26 June 2010
Though this trip started as a simple school project, it quickly became something so much more! It is absolutely incredible to see the hard work, dedication and passion that has gone into the research and conservation of these incredible animals. Unfortunately, animals cannot speak up and fight for their rights themselves, so it is our job as human beings to make sure that we appreciate their brillance and simplicity, as well as protect them for future generations to be able to enjoy.
I have learned so much the three weeks I have been here. This has definitely been a life changing event for me. I believe that it is important for all people to make their mark on the world and always strive to make it a little bit better. Thank you Silvia and Giovanni for all your long hours and dedication that has gone into this project and so many others previously. Panni, I wish the best of luck with all your future endeavours and hope you continue to strive towards all your goals. Your commitment and dedication will surely payoff in the end! Thanks for some of the best three weeks of my life. It will be ones that I will never forget!
Thank you Silvia and Giovanni for a great week in Galaxidi. It have been exciting to follow you, and see how you are working. We have learned a lot about the conditions in Greece and the rest of the world. Its sad to see how the species and ecosystems are being threatened by the humans depleting the resources. We will do our best to spread the message about how important it is to take care of our enviroment further. We think the trip was fun and interessting. Even if we did not see any dolphins it was fun to be with you on the boat and see the gulf of Corinth. We would also like to praise Panni for her engangement for Tethys. She is doing a great job! We had a really nice week with a lot of good dinners and chatting with Rachel and the rest of the group. We wish you all good luck with the good job you are doing!
Cornelia and Katrine, Norway
20 June 2010
The 'blue whale' photo is of course depicting a humpback whale (but does it matter?)
The baiji Lipotes vexillifer is one of the many missing from the long list of species that have become extinct.
19 June 2010
I came here through Saiga travel organization in order to understand more about dolphins conservation, although I was already sensibilized in nature and environment protection. Thanks to Giovanni and Silvia's tremendous job and the help of Panni, I now have a better understanding on the cause and effects of dolphin population decline. The phenomenon, due mainly to overfishing, got me angry and I understand the difficulties that research centers and associations dedicated to protection are facing. The means they can deploy seem a 'drop in the ocean' compared to the huge and powerful leverage that the fishing multinationals can activate across the world, thanks to lobbying strenghs of the financial market network. (...) Nevertheless, hope must continue to animate scientists and volonteers so that things can change before it is too late. Human beings must realize they are accountable for their impacts on the environment. Thus, the actions and commitment of research institutes such as Tethys are key in order to -1 provide a reliable and inarguable record of dolphin population viability -2 sensibilize and leverage politicians and industrial stakeholders, using the same ‘weapons’ and trying to find common interests -3 keeping on actions and ‘evangelization’ towards the general public, particularly the youth. (...) An American Indian chief once said: ‘We do not inheritate the Earth from our parents, we borrow it to our children.’
Bear with me as I ramble on a bit. Some guy once said that there are two types of boys, those that want to be astronauts, who want to go to space and partake in potentially dangerous missions, and those who want to be astronomers who are content to just observe the stars from the safety of the ground. I tend to belong to the latter, so to me this week was a very good experience. I tend to do a lot of reading about subjects that interest me, but this project has managed to allow me to observe first hand what I read and I realise that these wild animals although feral and untamed are beautiful creatures worthy of our protection. I like to thank everyone who has made this project a success, and the other volunteers that I had a wonderful time with. Being able to see with my own eyes wild dolphins in their natural habitat was a life changing experience, cliched as it must sound. For it is only when we humans show an appreciation for our fellow living organisms can we be truly compassionate.
Zhao Yang (Graham), Singapore
Dear Silvia, Dear Giovanni, thank you a lot for giving people the opportunity to watch dolphins in wildlife. It was absolutely amazing to see them jumping around the boat, playing and enjoying their life. As well as i was so happy to see turtles nearly every day! When i booked this week, i thought you named your research station in Greece Galaxidi, like galaxy, to help people understand how wonderful life can be an that everyone should be careful with what we have. I wish you all the best with your work, as i know that researching and publishing needs a long long breath and lots of energy and i am sure one day it will convince the right people to be aware. Dear Panni, thank you for guiding us through the week, and do never loose your enthusiasm for this work.
