough. All the researchers did was recording behavioural information at 1-min intervals, throughout the observations, and collect a small sample of the calf's skin for future genetic analyses.

The mother is a known animal (ID: 03046) who has been observed in the Gulf since 2003. In September 2004 she had another calf, who apparently survived.

Although Tethys researchers conduct photo-identification surveys in the Gulf almost on a daily basis, at the time when this report is being written the mother was not encountered again. The researchers are now planning to write a scientific note to report this event in full detail. It would be interesting to see if the mother will be encountered in the future, and how she behaves. We hope that eventually she let go, accepting the loss of her baby as an event that - albeit grim - is not infrequent among wild dolphins.

Giovanni Bearzi


For additional information on bottlenose dolphins in the Amvrakikos Gulf see:

Bearzi G., Agazzi S., Bonizzoni S., Costa M., Azzellino A. 2007. Dolphins in a bottle: abundance, residency patterns and conservation of bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the semi-closed eutrophic Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 17. doi: 10.1002/aqc.843.

16 August 2007

Kalamos: one more bottlenose dolphin entangled

Yesterday, August 15th, 2007, a bottlenose dolphin from Kalamos was found entangled in a piece of trammel net by Tethys researchers Marina Costa and Annalise Petroselli. The net apparently got stuck into the dolphin’s blowhole, possibly as the animal inhaled while being wrapped in a loose portion of net.

The dolphin is now dragging a long portion of net, continuing well beyond its flukes. This affects its swimming pattern and reduces its present chances of survival.

While entanglement in the blowhole may look like a rare event, there is another bottlenose dolphin around Kalamos, ‘Pira’, who is in a similar situation. Fortunatly, in the case of Pira the piece of net coming out of the blowhole is much smaller.

The third bottlenose dolphin from Kalamos having serious entanglement problems likely died in the past months. This animal, nicknamed ‘Zoi’, was first observed two years ago as a calf, with fishing gear tightly wrapped around its head. Last year Zoi’s rostrum and head were devastated as the dolphin grew bigger. This year Zoi was not resighted and Zoi’s mother, ‘Lara’, was seen swimming alone.

There are only about 20 bottlenose dolphin living in a 1000 km2 area around the island of Kalamos, Greece. Entanglement in fishing gear may represent a significant source of mortality that threatens the survival of this small community.

Around Kalamos, overfishing and bycatch in fishing gear are thought to be primary reasons behind the decline of the only other cetacean species found there, short-beaked common dolphins, that dropped from about 120 to less than 20 animals between 1995-2006.

Giovanni Bearzi

13 August 2007

Kalamos experiences, August 2007

We have been very blessed with our dolphin sightings, wonderful weather and a brilliant mixture of nationalities: Italian, Dutch, American and one Australian – me ☺

I’ve learnt so much about all aspects of the Mediterranean Sea life and will take my experiences and adventures home with me or use them again next time I volunteer in a different project.

Every day has been absolutely magical and has been filled with heaps of laughter, happiness and joy. So to you out there, if you’re deciding whether to do this or not, don’t hesitate a moment longer! Come join the Tethys team and enhance your spirit, courage and independence, you’ll never regret it for a second. Thank you friends for making this a blissful and memorable experience. With Love.

Kylie, Australia


The week that I have spent here in Episkopi with the Tethys research team has been fantastic! In addition to all the amazing dolphin sightings, photo opportunities, and photo cropping sessions, we have had invaluable lectures and time to get to know each other.

I am so grateful for the opportunity to have come here and have such a great experience. I wouldn’t hesitate to come again, and will recommend this project to all my science teacher colleagues!

I am so excited to get back home to Houston, Texas and start planning how I will use this experience and everything I learned to help fellow science teachers and students! THANKS for all the hard work and dedication that I know it takes to continue with this important research, and for being so willing to host volunteers and so accommodating to those of us who want to share it with you!

Dorcie, USA

29 July 2007

A special day at Kalamos

“Date 26th of July, time 8:17, seven people on board, starting point Episkopi, sea state 3” were the very first research data collected after two days of strong wind and rough sea. We decided to follow route B in the clockwise direction. This route passes south of the island of Kalamos.

After having checked the Mytikas fish farm, we started the survey. All eyes were scanning the irregular sea surface for dolphin fins. A large number of birds were following fishing boats as fishermen discarded fish bycatch at sea. One hour later big splashes attracted our attention; we approached carefully and we noticed the presence of seagulls inspecting the sea surface broken by large fish catching their prey. We started again our survey and a few minutes later a small zig-zag movement on the sea surface was detected. A swordfish! We were surprised about this event, as in the last years sightings of this species of fish have declined. Swordfish, tuna and common dolphins have become increasingly rare due to overfishing of their main prey. This encounter prompted us to restart the survey with more interest and attention.

