11 October 2010

Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 2-9 October 2010

I have had a wonderful week, seeing so many different dolphin behaviours and many sea birds including flamingos, cormorants and terns. Marina and Joe have made it special with their enthusiasm and anecdotes of a broad range of experiences in the field. I shall return to work refreshed and with an enhanced understanding of the importance of dolphins in their ecosystem.

Kate (UK)


It was an amazing week from several points of view – to meet so different and interesting people and to work together in such a wonderful project. I learned a lot about the dolphins, their life and behaviour, about the sea – how big, how great and at the same time how unprotected it is. When you learn something new, that really touches your mind, you start to think in a different way and consequently you change your deeds. Moreover, you try to share this experience with the other people and hopefully can make the surrounding world a little bit better. I also hope that the data we have managed to collect will be helpful for the further scientific work. This week in Vonitsa impressed me a lot and I would like to say thank you very much to Marina and Joe and all the people from our Team.

Eugenia (Russia)


Thanks to the weather, to a great team, to the dolphins and to Greece. It was a wonderful time and experience I have got. I do not think I would be able to get such an experience anywhere else and I hope I made a tiny contribution to the process of improvement of the environment. Let’s hope that the next teams and generations see how beautiful it is. Dolphins are wonderful creatures and have their right to survive as all the rest creatures in the world. The project was organised on very high professional level, exactly what was required for the effective work and team building exercise. My personal gratitude to Marina and Joe, for their professionalism and kind attention to the team, they were able to create the right atmosphere to give the feeling to every member of the importance of their contribution. The whole team was excellent, and everyone had a chance to use his or her knowledge and experience. I learned a lot, I hope to continue to cooperate with Earthwatch institute to take part in future projects. I wish all the best and every success to Tethys in their difficult and generous task. Thanks again and all the best!

Sergey (Kazakhstan)

Our week in Vonitza has been amazing. Marina’s enthusiasm for her subject (botany excluded?) and life in general made all the week a joy, not just the dolphin recording and watching. Flamingos, seagulls, schools of small fish boiling the sea waters, exploring islands and local community living, all added to the experience in which watching dolphins bow-riding was the highlight. Joe’s helpful, good-humour and interest in the work encouraged us. He and Marina worked (worked well together to make up the whole brilliant team) with an interesting group of fellow volunteers. Thank you to all who made the week possible.

Judith and George (UK)

05 October 2010

Bug bite

I set out at the beginning of this experience with the aim of broadening my understanding of cetaceans and hoped to use it to gain more of an insight into the field of Cetology. I’ve always held a deep fascination for the sea and all its inhabitants. So, when I was lucky enough to be offered this opportunity to get to know it a little bit better, I was really thrilled.

After almost 8 months of waiting for the time to depart on this journey, I arrived in Vonitsa, like a sponge, ready to absorb as much as I could. I will be the first to admit that I might have glamorized the whole concept of studying dolphins in my head, during the last 8 months. However, Joan was quick to bring my head out of the clouds and put feet back down on the ground. Right from the very beginning I learned that working on a project with volunteers involved three separate but equally important skills. The first being able to help in the data collection whilst conducting surveys and then be able to analyse the photos of every encounter. The second, was being able to communicate and connect with the volunteers in a way that provided them with the means to play their own role in the projects development. The final skill was taking care of the domestic affairs. I was surprised to see the amount of effort that had to go into keeping the day-to-day functioning of the project running smoothly and tried my best to keep it that way. Although, whether I succeeded in that final respect is up to Joan. Still, all this effort paled into insignificance whenever I reflected on how lucky I was to be in a position where encounters with wild dolphins were an almost daily pleasure.

The peak of this joy was on the 18th September, in Kalamos of all places. It was business as usual at the Tethys field base. Arising early with the sunrise, we left bleary-eyed from our base in Vonitsa, in the Amvrakikos Gulf. We drove to the nearby area of Kalamos from where we were to embark on what most of us had resigned ourselves to as a survey without much hope. As we cast off from the Mytikas, Joan the principle investigator (a title given to him, much to his own distaste) drove our small rib into an ethereal mist shrouding the nearby island of Kalamos. A former watery Eden, up until 1997 had a healthy population of 150 common dolphins. Sadly, however, the population suffered a dramatic decline, from about 150 to 15 in just 15 years. This was primarily the result of overfishing, which led to the depletion of their prey. However, a mere ten minutes into our survey, Joan calls out excitedly, “Dolphins, three o’clock, horizon!” We all spin round and gaze expectantly at the area that Joan has steered the boat towards. We stare intently for the next thirty seconds and with no dorsal fin sighted, we thought perhaps Joan had been mistaken. Then, they surfaced again! Black shapes arching majestically out of the water, around 500 metres straight in front of us. Delighted, there was a collective intake of breath as the sheer size of the pod that we had found became apparent. At least 10 individuals were cruising along in front of the boat. However, the best was yet to come. Joan calls out “They’re common dolphins!”. Utterly astonished, we all jumped to our stations, Joan and myself yelling out instructions. Joan’s excitement, infectious. Elated calls from our volunteers began raining in providing us valuable information on dolphin numbers and location with respect to our boat, by putting into practice the well rehearsed procedures, originally taught role-playing on the beach back in Vonitsa and honed during a week spent observing the bottlenose dolphins of the Amvrakikos Gulf. We were lucky enough to remain with them for the next three hours, trying to collect as much data as possible on this important encounter. We watched with delight as they lounged about, just stretching near the surface. The day was topped off by a sighting of a newborn common dolphin, who like any regular kid, was bursting with energy keeping the adults from resting. However, despite the feeling of euphoria on board, the passing-by of two large bottom trawlers, heading to their fishing grounds, provided a sobering reminder that lessons had still not been learnt.

During the journey back to port, the atmosphere onboard the zodiac was palpable. Each member talked animatedly about such and such a sighting that they had had, despite the fact that we had all seen the same. Finally, it was with a feeling of great satisfaction, contentment and pride that we all disembarked from the boat. We drove back to Vonitsa exhausted, but with the knowledge that we had all witnessed something special.

For me personally, this experience was the culmination of three years of hard work in getting to where I hoped to be and sheer good luck that I had been offered this opportunity. I write this with two weeks of this incredible adventure to go and feel incredibly privileged to have had the opportunity to meet such a wide range of people from all over the world; to be able to work with such a beautiful species in their natural environment; and to have been taught so much by Joan and Marina, who, together, offer a staggering amount of knowledge and insight. They have both, each in their own unique and completely different way, conveyed a feeling that will be hard to forget. I fear I have been bitten by the same "bug" and it will be with a heavy heart that I finally leave to return to England, but also a content one, knowing that this experience has been everything that I could have wished it to be.

Joe Treddenick
Research assistant, Coastal Dolphins Greece

28 September 2010

Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 21-28 September 2010

Thanks to the staff (including Posi) for sharing your dolphins with us. I am glad we had a couple of wonderful weather days to witness these special animals and I hope the data collected continues to benefit their health.

