Field Courses

Gain experience in applied environmental conservation

Introduction

Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation is a non-profit, non-governmental organization committed to researching and defending the biodiversity of the Greek seas and islands as well as the northeastern Mediterranean overall. Located on Samos Island, Greece, Archipelagos has been focused on combining multidisciplinary scientific research and efficient conservation work to help protect terrestrial and marine life for over 20 years.

Archipelagos offers field courses on Applied Research & Conservation of the Aegean Sea for student groups from schools and universities all over the world. This exciting opportunity allows students to acquire hands-on experience and practical skills in applied environmental research as well as an understanding of issues in environmental conservation. Courses are tailored to each group and take place on Samos Island and/or the islets of the northern Dodecanese.

Archipelagos cooperates with many universities, schools and international organisations, including Essex and Cardiff Universities in the UK, Culver Academies in the US and Operation Wallacea. Past partnerships have included Secondary Technical School in the Czech Republic.

Course Structure

The customizable courses can be taught by the visiting instructors accompanying the student group or the knowledgeable supervisors at Archipelagos, or a combination of both. Field courses can range in duration from seven days to over a month; we are happy to tailor the course to your needs and requirements. There are options for courses at sea and on land. The structure of each course is flexible and speculative course proposals are welcomed, allowing your students to benefit from module and content specific courses. Module-specific courses are currently offered to universities, such as Essex and Cardiff, letting students gain practical skills to accompany the content of their course. Courses may focus on one or a combination of these topics: marine conservation, marine mammal research, terrestrial conservation and coastal ecology, all of which include field work. Field work could include animal surveys and snorkeling.

Each course unit may consist of seminars and field work. Seminars will take place in-class rather than out in the field so students can gain a broader understanding of each topic. Seminars may discuss topics such as Aegean wildlife, seagrass meadows and micro and macro-plastics. Archipelagos runs an ongoing microplastics study which could be of particular interest.

Course Schedules

Archipelagos field courses can take on a variety of schedules, varying from practical to theoretical. In the past, courses have included some or all of these activities: lectures, snorkeling, field trips on research boats, a visit to the Archeological Museum of Pythagorio, wetland and kayak field surveys, lab work and beach cleanup. Field surveys will take around two to three hours and occur at certain times of the day depending on the animal being surveyed, for example the terrapin turtle survey happens early in the morning (6:30-9:30 am) while the jackal surveys happen late at night (dusk/nighttime).

Learning Outcomes

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Field Courses at Archipelagos will provide students with:

  • Practical training

Students will develop an understanding of applied marine science through led field work and the use of field equipment (specific to particular course).

  • Data collection and analysis skills

Students will acquire the necessary skills needed to follow methodologies in order to collect scientific data and individually analyse these data sets.

  • Technical skills

For example, if the course being taken is focused on Geographic Information Mapping Systems, the group will learn to use specialised software to map their data and visualise information. Additionally, students may have the opportunity to obtain the skills needed to analyse cetacean bioacoustics with Archipelagos’ Sonar and Array systems.

  • Location specific knowledge

We are located in the northeastern Aegean where students have the opportunity to acquire important knowledge specific to this area of Greece, and a wider understanding of the Mediterranean.

Study Topics

Topic 1: Coastal ecosystems: ecology and conservation
Introduction to the various groups of organisms and key habitats of coastal zone focussing on common species of fish, invertebrates and algae. Underwater Visual Census (UVC) and practical data collection methods for the assessment of biodiversity. Ecology, conservation and management of coastal ecosystems.

Topic 2: Marine mammals biology and conservation
Biology and conservation of marine mammals of the Mediterranean Sea. Boat-based surveys for the assessment of marine mammal populations and their behaviour. Underwater acoustics: a modern tool to study cetacean behaviour and estimating abundance. Data recording, analysis and photo identification. First aid to marine mammals and turtles.

Topic 3: Integrated coastal zone management - conservation management planning
Current state of CMP in Greece and Europe. Involvement of the local communities in coastal zone management. Field trips to assess the situation in the region: biodiversity, levels of development and resource utilization. Determination of current and future conflict areas. Design of a poster and presentation to depict this. Practical forum to determine each of the different relevant bodies’ involvement in ICZM and CMP.

Topic 4: Fisheries: practises, ecology and management
Fishing practises on the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Ecology of targeted fish stocks - impact of fisheries on marine ecosystems, methods of assessment. Socio-economical importance of fisheries for the island communities. Methods of assessment for fisheries practises.

Topic 5: Monitoring posidonia seagrass beds using underwater imaging
Ecological significance and factors threatening Posidonia seagrass beds. Mapping of seagrass beds using a digital chartographic camera system. Assessment of seagrass bed status. Production of GIS maps. Usage of data produced in conservation management planning.

Topic 6: Flora research and conservation
Terrestrial habitats of the Mediterranean focussing on the Aegean islands’ flora species. Importance of island forest habitats. Methods for the assessment of flora biodiversity, data collection and analysis. Factors impacting terrestrial ecosystems and the methods by which these factors can be assessed.

Topic 7: Research and conservation of bird populations
Important habitats in the Aegean Sea for resident and migratory bird populations. Survey techniques for the assessment of biodiversity, population size and acoustic monitoring of bird populations. Analysis of the data collected. Factors impacting bird populations and the methods by which these factors can be assessed.

