30 July 2009
I thought the lack of sleep was going to be a major problem when I arrived to find we would be awake at 7am each day, but with the atmosphere of the other volunteers, Susie and Joan the sleep was soon forgotten… until the beautiful siesta in the afternoon. Waking up to the thought of your day being spent identifying dolphins and their behaviour, as well as the odd sea turtles (they are so cute!), was amazing. It was a dream I have always wanted to fulfil. You almost get to know the animals through the cropping and matching activities in the afternoon and feel as though you are helping them directly by conducting a part of the data collection for scientific research. I had never seen a dolphin before, not even at a zoo, so the size was what struck me, as well as the cheeky grin on their face. The evening lectures were really interesting and I learnt so much, which was helpful to supplement the work we completed on the field. The video on overfishing, even though I had seen it previously, has a strong message and impressed me once again. Susie and Joan were so nice! And made us feel like friends straight away which was helpful as the first day was really daunting. I spent the previous night in hotel Vonitsa whih was unbelievably friendly but also quite lonely because I have never travelled alone before but, once we all met and went back to the field station I felt completely at ease. Joan cracked jokes almost instantly which allowed us to speak freely and Susie was so incredibly supportive. Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity it was totally lifechanging and made me even more passionate about conservation and how you should never give up!
This was certainly the most unique experience I have had in my life. As an environmental lawyer, it felt amazing to work so close to the nature as well as to learn about dolphins and other marine mammals. Being at the sea in the morning and seeing so many dolphins was great! In addition, helping with the cropping and matching made me feel like if I was part of this project. The presentations and films were very enriching and for sure will contribute to a better development of my profession as well as for my personal evolution. Besides these most obvious things, this expedition turned to be much more than I expected in many ways. The house is extremely cosy and Joan and Susie made us feel at home all the time! We have had so much fun at lunch and dinner! They are very special people! The team was very nice and of course, Posi is so cute! To sum up, everything was great! Thank you so much Joan and Susie! I will miss these days!
The scenery, the atmosphere and the people were all wonderful. Joan and Susie were both very helpful and great fun. We were made to feel right at home from the very beginning. The lectures were very informative and interesting. We learned a lot about the dolphins and other marine mammals. The dolphin sightings were amazing! We got to see a large group feeding very close to our boat and the dolphins really put on a great show for us. They are so cute. We were extra lucky and saw about 16 dolphins in Kalamos on the first day in that area where, unfortunately, it is rather normal not to see any dolphins at all. We helped Susie and Joan with the cropping and matching and it was a great feeling to be able to help in this way. The heat was quite intense for us Canadians but we learned to do "siesta" in the afternoon after the first couple of days. The food was amazing. Everybody had a turn at making the evening meals so we all had input in what we ate. We feel we had a very good group of ladies, and Joan and we were all able to work very well together and good fun. This was the greatest experience in our lifetime. Thank you to Joan and Susie for making this such a wonderful experience.
Jenna and Kim, Canada
29 July 2009
At the link below you can view a rough cut of some videoclips filmed in the Gulf of Corinth, Greece, during a beautiful sighting of striped dolphins (together with a single short-beaked common dolphin) made in the context of Tethys' Ionian Dolphin Project.
View the striped dolphin video
28 July 2009
Finally! Yesterday, just after 15 minutes of navigation around the transparent waters of Kalamos we had our first sighting of the year. It was my seventh time surveying the area this year and I already had come to terms with the fact that a sighting, given the low dolphin density in these waters, was quite unlikely.
When my colleague Susie called out! I couldn’t believe it. My perplexity, however, only lasted three seconds -- the time it took to turn around and spot the familiar silhouettes of the dolphin’s dorsal fins smoothly cutting the sea surface. As we approached them we confirmed that they were bottlenose dolphins. We spent three hours photoidentifying all the 16 dolphins of the group and recording their behaviour with the help of our five Earthwatch volunteers. I cannot think of a better spot for the dolphins to pop up and make my day. They were right in front of the beautiful village of Episkopi, where we had our field base for over 15 years and where I had some of the best moments of my life.
Because of my exclusive dedication to research in the Amvrakikos Gulf for the past several years, my last sighting in Kalamos occurred in 2004. Being around that group of dolphins felt special. Since I switched on the camera to get started with the photo-id, memories kept coming to my mind. My first sighting in a nearby location, 11 years ago. The first day I grabbed the camera with shaky hands after Giovanni (Bearzi) handed it to me saying “Joan, six dolphins: photoidentify them all - you have half an hour”. The first research season in which me and my fratello Stefano (Agazzi) were in charge of the research and logistics on our own... and many hours spent in the company of these wonderful creatures. I would not be the same person without all those experiences on my shoulders.
Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Honorary President of Tethys, just completed a work for MOm, the Hellenic Society for the study and protection of the Mediterranean monk seal, which includes a national conservation strategy.
The work is summarised in two documents, which can be downloaded from the links below.
26 July 2009
Repubblica.it di oggi, nella sezione Ambiente, titola
"Carcassa di balena urta nave da crociera"
e pubblica alcune foto di una collisione fra una grande nave da crociera e una balenottera, spiegandole con il seguente testo:
"Vancouver: le immagini della carcassa della balena che ha urtato la nave da crociera Princess Cruise. La balena è stata scoperta durante le operazioni di attracco."
Tethys spiega come sono andate VERAMENTE le cose.
Dalle foto è chiarissimo che la carcassa putrefatta di balena, morta alcuni secoli fa ma ancora animata da furia omicida, ha urtato intenzionalmente la nave con il chiaro obiettivo di affondarla. Per fortuna l'abilità del comandante e dell'equipaggio hanno consentito di evitare la tragedia sventando l'intento criminoso del pericoloso pesce.
Le collisioni con navi sono una delle principali cause di morte e ferite per diverse popolazioni di grandi cetacei, tra cui le balenottere comuni del Mediterraneo.
Panigada S., Pesante G., Zanardelli M., Capoulade F., Gannier A., Weinrich M.T. 2006. Mediterranean fin whales at risk from fatal ship strikes. Marine Pollution Bulletin.
The last three weeks here have been the best of my life, for the first time I feel like I have done something to help benefit the world. During the last three weeks I have helped Silvia, Aina and Giovanni with their research on dolphins in the Korinthian Gulf in Greece. The project is not by any means a dolphin sighting program, we do not just go out and take pictures of dolphins and then head back. In fact when we are out on the ocean the team looks for dolphins and documents everything from their behavior towards each other to their respiration pattern. The information that the team collects helps the research team with their quest to make the Gulf a protected area for dolphins and other marine wildlife. For me the project has taught me more about dolphins than any class room could teach me. I have also gained research experience, since my field of study is based on research I have seen and learned how field research works. The project also opened my eyes to the dangers of overfishing and ways in which I myself can help protect our oceans. Being here has been the best experience of my life, for once I am helping benefit the world and learned more about myself in the process. Silvia, Aina, and Giovanni are so cool I had a great time working with them and many others who volunteered for the project. I hope to return to the project next year and continue to help the team with their research.
Sara Heaton, USA
The feelings and emotions that I have felt in the last week are very hard to express in writing, but I will try to do my best ☺. Having the privilege to be with these divine creatures while they are in their natural habitat is truly remarkable. But seeing the people working on this project, and the way they love, respect and are very serious about what they are doing is even more important. They opened my eyes to the problems that we shall face very soon (if not already) if something is not done by all of us to help dolphins and marine life. Before leaving, I was a bit nervous about spending a week with strangers. But meeting, getting to know and living with new people, and how quickly one feels at home and so comfortable is amazing. The cooking (oh no!!!) makes everything worthwhile (hahaha). And this being my last night here I will really miss it all. Thank you so much Silvia, Giovanni and Aina for this wonderful and unforgetable week. I will definetely be coming back home to Galaxidi very soon.
The experience this week was much more interesting and personal than I could have imagined. A big thank you to the Tethys team, Giovanni, Silvia and Aina. The dolphin sightings were spectacular. Wishing you continued success with your future efforts.
Giovanni, Silvia and Aina… Thank you so much for making this such an amazing, unforgettable week. We really have loved every minute of it. We both feel like we have learned so much in the last week, and our only regret is that we didn’t book another week with you guys! The research you do here is really incredible and we have definitely come away wanting to do our own bit to conserve marine ecosystems… (Amie will never eat tuna again!) Good luck with all of your future research. Thanks again.
Hannah and Amie, UK
25 July 2009
Dolphins sometimes have rather strange dorsal fins.
The curled dorsal fin of this striped dolphin (click on photo to enlarge) was photographed in the Gulf of Corinth, Greece, in the context of Tethys' Ionian Dolphin Project.