Jean (USA)


Participating in field research has been extremely interesting, with the help of Joan, Joe and especially the dolphins. The week has certainly caused me to re-examine my place in the whole ecosystem, from scuba diving to home aquariums to fishing and multiple other aspects of my daily life that I didn’t think about much in the past. Thanks to all who made this week possible.

Kim (USA)


The weather didn’t cooperate very well but due to the extraordinary efforts of Joan and Joe we were able to maximize the experience. I appreciated the detailed explanations of the nuts and bolts of marine research. I look forward to reading the forthcoming papers.

Tom (USA)


This was my opportunity to return to Vonitsa and the dolphins for the second year. I have dreamed of this week for the last 12 months, and memories did not fail. The quiet pace of Vonitsa with the freshest of air, combined with sparkling water and socializing dolphins…  a truly special experience. Thank you, Earthwatch and Tethys. May all our best wishes come true for the creatures of our oceans!

Karin (USA)

20 September 2010

Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 12-19 September 2010

Thanks for the great time in Vonitsa. We had 4 days of dolphin sightings and they were all different and special. The most beautiful day was on Saturday when we saw 10 common dolphins around Kalamos island. That made me very happy and gave me a feeling that there is still hope. To live so close with the other volunteers was a bit scary in the beginning. But I feel that we are a wonderful group and we became close friends. I laughed so much the last week. I am sure that we will keep in touch. I loved being with you all on that trip.
Joan, you are a wonderful (and very handsome) instructor with a lot of knowledge and passion. Thanks for everything. I had a wonderful time. Joe, keep on going. No matter in which direction. Keep on travelling. Thanks for everything.

Vanessa (Germany)


This was my 28th Earthwatch expedition so I knew it would be another great experience and indeed I was very ,very pleased with the whole project. We had splendid sightings and an amazing turn of good fortune when we were able to study a pod of common dolphins; something which had not been observed here for several years. It was a delight to have a team with volunteers from Switzerland, Germany, Australia and 2 of us from California. The friendship and camaraderie was excellent and I feel we will be keeping in touch. The actual work was VERY interesting, and even when no dolphins were observed we were surrounded by beautiful scenery and splendid weather. Meals were excellent and quite often we succumbed to the temptations of local restaurants. Joan, our team leader, showed incredible knowledge about the dolphins, seeming to be aware of their location and able to predict where they would emerge. He is able to memorise their positions, location, numbers in groups, all in a whirlwind of action at times. Joe, too has a splendid grasp of all the activity . A wonderful opportunity to observe dolphins, create new bonds of friendship , AND … very important… help protect these amazing creatures.

George (USA)


I want to tell you how much I enjoyed this exciting meeting with the dolphins. When I saw "my first one ever" my heart missed a beat! I will not forget being surrounded by these elegant, wonderful animals. Great to see newborns with their mothers, too! Special thanks go to Joan and Joe. On this team I got more exciting information than on any of my previous 12 Earthwatch expeditions due to Joan and his great knowledge and outstanding love for dolphins. Joe was very helpful and patient. As we were a team with only 5 members, we were very dependent on each other and now, at the end of the project we can say goodbye to real friends who we shall never forget. We had happy days together and laughed a lot but with my poor English I could not fully understand and follow all the jokes. Back home at Zurich with my memories, I will still be close to the project and I hope it will continue with your affection and care for the dolphins. Thanks so much for this wonderful and memorable experience!

Anneliese (Switzerland)


Vonitsa and it’s dolphins have been all I expected plus more. Seeing the animals in their natural habitat was wonderful. Joan, sharing your knowledge of the dolphins helped me to better understand their nature and not expect what the aquariums show us. Especially exciting was seeing the common dolphins on our last day. Your enthusiasm as well as Joe's let us know how special this sighting was. Joe, you were so helpful and friendly, thank you. Good luck to you in whatever you decide to do. The village has been so friendly, the environment so pretty and the weather collaborated to make it a perfect Earthwatch experience. Of course the team members were one of the top ingredients; we all worked so well together. I will recommend the project to my friends.

Nikki (USA)

10 September 2010

Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 3-10 September 2010

7 wonderful days in Vonitsa. Watching wild dolphins was my long-time dream and finally it came true. I hope future generations can enjoy such experience. I want to study more about dolphins, animals, the whole environment, and act to achieve sustainable earth. Joan, I could hardly understand your jokes, but I liked to see everyone laughing at them. You are so good at creating a cheerful mood. It was a pleasure to be with you. Thank you very much for everything! I will never forget that boat! Joe, I was so lucky to meet you at the bus terminal by accident. Thanks a lot for your kindness. Good luck in your future!

Emi (Japan)


We had an absolutely, amazingly, wonderful time! The project is extremely well organized from the second we arrived to the moment we had to leave. We quickly learned that we were not here to just quietly watch dolphins. We were here to be a part of a real field research project! While our hearts broke to hear about the decline of dolphins around Kalamos, we treasured the precious moments with the dolphins of the Amvrakikos Gulf. Watching a juvenile dolphin jump in the air and groups of dolphins glide through the calm water was pure joy. Listening to the dolphins exhale, especially the “asthmatic” one, truly touched our souls. Of course, the last day was the most fantastic; as we were surrounded by dolphins, Joan switched off the engine and exclaimed “THIS is Amvrakikos!” and time stopped and for that moment we felt his passion for the dolphins and this beautiful place, which will stay in our hearts forever. We know the dolphins' future is in great jeopardy, as is their ocean home, and we promise to do what we can and to tell anyone that will listen about our experience. Because no matter how dismal the situation maybe, we can never stop being their voices, so that in the future, we can still loudly yell “dolphins, one o’clock, 50 meters!”. Joan and Joe, thank you so very much for creating such a wonderful experience. We hope that we can stay in touch and our paths will cross again.

Daniel & Alexandra (USA)


This has been an extremely privileged opportunity. To be so close to the dolphins, sea turtles and to understand the consequences of human activity in the resources that Mother Nature provides. Mostly I could only watch silently in awe or go “wow, look at those amazing creatures” instead of pointing out “dolphins sighted, 6 o’clock, 50 metres” which must have exasperated Joan countless times. The facts of the dwindling marine life are quite saddening to know, and this expedition serves as a reminder that we are all so small, and connected like parts of a chain of something larger. Be it cetaceans, land animals or other resources, we must all do our bit to love our environment a little more… so that we build a world based on love and respect for all that nature provides us with. Thank you for sharing so much knowledge Joan and Joe, it has been an experience which all of us will carry and cherish for a long time.

Min (Singapore)


I had a great time here in Vonitsa. I love this quaint, Mediterranean town and the valuable research that Tethys does. I chose this research expedition to explore a new country and to gain practical experience in marine biology – mission accomplished! I am also grateful for the “league of nations” environment that this project fosters. It was a pleasure to learn about Spanish, British, Japanese, and Singaporean culture. This will be the first of many Earthwatch research expeditions for me – perhaps I’ll even join “Dolphins of Greece” again! Best wishes in all your future endeavours.

Adria (USA)

29 August 2010

Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 22-29 August 2010

Wake up, work, get home, dinner, gym, sleep.
Wake up, work, get home, dinner, gym, sleep.

