Sometimes, the work here is slow. And not due to lack of hard workers, but more that the organisation does not have the time to deal with sign offs and action plans. This means, that even though we work hard, it can be difficult to move forward with projects and at times can be very frustrating. I have, however, recently submitted my first publication abstract, and if accepted will feature in the 5th Environmental Conference in Thessaloniki next March.
Unfortunately I won’t be there to present the project myself, but it will suffice as my debut into scientific literature. An exciting opportunity, and one that will benefit both the organisation and my future career. So apart from that not much has happened here in Samos. We are revamping the questionable microplastic methodology and waiting for it to be signed off so we can start sampling.
We have been practicing though, as you can see from the photos. We have starting looking at the ratio between surface water zooplankton and microplastic debris, so are taking samples from our wonderful research vessel (a pedalo) in the bay next to the base. It’s a very much a working progress, with a strong emphasis on basic trial and error. A good way to learn, and it should result in another publishable investigation.
So, apart from microplastics there are many other projects on-going here. The only other one I am involved in is the underwater visual census (UVC) survey that we conduct every month. It was for this that I spent many tedious hours learning the latin names of over 100 local fish species. As well as fish, we also conduct UVCs for invertebrates and algae.
We have seven sites to sample each month, all within walking distance of the base so every couple of days we set out armed with transects, quadrats, masks and fins to count biota. It makes an incredible change from sitting in the office, but unfortunately we never see the outcome of the data. It goes into a spreadsheet and stored away for what seems like eternity. It would be much more motivating to know what effects and conclusions could be drawn from our practical work, and it would also ensure we regulate the surveys with the upmost accuracy and precision. Without results, there doesn’t seem to be much reason to do this. But such is life.
Among the terrestrial team, there are some very interesting projects. For example Samos is the only Greek island to inhabit Chameleons, therefore we have a very dedicated team that survey for them every night. They have just started to tag the tails, just to make sure they are finding different ones each time. I have joined in a few of these surveys, which are always done after dark when they are sleeping. This way it makes them more obvious to spot within the trees. I am still yet to find one myself, it takes a very well trained eye to spot the cleverly camoflaged reptiles, but I have seen plenty of the beasts running around. They are adorable! My mind is cast back to being a teenager, and pleading with my mother to buy me one for a pet. I’m very please she didn’t let me. They are an extremely unique creature that belongs in the wild. They are highly protected here, and due to the fact that the only Greek population of Chameleons are found in Samos, the collection, killing, captivity and export is illegal. It doesn’t stop it happening though. When we are out surveying, we have to explain to locals that we are collecting nocturnal insects, just incase people come to the same spot to collect them for sale. I imagine they’re worth a lot on the black market.
There was one instance recently, when a local seeking a quick buck stole 3 of the creatures and took them to the city to sell. Only, as soon as the ferry landed in Athens, he called us, his heart filled with regret and they were remorsefully sent back home. We released them a few days later, back to where they belong. Happy and free!
We receive the occasional call from concerned locals about injured wildlife on the Island. Some survive, some don’t. Ones that do are usually sent to a rehabilitation center in Athens such as the Flamingo that broke it’s leg, and a poisoned Jackal.
We will be releasing the Flamingo back into the Samian wilderness next week.
Just in time too, as his friends have now come to stay on the once dried out salt marsh for the winter.
The not so lucky ones are used for research. The necropsy team gets right on it, slicing off pieces of liver, muscle and heart. The stomach is always opened to examine the contents; the most interesting one was the young turtle that had eaten a yellow balloon. It didn’t seem to be the cause of death, but it certainly reinforced the vital research we are conducting.