Physical anomalies are not so uncommon in the Gulf of Corinth, and have been observed on both striped dolphins and bottlenose dolphins.
This particular individual has been nicknamed 'Curley'. We do not know what may have caused this deformity. In any case, Curley looked as fit as any other dolphin in the group.
23 July 2009
Back in 2007, I remember coming to the Amvrakikos Gulf with no previous experience. Thanks to the several months spent in the field, I am now more adept, but I still have to learn how to stand up on my own after a fall. While working in different study areas with my colleagues, I’ve got many chances of broadening my skills. Advise from my teachers Giovanni, Stefano and Joan allowed me to improve myself, but then the time arrives when one must fly away from the nest.
This time arrived earlier than I thought when Joan asked me to run a boat survey on my own. I felt fortunate to finally get such a nice opportunity and although my knees were shaking a bit, I felt joy.
On that morning, the Amvrakikos Gulf was completely flat so the circumstances were ideal. I decided to head towards the northwestern part of the Gulf. Everyone on board was eagerly scanning the sea surface until… out at 11! When the dolphins surfaced in the distance, my heart started to beat fiercely. But as we got closer I had become more focused on my several tasks, and oblivious of my initial excitement.
When I realized that there was a calf in the group, a smile appeared on my face. It is always a nice moment to see a tiny life following her mother with its clumsy surfacings. The dolphins, including the mother-calf pair, approached a fish farm. This was unexpected, because calves normally do not get close to the cages. At that moment, I realised that I wasn’t just an observer but I could understand what was going on and share this knowledge with my group of volunteers.
It was amazing to see things from another perspective compared to the sightings when I was acting as a research assistant, and someone else was in charge. Things that only a year ago appeared so overwhelmingly difficult, like driving the boat, taking good photos, recording the behaviour and directing people on board, all at once, now unfolded smoothly, and this gave me even more confidence and pleasure.
I still have a lot to learn in this field, but at least I could enjoy the feeling of being a leader for one day and experiencing how it feels to be responsible for a group of people on board, for all the data collection and for Joan’s ‘baby’, the inflatable.
In the end, everybody survived the first sighting with me. One volunteer, Jane, had a particularly good experience and her feelings came to surface after we moored the boat, back at the port, when I saw tears of joy in her eyes. Guys - it was a great experience for me, too! Thank you for being such a good team!
19 July 2009
What an incredible opportunity it has been to participate in Earthwatch’s Dolphins of Greece expedition. After a few excruciatingly hot days in Athens, I travelled to the indescribable town of Vonitsa, which pictures will not do justice to reflect its true beauty. The past eight days have been filled with memories, fun times, and educational opportunities that will stay with me for a lifetime. I feel so fortunate to have worked with a team of amazing volunteers - Avril, Allegra, Jane, and Matt. Also, as an educator myself, I have truly appreciated Joan and Susie’s (each unique) teaching styles which have allowed us all to learn so much about not only dolphins and Greece, but also a wide range of issues critical to the preservation of our Earth’s valuable resources.
Dolphins, dolphins, dolphins
What can I say? This has been one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had and I enjoyed every bit of it, from the amazing dolphins to the unbearable heat! Vonitsa is a beautiful place and the introduction to it couldn’t have been better! I’ve learnt so much in a week, it’s incredible! I definitely won’t forget the dolphins bowriding our boat! I never thought I’d get to see them so close, let alone watch them feeding and swimming only a few meters away from us! Thanks for all the laughter and amazing moments. This expedition definitely showed me that it’s worth fighting for these beautiful animals!
Vonitsa, Vonitsa. Oh how I will miss you. With your dolpins, gyro pitas and half-liter Heinekens, this is an experience that will never be forgotten. The heat rash and lack of modern room cooling practices will not be missed, however. Being my second Earthwatch trip, I came with some level of expectation and my stay here exceeded them all. This expedition would not have been so enjoyable if there were any other individuals in charge besides Joan and Susie. They're the greatest! Best of luck to the entire Tethys team and the wonderful work they are doing here.
