My first week with Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation is a good representation of the type of experience that one can have while working here at this organization. It is a melting pot of different students, graduates, and supervisors who devote their time to projects that research, protect or conserve parts of the Aegean Sea. Today there are about forty team members from about 20 different countries that are a part of the Archipelagos team here in Samos island and on two nearby islands, Lipsi and Leros.
I spent my first working morning in the microplastics laboratory practicing microplastic analysis of past samples. I was introduced to the protocols of the laboratory, and I read the protocols of the two different projects that were in the process at that time. Over the next few days I then read a large number of papers on the topic of micro plastic analysis in order to become familiar with the different processes.
That night I went for a midnight swim with a few other people and there was bioluminescent plankton in the water around us! It was a good introduction to the Aegean Sea.
The next day I helped the marine conservation team to install the artificial reef that they had built. I was a snorkeling aid and with a few other people we swam the reef out to the installation site about 100m off the shore. It was very interesting and educational to be practically involved with this installation and it was obviously great to spend working hours swimming in crystal blue water! This team has now installed four different types of artificial reefs about 100m from the shore in front of the main base. The reefs are monitored a few times a week at varying times in order to assess if the reefs provide a significant habitat for fish and other marine organisms. This is an experiment on the success of the different artificial reefs, and the end goal is to install many artificial reefs on Lipsi Island where Archipelagos is preparing a natural sanctuary for the release of captured dolphins and seals back into the oceans.
I was fortunate enough to spend the next morning on a boat survey for marine mammals. We left the marina in the morning and followed a specific transect to survey for dolphins. There were four people with binoculars each surveying a quarter of the area around us. We had hardly left the marina, and one person spotted a feeding frenzy with birds and dolphins. It was a pod of about 15 – 20 common dolphins (D. delphis). The boat went closer to the pod in order to monitor their behavior, and the dolphins began boat riding. It was a magical experience to watch the behavior of so many dolphins from such a short distance.
Looking back and reflecting on my first week has made me even more enthusiastic about the upcoming months and all of the experience that I can have if I truly grasp each opportunity that comes my way!