After another two hours we stopped briefly in a nice village on the island of Kastos. Just before approaching the harbour, water turbolence and foam were seen: a fish school jumping out of the water. A school of small tuna about 50 cm long was chasing other fish during spectacular predatory events. Occasional races, jumps and rapid movements in a feeding franzy. In a few minutes the group dispersed and we were left with the emotion of a wonderful experience. During our coffee break we could feel the intense emotion of these encounters. Then the survey started again.

Annalise Petroselli and Silvia Bonizzoni

28 July 2007

Ionian Dolphin Project, 15-21 July 2007

Before I came to Kalamos, I did not really know what would wait there for me. And then, after a short trip on the inflatable, I saw it - a small village called Episkopi, with “our” base up on a hill. From the first moment, it looked comfortable to me. We got a quick tour through the house, interesting information and a really good dinner. So - the week could start. Early in the morning - breakfast. And then, right on the first day, we had our first sighting: we had the opportunity to see a swordfish and some tunas feeding at the surface. This was an exciting sight, but it should even get much better!!

Two days later, we (that means: Silvia, Annalise and five volunteers including myself) went near Lefkada - and on the way home there came the shout we have been waiting for: “dolphins in sight!”. Common Dolphins. I could see them, not far from us. Three adults and one juvenile. Silvia and Annalise started at once to do their work - our first sight!!! Exciting!

One got the NetPad (a palm-top computer), two others the equipment for timing respiration intervals. I was one of them ;-) Now we tried to find the difference between individual dolphins - something special on their fin - and focussed on one with a “notch” in it. To tell the truth, it wasn't very easy to follow one individual with the stop-watch. But we tried to do it as best as we could...

It was really amazing to see how they move, how elegant and smooth they slide into the water - come out again - start a new dive... You never know, what they will do next - a quick respiration, a long dive, a jump???

I cannot really tell why, but it is so satisfying to see them in their natural enviroment, to see how they interact and move... I still have the picture in my mind, when they were diving directly under our inflatable - so smooth and calm... You could see their colours, their eyes, their fins. It seemed like as if they knew, what we are doing - watching them. And they watched us as well. To follow one individual, to watch him and find out what he is doing - really fascinating and exciting!

That day got even more perfect as we saw another group of bottlenose dolphins, swimming near a fish farm. Two sightings in one day - we have been sooo lucky! And it was really great!

But not only the sightings made this week nearly perfect - almost evrything fitted together. Seven different people - everybody with other roots and expectations - but all being there for the same thing. Even though it was work, we had fun and a great time, and some really exciting days out at sea.

Thanks to everybody that made this project possible. And a lot of thanks to “our” researchers and to “OUR DOLPHINS”!!! ;)

Eva, Austria

24 July 2007

Dolphins of Greece, July 2007

I truly enjoyed my time at the Dolphins of Greece expedition in the Amvrakikos Gulf. I was impressed by the dedication of Giovanni, Joan and Susie to their research, the dolphins, education and to us the volunteers. The team provided us with an opportunity to fully participate in the process vs. just being observers. The most exciting and rewarding parts were being out on the boat and being part of the combined, orchestrated effort to efficiently and accurately record the data and then getting to come back in the afternoons and see what happens with all the pictures taken. Who knew each of the dolphins’ dorsal fins are so different?

The experience was powerful for me personally, as the last time I had really thought about science was in my high school biology class (more years ago than I will admit), and this gave me the rare and special opportunity to learn and be educated in a way that I otherwise would never experience. Giovanni, Joan and Susie took the time to impart their knowledge to us with lectures and videos giving us the great opportunity to ask questions and discuss issues in an intimate setting.

The icing on the cake was the beautiful setting of the gulf, from the sunrises and sunsets, being out on the water and getting the chance to jump in after a long hot day.

The experience was truly remarkable.

Jenny, USA

30 June 2007

Dolphins of Greece, June 2007

Heat. Stifling heat is my strongest impression of this eye-opening week in Vonitsa with Joan (PI), Malvina, and Suzie, as well as my three fellow volunteers Caryn, Michael, and Jonathan. Heat defines our daily rhythms, robs us of good sleep, and offers us the authentic Greek experience. Early mornings are warm, sometimes slightly cool, before the thermometer starts its inevitable climb. We are on the water from 8 to noon, which is exhilarating and our tasks commands our complete attention (more on this below). When we return to the wharf, however, the sun has baked us and the breeze generated by the motion of the inflatable (if no other air movement exists) vanishes. We repair immediately to the Remezzo each day for beer, frappe, coke, iced tea, and cold water to rehydrate our bodies, compare notes, and share glimpses of pictures on our digital cameras.