Dolphins of Greece, Dolphins of Greece, Oh how I will miss you. You have surpassed the expectations that I have come with, and leave me to take a fresh new heart and eye for the world that surrounds me. The land that you reside comes anew with the species that we have to help preserve. Dolphins of Greece, your eye, your breath, your percussive and aerial behaviour never fails to awe me. The beauty of the way that you travel and the way that you feed will always stay close to my heart. I take with me the fond memories of you. For the children of our future, I promise to educate about you. Your protectors, amongst the many, Joan, Susie, Tethys, Earthwatch and many more will continue to care and watch over you. Joan and Susie, thank you for teaching us about this species. The new found knowledge that you have bestowed unto me will continue through my students. The intelligence that you have shared will continue to spread through me. My heart smiles as I leave Vonitsa.
18 July 2009
The programme was great as it allowed us to see dolphins in their natural habitat which is really exhilarating when previously we have only seen them in tiny tanks in the zoo. On the last day the striped dolphins decided to give us a warm goodbye when around 80 surrounded the boat. It was quite spectacular. We have met some lovely people here, and it was great to live a week in the life of a real research team. As well as having hands on experience in the boat with collecting data, we also learnt a lot of interesting stuff about the project and its goals. Our eyes were really opened to the problems dolphins and fisheries face now and in the future and it feels great that we did even just a tiny bit to help. Galaxidi is a lovely place (we especially enjoyed the evening at the ‘dance competition’). Thanks for an AMAZING week guys!
Rebecca and Jenny, England
This program allowed us not only to be part of a research team, but also to be part of a friendly and warm team. We enjoyed it a lot and would definitely recommend this program to our friends. It is so much worth coming and we are sure that the memories will remain with us for the rest of our lives.
Julia and Ana, Lithuania
17 July 2009
To convert some of the remaining wild areas into state and national parks, however, is only part of the answer. Even public parks are not what nature created over the eons of time, working with wind and wave and sand. Somewhere we should know what was nature’s way; we should know what the Earth would have been had not man interfered.
And so, besides public parks for recreation, we should set aside some wilderness area of seashore where the relations of sea and wind and shore—of living things and their physical world—remain as they have been over the long vistas of time in which man did not exist. For there remains, in this space-age universe, the possibility that man’s way is not always best.
-- Rachel Carson
16 July 2009
The following part of a recent letter appeared on Conservation Biology makes an interesting point about the role of scientists in presenting the problem and a whole range of choices, and then let the decision makers decide.
There may not be a 'best choice', and what is seen as best sometimes depends on the circumstances.
Suffering myself from an injured knee I understand all too well the reported difficulty in choosing among 'least worst' options.
(...) I recently injured my knee, so I went to an orthopedic surgeon. After subjecting my knee to several tests, the doctor gave me his diagnosis followed with descriptions of several treatment alternatives. Considerations included future condition of my knee (assuming the treatment was successful), relative likelihood of success, how long I might be incapacitated following surgery, and the risk of undesirable outcomes. There was no “best cure.” In fact, one alternative was to do nothing. The best cure was my choice—a choice based on my subjective assessment of multiple factors. I did not choose the treatment that would make my knee almost 100% functional. That treatment had the lowest probability of success, would entail many weeks on crutches, and months of physical therapy. The treatment I chose would make my knee about 80–90% functional (which is all I need at my age), had a high probability of success, and would have me on my feet in days. If I did not have medical insurance, then the monetary cost of each treatment would have greatly influenced my decision.
Scientists (and social scientists) should interact with policy makers in much the same way the doctor interacted with me. Scientists collect data and diagnose the current condition of a population or ecological system. If the current condition is thought to be “unhealthy,” then alternative treatments to improve that condition are proposed. The description of each treatment should include a projection of the future condition, probabilities of achieving those conditions, the relative costs, and other available information relevant to the decision. Like the doctor, our role as scientists is to provide comprehensive, accurate, objective information about a range of alternatives so that society (the patient’s guardian) can make the best decision regarding the conservation of biodiversity (the patient).
Wilhere G.F. 2009. Society needs a range of alternatives: a reply to Villard and Jonsson. Conservation Biology 23(1):4-5.
14 July 2009
Not every conservation biologist can be a genius and envisage effective actions or revolutionary solutions to mitigate global or local problems.
Yet, all of us can manage to send a conservation message to the world and try to embody such message through honest practice and personal example.
13 July 2009
I have always loved dolphins, and originally this week was little more for me than a chance to chase dolphins, enjoy the ocean, and see Greece. Yet my week with the Tethys Research Institute has changed my life fundamentally. I plan to use my knowledge of the damage we are doing to the oceans, and the methods by which we can remedy that damage, to vastly alter my own consumption habits, and to try and change those of others. Silvia, Giovanni, and Aina have given me a profound gift in providing me with the chance to study dolphins in their natural environment, and I can only hope to do as much as possible to help preserve not just this amazing species, but all the creatures that share its habitat.
