30 August 2009
As I sit and think of how to share my experiences of the past week, I find myself a little speechless. Then reading the other entries from days and years past – I find that I am in good company feeling as if their time with the dolphins has been unforgettable! I was worried when I booked the trip ... I am not a scientist, what if I screw up their research (I think I broke that pesky handheld computer)? who knew that my biggest problem would be trying to type an English entry from an Italian keyboard!
This past week has been a marvelous experience and I believe all of the thanks belong to three people – Marina, the crazy Italian who has an unhealthy fascination about jellyfish and wanting to live under the sea (I will return to work singing that song), Susie, a wonderful research assistant who cannot sit still if you paid her and Marcello, an Italian with a Scottish brough (who knew that could happen). Not to mentiont a few cetaceans (look I learned a new word) that were simply amazing! And when I mean just a few, I mean a “focal group size” between 8 and 20 with adults, calves and a few newborns. I am going to go home wondering and dreaming – which is smarter, bottlenose or common, are we positive or negative – when can I stop looking at my feet now? which is cooler, boat riding or jumping (sorry – aerial behavior) dolphins? I have my answers and I hope the volunteers after me have all the opportunities I had to come to their own conclusions. I may just be back next year to confirm my answers. Thank You!
21 August 2009
Dolphins of Greece, an evocative term for a fantastic expedition. Patient, friendly, good humoured, and infectiously enthusiastic about their work Marina and Zsuzsanna are great people and great teachers. Possi was great as well, although now he’s behaving better he’s starting to get boring. The volunteers on this team were also great, we got on well and worked together easily and efficiently. My thanks therefore to Jen, Rick, and Christoph, as well as Marina and Zsuzsanna for a wonderful time.
The work and experiences themselves were amazing. I’ll never forget the large group of juvenile dolphins showing stereotypical teenage behaviour (shoving, pushing, playing and flirting with each other), the two dead sea turtles we found, or the worry on our final boat trip that we wouldn’t see any dolphins. I wish I was able to stay and carry on working on this project, preferably with this team, but I have to return to the UK. So it’s with fond memories and sadness that I say farewell to Vonitsa and my first Earthwatch experience. I’ll definitely be trying to get on others, possibly this one again, and also to support Tethys.
As the expedition drew nearer, we tried to keep our expectations as reasonable as possible. So many people had told us of the beauty of Greece and of the incredible food for years leading up to our flight to Athens and bus ride to Vonitsa. Despite some airport delays and significant jet lag, we finally made it. Now as we wrap up our Earthwatch expedition I can safely say that all of our expectations were met and exceeded. Greece delivered the as-promised amazing food, the sights, the generous locals, the heat and the dolphins. But the importance of all of those things pale in comparison to the people we worked with on this expedition. Our volunteer-mates were hard-working yet fun. We immediately connected with both James and Christoph and together we created a memorable expedition. Our leaders, Susie and Marina, were incredibly professional and yet casual at the same time. They made sure that the work got done but also passed along the awe of seeing the dolphins (and jellyfish and turtles, albeit mostly dead ones). As teachers ourselves, we know that many behind-the-scenes details need to get done to make any learning experience happen. Susie and Marina undoubtedly worked very hard to provide the best possible experience for us. Their dedication and hard work led to great days on the sea and wonderful learning opportunities on land. Their love of the animals and of their work was infectious. And, of course, their sense of humor brought smiles everyday. They are scientists, for sure, and we are not, but they made us feel like a vital part of a team doing important research.
On one of the first days we were lucky enough to spot 4 dolphins in Kalamos after many prior trips (before we arrived) turned up none. But even before that turn of good luck, we noted what an amazing thing Earthwatch is able to do. Our van was like a little United Nations with American, Austrian, Brit, Hungarian, and Italian practicing bits of Greek sharing our own cultural quirks. We traded pieces of our own lives back home to make for an enriching experience. We have become more aware consumers of fish and more appreciative of the work that scientists do. We will bring home a new-found respect for the sea and for the people that tend it. Most importantly we will return home having made 4 great friends and so many memories we will never forget. The expedition far exceeded our expectations because of the wonderful people we were able to share it with. Thanks for everything! Efharisto para poli!
Rick and Jen (USA)
10 August 2009
The Earthwatch experience in Vonitsa was everything I had hoped it would be and much more. Not only did we get a good insight into the daily work of a marine researcher. We also got the privilege to be touched by the passion of Susie and Marina – two of the true heroes in Tethys; one of the organizations that stand between us and the total collapse of sea life as we have known it from the birth of mankind until today.
I think I speak for all the team members (in what I would absolutely call a stellar team) when I say that we will all return to our home countries filled with inspiration to make a difference in the fight for our oceans. That was the serious part. On top of that, I have had an absolutely wonderful time here. With warm, generous and fun people, both the team members and of course our hosts: diligent, helpful and sweet Susie and energetic, bubbly, Berlusconi-bashing Marina. Add to that the stunning Greek landscape, wholesome delicious food and the one around which everything revolves: Posi the dog. I could not possibly have spent a better 9 days!
The summerheat of Greece seems to have melted the normally cold hart of this Scandinavian. I am feeling quite emotional about having to leave Vonitsa and getting on the plane home tomorrow. My expectations for this expedition were met and surpassed. Learning about the research was interesting and a great eye opener. Spotting dolphins was exiting, but the interaction with my fellow team mates and the researchers was without a doubt the best part. I have gained great respect for all the hard work and dedication required to give us -amateurs- a short glipse of the work of a marine biologist. Thank you so much!
Finally, I would like to give HUGE thanks to Marina and Zsuzsanna for taking such good care of us. Marina, you showed so much knowledge, energy and passion that I almost want to become a marine biologist myself. Susie, although you can be a bit bossy at times, I am just lost for words to describe how much I appreciate the effort you have put into guiding us through the expedition. It wouldn′t have been the same without you.