Returning to our Earthwatch quarters, we prepare and eat a lunch of fresh salads and pastries, then knock off all activity until 4:30 p.m. Like the shopkeepers and public servants, we simple shut down for a few hours and endure the heat by doing as little as possible. By late afternoon, we pick up our pace and work under the direction of Joan, Malvina, and Suzie, cropping photographs taken in the morning, matching individuals with master files using their fins and scars (much like finger print matching or tree ring studies in dendrochronology). Fascinating. As the afternoon proceeds, we receive instruction from our three staff members, see videos about dolphins, other sea mammals, and the state of the world fisheries. These are invariably excellent, though some are inspiring while others deeply disturbing. They all inspire both reflection and conversation.

In pairs, we take turns cooking the dinner meal, swabbing the bathroom, and enjoying a little free time. By 9 p.m. the air has cooled enough to open the big windows and shutters over the dinner table and hope for a breeze. Sometimes we get it, sometimes we get mosquitos instead. Whichever is the case, the seven of us sit down for dinner together around 9:30. This is our land-based highlight of the day, as our conversations range from one or us to another—with each of us sharing something of our own knowledge, cultures, families. We all pitch in after the meal to clean up the table, wash the dishes, and do whatever else needs to be done for our common welfare. No slackers here, and much appreciation is expressed throughout the day for what others are doing. In less than a week, the seven of us have created a new micro-community in Greece from four distinct national backgrounds.

The heat remains. It has helped bond us, even as it oppresses us as each night darkens into blackness. Some nights we go over to the seaside for a beer to cool off before bed, other nights we simple collapse on our bunks, adjust the oscillating fan so that it hits each one of us occasionally, and doze into a pleasant unconsciousness that is punctuated intermittently by an awareness of sweat unevaporated by the fan´s persistent but meagre effort to cool us. By morning, on most days, I awakened about dawn (6 a.m.) freshened by the night air. Never have I understood the Mediterranean cultures as I do after a week in Vonitsa. I am grateful to have experienced it in the record-breaking late June heat that has defined our days here. We are living here authentically, without air conditioning. For that matter, we have also lived this week without municipal water for a day, for an hour or two one afternoon without electricity (no fans!), and without internet service in the town (which, for several days now the local café has told us “Perhaps tomorrow”).

Now for the dolphin research itself, the purpose that brought us together in Vonitsa. I have revelled in our days on the Amvrakikos Gulf in the inflatable boat with 100 HP Yamaha engine. We have seen dolphins in many moods, at very close range and sometimes in considerable numbers. We have photographed them for scientific purposes (even tried out Joan´s splendid camera and lens ourselves), counted them, helped collect skin swabs for DNA work, skimmed fish scales after their feeding frenzies, and learned the techniques for tracking them, counting them, and all the rest. I will leave with high respect for the practical skills as well as the scientific precision necessary to do this work in a way that commands respect among both scholars and public policy makers. Most important, however, I will leave with an abundance of new knowledge that will enable me to become an enlightened consumer of seafoods (which I love) and a determined advocate of sustainable fishing practices and the establishment of fish preserves worldwide. Thank you Joan, Malvina, and Suzanna, thank you Giovanni and Tethys, and thank you Earthwatch! This is my first Expedition with Earthwatch and it has lived up to my best hopes.

Final reflections: I have been a desert or mountain dweller in Utah and other parts of the American west for most of my adult life. So much is transferable from the issues we face there. Instead of dolphins, whales, tuna and swordfish, we fight for the survival of Grizzly Bears, Wolves, Mountain Lions, and California Condors. Like the multi-generational fishing families here, it is often the ranchers there who have a compelling culture, many rare and robust skills, and a distinctly hearty attitude about living. They, too, or educable (as are we conservationists, we hope) and we are finding increasingly common ground in protecting the natural world in its fullness. Mutual understanding based on hard-won trust and respect, and shared knowledge are the touchstones on which we must build a sustainable future for life on earth. We are closer to “Do or Die” than any of us probably know.