Wake up, work, get home, dinner, can’t be bothered going to the gym, sleep.

Etc etc etc.

And so the days continue, bored and totally lost of focus, excitement, dedication and purpose. In a city like London, it is so easy to get lost in the crowd, be just a nameless face. Pessimism and negativity towards humanity and their effects on the planet had set in, however truthfully, I was not doing much to help either. What I take with me, apart from all the amazing experiences mentioned above through out the years, is a sense of purpose and hope. I have seen first hand that the world could just stand a chance, because there ARE people that care out there. I had forgotten to believe this. And to meet two of these people, Joan and Andjin makes it a real and inescapable fact. How inspiring! I sincerely thank you for this. Keep up the amazing work.

Wake up, teach my class and spread the word, get home, dinner, gym, sleep.

Wake up, continue to spread the word, get home, dinner, gym, sleep.

Wake up, watch the kids spread the word, get home, dinner, still can’t be bothered going to the gym, sleep.
Etc etc etc.

Alessia (UK/Australia)


As I sit here, Sunday morning, the morning of our departure, I try and write. I sit here drawing a blank; a quite literal lack of words. For everyone that knows me or has met me can appreciate that my silence is as rare and, more importantly, peaceful as a blue moon. The town, the people, the animals, the adventures, and the new family I have made over the past week have imprinted upon me something that I cannot express in the little time I allowed myself to process this most life changing of experiences. Hopefully, when I look back at my life in the coming few years, the gravity of my time here can be quantifiable. However, until then, my reticence will have to make due.

Cheers to the Dolphins of Greece and all of the people who live and work to preserve them. You passion is unrivalled.

Sam (USA)

22 August 2010

Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 13-20 August 2010

The work you do is great. Thank you so much for teaching me more about dolphins than I could ever read about in a book. I going home and educating my family about how to ask questions at restaurants, and how to buy fish. I had a fantastic time, way to short though. Thank you for stopping and picking up the garbage in the cove. Every little bit helps, and just may be other people will get the message! Joan, I am going to miss your humour and your smile. Keep doing what you’re doing. People like you are what makes such a difference in the world. Keep smiling… I will be back some day, hopefully next year. I hope to see you again. Andjin, thank you for the Dutch humour and patience with all of us! Don’t ever give up. You can reach your dream!

Julia (USA)


What should I say… time with you and the beautiful dolphins was just too short! I learned, enjoyed and laughed a lot! Since I had absolutely no expectations and simply wanted to do something meaningful during my vacation, I was overwhelmed by everything that we experienced together. The field work was only part of this journey in the cetacean world. I am so grateful that you also introduced to us many issues of the global fishing industry and… made me think… made me reflect on my consumption behaviour… convinced me that I can also react to all the problems in the marine ecosystems worldwide. THANK YOU! I am so happy to have met you and been part of this project! Looking forward to future meetings and to working on all ideas we had during dinners and café time! Andjin, thanks for your jokes and your patience with all of us during the cropping time!

Mariya (Bulgary)


Thanks to you, I had a very good time in Vonitsa! Of course, it’s first time to see wild dolphins for me. So I was really excited about it. In addition, you introduced to me some issues on global fishing industry. I know we Japanese also have much to do with these problem. So when I go back to Japan, I must study and learn more about the cetacean ecosystem, the issue of fishing and, of course, the argument between Japanese government and IWC. I will be a doctor and as such my work will be saving people. But it’s the people that cause environmental problems. So I think it’s very important to have a passionate concern for both, people and environment. I want to be a doctor who can cure not only people but also the Earth! It was so great talking with you! I will miss you! Joan, when I meet you again, I will definitely be able to understand your jokes! (I must study English). I promise I will give you a ride on a yacht when you come to Japan! Please do not worry about our three kinds of Japanese alphabet. Andjin, thank you for taking care of me! I will check my quarters and remember to drink water regularly even when I go back to Japan. When you come to Japan in the future, please let me know! I will probably be around Tokyo, so I can show you around in gratitude!

Nobuyuki (Japan)


I cannot begin to thank you for enriching my life. I was so moved by the beauty of the sea, the charming villages and the magic of the dolphins. What a gift you gave me. Your patience, teaching skills and knowledge are impeccable. The daily lectures and casual conversations, at the dinner table, truly opened my eyes to how important preserving all life is. It is so easy to believe that we, as people, are not damaging the sea because we visually can not see what goes on underneath. Your teaching methods were kind and you showed much patience in helping me understand. I can’t even imagine the self sacrifice, which comes with your kind of work, you are admirable. My wish is that more people cared liked you do. Andjin, thank you so much for your kindness and patience in assuring a successful project. You took extract time to assure I understood the logistics, and many other aspects of the project.

Lisa (USA)


This has been perhaps one of the best animal experiences I have ever had in my life. I do not want it to be over! I have been very impressed with all you have done to organize and manage this project. Everything I have witnessed has been, in my opinion, very well documented and particularly unbiased in terms of how you gather data, the level of detail and care taken to ensure proper protocols, procedures, etc. In addition, you have both been excellent hosts and given us all good opportunities to enjoy ourselves and have some fun at your expense. The food has been delicious and healthy. I must also say that I was exceptionally impressed with how informative the information was prior to arriving in order to prepare us for a great project. Thanks for answering all my questions – there were many, no?. Finally, thanks for using your fantastic experience and talents to help our world and these wonderful creatures. This is very selfless of you both! That is a dedication that I can now appreciate much more thoughtfully and empathetically. I have great respect for both of you but particularly you, Joan, because I totally understand and appreciate your guidance to all of us. I think you might see me again! Ciao!

Lora (USA)

12 August 2010

Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 3-10 August 2010

Thank you so much for introducing me to the wonders of the Seas. After many years absence from Earthwatch travel, I chose this project to acquaint myself with marine wildlife and the issues that surround them. Our seas and oceans are a part of our planet that until recently I have had little time to explore. Your project has not only educated me on the issues in this breathtaking region but also serious issues worldwide. I will always be grateful for this. Your enthusiastic teaching and seeing firsthand your true passion for your dolphin family has been truly inspiring. As a professional who has spent a career working in science and with animals I want to thank you for being so thorough and presenting such thought provoking material for the group to mull over. Your professional and caring approach for your dolphin charges and other gulf wildlife residents reminds me why this planet does stand a chance. Over and above this, seeing the dolphins in the beauty of their home and spending time in this quaint village has not only been an awesome experience but every moment with you has been great fun. You are the best. Thanks.

Vivian (Canada)


Thank you for all of the amazing experiences here. The way I imagined it would be was not even close to the magic of seeing dolphins up close. I will always remember their acrobatic grace, curiosity, and spectacular leaps out of the water. I was so moved by their interest in us—gliding up to the bow to bow ride, coming up to the boat and turning to look up at us, poking their rostrum and eyes out of the water to see us better. Making eye contact with one of the dolphins will be one of my best memories. After all that humans have done, it was incredible to see their openness to us.
Joan, thank you for explaining some of the science behind the beauty. I appreciate your comprehensive approach to battling the many stressors on the dolphins. The evidence of the common dolphins’ disappearance from Kalamos is indescribably sad. I am sorry that I can only imagine what it was like from your descriptions of when they were so plentifiul, rather than being able to see it with my own eyes. I admire the intense passion you feel for your work, and, after this experience, I can understand it. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, giving us background with presentations and documentaries, and, most of all, giving us the opportunity to experience dolphins (and the mobula ray!) up close.

