Some highlights of my previous week that provide an indication of what it takes to be a successful intern.

  • Take advantage of opportunities! 

My working week actually began on Sunday afternoon. My supervisor approached me during lunchtime on Sunday and asked if I wanted to help with the necropsy of a turtle that was found stranded on a beach about 30 minutes away. I had already made plans for the afternoon  with my friends, but I had never had the chance to join a necropsy and so I decided that it would be a good idea to participate. My friends came along and were the “camera team” and they watched the necropsy as well. Overall, it was a really enjoyable and productive afternoon because I got hands on experience doing the necropsy. 

This is the type of situation that reminds me that it is so important to take advantage of every opportunity that you come across. Even if it may seem insignificant at the time or outside the lines of your internship description, all experiences will provide a new learning experience. It could be a learning experience that shows you what you do not want to do in the future, or rather you discover something that you really enjoy. Either way I think that it is important to always “say yes” and make the most out of your internship period.

Measurements of the turtle.
Removal of the intestines and stomach contents.
Measurement of the turtle, and removal of some claws.
  • Interact with all of your peers – you never know who could provide valuable knowledge.

I spent one morning this week kayaking to collect water samples. Each time that we go out we have to take a backup kayak for safety reasons, and each time I try to ask different people to come along. I have found that including different people in your project, even in a small way like a backup, provides a range of insights and questions that you may not have considered before. It is very useful and a good idea to take into account other people’s thoughts, because a perspective different from your own is always important for reflection and improvement of your own work.

Kayaking with Loutje (my usual partner) and the backup team.
  • Be enthusiastic to learn and prove yourself as a valuable member of the team.

I have realized that it is very important to be an enthusiastic intern who is proactive about learning. Particularly in an organization such as Archipelagos where there are many interns over the summer months, it is essential to be recognized as a valuable member of the team. One example that emphasizes the importance of showing that you are motivated and able to be of use is during the marine mammal boat surveys. There are only about 8 places available for interns per survey due to the limit of the boat but there are usually more people on the team at any time. I have observed that people who are recognizably more useful and active about participating are primarily considered for these surveys. It is always a good idea to show your interest by asking questions if you are unsure, and volunteering to help out wherever you can. This sort of attitude will contribute to a successful and fruitful internship experience.

On the boat survey this week, we spotted two bottlenose dolphins. In previous surveys, a resident pod of common dolphins and other common dolphins are usually spotted. Therefore, I was very fortunate to be a part of this boat survey. The dolphins were spotted travelling and they approached the boat. A few minutes later one dolphin leaped out of the water and it was a very interesting behavior to observe. We were able to watch the dolphins for about 15-20 minutes until they disappeared from our line of sight. During this survey, I had my camera to take pictures and I was able to do one 30 minute transect to collect water samples.

Sunrise from the boat.
One bottlenose dolphin that we spotted.

A busy, productive week with Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation.

I wrote this blog post as I was finishing up the week 10/7 and I cannot believe how quickly the time has flown by here – I only have about one month left! I have had many different experiences both during working hours and on the weekends and evenings here at Archipelagos. I have met an array of different people from all over the world in both a professional and personal manner. I think that it is important for students to consider an international internship similar to mine because it offers unique opportunities that you normally would not find if you stay in your home country. I have learnt a lot about the Greek culture in general and about the culture of the people on Samos Island. I have come to recognize this island as “my” island since I have spent such an extended amount of time here. I have really enjoyed exploring all that Samos has to offer and I am very grateful for his experience. In addition, I have met many people from all different parts of the world. I think that exposure to different cultures and countries is very important. And my internship experience has become a lot more valuable due to the different backgrounds and perspectives that have contributed to my work.

Boat survey crew 13/7 (Canada, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Zimbabwe, USA, UK, France and captain from Italy)

How did I spend my week?

I have had a very busy week that started with work in the lab. I finished filtration of the oesophagus of one sea turtle (this data will not be included in the report since the other turtle did not have an oesophagus saved, however it was interesting to do the analysis anyways). I found a few relatively large pieces of plastic and a lot of plastic fibers. I have not yet done statistical analysis or compared this data to the other organs of this turtle but I predict that it will show that there was more plastic in the oesophagus than in the other organs. I think that this could possibly be the case due to the structure of the turtle’s oesophagus. Attached is an image of the oesophagus and it seems more likely that fibers could get caught in the esophageal papillae (spikes) thus showing a higher percentage of plastic than in other organs.

Oesophagus of a loggerhead sea turtle (C. caretta).

On the Monday afternoon I had a meeting with the scientific director about how I will spend my next month. We decided collectively that I will analyze more loggerhead sea turtles to contribute to the previous data on these turtles. There were about 3-4 strandings in 2017, and their organs are stored in the freezer at the base therefore I aim to analyze at least these samples over the next few weeks. In addition, I will be participating in the marine mammal boat surveys and collecting water samples behind the boat using a plankton net. I will also be collecting water samples behind the kayak with the plankton net on days when the weather is suitable and there are no boat surveys. I will then analyze these water samples in search for microplastics. If time allows, I will also count for plankton in the water samples in order to estimate the ratio of plastic:plankton in the surface waters. This is important data to collect because a lot of marine organisms do not selectively ingest plankton over plastic; they just consume the surface waters unknowingly.