The past week just seemed to have flew by just so quickly. I guess this is how time passes too quickly when you are having fun. I have really enjoyed myself over the past week. The experience that you can get here is just so different and exciting. Of course, seeing dolphins and quite a few turtles too, in their natural habitat diving, jumping, flipping is just amazing. Apart from that, thank you Giovanni and Silvia for showing and telling us more about their research and the problems that we face from overfishing etc. It has really been a great week. Really wish I could stay longer to enjoy the small town of Galaxidi and company of the other volunteers. Thank you Silvia, Giovanni, and Panni for taking great effort to make this a great experience for all the volunteers. I wish you all the best for your research and hopefully one day, the situation can be reversed for the good of the dolphins and everyone.
17 June 2010
16 June 2010
An 18 yr study (1990-2008) yielded new results on marine turtle bycatch in fishing gear. The research, led by Dr. Bryan Wallace of Duke University, is based on more than 85,000 records of snared turtles. Despite this high number, reports covered less than 1% of all fishing fleets, with little or no information from small-scale fisheries around the world.
Dr. Wallace said the conservative estimation they made is in the order of millions of sea turtles killed in the past two decades. Six of the seven sea turtle types are on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Especially high rates of by-catch were found in the Mediterranean and eastern Pacific.
By-catch remains a main threat for many other marine species such as sharks, cetaceans, seabirds.
Photo: Marine turtles drown when trapped in fishing gear (by Projeto Tamar Brazil)
Wallace B.P., Lewison R.L., McDonald S.L., McDonald R.K., Kot C.Y., Kelez S., Bjorkland R.K., Finkbeiner E.M., Helmbrecht S., Crowder L.B. 2010. Global patterns of marine turtle bycatch. Conservation Letters.
ABSTRACT -- Fisheries bycatch is a primary driver of population declines in several species of marine megafauna (e.g., elasmobranchs, mammals, seabirds, turtles). Characterizing the global bycatch seascape using data on bycatch rates across fisheries is essential for highlighting conservation priorities. We compiled a comprehensive database of reported data on marine turtle bycatch in gillnet, longline, and trawl fisheries worldwide from 1990 to 2008. The total reported global marine turtle bycatch was ∼85,000 turtles, but due to the small percentage of fishing effort observed and reported (typically <1% of total fleets), and to a global lack of bycatch information from small-scale fisheries, this likely underestimates the true total by at least two orders of magnitude. Our synthesis also highlights an apparently universal pattern across fishing gears and regions where high bycatch rates were associated with low observed effort, which emphasizes the need for strategic bycatch data collection and reporting. This study provides the first global perspective of fisheries bycatch for marine turtles and highlights region–gear combinations that warrant urgent conservation action (e.g., gillnets, longlines, and trawls in the Mediterranean Sea and eastern Pacific Ocean) and region–gear combinations in need of enhanced observation and reporting efforts (e.g., eastern Indian Ocean gillnets, West African trawls).
15 June 2010
14 June 2010
13 June 2010
"Our goal as educators is to present a sense of hopefulness to students, and the competence to act on that hope.
That's different from wishful thinking—ignoring problems or assuming that somehow technology or some mythical 'they' is going to figure it out. We will have to figure it out."
--David W. Orr
12 June 2010
Having read about the experience of other volounteers in the blog before coming to Galaxidi, I had my doubts about the life-changing experience everyone was talking about. Now, I truly understand why they said that. Taking data on the dolphins, attending lectures about overfishing and other manmade problems, and even talking and listening to what other volunteers have to share are an enriching and, no doubt, life-changing experience. The whole course ended so fast that I regreted not signing up for two weeks instead of one, or maybe even three. I would wholeheartedly recommend anyone who is thinking about signing up to the course to sign up right away. The researchers are devoted to making sure we learned more about the world we are living in and not just about dolphins. The surprises of the entire journey are never ending. The passion from the researchers and other volunteers overwhelm you, the severeness of global problems of overfishing and pollution shock you, the solutions to these problems which are so unmistakenly simple and yet not undertaken sadden you. Amidst all of these, Tethys offers some hope. Thank you Silvia and Giovanni!