Participating to the Ionian Dolphin’ s project has been one of a lifetime experience. I have just spent one week of pure satisfaction, helping collecting data and assisting the Tethys team in their research. Watching sea turtles and dolphins in their natural environment will stay in my memory, not to mention the great welcoming and organisation of the Tethys team, Silvia, Giovanni and Aina, thank you. In addition I discovered a beautiful country and the typical Greek life in Galaxidi. Strongly recommend it.
Taking part in this research project for a week has been a truly memorable experience. By briefly being a part of the actual research process, I learned more about how the data is collected and analyzed, and how important the acquired data is in terms of furthering the environmental cause. (Not to mention how amazing it was simply to see animals such as dolphins and sea turtles in their natural habitat.) My time here has made a lasting impression on me and has convinced me even further of the depth of damage we have inflicted on our environment and how important it is to take both the small and large steps that can help alleviate these problems.
12 July 2009
Coming to Vonitsa as a research assistant happened naturally for me. The Mediterranean Sea and its beautiful coasts, is a region very close to my heart, and I immediately knew that I had to be a part of the Ionian Dolphin Project.
It was late evening when I arrived in Vonitsa. I managed to block out the lively music from the packed tavernas and focus on the lectures and terms racing through my mind. I reviewed the highlighted papers that were rolled up under my arm and I was certain that I was prepared for my first time working in the field, and my first time with any cetaceans in the wild.
My first sighting of a group of bottlenose dolphins came sooner than I had expected. Alongside the Earthwatch volunteers, on our first trip towards the center of the Amvrakikos Gulf, two adults stretched on the surface and peered out in our direction before an entire group of dolphins came into sight and began to forage. I felt the adrenaline immediately, and of course my mind went blank. Thank you Joan, for always getting me back on track.
As a Biology student you become overwhelmingly aware of the accumulating threats facing marine mammals and their sensitive habitats. As most of these threats occur on a global scale, they are often difficult to grasp and they only become a constant reminder that you are just one individual. Ultimately, it becomes all too easy to get lost in your studies and to lose sight of your way and where to begin to make change.
In the short time I’ve spent in Vonitsa I’ve learned more than I could have prepared myself for. I feel like I’ve grown more as a Biologist during these ten days than in my five years at the University. Thank you to the Earthwatch volunteers for sharing their time, from the dedication in the field to the painful belly laughs over dinner. On my last day out in the Gulf we sighted two calves with their mothers foraging by their sides. It is with these experiences, when science becomes something tangible, something that you can share with others, that all the lectures, the stress, and the long nights finally make sense again, and you remember that this is how one person can begin to make a change.
Iva Popovic, Canada/Serbia
11 July 2009
For the first time in my life, I'm speechless. I have so many stories that I want to share, but I really don't know where to start. In fact, I could write 10 pages about this trip, and still that would only cover 5% of the entire journey. Being part of the dolphin conservation course for five weeks has been more than I had ever anticipated. This course in the beautiful village of Galaxidi is not just another volunteer programme: it's a complete package filled with education, experiences, social analyses, bust most of all lots of fun.
The day I arrived in Galaxidi I knew almost instantly that this village would leave a positive memory behind. The shops, the friendly people and the harbor with all the bars and restaurants... a small paradise in Greece tucked away in a small bay, yet to be found by the mass tourism. But it was when I met the other volunteers that I knew this would prove to be something special. No cheesy grins, no awkward silences: we chatted as if we knew each other for years. And that was only the first day! When Silvia came to pick us up, all of us had the feeling the adventure had just started. And an adventure it became. Being on a small boat 5 days a week, searching the Korinthian Gulf for dolphins, never knowing what you might face.