On Tuesday, I participated in a boat survey that left at 6am and lasted until about 12pm. Myself and another intern identified one dolphin that was travelling (this behavior is recorded due to the movement of the dolphin); and one other dolphin was identified as travelling. However, we did not view any other marine mammals in this survey. I was able to collect a water sample of a 30 minute straight line transect.

Collection of surface samples using a plankton net behind the survey boat.

The next day I did microscope work to analyze the oesophagus samples on one sea turtle, and I spent the rest of the day researching methods for plankton counting. However, this search was rather fruitless since most methods use equipment that is not available here at Archipelagos.

On Thursday I participated in another boat survey that lasted the entire day – from 8am until about 5pm. We followed a different transect around the east of the island, however we did not view any dolphins on this day.

Unfortunately, I woke up on Friday morning feeling very ill – I think that I was dehydrated and possibly a little sun sick from the boat survey the day before. However, later in the day I did conduct an interview with my supervisor, Dr. Guido Pietroulongo, for the internship notation program. Guido is someone that I have gained significant respect for over the past few months here at Archipelagos and I felt that he would be a suitable candidate for my interview since he has had many years experience in the field of marine biology. My conversation with Guido has helped me to realize that I really enjoy the more relaxed working atmosphere here at Archipelagos. However, I would not be very interested in a marine biology career related to organisms and their behavior. Rather I am interested in the microbiology and biochemistry of the marine ecosystem. I think that I will really enjoy work in this discipline and also be challenged often. I have really enjoyed doing fieldwork, however, I find the limitations and possible inaccuracy in fieldwork to be very frustrating at times. Therefore, I would prefer to pursue a career that involves more accurate work in a well-equipped laboratory.




Samos Island and a few of the beautiful scenes that I have explored so far.

Samos Island

The Archipelagos main base is located in Methokampos just about 150m from the beach, and approximately 3 km east of the main tourist town Pythagorio. Pythagorio is a lovely Greek town. The main street is dotted with souvenir and clothing stores alongside grocery markets and ice cream shops. This street leads you down to the harbor, which is lined with friendly, good quality restaurants, and bars that face the yachts and boats moored in the water. If you turn off of the main street and venture through the winded side streets you will find some of the town’s hidden treasures.

Pythagorio in all of its evening glory

My favorite place in Pythagorio is a broken down castle that is situated behind the town right on the sea. I have spent a few evenings eating a picnic with friends and watching the sun go down over the mountains from these ruins. The pictures below show the beautiful panoramic view that this humble location has to offer.


There is a charming monastery in the mountains above Pythagorio. The monastery is situated next to a cave in which there is a smaller prayer room as well. This place offers a breathtaking view of the town below and the sea stretched for miles beyond the marina.


A Few Weekend Adventures 

Last weekend, my sister visited and so we hired a car and drove around to some different areas on the island. We first drove north to a popular tourist town, Kokkari, where we ate lunch on the beautiful beach. Then we continued our drive west to a secluded beach called Mikro Seitani. You have to hike in for about twenty minutes but once you reach the beach it is absolutely breathtaking. We spent the day snorkeling around the rocks and soaking up the sunshine. Later in the day we drove south to visit a small little town and then our final stop was on Balos Beach. We spent the night here lying on the sand underneath an open cave. We watched the stars as we went to sleep and woke up to the sun rising up over the mountains.

View from Kokkari Beach.
Hiking to Mikro Seitani Beach
Mikro Seitani Beach
Balos Beach Cave


Samos is an Island of green mountains and blue waters. The sea surrounding the island is understandably one of the greatest attractions as it offers up the most beautiful views and sceneries. Additionally, the underwater world of the Aegean Sea is a spectacle to be discovered. I have been on one scuba diving excursion since I arrived on Samos and it was very enjoyable. The underwater life in these waters is different to what I am accustomed to seeing in the Indian Ocean off the shores of Mozambique, but it is nonetheless interesting.

Before the Dive.
Mountain to Sea.

Another interesting day trip that I had was to Kasonisi Island. We walked from the main base eastward for approximately 3 hours to reach the shore of Samos that is opposite Kasonisi. The walk there was through the hills and so it was rather tiring but still very beautiful. Once you walk down to the beach, it is shallow enough to cross the channel with your bags above your head to reach the small Island called Kasonisi.

View of Kasonisi Island

I think that I have been very fortunate to have the opportunity to learn about the micro plastics field and marine biology in general during my internship as well as being able to explore the beautiful Island that I am living on. I definitely appreciate all that this island has to offer in sceneries, activities and people; and I am so grateful that I have so many more unique experiences still to discover and enjoy.

I would never have been able to accept this internship with Archipelagos if it wasn’t for the generous internship grant that I received from Dickinson College, as well as my parents’ relentless encouragement to pursue such an opportunity! Simply reflecting back on a few of the many ways how I have spent my time on Samos Island really puts into perspective the wonderful experience that I have had so far.