Khai Lin, Singapore
I couldn’t have hoped for more than I had over this week!! I came here because of a passion for the cetaceans, especially the dolphins but as well because I needed to get myself involved in a real action to help for their conservation, and therefore the ocean’s conservation. Meeting with Giovanni and Silvia, our two reserchers, was as well of great knowledge : you don’t just actually get to speak about dolphins and do research to understand them better and help them in their work, you go to the heart of a real threat: the evolution of our actual society, overconsumption, overfishing, how and what is the impact of the human activity, all of that deeply based on data recorded over years and years of work from Tethys and other Mediterranean Sea associations. You get to the overall view and global understanding of what links what, and what is the impact. In additional you are learning about dolphins, the unforgettable moments spent on the water with them, you get to discover a much larger vision of their world, our world, and how we interact with each other.
Even though you will clearly find out our oceans and therefore ceteceans are clearly endangered, the Tethys team delivers before all a message of hope: we can all change it, we can all reverse the way things are going by just being responsible of ourselves, our actions and understanding our impact on the environment. Therefore what is absolutely fantastic is that you not only get to encounter very closely the dolphins but by understanding Tethys' clear message, you are able at your level to understand what to do to help them, to help the ocean, to help the human race... I recommand this adventure to anyone who wants to get closer to nature, to these beautiful cetaceans, but as well to anyone who is concern by the future of our planete and of course to get the chance to meet with the Tethys Team, entirely passionate and devoted to make sure our future will be better for all of the beings on earth!! Thank you Giovanni and Silvia for your fantastic work and all you are doing to protect our environement, our oceans... and before all, the dolphins!!
A Day at Sea – A Memory
We set off early each morning, spending up to five hours on the boat, travelling up and down the wild coastline of the Gulf of Corinth. By mid-June the sea is mostly calm. We cross the Gulf in a small powerboat, up and down the inlets, all the time gazing out to sea. The sky is soft and empty, sometimes a solitary bird passess over us, or a jet will trail vapour in its wake, streaking cloud accross the dome of sky, and then it is gone. Our eyes grow tired with the glare of light, as it catches ripples on the water and blinks back, a thousand flashbulbs of light and colour, of deep Meditteranean acqua, of turquoise and purple like a peacock’s gown. Seeing the dolphins is an unimaginable delight and we are lucky to have seen them in abundance. On the first day, after about an hour at sea they approached the boat, their dorsal fins caught in the distant waves. They moved slowly and in great numbers with the same rocking movement of the sea. The light glinted and sparked on their skin. It is impossible to forget the dolphins playing around the boat, turning somersaults under the water and occasionally above, whistling and blowing, their tailfins slapping the surface. Sometimes we catch them looking up with their beautiful eyes, and then with a sudden flick of the tail, they are gone. There is no sense of time, no thoughts of the outside world at sea. Only the present, the present day with sunlight on the Mediterranean, lost in greens and deep blues, a clear and enless sky with this magnificent animal. Giovanni described the dolphin as a quintissential representation of the sea and everything we love about it. And it is.
I wish that this was the end of the story and that I could leave here with only memories of this great beast of nature. But the story of the dolphin is inextricably linked to the outside and everything we and our lives represent. Last week only two were spotted around Kalamos from a population of 140 in 1995. I leave with mixed feelings, a wonderful time, with the dolphins and with the company of everyone here. My wish is that all this is here, here not only for us but also the next generation, and the one after that. Thank you Giovannni and Silvia for the experience and everything we have learnt.
Last day in Galaxidi. No doubt, I was really looking for this kind of experience. What a magic and wonderful week spent in an amazing place! I really experienced how the life of a field researcher is. Wake up early in the morning; go out to sea, aware that you’re not sure to find dolphins and you can have problems to do what you want to do and go where you want to go because of many reasons, like the weather; take as many data as you can, because every single moment is precious; analyse pictures at home on the computers; live together and share feelings and opinions (it was just a little bit a problem for me because of my bad English... sorry girls!). I liked it very much and I learned so many things! Undescribable feelings at the first sighting! ..the same at the second.. and at the third one.. I really love these beautiful animals since I was a child, and having the chance of seeing them in the wild has been great and magic. They embody the spirit of the sea and all its power, but at the same time they are so tender animals. It’s so sad to think that they are disappearing from some places around the world.