Panni, thank you for your gentle understanding. Your kindness and patience made me much less nervous on the boat and... in the kitchen! ☺.
Thank you also to Andjin for the help with cooking dinner and dessert. And Posi, sweet soul that you are.

Dawn (USA)

04 August 2010

Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 25 July - 1 August 2010

As time moves on, the memories of great experiences do not fade, but grow significantly more important in my life. I will leave Vonitsa and Dolphins of Greece with every confidence in the future. I firmly know that the impact of this past week will remain with me. I will always talk about the town, Joan and Panni, and of course and so importantly, the dolphins and their water habitats both here in Greece and globally. The passion and dedication to his work coupled with his deep devotion to these amazing sea mammals makes Joan stand out as a very special scientist. I have great respect for people who live their lives with these qualities. Personally, I have never really been very close to sea life, yet dolphins have intrigued me greatly. This week has facilitated change in my connection to the underwater world! Thank you!

Robin (USA)


Thank you for an amazing week in Vonitsa. A few things I will never forget .... Riding out in the boat early in the morning with the mist still on the horizon and the sun pale and sparkling on the bay .... Watching the moon rise over the rocky hills to the east .... The diamond spray of dolphins jumping in the far distance ... The Dalmation pelican flying low, dragging its feet in the water .... The glossy arcs of the dolphins surfacing .... The sound of their breathing with the gulls crying ... slender terns flying over us ... Dolphins leaping, splashing, churning the water all around us .... I am sad to leave, but very grateful to Joan and Panni for all they’ve done. Joan ... I appreciate your dry sense of humor almost as much as your skill as a teacher. Your patience and clarity as well as your deep sense of commitment are inspiring. It was so enlightening to spend these days in your company and to learn a little bit about what it takes to do scientific research (not to mention how to make that great yogurt dish for the lamb kebabs.) Thank you for teaching me so much about this incredible place and the beautiful dolphins who live here. Panni .... thank you for sharing your warmth, enthusiasm, compassion and intelligence so generously. It’s been glorious.

June (USA)


This is our 5th visit to the Dolphins of Greece project and it was as amazing as ever. Watching dolphins calmly swimming, leaping out of the water, surface feeding, bow riding etc is so incredible even now – we doubt that we’d ever get tired of seeing it! Favourite moments include watching a group of dolphins close to the boat feeding gently, with dolphins all around us at various distances jumping and leaping excitedly; sitting with the boat engine turned off and listening to the dolphins blows, while swimming around us and feeding. Fortunately, we’re off to Ithaka for a couple of days and will be back for the next team to see lots more incredible behaviour. But the most amazing time has to be the time spent with the turtles! Thanks to Joan, Panni, Posi and the dolphins and turtles for such a great week – remember we would like some Common and Striped Dolphins in Kalamos next week!

Elaine and Richard (UK)


"Oh, I have had my moments, but if I had to do it over again I would have more of them—just moments, one after the other."
--Nadine Stair

I have tried to live my life by this quote, appreciating the moments, as well as the broader picture, as I travel through life. This was never more true than this week as I collected observations as a traveler, dolphin watcher, lay-researcher and human being. I had many questions about what I saw and learned a great deal from Joan and Panni, both fantastic educators. I gathered inspired ideas about what I will bring back to share with my students, colleagues, family and friends about this experience. I learned a lot about what it takes to be a successful researcher, as I helped to carefully observe and record vital data. I observed the way of life here in this corner of the world, one very different and yet beautifully similar to my own. However, most importantly, I have a string of memories- these moments- that will forever connect me to the dolphins and their habitat. From beauty we receive truth and clarity. The dolphins’ lives here are not unlike our own, forever linked to the world around us. Though I have to spin the globe to see Vonitsa from my home in New York City, the environmental impact IS in my backyard.
I leave here committed to spread the message about these beautiful creatures and the impact we have on them. My goal is that someday, the girls I teach will be able to come here to see a cleaner gulf, a thriving dolphin poulation, and a graphs with lines of disappearing creatures and clean waters heading in the right direction.

I have come to Greece to learn about dolphins and about our past connected to this historic land. I feel I will leave this country feeling a sense of ownership for the intertwined nature of our world- people, animals and ideas- in a way that I never would have imagined.
With incredible gratitude,

Trude (USA)

03 August 2010

Viewing dolphins as Taiji could show them

A very nice article featuring work by Tethys in the Amvrakikos Gulf, Greece, as well as an upcoming paper on compassionate feelings towards the sperm whales stranded in Italy in 2009:


The article, written by Rowan Hooper, appeared in the Japan Times.

25 July 2010

Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 16-23 July 2010

My expectations for this project were high, but it has exceeded them by miles! While I thought we would be allowed to help with the research, I never believed I would be as involved as we have been in data collection. The absense of an assistant meant that we, the volunteers, were needed to perform the tasks normally done by them. This enabled me to feel that I was truly contributing to the research that will hopefully help to save these beautiful animals. The atmosphere was much more relaxed than I had expected. I felt that we (Team X) and Marina developed a great rhythm, both in data collection and everyday life. It made every moment fun! We were also so lucky to have six sightings of dolphins in six days. The first day in Kalamos (day 6) brought us face to face with a group of about 30 striped dolphins, a species which is not normally found there. They approached the boat, surfacing a foot from the side and swimming along under the front. I do not have the words to describe our encounter, but it was one of the best moments of my life. Now I understand more about the threats to the aquatic ecosystems I am more desparate than ever to do whatever I can to help. This project has shown me that a career in marine research is the only one for me! Thank you to Marina, Tatiana, Karen and Tim for making this so special. I do not believe it would have been the same without you and I will never forget this week.

Fran, U.K.


One day before leaving now, just this morning, one of my team mates asked me if this Earthwatch expedition to Vonitsa, Greece, had lived up to my expectations... Without any doubt I replied to him, that it had in fact far exceeded the expectations. The unique experiences that we lived during these seven days will remain forever in my mind. The sense of collaboration of this team, four strangers coming from different parts of the world and effective led by Marina Costa, our team leader, allowed us to effectively participate in the understanding of this research and the nature of the dolphins, the hands-on collection of data, and the excitement of being in contact with this beautiful environemnt. We were lucky enough as to be able to see dolphins all these six days. I am already thinking about the ways I will share my experience with my colleagues and students. I am looking forward to my next expedition. Thank you, Marina, Fran, Karen and Tim for your presence in this place here and now. It has been a pleasure meeting you all.