The sea can be as unpredictable as its inhabitants. But the moment you spot a group of dolphins, there is a shared boost of adrenaline, excitement and joy between the volunteers and the staff. I can't really describe the feeling you get when you see a group of dolphins jumping out of the water, but it is something I will remember for the rest of my life. You can literally sit and look at them for hours, you never get bored of them. Dolphins are such beautiful creatures: active, enjoyable, wild. They are almost like humans. I remember a striped dolphin juvenile in the middle of the group. All of a sudden, it came straight towards us. Not knowing any fear, he approached our boat like a racing car. And just when our mouth fell open, an older striped dolphin cut in front of him, forcing the juvenile to take a hard turn to the right. Perplexed by the speed of the action, we were also amazed by the protectionism that keeps the young in place. However, the older dolphins don't mind getting close and we were enjoying every minute with them. I also recall a group of approximately 30 dolphins. We were surrounded by them, and they were getting so close to us, all jumping over each other, that at a certain point one of the dolphins hit the boat. There were so many dolphins around: the only way he could go was towards us.
One of the things I really likes about this project was the shared feeling of discovery between the volunteers and the staff. This project in Galaxidi is relatively new and all the things that we learned and saw were new to the researchers as well. I'm proud to have sighted the very first striped and common dolphins with Silvia, Aina and Tilen. Every day we could learn something about the area: the adding of a new transect, a mighty storm (you are a damn good captain Silvia!) or the encounter with a sea turtle. Probably the most amazing and intense moment during my long stay was when our group came across a large sea turtle trapped in the remains of a fishing net, that was rescued by our team until he was able to dive and swim way.
Although rescuing the sea turtle was one of my favourite moments, when you think about it it’s actually a sad example of how we humans are exploiting and destroying the planet. This is where the education part of this project kicks in. Watching movies about overfishing and waste production just puts everything in perspective. We came to understand how overfishing affects the food web, causing a decrease in the dolphin population. We humans are linked to the dolphins. That is why we need to stop consuming ever more stuff and save the natural resources that are left, protecting and cherishing them rather than taking them for granted. I remember multiple discussions with other volunteers after watching documentaries on Giovanni's computer. Talking about how waste is handled in our countries etc. These discussions may seem meaningless to many, but the team of Tethys knows that we have the ability to spread the word about environmental issues and affect our own community.
The dolphin conservation project in Galaxidi just isn’t a 'dolphin watching' programme. We don't go out on a boat just to have a laugh in the middle of the ocean and take hundreds of pictures of jumping dolphins. This is a research project and we aim to see how many common, striped and bottlenose dolphins live in the Korinthian Gulf. We crop and analyse the pictures looking for new individuals. And we also enjoy ourselves, taking crazy photos on the top of the hill and eating good food.
I couldn't wish for a better and nicer team than Silvia, Giovanni and Aina. Without them this project would not have been the same. They are truly friendly, open-minded, funny, but most of all passionate about their work and willing to share their expertise with an ongoing enthusiasm. Thank you so much Silvia for the fun trips we had on the boat and the long chats. Giovannni, thank you for the amazing videos and documentaries you showed to us. The talks and discussions we had with you helped us putting this project and global issues into a perspective. As a journalist, I truly valued these conversations. And finally, Aina - my precious! You are the sweetest girl I ever met. I wish we could spend some more time together in the future! And thank you to all other volunteers who made this trip unforgettable.
Eddy Roosen, The Netherlands
10 July 2009
After a long trip I am usually ready to return home, but working with Joan and Iva and the dolphins has been such a wonderful experience that I wish it could go on for a few more days. Our group was very impressed with Joan’s abilities, especially to take photo’s while driving the boat with one foot, while giving directions to us volunteers on where to keep our eyes. “Shout louder please Sophie, I can’t hear you”. Joan, your knowledge, dedication, and patience is admirable. I will take your message back to my students to inspire them, and challenge them to take better care of our planet so that dolphins and every other creature (humans too!) can enjoy a beautiful healthy planet. Many thanks to Iva for teaching me how to use the netpad and all her help with the photo cropping, grouping and matching. Without your help we’d still be working on the first batch of photos.
For 9 days, I was living in my childhood fantasy that I would have a dolphin as my pet and have a bathtub big enough for it. Here in Vonitsa, I have a beautiful “bathtub” big enough to hold more than 150 amazing dolphins, lots of sea turtles and different kinds of fishes. When the dolphins were surrounding us, we could hear them breathing so peacefully. I almost jumped out of the boat to swim with them. (Sorry Joan, I know you said they’re wild animals just like tigers and lions. Swimming with them is unpredictable). The day we did our last survey at Amvrakikos Gulf, I saw a group of 5 dolphins in the afternoon from the beach. They were about only 200m away which supposedly to be the closest sighting “ever”! We took it as a gesture of saying goodbye to us. This is my first Earthwatch expedition and I enjoyed every second of it. Joan is an experienced marine biologist with great knowledge and enthusiasm. He is also a REAL guy and you feel like yourself around him. All of our group members liked him a lot and probably went home with lots of precious “quotes” from him (some might not be appropriate for kids). Thanks Joan, Iva, Marcia, Maureen, Sophie and Bo for this wonderful experience in my life!