From our seaside loft in Vonitsa, you can see the Amvrakikos Gulf, where we spend our mornings on the inflatable in search of bottlenose dolphins to study. There is bright sunshine already when we walk down to the dock to load the boat. The town is waking up while the fishermen are just coming in, unloading their catch and readying their nets to set again in the evening. The Gulf looks calm most mornings and we hope it stays that way to make it easier to spot the dolphins, because that’s when the fun starts...

We’ll all be scanning the horizon and someone will yell, “dolphins in sight!” Our P.I., Joan, confirms the sighting, guns the engine and we’re off. Against a backdrop of mountains that rise out of the water, an old castle on the town hilltop, and groves of olive trees along the distant coastline, we are excited to be racing to see our first dolphins of the day. You could watch them all day, every day, if Joan had enough fuel, but there’s work to do. Whether it’s spotting dolphins to be photographed, recording dolphin behavior, timing dives or testing water quality, everyone has a role to play to make sure that the data is collected accurately for later analysis. Joan and his assistants, Malvina and Susie, help him collect fish scales for prey identification and dolphin skin swabs (not to worry – it’s non-invasive) for genetic analysis. Most times it’s very hard to remember the scientific work when a dolphin is swimming so close to the boat that you can see him looking right at you. Or when dolphins are leaping into the air and you just want to stand up and clap and say bravo!!! Or when you are lucky enough to see a newborn dolphin learning how to swim alongside its mother. The dolphins are absolutely spectacular. I know that at the end of this incredible week, I’ll leave Vonitsa with optimism for the future of these dolphins because of the efforts of the people who work so hard to protect them.

Thank you, Joan, Malvina, Susie -- for everything! Adios, Posi!



I must start by saying this trip was amazing. With this being my third EarthWatch expedition this trip altogether has exceeded my previous standards and expectations. We had a great group of volunteers as well as leaders. Joan, Malvina and Susie all did an excellent job of conducting the research while at the same time organizing all the volunteers to do their part as well. Jonathan, Jack and Caryn were an entertaining and pleasant group of people to be with. With everyone’s mixed backgrounds and cultures we got along very well and we all seemed to acclimate to the Greek culture’s relaxed lifestyle! And we can’t forget about the dolphins! It was unforgettable being out in the water studying the dolphins and their actions in person, then learning more about them with the videos and documentaries. My view of our world has changed in a positive way and I am more aware now of the dangers to life out there and what I can do to help. I would like to thank Joan for being a great PI and friend to us all. I know that all your hard work is respected and will be beneficial to changing our environment for the better. As for Malvina and Susie, good luck on your future schooling and thank you for an amazing experience. You guys were all great!



“To the dolphin alone, beyond all others, nature has granted what the best philosophers seek: friendship for no advantage. Though it has no need at all of any man, yet it is a genial friend of all and has helped many.”

“No creature is diviner than the dolphin;
For they once were men living in cities together with mortals.
But by the devising of Dionysos they changed land for sea
and took the form of fish,
And their righteous human souls preserve human thoughts and deeds.”

Great week A perfect balance of fieldwork in the morning, minilectures and videos in the afternoon, and socializing and hanging out in the village in the evening.

I love the village. Seems unchanged from traditional pretourist Greece. At 11 pm people of all ages are out walking along the waterfront, sitting at cafes, eating, drinking, smoking, socializing. Parents actually talking to their children. Kids swimming at the beach in the heat of the day. Every day and evening seems to be the same.

As a zoologist and amateur classicist, I found this a wonderful opportunity to try to see dolphins as the ancient Greeks did. The Greeks loved dolphins for their beauty, speed, sociability, kindness to their young, and friendliness to humans. Many stories of people saved from drowning by dolphins. A sea voyage in ancient times must have been a frightening experience. The sailors might rob you or sell you as a slave or the ship could sink and you would have no chance to survive... unless rescued by dolphins. The belief that dolphins rescued people may have arisen from the fear of drowning together with observations of apparently friendly behavior of dolphins toward humans---approaching and swimming alongside ships, bow-riding, turning their heads to look at people on board. And also the observation that they helped each other when one of them was wounded.

Thanks to Joan, Malvina, and Susy for making this a very successful week and to Jack, Michael, and Caryn for being such good companions.