Rosa, Canada


First of all I have to say how privileged I was to be involved in this project. Even though we were only involved in the research process for six days, the lessons I have learned in Vonitsa will stay with me forever. I too enjoyed being fully immersed in the research during the time we were here. From the different species of dolphins we encountered to the different transits we traveled to try and find the dolphins. Every day was a new adventure. Thank you to Marina, our fearless leader, for providing just the right balance between work and play. You definitely provided us with opportunities to laugh as well as providing us with insight into your work with cetaceans all over the world. Thank you also to Tatiana, Fran and Tim for all the memories. We really made a great team. I consider this expedition to be the start of a lifelong process of continuing to learn and educate others about the beautiful animals that live in the ocean and the things that we can do to make sure that they are there for future generations to enjoy.

Karen, USA

16 July 2010

Tethys research in the Amvrakikos Gulf featured in New Scientist

A couple of weeks ago, the online news editor from the renowned New Scientist Magazine - Rowan Hooper - joined the 'Dolphins of Greece' Project in the Amvrakikos Gulf.

Hooper, thanks to an EarthWatch initiative, had the opportunity to spend nine days shoulder-to-shoulder with Tethys’ researchers Joan Gonzalvo and Iva Popovic.

After this experience, Hooper wrote an article about the dolphins situation in the Amvrakikos Gulf and in the waters surrounding the island of Kalamos, where Tethys is studying dolphins since 1991.

Read the article: Dolphins make their last stand in the Mediterranean.

17 June 2010

Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 9-16 June 2010

All together, we learned an aweful lot, not only about dolphins, how to collect and process data, but also on the conservational aspects of this project, while having a good insight in major issues of todays marine ecosystems.

Harald, Lars (Denmark), Tommi (Finland) and André (Switzerland)

06 June 2010

Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 30 May - 6 June 2010

What an amazing experience. Every day was an adventure, whether going out into the Amvrakikos Gulf, out to Kalamos or just trying to cook dinner! On our first morning we set off in search of turtles by the mussel farm and after circling around for about 45 minutes and only seeing a couple of heads, I began to wonder how lucky we were going to be with the dolphins. Then, just a few minutes later we were surrounded by dolphins, pandemonium broke out on the boat with everyone shouting their sightings, the first volunteer got a taste of the dreaded netpad, and…….I was hooked! Seeing these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat was awesome, particularly the breaching, with every day better than the last. The afternoons spent cropping and matching photos of fins were far more fun than they should have been, thanks to my fellow volunteers (Jan, Melinda, Chris and Bob) and Iva`s enthusiasm and wicked giggles. The fun she and I had with “Banana Fin” will live long in the memory! Along with the fun, I also had my eyes opened to the problems of pollution, water diversion and over-fishing, not just for the dolphins but for the ocean at large. As well as the experience itself, it is these messages that I will take with me and try to disseminate back in the office and in my presentations to local school and business group back home.

Finally, I would like to say thank you to Joan and Iva for a fantastic week. Joan is so dedicated to his work and shows a real passion for the dolphins and a willingness to share this with us; never losing patience with the questions, nor the random direction and distances that were being yelled out so enthusiastically, but so often incorrectly! Then there was his wicked sense of humour, which so matched mine..……let`s never grow up Joan! Iva was such a fun girl too, always laughing (especially when I nearly fell out of the boat with the netpad in the storm at Kalamos!) and always making me smile, with her 3 fleeces and never a hair out of place! Thanks guys.

Paul (UK)


Yet again, another wonderful Earthwatch experience (my second, certainly not my last!). I learn so much on these trips. Things that I could never learn anywhere else and that are made even more compelling because of the PIs and assistants relating their own personal experiences and knowledge. Joan and Iva were no exception, sharing their passion and dedication to the sea and its inhabitants daily. The bunk beds and combined living quarters were of mild concern initially but it ended up feeling like a combination of camp and a slumber party. The cooking situation was of more dire concern for me (and would have been for others, believe me!) if we hadn’t convinced everyone to go out to eat on my night to cook! Otherwise, the meals were lovely and I am continually impressed by the skills of others to whip up great meals seemingly out of thin air. Even recording data in the netpad was mastered (well, it got BETTER if not mastered).

Throughout the week was lots of laughter, interesting conversations about all kinds of things, people from different places in the world sharing their stories and of course, the dolphins! Amazing to watch and wonder about these beautiful fi…… oh, mammals!! Every day but one we saw incredible feats of acrobatics and grace in the air and water (sometimes even some human acrobatics as we hung on for dear life with sudden boat acceleration! Or twisted around into unlikely positions as we tried to keep dolphins in sight.) The bow riding, breaching, surfing and simply seemingly playing of the dolphins was more than I could have asked for. Even the day we didn’t see any dolphins (our first day in Kalamos) was a stark reminder of what happens when an area is so overfished it can no longer sustain life – there were no birds beyond those just flying by, no signs of life at all in comparison to Amvrakikos – just people on sailboats on pretty, blue but empty water. It was truly a feeling of success when the second day in Kalamos (our last day of the trip) as we were heading in at the end of another no sighting day when we spotted 3 dolphins and kept them in sight despite rough water, thunder, lightning and spraying water. An exciting and dramatic way to end our trip. A great trip and another earthwatch experience that has left me inspired and exhilarated! Thank you Joan and Iva!

Janis (USA)


What a great experience. I was most impressed with our leaders, Joan and Iva, for their effort, dedication and generosity towards preserving the dolphins in a manner acceptable to the local community. This is a tremendous challenge, since the dolphin’s decline is tied closely to growth in the region and to fishing as an important income source. This trip gave me a good feel for the amount of effort involved and the level of need and urgency that society must understand and pay heed to, in order that we take the appropriate actions to save not only the dolphins, but other species also. I thank Joan and Iva for an outstanding effort to include us in their work and to educate us as to what mankind is doing to the seas and its creatures. I appreciate that the message is balanced – that there are alternative strategies that can meet the needs of the people, if not of corporations. They demonstrated that dedication is required and that broad support is essential to their mission.

There were two moments I will not forget. The first was a short period on our second day in which we were tracking a number of dolphins and they were appearing all around us, some at very short distance. There was a lot of shouting and excitment as Joan simultaneously maneuvered the boat, snapped photos, and gave instructions. Ten several dolphins jumped into the air directly in front of the boat. Wow. The second memorable event was a video conference Joan had with a class of students in the US who decided they wanted to do something to save the dolphins. Very impressive!

In summary, this was a great experience in the sense that it made me realize the urgency and magnitude of the challenges facing dedicated researchers such as Joan and Iva, along with their coworkers. And this is only one species from the sea that we need to take action on. The experience will allow me to build a much more effective class lesson for my students, as well as drive me to do much more to preserve what mankind is likely to lose if we don’t take preventive measures. I also enjoyed the other four volunteers on this project: Paul, Chris, Janis, and Melinda. I hope we’ll stay in touch.