Topic 8: Agronomic and seed bank research
Agricultural practises of the Aegean islands. Experimental Seed Bank techniques for the study of morphology characteristics and seed propagation of local plant varieties. Experimental application of organic agriculture practises.

Topic 9: Natural products: applications of marine and terrestrial flora and fauna
Mediterranean species of terrestrial plants, marine algae and invertebrates currently under study for chemical assessment. Ecology and characteristics of the analysed species, preparation of brief literature reviews on pharmacological properties and applications. Collection of target species from the field. Lab analysis of the chemical profiles of collected organisms through TLC techniques. Lab session on bioassays using the extracts of selected organisms. Data analysis and interpretation.

Topic 10: GIS analysis of marine and terrestrial biodiversity data
Marine and terrestrial habitats of conservational importance in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas. GIS analysis of the biodiversity and fauna and flora of marine and terrestrial ecosystems. Practical session using GIS software. Field surveys for the collection of relevant data. Production of GIS maps illustrating biodiversity, land uses and anthropogenic threats.

Topic 11: Applications of renewable energy sources
Applications of renewable and alternative energy sources for small island communities, focussing on wind and solar powered systems and alternative heating sources.

Topic 12: Environmental photography and filming of marine and terrestrial flora, fauna and research activities
Environmental photography and filming techniques. Introduction to the key species and habitats of the region. Detailed practical instruction of use of equipment. Practical photography and filming session out in the field will commence with use of equipment.

Topic 13: Scientific illustration of marine and terrestrial flora and fauna
Introduction to scientific illustration - methods and practical applications. Collection and identification of species to be illustrated. Observational drawing workshop. Colour theory workshop. Media workshop - exercises in colour. Production of scientific illustration. Display and evaluation of work produced.

Topic 14: Introduction to methods of environmental education
Environmental education and awareness for primary and secondary school students and for local communities. Selection of a biodiversity or conservation issue, on which educational/awareness material will be produced, using a combination of: graphic design programs for leaflet/poster production, design of educational activities combining field trip experience and classroom sessions.

Samos Research Base

Archipelagos Institute’s main base is on beautiful Samos Island, Greece, just off the Turkish coast. Due to the geographical position of Samos and its proximity to the protected Turkish peninsula, the region supports a wealth of rare wildlife both on land and at sea. The area represents a unique biogeographical crossroads between three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa.  

Samos Island supports a rare and unique biodiversity that includes some of the most important remaining populations of marine mammals and turtles in the Mediterranean, and has extensive areas of protected habitats such as Posidonia seagrass meadows, an important environment which stores an incredible amount of blue carbon along with mangroves and saltmarshes. Samos is one of the only islands in the Mediterranean with populations of golden jackals and Mediterranean chameleons. The terrestrial and marine habitats in the area and the fauna that they house are threatened by anthropogenic disturbances.

Archipelagos’ Other Bases

We have several other bases aside from the one in Samos and part of the field course could be spent travelling south to the more remote island complexes of Lipsi and Arki (keeping in mind that in the small islets we provide much more basic dorm style-accommodation). Alternatively, you could be based only on Samos, and carry out trips that start and end on Samos every day.

Accommodation

One option for accommodation during the field course is to stay on one of our boats. This provides a unique experience and is particularly convenient for marine-based field courses. 

Staying on Samos Island is another option. Students will stay in a prearranged hotel near Archipelagos research base. Accommodation is in shared rooms. The research station itself has lab and lecture facilities as well as a communal dining area. Moreover, Archipelagos has access to a hired coach and Archipelagos registered vehicles for transportation. The base is located a few kilometers from the historical village of Pythagorio - the hometown of the famous mathematician Pythagoras - and is just a few metres from the beach where you can see the sun rising behind the Turkish mountains.

 

Cultural Activities

  Cultural and historic activities can also be included outside of class time based on the needs of each group. Visits to museums and archaeological sites around Samos can be invaluable experiences. Apart from being biologically unique, the island possesses important archaeological sites and fascinating ancient history. In antiquity, it was home to prominent figures such as the mathematician Pythagoras, whose cave you can find on the island, the storyteller Aesop, the philosopher Epicurus and the astronomer Aristarchus.

Going to the Archaeological Museum of Pythagorio, located in the nearby town of Pythagorio, is a popular activity. The Temple of Goddess Hera and Tunnel of Eupalinos are also possible cultural excursions.

Climate

The Mediterranean climate of Samos Island means it has windy and rainy winters and hot, sunny summers. The majority of our field courses happen in the summertime. The average winter temperature is 10 degrees Celsius, though it can feel colder with the winds. The average summer temperature is 27 degrees Celsius, however it can feel a lot warmer and the sun is very strong, a consideration for practical-heavy courses. The rainy season lasts from November to March while the summers, particularly July and August, are very dry.

Our Equipment

Archipelagos has multiple boats, including two large sailing boats and eight kayaks. We also have an extensive selection of specialised equipment for our marine, terrestrial and laboratory research, as well as scuba diving and snorkeling gear. The use of our equipment and boats adds invaluable experience to our field courses.

Our boats can be found here.

Our other equipment can be found here.

 

Apply Today

Archipelagos offers field courses according to the age and background of the participating students. This personal approach allows you to set up a personalized field course program. To apply for a field course for your school or university or for more information, please email us at admissions@archipelago.gr.
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