Do you have any advice for students hoping to become conservation scientists?
You have to realize that there are more qualified people than there are jobs. You should look into what specializations are in short supply and target your education so that you can fill that gap. Don't expect the job to be fun. There is no more rewarding job, but like any job done well, it requires a lot of work and a lot of preparation, training, and education.
31 August 2008
30 August 2008
Today is the last full day of our week-long session with Tethys here on the island of Kalamos in the Eastern Ionian Sea. The time has flown. By the same token, we have learned so much and have had so many new experiences that I already feel like a local, too. It is a nice and sleepy enclave here, and I like it like that!
Annalise and Silvia – two Italian researchers and our fearless leaders - run the program like pros. At 6:30am each day, they are up, setting out a simple breakfast of juice, tea, coffee, cereals and toast with Nutella. They put on a little Norah Jones or Jack Johnson around 6:45am and that is our little musical cue to GET OUT OF BED!!! It is a bit tough at first, but slowly you come out of the fog and remember why you are here (Hint: it is NOT just about the dolphins!). By 7:15am they are down at the boat, a motorized inflatable called ‘Megaloceto’ – The big cetacean! And by 7:30am, we are off across the bay, to check out a fish farm on the outskirts of Mytikas before heading out to open sea. To clarify who we are: I am here with Tommy and Lone, a couple from Denmark, and Zsuzsanna – a research assistant of Slovakian heritage who now hails from Hungary. The program can take up to five volunteers at a time, but this week, there are only three of us.
Our job: To help the researchers and staff to spot dolphins and other marine life (fish, sea turtles, birds, etc), observe them, and document them. This data helps scientists to understand not just dolphin behavior, but how these cetaceans figure into the larger landscape – the ecosystem of the Mediterranean and beyond. To do this work, we have had to learn new protocols ranging from using a stop watch and a palmtop to identifying different animals by the shapes and markings on their dorsal fins. Next, we group and match their photos on a computer and input all sorts of other data i.e. their aerial, percussive or stationary behavior, the presence of bird life, fish farms and other boats. It is mostly fascinating, sometimes painstaking but always important work.
Aside from this, there is house work: helping to cook, clean and tend to the boat. Still, there is time for a short swim here, a catnap there…. I do not mind the work; I do not even mind getting up so early. In fact, I have to say, I enjoy the rigors of this experience. I think it is important to remember that we are a team, that we are not here to vacation –and our chores reinforce these notions.
This is not a trip for everyone. It is only for those who love nature, who appreciate the scientific process, who seek to learn, who enjoy long days and hard work, and who believe in giving back. For such people, I highly recommend this incredibly rewarding experience. Though I only got to meet the Tethys’s president, Giovanni Bearzi, and the researcher Joan Gonzalvo, once, and though I still barely know Annalise and Silvia after five days, I know that my experience with Tethys and its mission is only just beginning. I feel inspired to do a lot more, to spread the word and to push for actions that will result in a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable habitat for dolphins, not to mention the rest of us mammals! For everyone else, there is always Mykonos! ;)
Thank you very much for a wonderful week here on the island of Kalamos in the Ionian Sea. We really appreciate your hard work and dedication to save cetaceans and that you made it possible for us to experience the wonderful nature of common bottlenose dolphins and the short-beaked common dolphins. We need more people like you in this world. We have asked a lot of questions during the week, maybe too many, but nonetheless we feel like we know the world of the two species better than we did before arriving last Sunday. And that is of big importance for both of us.
Spreading the words of dolphins and other species, suffering from overfishing, human influence, and pollution, seems more important now than ever. We will for sure think twice about the consequences of our actions in our daily life in Denmark. We have been fortunate to see dolphins three days in a row, two times around Kalamos and one time in the Amvrakikos Gulf. The team collected data, which we worked with during the week. Seeing the dolphins was of course a lovely experience, but analysing the data was really interesting as well. During the day there was also time for fun, having nice conversations together and learning about other cultures, like Italy, Hungary and New York. We can definitely recommend this project to other people interested in dolphins and hope to be back very soon.
Lone and Tommy, Denmark
28 August 2008
Born and raised in Ohio, a state without oceans, Jennifer spent her childhood pining over manatees in the pages of the WWF magazine for children. As an undergraduate, Jennifer volunteered with the conservation vigilante Sea Shepherd International and, aboard the Sirenian, helped patrol the Galapagos Marine Reserve for illegal shark poaching. She was also an intern for the Florida Marine Research Institute studying those pined-over gentle giants: the manatees (the body of Fred Flintstone, the grace of Fred Astaire).
Jennifer joined the Sea Around Us Project to work on catch reconstructions for small-scale fisheries in the developing world (e.g. seafood security) and some aspects of the seafood market in the developed world (e.g. seafood eco-marketing). She also runs the Shifting Baselines weblog.