Bob (USA)


Another amazing Earthwatch adventure! And another part of the world and earth that I need to worry about. ... I appreciate and so enjoy the perfect combination of education, contribution to serious fieldwork, a fabulous sense of humor, and the sense of comradary and teamwork that is built so quickly. Joan was always willing to share his knowledge and make sure we were getting the most from our experience. His concern and compassion for the dolphins is evident; he made sure we left the expedition with a broader understanding not only of the dolphins but of the fragility of the ecosystems of the oceans worldwide as well. His charm and sense of humor made it all fun! I especially apreciated him fixing and bringing me tea when I wasn’t feeling well...way above the call of duty. Iva’s enthusiasm for learning and her patience with all of us (including Joan) is comendable. Her guidance and smile were essential! It’s not always easy to work with volunteers, but Joan and Iva have mastered it! The experience couldn’t have been better.....a fabulous breaching dolphin and photos during “high seas”, thunder and lightening...who could ask for more?

Chris (USA)


“Enjoy the beauty of the dolphins,” Joan said as we raced back and forth across the water. Traveling unprepared in a world of ecological challenges can be quite a shock to one’s sense of self in the context of what I may leave for future generations. It can often be a confrontation with what I believe to be true about myself that rubs me raw. That is how I view my experience in Vonitsa with the dolphins in Amvarakikos Gulf and at Kalamos. Previous to this Earthwatch trip I had spent time reading about oceans, learning to dive, eating responsibly, and donating money to some organization whose literature stated they were saving the oceans. I was sure that if the oceans died humans were doomed. And, I was doing my part. As this Earthwatch experience comes to a close, I have come to recognize how truly uninformed I am about my relationship with our oceans. Joan’s intense commitment and passion for marine life, the oceans, and people makes the urgency of the conditions on this planet very personal. As the days passed, Joan’s demand for us to yell 9 o’clock, 60 meters, 3 dolphins became more important to the team. Of course, his requests were always followed by “please” and “thank you” or “hold on”. When I sorted out the difference between sea state four waves and the dorsal fins of the two departing dolphins at 6 o’clock, 200 meters, in the rain on the last day, I felt I was a part of something important. Locating the dolphins became a small piece of the larger puzzle. And at the end of the day the team knew it was important. Iva, our research assistant, was a blessing. Her intelligent patience with our clumsiness made this trip all the more enjoyable. She steered us in the right direction and made sure we were prepared to participate. Our lack of skill with the “netpad”, our hand-held computer, did not deter her. The “net pad”, an invention of torture, deliberately designed to sort out the higher order mammals among the team. Needless to say I have a limited future in “netpadding”. She was a perfect complement to our team.

For me personally, I cannot recall laughing more. Joan, Iva and my team brought their best game to each adventure. I counted on Bob for insight, on Paul for focus and purpose, on Chris for serious laughter, and on Jan for the very best questions. The company of good people with a purpose can hardly be matched by anything else one can do for a week, if not for a lifetime. As time passes it is the sound of Joan’s voice, filled with excitement at seeing each dolphin, and the generosity of Iva’s refreshing candor that I will miss most. Hopefully, I will carry the learning with me as I go. I cried when I watched °End of the Line.° I rarely cry. Maybe anarchy is not the answer, or maybe it is? How does one get the attention of those who are making decisions with our lives without going over the edge or reason? Something has to change the greed of my generation or my children and their children will have little left. I struggle with this and what I can do. I imagine the struggle is what I am taking away from this experience and the measure of me might well be determined by what comes of it. There is still time today.

Melinda (USA)

29 May 2010

Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 21-28 May 2010

Ahhhhh, there were things that made me leery of this project… cooking… and bunkbeds among them. But hey, I didn’t cook, and the beds were just fine. But I knew when we arrived at the rendezvous and I sat watching the gulf that all would be more than fine (especially since the rain stopped about that time...not to be seen again while we’ve been here).

I have immensely enjoyed each of the Earthwatch projects I’ve been part of and Dolphins of Greece is no exception… might even now head the list as favourite. Have learned so much more than I expected thanks to our knowledgeable, amusing (and sometimes smart aleck?) PI, Joan (and trusty sidekick, Iva). I fear I will never feel the same about eating fish again, which is undoubtedly a good thing, and I suspect some friends at home may become a bit tired of my passing along what I’ve learned.

Best of all, of course, were the dolphins themselves, how kind of them to gather a large contingent to come greet us our first morning on the gulf—what a show! And then to provide another astonishing performance on our last day seemed a marvelous bonus. In between, they let us be with them, showed us something different each day and gave us practice in dealing with that lovely netpad (our hand-held computer), and remembering to be LOUD when hollering out that a dolphin was out at 4 o'clock and 30 meters, or was that 80 meters, maybe 150? How could anyone spend time with these lovely beings and not want to do whatever little bit she could to help research that might some day help them?

The company was excellent and the food was yummy. I, a confirmed cat person, even thought Posi was delightful. The only complaint I could think of about this entire experience is that IT’S TOO DARNED SHORT! I am a bit bereft realizing that there will be no wind-blown ride onto the gulf in the morning, but the memories (and about a bazillion photos—thanks for being patient with me and my camera) will last a very long time. And really, Joan, when I win the lottery, I’ll be back. Be prepared.

Marcia (USA)


What a great experience! I had never been in Greece before or on an Earthwatch expedition. Really would recommend it to anyone. I sure hope that the dolphins will be here in 10 years, and will do what I can to encourage marine conservation. I liked the small group we had of 3 volunteers and two research staff. I liked being involved in so many aspects of the research effort and the research staff really made me feel like I was contributing to the overall picture. I had trouble determining distance especially in meters, but it worked out. This experience with Earthwatch was excellent. Hope to do more expeditions in the future. Would love to take a niece or nephew on a trip. I encouraged some co-workers to try something like this so I hope that they will and that they will spread the word to conserve our wonderful marine environment.

Dolly (USA)


I think our team was most fortunate in having lovely May weather - cool in the mornings and evenings and warm at mid day. We did not have a single day without dolphins and saw almost every behaviour. It was not until our last day that I actually saw the white belly of a dolphin during surface feeding behaviour, which we were able to observe from just five meters. We spotted two Dalmatian pelicans during our runs and were able to observe one for quite a while, flying just above the surface of the water. The time with the dolphins was most precious but I really enjoyed learning to crop and match the photographs too. Joan was very generous with his time in making sure we understood all aspects of the research. He is not only a dedicated scientist and excellent teacher but a great cook! Iva was very instrumental in being sure we understood everything and were comfortable during our stay. I was especially pleased to learn that this Earthwatch project has an active outreach component, working with local people and especially school children. I look forward to sharing the materials developed for children with my Canadian grandchildren. I thought I was fairly knowledgeable about marine conservation but I really have a new fund of knowledge to share about what we as consumers and citizens need to do to save the seas and our wonderful aquatic friends. Marcia and I have survived 5 previous Earthwatch trips together but having Dolly as our coworker made this trip a delight. Thanks to all of you for a wonderful experience. Yes, even Posy was a good companion.