I visited Greece many years ago as a tourist and always wanted to return as something more. This expedition and Earthwatch have provided me with that opportunity. Joan is a magnificent research scientist doing and sharing so much more than merely his knowledge. He is implementing a program to hopefully change the fate of the dolphins he studies. Iva’s patience and kind expertise (even as she learns ) is inspirational. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity. The sea, the dolphins, the village and all of the knowledge that you imparted are appreciated and will be shared many times over with friends and associates. Hopefully a greater impact will be made as a result of all of your efforts!
When I arrived I had never seen a dolphin outside an aquarium. Now, a week later, I have a mental catalogue of cetacean friends. Tip for new photo-matchers: mnemonics help! “Wedge” and “Kissy Lips” were much easier (and more fun!) to spot than “A2” and “A14”. I enjoyed the simple, slow life of a (pampered, wannabe) marine biologist. I ate delicious food. I breathed clean air. I learned a lot. I laughed a lot! Thanks, Joan, for showing us your version of what life can be when it’s not about “stuff”.
This has been a “brilliantly lovely” introduction to Greece, I'm so glad I came on this project. I feel like I've learnt so much in just a short space of time. Despite not being able to differentiate between 3 o'clock and 9 o'clock in the pressure of the moment, not yelling loud enough, and getting the distances all wrong, I hope I've helped in a small way (and not frustrated Joan too much!). Congrats to Joan for all his hard work and dedication, its very impressive and inspiring. Congrats also to Iva, a top notch assistant! I will leave this place with many special memories – from “floating potatoes”, to “blip” the dolphin, to yummy greek salad (with cucumbers), to the “totally awesome” moment when a dolphin was bowriding right next to me! Since I'm studying science at university I just want to mention how encouraging it was to see that the work done was carefully considered so as to be scientifically sound, and therefore valuable to the wider scientific community. Keep up the good work Joan et al! Thanks for all the laughter, but also for showing one person can make a difference in the world. All the best to my lovely team of Nan & Bo, Marcia, and Maureen.
09 July 2009
The Minister of Culture of the Republic of Croatia enacted a new "Ordinance concerning the conditions of keeping protected animals in captivity, marking methods and keeping
According to this new regulation, Croatia prohibits keeping cetaceans in captivity for commercial purposes, including dolphinaria, aquaria and similar facilities.
The only exception could be granted by the Ministry of Culture if the animals are injured or sick and the solely purpose of their keeping is rehabilitation and recovery to return to nature.
This regulation was adopted based on the expertise study prepared by the State Institute for Nature Protection. Valuable information and evaluations included in the study were provided by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society.
With adoption of this regulation, Croatia has met provisions of the ACCOBAMS Resolution 3.13. on Dolphin Interaction Programmes, adopted at the Third Meetings of Parties organized in Dubrovnik in 2007.
08 July 2009
What do dolphins in Greece have to do with whales in Maine? We wanted to know so we went to Greece to find out! As teachers in Expeditionary Learning schools, we qualified to apply for a grant from Fund for Teachers and received a fellowship to work with Earthwatch Institute.
For 10 days last Summer we worked with Tethys Research Institute as volunteers on the Dolphins of Greece expedition. We learned so much about dolphins and how they are identified and even got to know some of them by name. We found out what marine mammals need in order to survive and what conservation efforts exist or are being proposed in order to protect them. We learned about the methods scientists use to observe and record data in the field and turn that data into long term studies that demonstrate how people play a vital role in the survival of species. We also learned that all species are equally fascinating and equally important and that they are all interconnected. All species are threatened by pollution, loss of habitat and over fishing; and all species play a vital role in the delicate balance of nature.
As teachers we needed to take all that we had learned and transform it into an expedition for children that focused on the relevant content and skills they needed to learn at their grade level. And, as teachers of English as a second language, we needed to find a way to present information and concepts in a comprehensible manner. In addition to learning lots of information about individual species and forces at work within the ocean ecosystem, we wanted students to develop a spirit of curiosity and adventure. We wrote grants to buy materials and pay for field experiences. We went to teacher workshops and developed relationships with local experts. We met with other school personnel to get feedback and refine our plans. We named our expedition: The Sea and Me and began in the spring of ’09. Our guiding questions were: 1- Why should people care about the oceans? 2- Who lives in Casco Bay, Maine? Finally, 3- Is the Casco Bay ecosystem endangered?