The portrait above and a list of publications by Jennifer Jacquet can be found in the UBC Fisheries Centre web site.
I particularly like Jennifer's most recent work, an impressively documented overview of the marine fisheries crisis with a wink at The Talking Heads:
Jacquet, J. In press. Silent Water: A Brief Examination of the Marine Fisheries Crisis. Environment, Development, and Sustainability.
Another of her interesting articles questions eco-labelling and its presumed advantages - definitely worth reading:
Jacquet, J. L. and D. Pauly. 2007. The rise of consumer awareness campaigns in an era of collapsing fisheries. Marine Policy 31: 308-313.
26 August 2008
Playing the "numbers game" is not good enough when it comes to identifying what species are at risk from extinction, says Nicolas Entrup from WDCS.
He argues that we need to re-evaluate how we decide what creatures need our help to survive.
Read the whole article and contribute your comments on BBC News online.
25 August 2008
Although scientists typically insist that their research is very exciting and adventurous when they talk to laymen and prospective students, the allure of this enthusiasm is too often lost in the predictable, stilted structure and language of their scientific publications....
Sand-Jensen, K. 2007. How to write consistently boring scientific literature. Oikos 116(5):723-727.
Sand-Jensen, K. 2007. How to write consistently boring scientific literature. Oikos 116(5):723-727.
24 August 2008
First of all, I have to thank you for your kindness and your smile even at 6:30AM, and your very ‘perfect’ social behaviour, the way you teach us your scientific protocol, which is very scary and well done. I shall remember it. You communicate perfectly not only your enthusiasm for dolphins but make us feel our responsibility as human beings. This experience was totally new and very complete, a new way to discover Greece not from the ‘sacred places’ and temples, like Delphi or Epidaure, but from an inflatable boat on the surface of the sea.
I want to tell you a beautiful story of a lucky boy. This lucky boy is me, Benjamin. I spent one week with seven girls, nice isn't it? These girls cooked very well and were very nice! That’s why you have to help them (Annalise and Silvia), you will spend one week with the sun, cute cats, a nice home and a beautiful sea. Oh!! I almost forget, with dolphins too!!! So now I’m going back home with a lot of things in my head about dolphins and women! Thanks for this adventure, it was really nice and I’m very happy to have seen so many dolphins.
I’d like to thank the Tethys crew. I spent a lovely week in a paradise without tourists, but with really cute cats. Also seeing dolphins so close to me was an experience I won’t forget. You know what they are able to do, but when it happens 5 meters from you it’s completely different. Even if you have to wake up at 6 o’clock in the morning and wait for the first dolphin it’s nothing compared to how you feel when you leave Kalamos. But it’s not only about watching dolphins, it’s also about their problems and eventually you realise how dolphins are in a bad situation. This lets you think about these wonderful animals and their future.
Alice, France (16 years old)
Mum of the two children above... I'm so happy about my week! A dream came true and it opened my mind towards a new personal project in the years to come... so thanks a lot Annalise, Silvia and Kelsea. Your knowledge is very interesting and you have also so many human qualities!
Drawing by Giovanni Bearzi
23 August 2008
With a turn of key the engine cuts out and we are adrift. After hours with the steady rumble of the trusty Selva 100, we all welcome the quiet. Finally the glassy complexion of the sea is matched by the erie silence in the air. The only disturbance now is the fierce sun beating down on our shoulders.
A few minutes pass and we glance around, bodies still tense from hours of survey followed by concentration on the various tasks of data collection. Just as our anticipation peaks, it comes; the powerful jet of air signaling the exhale of a dolphin nearby. Within seconds several more full exhalations breach the quiet and though unaware we each mimic the action. A long deep exhale allowing our tension to fade. Simultaneously smiles break across our faces as easily as the dolphins broached the quiet water.
Moments of peace like these were welcomed during the six weeks I spent with the Ionian Dolphin Project in Episkopi. The days were busy, filled with the training of new volunteers from various European countries who would then head to the sea with us every morning to assist with research. The team here also found time to inform the volunteers of the tough situation in the area surrounding Kalamos Island. It is a grim life for these charismatic creatures and the beautiful environment they inhabit.
But for me, to see such a dedicated people working for change brings admiration and the desire to help. To know that this team of researchers, little by little, are helping to spread this knowledge throughout the world brings hope for the future. Thank you to all the people who made this such a unique and amazing experience!!
Photo: Kelsea at the IDP field station, showing the dorsal fins used for training purposes (to learn how to record dolphin surfacing intervals).
19 August 2008
Five female teachers all lucky enough to gain a place on a trip of a lifetime. May I just say what a great time we all had researching dolphins here in Vonitsa.