Nancy (USA)

21 May 2010

Great start for Team 4

Today we welcomed our fourth team of volunteers of the season. After a brief introductory session to our research protocols, methods and safety procedures, I left Mary, Marcia, Nancy and Iva (our research-assistant) in the volunteer’s loft, getting familiar with the hand-held computer we use onboard to collect data on dolphin behaviour. I went out to the balcony to check on Poseidon (our dog) and think about the different ways of improving my P.I. skills - i.e. I was actually having a cigarette ;-), when a large flock of seagulls called my attention. After a few seconds of observation I spotted a group of 3-4 dolphins surface-feeding right below the frenzy of seabirds, half a mile away from Vonitsa’s seafront. I rung the alarm and we all flew off to the small pier right in front of our field base to observe our first sighting together. We stayed there until they stopped feeding, progressively moving out from sight. We could not ask for a better start or for a better welcome for our new group of Earthwatchers!


13 May 2010

A great experience

I have loved dolphins since I was ten. To participate in the Dolphins of Greece expedition as a research assistant is a dream come true for me. When I arrived to Vonitsa a month ago I was anxious to face the challenge. During my first sighting I was so nervous! A couple of days later I was the first to spot the dolphins and progressively, I started to feel more comfortable with the data collection and with the application of the different research protocols. I suddenly felt that I was enjoying it very much. I will always remember that moment when I felt that ‘yes, this is what I really want to do’. Since then, I have spent many amazing moments with the dolphins of the Amvrakikos Gulf.

I have also enjoyed sharing this experience with our volunteers. I met many interesting people who, as I do, believe in the principle that as individuals we can do a lot for the environment and for the conservation of nature. I am eager to get back home and share my experiences with family and friends.

I am full of enthusiasm and I am looking forwards to come back in June and do my best to help with the work carried out by Tethys. Joan has taught me a lot. However, there are so many things still to be learnt!

Anikó Szegedi (Panni)
Research assistant from Hungary

12 May 2010

Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 5-12 May 2010

This week leaves me feeling privileged, humbled and challenged.

I consider myself privileged to have been introduced to the Amvrakikos Gulf and to the dolphins by somebody who knows them so well and who is dedicating his life and energy to monitoring them and working for the preservation and restoration of their environment. Thank you, Joan. I also feel extremely privileged to have been able to participate in meaningful and rigorous research and to have been able to contribute, albeit on the most simple of tasks, with Joan and Panni as they start another season of intense work.

Much of the time when we saw dolphins, I could not speak – I was completely overcome by these beautiful, healthy, magnificent animals. My feelings were a mixture of overwhelming awe, respect, marvel and total calmness, which was not what I expected. Watching the dolphins in their environment without our presence affecting them - to observe them feeding, socialising {sometimes intimately!}, travelling, communicating – was incredible – one runs out of superlatives, but I felt totally humbled and totally blessed. I love all aspects of this place, the sky, how the mountains change from hour to hour and day to day, the islands, the water, the dolphins, the flocks of solitary {!!} pelicans, the bats flitting around at dusk – just the peace, and the knowledge that the dolphins are still out there and, hopefully, with the work of Tethys and dedicated men and women, like Joan and Panni, will thrive here for many decades.

We have seen dolphins every day and, even just sighting them was perfect for me. But, as the week has progressed, we have witnessed more and more incredible examples of how wild dolphins behave. Over the last three days I feel Amvrakikos has yielded more of itself to us – the unconventionally beautiful pelicans, the beautiful, sleek grey forms of the dolphins out on the horizon and so close to the boat. Seeing them socialising, mating, moving out of the water to look at us, leaping and, today, feeding and then relaxing has been a very precious gift to me.

I also feel challenged by knowing that the balance here is so fragile, that this place is so unique and that the simplest of my choices - ‘what shall we have for tea tonight’ - may have a direct impact on what happens here and elsewhere in the world. Joan said we cannot take on the whole world and you have to decide what you really believe in and follow it through – to ‘focus’. This week I realise, with a degree of shame, that I may ‘talk the talk’, but could certainly ‘walk the walk’ with more conviction and dedication than I have done. Joan’s focus and dedication is an inspiration and so, as well as being completely overwhelmed by the dolphins themselves, to spend time alongside somebody with such deep commitment and personal passion, has been a very humbling experience. Thank you, Joan.

In more practical terms, I can fault nothing. For me the balance between work and relaxation time is good and it was good to feel that the exercises we were doing in the afternoon were ‘real’ and not just ‘dummies’ for ‘the volunteers’ to play with. I am sorry I was so inept with the palmtop on the first day – I shall bring my monocle next time!! The lectures, talks and videos are very informative, very comprehensive and I thought provided a perfect platform for further reading, discussions, questions etc. The field station is very comfortable – much more so than I expected - and beautifully arranged – thank you Joan for all those trips to Ikea and for letting us into your beautiful home. Sharing the cooking is a brilliant idea and we have eaten so well this week – once again, far beyond what I expected. Panni is an absolute poppet and her gentle touches on my shoulder and guidance with the palmtop, on which groups of dolphins to concentrate on and sweetness around the house have really helped dispel my nervousness (I really didn’t want to be ‘the Weakest Link’. Joan, I thank you for all you have taught me this week and for explaining everything so thoroughly and willingly. Yes, you are exacting, but extremely professional and your professionalism and demand for accuracy and high quality gives weight and absolute credence to your work, which is such an excellent example to us volunteers

Thank you Joan and Panni for sharing your space for the week, and of course, thank you to Posi for providing some canine company, evening acoustics and much amusement!! Joan, Panni and my dear co-volunteer, Nina, are very special people and this has been a very happy week – for the things I have seen and been part of, the company and friendships formed and being part of something bigger, and hopefully longer-lasting than myself. I’m really happy that Nina and I are continuing our Grecian ‘odissey’, which means we can continue to talk about this amazing week and I think both of us will leave a bit of ourselves here anyway…

Karen Musk (UK)


“Splashes on the horizon,

Tails in the air.

Peace, with dolphins breathing.”

This has been my first volunteering experience in conservation, and it has been so much more than I ever expected it to be. This is something I have wanted to do for years and in finally plucking up the courage to go for it, I leave with far more than some pretty photos, a sun tan and a tick in a box! I leave with an appreciation of the delicate interplay between individuals within a highly social community, between a species and their environment, and between mankind’s economic agendas and the impact of these on fragile ecosystems. I also take with me new friendships: Karen, Joan and Panni, this team has felt more like a funny little family than anything else! I very much look forward to these friendships developing.

Life at the Vonitsa research station on this expedition has struck the perfect balance between practical fieldwork and project support, educational and relevant discussions, free time, delicious meals and warm conversation around the dinner table (with just the right amount of micky-taking)! Joan, you have created a lovely home for us here – thank you for sharing this space and your time with us so openly. Bear-like in the mornings (heehee), you foster a warm and positive atmosphere within the team by simply being yourself: we have laughed so much (about things that I dare not elaborate on here..!) and talked about so many things. Your enthusiasm, commitment and knowledge of this field is as broad as it is infectious – I defy anyone to not take away a more responsible attitude to the treatment of marine life, nor a deep interest in the life of cetaceans (or a taste for the capuccino freddo!!)! Panni, you are such a warm, open and caring girl – thank you for setting the scene for the lovely atmosphere that has developed over the week. You have been so good in training us with the palmtop and with processing the photos to be able to identify individuals – it seems you’ve been doing this for years, you are a very good and patient teacher. Your enthusiasm for learning new things and taking this forward into your career is commendable and I wish you all the best for your future endeavours (and I mean it about getting in touch if you need help with applications etc!). Posi – thank you for your unswerving enthusiasm (for food and walks) and for providing such material for laughter..! (although I don’t thank you Joan for using this material just when I’d always taken a mouthful of food! Cheeky!)