Giovanni’s lectures in the afternoons had the power to change my view of life and helped me to become conscious of some of today’s society’s biggest problems. I’ll remember his words. Thank you Silvia and Giovanni for your patience and all we have experienced these days! Thank you for the work you do day by day to protect dolphins and their enviroment, involving people from all around the world. I recommend this kind of experience to all the people who like nature and in particular these amazing animals, and want to support an useful and important organization like Tethys. I’ll keep in my heart for the future all the emotions that I felt these days, expecially during the surveys in the beautiful Gulf of Corinth, exactly in the moment when Silvia said: ‘Look girls, we found them!’ I’ll come back for sure. That’s a promise.
Già è difficile trasmettere in italiano ciò che è possibile vivere qui a Galaxidi in una sola settimana, figuriamoci in un'altra lingua. Ci sarebbe tantissimo da dire, ma quello che posso fare è semplicemente suggerire a tutti di dare un’occhiata di persona! =)
10 June 2010
09 June 2010
08 June 2010
In recent years differences in foraging techniques, prey preferences, behaviour and minor physical features within different killer whale populations drove researchers to question the existence of only a single species. A new study provided genetic evidence supporting the idea that there may be several kinds of Orca.
Researchers mapped the genome of 139 tissue samples from different areas and they found clear differences. Three types of killer whales may be different species. Several other types may also represent separate species or subspecies, but additional analyses are required.
Should species diversity be confirmed by future studies, we hope the animals will be given common names less stupid than 'killer whale'.
Photo: a killer whale spy hopping, by www.russianorca.com
For more information:
Morin P.A., Archer F.I., Foote A.D., Vilstrup J., Allen E.E., Wade P., Durban J., Parsons K., Pitman R., Li L., Bouffard P., Abel Nielsen S.C., Rasmussen M., Willerslev E., Gilbert M.T.P., Harkins T. 2010. Complete mitochondrial genome phylogeographic analysis of killer whales (Orcinus orca) indicates multiple species. Genome Res DOI: 10.1101/gr.102954.109
Abstract -- Killer whales (Orcinus orca) currently comprise a single, cosmopolitan species with a diverse diet. However, studies over the last 30 years have revealed populations of sympatric "ecotypes" with discrete prey preferences, morphology and behaviors. Although these ecotypes avoid social interactions and are not known to interbreed, genetic studies to date have found extremely low levels of diversity in the mitochondrial control region, and few clear phylogeographic patterns worldwide. This low level of diversity is likely due to low mitochondrial mutation rates that are common to cetaceans. Using killer whales as a case study, we have developed a method to readily sequence, assemble, and analyze complete mitochondrial genomes from large numbers of samples to more accurately assess phylogeography and estimate divergence times. This represents an important tool for wildlife management, not only for killer whales but for many marine taxa. We used high-throughput sequencing to survey whole mitochondrial genome variation of 139 samples from the North Pacific, North Atlantic and southern oceans. Phylogenetic analysis indicated that each of the known ecotypes represents a strongly supported clade with divergence times ranging from approximately 150,000 to 700,000 years ago. We recommend that three named ecotypes be elevated to full species, and that the remaining types be recognized as subspecies pending additional data. Establishing appropriate taxonomic designations will greatly aid in understanding the ecological impacts and conservation needs of these important marine predators. We predict that phylogeographic mitogenomics will become an important tool for improved statistical phylogeography and more precise estimates of divergence times.
07 June 2010
What an amazing experience. Every day was an adventure, whether going out into the Amvrakikos Gulf, out to Kalamos or just trying to cook dinner! On our first morning we set off in search of turtles by the mussel farm and after circling around for about 45 minutes and only seeing a couple of heads, I began to wonder how lucky we were going to be with the dolphins. Then, just a few minutes later we were surrounded by dolphins, pandemonium broke out on the boat with everyone shouting their sightings, the first volunteer got a taste of the dreaded netpad, and…….I was hooked! Seeing these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat was awesome, particularly the breaching, with every day better than the last. The afternoons spent cropping and matching photos of fins were far more fun than they should have been, thanks to my fellow volunteers (Jan, Melinda, Chris and Bob) and Iva`s enthusiasm and wicked giggles. The fun she and I had with “Banana Fin” will live long in the memory! Along with the fun, I also had my eyes opened to the problems of pollution, water diversion and over-fishing, not just for the dolphins but for the ocean at large. As well as the experience itself, it is these messages that I will take with me and try to disseminate back in the office and in my presentations to local school and business group back home.