Susie was great, sweet, pretty and patient, Joan has wit, humour, sarcasm and very cheeky/sexy smile (and he knows it!). On a more serious side, he has focus and drive, always wanting us to get the most out of the experience. Giovanni, polite, quiet and obviously the brain behind the whole thing... and then we mustn’t forget Posi the dog who just brings the whole big happy family together!
The hospitality was excellent, the food delicious, the company great, the dolphins incredible and the overall experience is one not to be forgotten.
I think I can speak for us all, in that we have learnt a lot, in a beautiful place and from three people who were all great to be around (7am in the morning wasn’t necessarily the best time), but still, there was never a moment when we weren’t made to feel at home and welcomed...
The work being done is essential and it is great to meet people who are so passionate about what they do. I just wish that everyone could see what we are doing to our land and seas and try to do their own bit to help... admiration to you all.
Kiko, Kirsty, Ruth, Lesley and Rachel (U.K.)
17 August 2008
Many thanks to the nice and dynamic team of Episkopi. We got a good mix of education, active participation to the project and sports. Good food (and wine)… And happiness! It is sad to see that the trend for conservation is not good. This is not a surprise though. It is of course your involvement and passion that could make the difference locally. But this is also our commitment to spread your message back home among family, friends and colleagues. We shall overcome from Alaska, Belgium, France, Italy, Greece if we decide to act together positively…
Photo: the IDP team in question (Annalise, Kelsea and Silvia)
13 August 2008
"I am very fortunate that my job allows me to spend time filming and photographing the lives of whales and dolphins (...) I thought I would share some tips about photographing dolphins in the wild.
This can be useful to people going whale or dolphin watching. It may also help researchers take better images through their photo-identification work."
-- Chris Johnson
Photo: Chris Johnson / earthOCEAN
Learn from Chris how to take better photos of dolphins and whales at sea:
How to Photograph Dolphins in the Wild
View some of the best photos taken by Tethys personnel during Mediterranean research campaigns (Flash Video with music):
Tethys Photo Show
10 August 2008
Thank you to Fund For Teachers who paid for our expedition, Earthwatch Institute who connected us with the project and Tethys Research Institute for establishing the research. Thank you to Giovanni, Joan and Suzanna for welcoming us into your home and teaching us so much about teamwork, scientific method and conservation. I can’t wait to teach what I have learned to my students and colleagues. We will keep in touch and share any materials we create (curriculum, videos, student-created products and presentations) as a result of this experience.
On a personal level, I think you are very special people and I feel very fortunate to have met you. I will never forgot you and you will always hold a special place in my heart.
With sincere appreciation,
Amy, USA (Maine)
I think it is fair to say that we have been a most compatible group of volunteers. It has made for not only the most awe inspiring encounter of a wild species of animal but also contributed to a fun, relaxing, rigorous, demanding at times, and hugely entertaining experience. We have shared the most memorable adventure. From dolphin sightings, and feeling a part of a larger piece of the universe, to the conversations about culture, science, conservation, global stewardship, preserving life as we know it, social attitudes, and just life.
I believe that all people should travel abroad because it makes people more humble, less self important, and more compassionate for others, and now after this experience with this very passionate, knowledgeable, team of cetacean scientists I also believe that people should have the experience of observing a wild species because it allows one to see firsthand the connectedness of all life on this planet. What we do to one species will have a ripple effect on others. We cannot play with this delicate balance of nature!
With much gratitude and fondness,
Marcia, USA (Maine)
I have experienced and seen so much in my life that I never thought that anything or anyone could surpass it. Oh how very wrong I was.
My first day in Greece (Vonitsa) was like falling in love all over again. The culture, food and the people’s attitude towards life was an eye opener for me. Being the only Asian, I felt “special”. Joan and his “little grasshopper” (Suzana aka “what are u doing Suzie”) linked up with us and we were guided to Palace Tethys. From day 1 the group “clicked”.
The 2nd day we went out to sea and from that day onwards everything exploded. We saw the record number of dolphins sighted this year and it just improved day in day out. Throughout the expedition we had so many brilliant sightings of dolphins, sea turtles and ate delicious food (like mama makes it back home). We laughed, shared stories about our country and culture, we shared beer, we shared task, we protected each other the way a female dolphin would protect her calf. We were ONE.
From the bottom of my heart I thank the King of the Palace, Giovanni, though injured, never failed to join us for discussions and made himself readily available when we needed him. General Joan, was different. We could not get rid of him. His regimental orders (humorous thou) made me feel at home and it helped me get through being away from my daughter. His constant battle plans (transect) kept me on my toe. His daily lectures opened up a new and priceless chapter in my life. Private Suzie was simply adorable. Whatever I let slip from my hands, she caught it.