Our days on board ‘The Baby’ have been exquisite: we have been so lucky with our sightings, seeing such a range of behaviours demonstrated and by so many individuals. The allocation and organisation of training, responsibilities and activities within the team out on the boat have been impecable: proof of the long term experience the project managers have. All procedures are well practiced and organised in a safe, inclusive (and fun!) manner. I feel like I have significantly broadened my knowledge of research techniques for this type of work, and I plan to take these forward in my own career now. And Joan, I am sorry about getting so excited about the sightings that I end up all over the boat, especially with my head in the frame... oops!!

The last two sightings have been, well, too rich for these few words to fully illustrate. Being in the middle of the beautifully smooth Amvrakikos Gulf waters, surrounded by dolphins: we have witnessed intimate social behaviour, the affection between familiar individuals; we have watched dolphins use their bodies to corral fish to the surface to feed, seen mothers with their young so close by; we have seen playful breaching in breath-taking displays. We have come to recognise individuals, and have seen how these are like old friends to our captain! And all the while it has felt a privilege to be there, to be accepted by these facinating creatures – and especially at times to be the subject of playful curiosity!

Today, when Joan switched the boat engine off and we were alone with the sounds of the Gulf, we had a time that I will never forget. Hearing nothing but the breath of our group of resting dolphins, the ripple of the water as they surfaced and the gentle lap of the waters against the hull of the boat, I realised that I was in their world, and that I was there only because they allowed it. It was an honour.

Nina (UK)

09 May 2010

Unforgettable "Dalmatian" experience

This morning, after following a group of bottlenose dolphins for about an hour and a half we encountered a large group of Dalmatian pelicans Pelecanus crispus. In total, we estimated 24 individuals. Slowly approaching them with our research boat they allowed us to observe them from just a few meters away.

Dalmatian pelicans are large and elegant waterbirds which wingspan can easily reach about 3 m. In the past they were widely distributed throughout Europe and Asia. During the last century, however, their population dropped drastically and occurrence in Europe is now limited. The species is classified as Vulnerable in the IUCN Red List.

The islets in the lagoons Tsoukalio and Logarou in the northern Amvrakikos Gulf is one of the few European sites where they are regularly nesting.

Today we enjoyed the largest congregation of these magnificent animals registered since we started working in the Gulf, i.e. since 2001. Watching their majestic wings spreading right in front of us for takeoff left us all wide-eyed and speechless. Unforgettable!


02 May 2010

Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 26 April - 3 May 2010

In these eight days you have given me so much to thank you for. Thank you for the eagerness with which you shared information about not only dolphins, but the state of the oceans as a whole. Thank you for your openness and clear interest in the questions and views of others and of course thank you for the chance to come so close to dolphins in the wild, this meant more to me then I can express with words. But most of all thank you for not pushing me off the boat for insubordination!

Genevieve (USA)


This experience was so educational and informative! What a wonderful opportunity to visit a veritable paradise, meet interestig people, learn, and do good work. I kept voluminous notes on all the documentaries and presentations Joan shared with us. I am not sure how I will use them to help spread the word about how we must all work to save our precious animals and environment, but with his approval I will find a way. A vegetarian and animal rights defender for decades, this experience not only deepened my resolve to continue to influence others whenever possible and appropriate, but it also heightened my sense of urgency about informing and educating the public and our policy makers. Returning to an intense learning environment for eight days after many years of a mentally unchallenging lifestyle was just the right jolt I needed to begin exercising my brain cells more often. Even the library of paperbacks and hardcover books here offered both leisure time pleasure and more learning opportunities. An overall good experience!

Joan and Ely (USA)

28 April 2010

Dolphins of Greece volunteers, 17-24 April 2010

As Joan said very rightly: after this experience you will never look at a dolphin fin the same way. Who would have imagined fins can look so different! But of course the most marvellous experience was the time we spent on the boat, with the dolphins! It was really great to see the differences in their behaviour, to hear them breathing so close by and see their friendly faces. It completely made us forget the chilly wind – imagine that in a few weeks teams will be heat-battered in that same boat.

What made the expedition really enjoyable was the team spirit: it must be because we were such an international (5 nationalities) team that we were able to cooperate so smoothly. We were fortunate to have a team with great sense of humour: if jokes sometimes got a little out of hand, we can only blame that on “ouzo” and “krassi”. We learnt that Germans can be ferocious drivers, that being negative on command is not an easy thing to do and that Joan “no habla ingles” when the discussion gets tricky. Meanwhile our live-from-the-field teacher kept several classes of American kids up-to-date with our expedition findings and did a good deal to help them realise how they can help to save endangered marine species from extinction. We hope you will see some of them on an Earthwatch expedition in the future!

Stephan (Germany), Marie-Claire and Cas (Holland)


This experience has been truly amazing for me. I left America with a very different attitude than I will be returning with. Joan’s passion for his work was contagious. He was a very good teacher when it came time to explain the big picture and how our choices are affecting the environment in such negative ways. I had no idea that overfishing was as bad as it is. The documentaries really showed how depressing is the situation and how we, as consumers, have the power to change what is happening. The message I want to take back to my classroom is that every one of us plays a part and that asking the right questions and becoming more educated about what we buy is the way to get things moving in the right direction. I have to say I am a changed woman and I will be approaching some aspects of my life very differently as a result of this trip.

I want to thank Joan and Panni for their hospitality. It cannot be easy welcoming four very different individuals into your home and successfully making them all feel comfortable. The balance between work and play was very nice. I got to see a lot more than the dolphins, which would have been enough. I will never forget the faces of those dolphins and how it felt when they looked at you. If only they would stay above the water just a little longer so I could get a decent picture of them. The time on the boat was amazing and intense! I am sorry that it has to end, but I leave here knowing that my students will benefit greatly from the information I have gathered. As a result, I believe our environment will benefit greatly too, even if it is just a little.

Apart from learning a lot about dolphins through presentations as well as constantly asking questions to our patient expedition leader, we received a thorough insight into the state of commercial fishing, the already depleted resources of the oceans and possible solutions to those problems.

Nicole (USA)

27 April 2010

Back on track

On Saturday our first team of Earthwatch volunteers for the 2010 research season left our field base in Vonitsa, after a week spent working with us on dolphins in the Amvrakikos Gulf.

It could not be a better team to get things started. Stephan, Marie-Claire, Cas and Nicole were hard-working and good fun.

It was also a challenging week for Annikó (Panni), our new Hungarian research assistant, who is learning fast and who will be soon posting some comments in this blog.

Our volunteer Nicole teaches third grade for boys in New York City and she joined our project as a Life From the Field Fellow. During her stay she communicated with her students via skype and her blog. We held several video conferences with hundreds of students, who had the opportunity of hearing about the experiences of their teacher and ask questions to the Tethys staff.