Over 500 young scientists and students from 22 countries will visit the islands of the eastern Aegean this summer and autumn. They will arrive to the research bases of Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation in order to study the rare wildlife of the Aegean islands and contribute to the efforts for its protection.

With the aim of promoting the Aegean on the international map of important fields of scientific education, Archipelagos has attracted a large number of scientists, academics and students from every corner of the globe to the islands of the region after 16 years of preparation.

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In the coming months, these students will participate in an innovative range of applied environmental protection courses. Nearly 500 participants from universities, colleges and schools situated in 22 countries (including the USA, India, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia and numerous European states) will arrive for this purpose to the eastern Aegean. Most of these courses are mandatory and are considered a part of the curriculum for respective educational institutions. Our scientific activities focus on the islands of Samos and Lipsi, where the Archipelagos’ main research bases are situated.

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Apart from studying the important biodiversity of Samos and smaller islands of the northern Dodecanese, this year the educational activities have been vital for attracting universities, colleges and schools to the island of Lipsi. The researchers arrive there to participate in our brand new project of worldwide importance. Archipelagos aims to create a unique Natural Marine Sanctuary. It will include a marine animal hospital with in-sea and onshore installations, where injured or sick animals will be able to recover in natural, semi-free conditions. The development of this important initiative is supported by distinguished scientists from around the world, as well as by the Lipsi Municipality. This island community has set on a truly green path, already becoming a development model for all island municipalities of Greece.

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The activities of Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation contribute to solving many problems, which have been affecting the environment of the Greek seas and islands for decades. They will be implemented in close cooperation with local communities through research and targeted protection measures.

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The development of educational activities requires hard work and long-term commitment, entailing great responsibility as well as ongoing evaluation. It is performed without any funding or sponsorship programs, as Archipelagos has invested its own resources in specialized equipment and expertise, offering the students an opportunity to gain practical experience in research and environmental protection.4

These efforts prove that the protection and promotion of special natural environments are important for the viability as well as economy of our islands. Currently the eastern Aegean experiences an unprecedented crisis in tourism. Despite the very difficult period we are going through and the intense discredit of our country in the media abroad, after years of preparation we managed to double the attendance of students from Europe, Asia and America this year. This is also an indirect financial support for the islands, which creates conditions for even greater turnout in the coming years.

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The rare Greek biodiversity can be a huge attraction for the international scientific community, as well as for many other visitors who want to get to know it and enjoy it. We have to realize that we are very fortunate, but also have a big responsibility of preserving this great, global natural heritage of our seas and islands.

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