I had been asked to go to Greece and be a ‘scientific research volunteer’ working with the Earthwatch Institute and Tethys Research Institute in the Amvrakikos gulf in Greece. I was so excited and a little nervous. There were 5 volunteers from all over the world. There was Kimberley, originally from Canada but now lives and teaches in London, Lynne and Christine both from the United States, Shotaro (Sho) from Japan and me from Derbyshire, England. Our leaders name was JoAn Gonzalvo from Barcelona and his assistant Ioannis from Greece. We shared a very large room in an apartment in a lovely house two minutes’ walk away from the sea. We had bunk beds, two large sofas and two desks with computers to do our work.
There was a ‘rota’ on the back of our door to let us know what jobs we had to do and when. I was to cook the first evening meal with sho, we made shepherd’s pie – it was not as good as I make at home as we could not get gravy! But everyone enjoyed it. Every day we had lovely salads, fresh bread from the local bakery and a neighbour would bring us fresh figs. On our first day out on the boat it felt like a ‘military mission’. Joan was very precise as to how things had to be done and how important it was. It was then that I really felt that we could make an important contribution to this research. The first day out we went to Kalamos, we had only been out on the boat for a short while when Sho shouted out very excitedly “Dolphins at 1 o’clock 100 meters!” we were all really excited especially JoAn who told us these Striped dolphins (Stenella) had only been spotted once before in 20 years! JoAn took over 300 photos!
After the first two days out we were based in the Amvrakikos Gulf, where we spotted the Bottlenose Dolphines, there were about 20 in total, a newborn, a calf and a juvenile – we saw them with their mothers and it was so exciting. JoAn took us to see a mussel farm that had been closed because of pollution. Each day we were shown films such as ‘Farming the Seas’, or had lectures about dolphins and sperm whales. We also had lectures on the illegal use of driftnets, overfishing and fish farms. Each day I wrote my blog to let everyone know what a fantastic time we were having. You can have a look at this by following http://james.earthwatchblogs.org/.
Since returning from Greece, our ECO-Interactors, students and staff will continue our work on tree planting. Over the past 6 years we have planted over 2,000 trees and shrubs in our school grounds. Three members of our staff are now Tree Wardens for Erewash Borough Council. We are now taking part in ‘Saving the Great Trees of Derbyshire’. Working with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and Erewash Borough Council, we are collecting seeds from Veteran trees in Derbyshire which we will propagate and plant out when they have grown a little. This way we will help to attempt to conserve the genetic stock of at least some of these magnificent trees and so help safeguard future generations.