28 June 2007

From the IDP guestbook (June 2007)

"Leaving Episkopi, the time is 8:30 and we are positive!” that is how the first day on field started. But then it was the thrill of the search, the eyes surveying the horizon and then the voice of Annalise “there”. Heartbeat rises, the preparation for the data collection and finally we see them up close. It is that particular moment where everything seems perfect. That moment when you feel complete happiness, alive, full and at the same time so small. That particular time that all the words can not describe. Keep on smiling guys they know you re there for them. Thank you! C u soon.
Evi (IDP 03)

I don’t want to descend into clichés about it being a ‘magical’ experience or other such nonsense. It was quite simply a brilliant week, spent with great company, learning a lot more than just about dolphins. The dedication of Stefano and Annalise to the project and to making their guests welcome is beyond compare. It has been a truly memorable experience, making we realise how shallow and empty my life at home is!!!!!
Simon (IDP 04)

09 January 2007

Dolphins of the Ionian Sea

this article was written on April 15th, 2006, during the first Earthwatch expedition managed by the Tethys team in the Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece

It is mid April in Vonitsa, a very quaint village on the southern shore of the Amvrakikos Gulf. We have been surveying the Gulf for five days and have sited dolphins in groups ranging from two to six, but the sea conditions have been quite temperamental. Above sea state 3 it is very difficult to spot emerging dorsal fins with the naked eye. However, today we head out in our NovaMarine RIB at 08.30 hrs to our most easterly transect in glass-like waters with the sun shining over the mountainous landscape.

Seconds after reaching our transect starting point, Silvia Bonizzoni, Research Team Member, shouts ‘OUT, 11 O’CLOCK!’. A dorsal fin has been spotted approximately 100 metres from our boat. The PI, Joan Gonzalvo, takes a GPS reading of the first sighting and then approaches the dolphin spotted. The team gets prepared to start recording data. Marisa, HSBC fellow from Brazil, has the electronic NetPad ready to start inputting dolphin behaviour; Helen, US volunteer, is handed the stopwatch to try and time the longest dolphin dive; her daughter Jena, and I are positioned to spot any other surfacing dolphins and Marcia, another HSBC fellow from Brazil, is ready to log our GPS location every minute.

At closer range we spot many dolphins; ‘OUT, 3 O’CLOCK - TWO’, ‘OUT, 7 O’CLOCK – FOUR’, ‘OUT 12 O’CLOCK – THREE ADULTS, ONE JUVENILE’. We are quickly surrounded by these beautiful creatures and the team tries its best to estimate a total group size, but struggles to stay with our focal group, as the dolphins merge in and out of clusters. We estimate over 30, mostly adults but we also spot some juveniles and calves. Some fins are easily recognizable, with many nicks or clear white markings. Silvia and lead PI, Giovanni Bearzi, have been studying the photo-id of these animals for 5 years and easily recognize some of them as they emerge. Ones with very distinctive marks have been affectionately named, such as Pita, who has had the tip of his dorsal fin chopped off, and Elikas (meaning propeller in Greek), who has a large gash behind its dorsal fin from having had an accident with a boat propeller, possibly from bow riding.

The timer rings after 5 minutes and it is time to start recording the dolphins’ behaviour. Some surface feeding is happening which explains the large flock of seagulls crying above our heads. The gulls often follow the dolphins and therefore can act as good indicators when surveying for cetaceans. Some individuals become curious and start to approach our boat, the team becomes very excited as a few begin to bow ride, turning on their sides as they approach to get a better look at us looking at them. In the distance, some are showing signs of social behaviour by leaping great distances out of the water together, and occasionally we see and hear percussive behavior as they belly flop on their sides against the surface of the ocean. With so many dolphins it is hard to keep up with all of the interactions and activity that is occurring but it produces an unforgettable experience for all onboard.

Throughout the hour of recording behaviour and counting group size, Joan has been busy capturing photo-ids of the surrounding dolphins. There is a real art to capturing that perfect picture. The light has to be right, there can’t be too many splashes to hide the markings of the fins, and the best shot is when you catch them leaping with dorsal fin and belly in view, so that you are able to sex the animal later. You can never tell if you have taken the perfect shot until you analyse the photos when you return, so Joan continues to photograph all emerging fins and finishes with 210 images.

We stop survey at 12.00 hrs and start to return back to base after an action packed and awe-inspiring day. The next step after lunch is to crop all of the photos and try to match them against an existing catalogue of individuals. This can be a time consuming but rewarding task when you identify your animals seen that day.

The day ends with a delectable dish prepared by the Brazilian fellows, some authentic Greek wine and sweets. The group camaraderie makes the whole experience even more enjoyable, with wonderful discussion of the day’s events.

We have another early rise tomorrow at 07.00hrs so everyone heads to bed and falls asleep listening to the friendly local Greek villagers enjoying their small town night life on a Saturday night. It is hard to believe that there is only one more survey day left.

Jen Alger

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