Finally, I would like to say thank you to Joan and Iva for a fantastic week. Joan is so dedicated to his work and shows a real passion for the dolphins and a willingness to share this with us; never losing patience with the questions, nor the random direction and distances that were being yelled out so enthusiastically, but so often incorrectly! Then there was his wicked sense of humour, which so matched mine..……let`s never grow up Joan! Iva was such a fun girl too, always laughing (especially when I nearly fell out of the boat with the netpad in the storm at Kalamos!) and always making me smile, with her 3 fleeces and never a hair out of place! Thanks guys.
Yet again, another wonderful Earthwatch experience (my second, certainly not my last!). I learn so much on these trips. Things that I could never learn anywhere else and that are made even more compelling because of the PIs and assistants relating their own personal experiences and knowledge. Joan and Iva were no exception, sharing their passion and dedication to the sea and its inhabitants daily. (...) Throughout the week was lots of laughter, interesting conversations about all kinds of things, people from different places in the world sharing their stories and of course, the dolphins! Amazing to watch and wonder about these beautiful fi…… oh, mammals!! Every day but one we saw incredible feats of acrobatics and grace in the air and water (sometimes even some human acrobatics as we hung on for dear life with sudden boat acceleration! Or twisted around into unlikely positions as we tried to keep dolphins in sight.) The bow riding, breaching, surfing and simply seemingly playing of the dolphins was more than I could have asked for. Even the day we didn’t see any dolphins (our first day in Kalamos) was a stark reminder of what happens when an area is so overfished it can no longer sustain life – there were no birds beyond those just flying by, no signs of life at all in comparison to Amvrakikos – just people on sailboats on pretty, blue but empty water. It was truly a feeling of success when the second day in Kalamos (our last day of the trip) as we were heading in at the end of another no sighting day when we spotted 3 dolphins and kept them in sight despite rough water, thunder, lightning and spraying water. An exciting and dramatic way to end our trip. A great trip and another earthwatch experience that has left me inspired and exhilarated! Thank you Joan and Iva!
What a great experience. I was most impressed with our leaders, Joan and Iva, for their effort, dedication and generosity towards preserving the dolphins in a manner acceptable to the local community. This is a tremendous challenge, since the dolphin’s decline is tied closely to growth in the region and to fishing as an important income source. This trip gave me a good feel for the amount of effort involved and the level of need and urgency that society must understand and pay heed to, in order that we take the appropriate actions to save not only the dolphins, but other species also. I thank Joan and Iva for an outstanding effort to include us in their work and to educate us as to what mankind is doing to the seas and its creatures. I appreciate that the message is balanced – that there are alternative strategies that can meet the needs of the people, if not of corporations. They demonstrated that dedication is required and that broad support is essential to their mission.
There were two moments I will not forget. The first was a short period on our second day in which we were tracking a number of dolphins and they were appearing all around us, some at very short distance. There was a lot of shouting and excitment as Joan simultaneously maneuvered the boat, snapped photos, and gave instructions. Ten several dolphins jumped into the air directly in front of the boat. Wow. The second memorable event was a video conference Joan had with a class of students in the US who decided they wanted to do something to save the dolphins. Very impressive!
In summary, this was a great experience in the sense that it made me realize the urgency and magnitude of the challenges facing dedicated researchers such as Joan and Iva, along with their coworkers. And this is only one species from the sea that we need to take action on. The experience will allow me to build a much more effective class lesson for my students, as well as drive me to do much more to preserve what mankind is likely to lose if we don’t take preventive measures. I also enjoyed the other four volunteers on this project: Paul, Chris, Janis, and Melinda. I hope we’ll stay in touch.