With the students, we conducted experiments, watched You Tube videos, observed plankton, and took many trips to the shore to observe and record data. Through an L.L. Bean grant we were able to take our 2 classes on a 5 hour whale watch 20 miles out from Portland Harbor. Even though the trip was long and arduous (including lots of throwing up) everyone loved it! For days afterward students came to school asking when we were going in the boat again.
We developed a list of plants and animals that live here in Maine’s coastal waters and began researching their characteristics, place in the food web and threats to their survival. We looked at local sources of pollution and other threats to the animals such as overfishing and gear entanglement and read about laws created to protect them. We worked with local artists, authors and experts in the field. After researching and learning to care about the animals, the students created a final product in order to share what they had learned with others. The Middle School students created a book containing vital information about each species. The first and second grade class created a board game that illustrates the connections between plants, animals and people.
Our culminating event was a presentation of the final products to other classes of students at the East End Community School. In all, we created 10 sets of books and games to distribute. Teachers were impressed by the advanced vocabulary students used to explain complicated concepts. We were impressed by their excitement to learn, the bonding that developed between the two groups of students and their collaboration in this endeavor, and by their deeper understanding of the importance of preserving the ocean ecosystem and all that lives in it and depends on it.
Amy and Marcia, USA
In August 2008 Amy and Marcia participated as volunteers in the Dolphins of Greece expedition. From the first instant of their arrival they were eager to learn and to gather as much information as possible to take back with them to their classrooms. What they have managed to accomplish with their students is impressive and should be an example to be followed by many. Well done girls!
07 July 2009
Tethys collaborator Zsuzsanna Pereszlényi received her MSc in Biology during an official cerimony at the University of Pécs, Hungary, after having also passed a most challenging State Exam.
Susie graduated with a thesis titled "Feeding behaviour of common bottlenose dolphins Tursiops truncatus in the Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece".
Photo: Susie in regalia at her MSc cerimony
05 July 2009
I have just completed two weeks of the Tethys Research Institute program in Galaxidi, Greece. I can say with certainty that this experience has had a profound effect on my life, and the direction that it will continue in. It was absolutely incredible to see dolphins in their natural habitat and know that you are not just observing them, but helping to collect information which will hopefully aid in the preservation of this species.
Susan, New York/USA
The week I spent at Tethys has been such a profound experience that I will not be able to articulate fully the effect it had on me until I have a chance to reflect and process all that I learned and saw. I know that it changed me on a fundamental level. The professionalism coupled with knowledge and passion of Silvia, Giovanni, and Aina was a gift to all of those who participated in the program. I am so fortunate to have been able to participate in this crucial study.
Elektra, New York/USA
Dolphins have fascinated me ever since I was a little girl, so when I found Tethys on the internet, I decided to sign up. I had no idea what to expect, but thought that no matter what a week on the shores of Galaxidi would be pretty great. This program however went above every expectation that I could have had. Not only is Galaxidi wonderful (friendly people, great food, cool streets, the sea), but in this one week I learned more and saw more than I could have ever hoped for. I will never in my life forget the image of over 50 dolpins circling our small, inflatable boat, some of them coming close enough to touch. It was incredible. I would recommend this program to anyone. The combination of the knowledge you gain, the beauty that you see, and the people that you meet is absolutely unforgettable. Thanks for such an amazing week!
This week spent exploring in the Gulf of Corinth, our boat and our minds scratching only the surface, has taught me and changed me unexpectedly. I thought I would grill some fish when it was my night to cook, being a fish-eating vegetarian, until I asked Silvia where I could find someplace in town to buy fresh fish, and she answered me seriously, that it is hard to find. Since then, when dining out, is no longer easy to figure out what fish to order, knowing that the mussels might be from the nearby mussel farm which is in the same bay as a massive aluminum factory which releases its byproducts into the the same body of water. I no longer want to eat farmed fish after learning that it takes more fish to feed them than it produces, while adding toxins into the water. Facing these grim new realities, it is even more amazing (katabliktico), and elating, to have been lucky enough to witness a glorious group of dolphins.
Cate, New York/USA