My hats off to Giovanni, Joan and Suzie. I have learnt so much these 9 days and I say THANK YOU!!! Your passion towards the conservation of life is beyond words, kudos my friends. To my new found American friends - Marcia, Amy, Sarah and Saagar, remember me as the funny one and not the one that woke you up 9 days in a row. LOVE U GUYS!!!
The beauty about words is that they give us the ability to communicate an experience to our friends and family so they can share the good times that we have. However, words cannot do justice to the experience that I had here in Vonitsa; it was beyond anything that I could have ever imagined.
These past nine days were more than I could have ever hoped for. From the start to the end, I loved every second of my experience with not only the dolphins, which were beyond spectacular, but also with the staff. I want to go up to Joan, Dr. Bearzi, and Suzanna (little Suzi) and give them all a big hug thanking them for giving me an experience of a lifetime. My heart goes out to you guys for your passion, your drive, and, most importantly, your love for the dolphins. You guys have shown me the value of preserving this amazing cetaceans, and for that, words cannot express how thankful I am.
I want to thank my friends, Marcia, Jesse, Amy, and Sarah. I have been traveling all my life and been part of many groups, but I have to say that you guys are the best group I have ever had, no exaggeration. I have never been with a group that shared so much enthusiasm towards learning not only about the fieldwork that goes in cetacean preservation, but also about the value and caring towards Mother Nature. Thanks for a great nine days that we spent together.
Apart from the great sightings we had at sea, the amazing food that we ate, and even that glorious trip to Lefkada, I cannot think of anything else that could have made the time more amazing. Thank you all for a glorious experience. I wish you nothing but the best!
Saagar, USA (Massachusetts)
I signed up for this expedition with very little expectations. I wanted to travel to a different country, see some dolphins and go on an adventure. I thought my adventure began and ended in Vonitsa, Greece, but I was wrong. My adventure is just beginning. I have learned so much about dophins, sea life, the world and mysef the past nine days and I can’t wait to share everything with my family, friends and students. I am going home with a bigger heart and I owe it all to Amy, Saagar, Marcia, Jesse, Joan, Suzie, Giovanni and of course the dolphins. You made me feel like I was at home even though I was thousands of miles away from Boston. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!
Sarah, USA (Massachusetts)
09 August 2008
WOOOOOOOOO!!! We have had an amazing time!!! Everything surpassed our extremely high expectations and we are leaving with so much more than a volunteer research expedition. We had an eclectic mix of people in our team as well as superb researchers/skippers... Silvia, Annalise and Kelsea!
We immediately felt at home in this beautiful house and breathtaking environment with small remote Greek villages and gorgeous lush beaches… we felt rather spoilt! We learnt languages from Italian, Portuguese, German.. and perhaps a little Greek... oh and we learnt to conduct dolphin research as well :p
On a serious note this trip has been nothing short of perfection, there is nothing any of us would change and we would have gladly spent more time here… hereon after all trips will have gigantic shoes to fill – the bar has been raised! If you are reading this now and wondering whether this project is the right one for you all we can advise is: BOOK NOW!!! You will not regret it… All our love from the best IDP team ever:
Pria (U.K.), Birgit (Germany), Margarida (Portugal), Max (Italy), Francisco (Portugal)
Drawing by Pria, portraying the volunteers and the research team during a sighting (!)
08 August 2008
Our Friends the Dolphins now also available in Turkish !
This new version was translated courtesy of Fethi Bengil, Zeynep Derya Yıldırım, Harun Güçlüsoy – SAD.
Enduring goal of the author, Giovanni Bearzi, is to translate his booklet in more languages, so that this little educational tool can be enjoyed by as many kids as possible.
The booklet is now available in ten languages: Arabic, English, French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Slovene, Spanish and Turkish.
Everything has been done on a volunteer basis (drawings, text, design, translation, web management etc.)
To see the new Turkish version: Our Friends the Dolphins
02 August 2008
On July 31st, 2008, Tethys President Giovanni Bearzi was invited on board Oceana’s ship MarViva Med in the port of Piraeus, Greece.
Giovanni was welcomed by Xavier Pastor, Executive director of Oceana Europe and coordinator of the MarViva Med 2008 expedition, together with Oceana’s marine scientists María José Cornax and Patricia Lastra.
During a very pleasant meeting the group discussed issues such as illegal driftnetting, the impact of overfishing on marine ecosystems, and the most effective strategies of addressing these problems and communicating them to the general public and the institutions.
The meeting ended with a strong sense of unity and friendship. Oceana and Tethys literally were embarqued ‘on the same ship’, sharing the same committment, passion and sense of urgency in the often-frustrating struggle to prevent the devastation of marine ecosystems.
(Photo by Oceana)