Another amazing Earthwatch adventure! And another part of the world and earth that I need to worry about. ... I appreciate and so enjoy the perfect combination of education, contribution to serious fieldwork, a fabulous sense of humor, and the sense of comradary and teamwork that is built so quickly. Joan was always willing to share his knowledge and make sure we were getting the most from our experience. His concern and compassion for the dolphins is evident; he made sure we left the expedition with a broader understanding not only of the dolphins but of the fragility of the ecosystems of the oceans worldwide as well. His charm and sense of humor made it all fun! I especially apreciated him fixing and bringing me tea when I wasn’t feeling well...way above the call of duty. Iva’s enthusiasm for learning and her patience with all of us (including Joan) is comendable. Her guidance and smile were essential! It’s not always easy to work with volunteers, but Joan and Iva have mastered it! The experience couldn’t have been better.....a fabulous breaching dolphin and photos during “high seas”, thunder and lightening...who could ask for more?
“Enjoy the beauty of the dolphins,” Joan said as we raced back and forth across the water. Traveling unprepared in a world of ecological challenges can be quite a shock to one’s sense of self in the context of what I may leave for future generations. It can often be a confrontation with what I believe to be true about myself that rubs me raw. That is how I view my experience in Vonitsa with the dolphins in Amvarakikos Gulf and at Kalamos. Previous to this Earthwatch trip I had spent time reading about oceans, learning to dive, eating responsibly, and donating money to some organization whose literature stated they were saving the oceans. I was sure that if the oceans died humans were doomed. And, I was doing my part. As this Earthwatch experience comes to a close, I have come to recognize how truly uninformed I am about my relationship with our oceans. Joan’s intense commitment and passion for marine life, the oceans, and people makes the urgency of the conditions on this planet very personal. As the days passed, Joan’s demand for us to yell 9 o’clock, 60 meters, 3 dolphins became more important to the team. Of course, his requests were always followed by “please” and “thank you” or “hold on”. When I sorted out the difference between sea state four waves and the dorsal fins of the two departing dolphins at 6 o’clock, 200 meters, in the rain on the last day, I felt I was a part of something important. Locating the dolphins became a small piece of the larger puzzle. And at the end of the day the team knew it was important. Iva, our research assistant, was a blessing. Her intelligent patience with our clumsiness made this trip all the more enjoyable. She steered us in the right direction and made sure we were prepared to participate. Our lack of skill with the “netpad”, our hand-held computer, did not deter her. The “net pad”, an invention of torture, deliberately designed to sort out the higher order mammals among the team. Needless to say I have a limited future in “netpadding”. She was a perfect complement to our team.
For me personally, I cannot recall laughing more. Joan, Iva and my team brought their best game to each adventure. I counted on Bob for insight, on Paul for focus and purpose, on Chris for serious laughter, and on Jan for the very best questions. The company of good people with a purpose can hardly be matched by anything else one can do for a week, if not for a lifetime. As time passes it is the sound of Joan’s voice, filled with excitement at seeing each dolphin, and the generosity of Iva’s refreshing candor that I will miss most. Hopefully, I will carry the learning with me as I go. I cried when I watched °End of the Line.° I rarely cry. Maybe anarchy is not the answer, or maybe it is? How does one get the attention of those who are making decisions with our lives without going over the edge or reason? Something has to change the greed of my generation or my children and their children will have little left. I struggle with this and what I can do. I imagine the struggle is what I am taking away from this experience and the measure of me might well be determined by what comes of it. There is still time today.
06 June 2010
04 June 2010
Put environmental sustainability at the heart of European fisheries:
Sign the petition
to Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
03 June 2010
A recent survey, released by the UN Convention on Biodiversity, has been conducted on more than 10,000 children aged 5-18 from ten different countries (Australia, China, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, Spain, UK and USA). Goal of the study was to investigate children’s perceptions of nature.
When asked to rank what was most important to them, ten times more children ranked watching TV or playing computer games first compared to those who chose saving the environment (40% and 4%, respectively). And while species extinction rates are estimated to be up to 1,000 times the natural rate, only 9% ranked looking after animals as most important and 15% did not even know what ‘endangered species’ implied.
When asked which type of animal or plant they would most like to save, less than 1% opted for insects, 6% chose plants, 9% cited birds, 23% reptiles and 50% mammals.
"The survey confirms the alarming disconnect of our children with nature and calls for urgent action to close this growing gap between tomorrows citizens and their natural heritage" commented Ahmed Djoghlaf, the executive secretary of the Convention.
For more information: