Before starting her studies in Biology at Radboud University in the Netherlands, our diving enthusiast Jente, is spending her gap year at Archipelagos. Through her internship, she has experienced how the synergy of scientific knowledge and media tools is an essential combination,l in order to effectively communicate the important message of marine conservation.

Having always been interested in marine biology, mixed with the lack of scientific gap year opportunities, Archipelagos was the perfect place for Jente to spend a year before continuing her studies and gain experience. However, her internship has not been limited to science based projects. Following her passion for creativity, Jente began designing materials for the media team, “most of the design skills I have right now I learned here, this ranges from infographics to scientific posters, using Adobe programmes such as Illustrator and InDesign.” Her innate love of art combined with her hard efforts to develop these skills, have been vital in producing Archipelagos’ scientific posters and awareness materials. A combination of scientific research and considered visuals is a vital effective tool to raising awareness and educate.

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As a member of the Marine Conservation team, Jente is working alongside masters and bachelor university students and graduates on two projects. The first is surveying the abundance and health of the Nobel Pen Shell, Pinna nobilis. P. nobilis is a protected species and the largest bivalve mollusc in the Mediterranean. It plays an essential role within marine ecosystems by improving the water quality and filtering sea water. However, due to human induced threats such as illegal fishing and trawling this seafloor species is dying out.

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Additionally, the P. nobilis is greatly impacted by a devastating parasite, first recognised in 2018 and currently spreading throughout the Mediterranean, it is another cause of the death of the species. For this reason, Archipelagos’ marine conservation team carry out surveys in which they locate where they suspect they might find P. nobilis, with the aims to observe the living or dead pen shells. With the results of this study, researchers can continue to monitor the spread of the parasite, which in turn causes significant habitat destruction to other smaller inhabitants of the sea. So far the team have found very little evidence of dead or alive P. nobilis, “before the winter months of 2018 we surveyed Mykali beach (a nearby beach) and discovered five P. nobilis, yet we checked a month ago and couldn’t find any.” Such findings highlight the extent of their vulnerable status.

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Additionally, Jente participates with surveys monitoring an artificial reef, the purpose of which is to increase biodiversity of the surrounding seas. Observational surveys are important to see how effective this particular prototype is so we can know if this model can be applied to Vroulia Bay, the location of the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary. Jente explains, “so far the reef has attracted large groups of small fish but it is hard to expand on that because other factors come into play. We also have a control site, however during the course of the project, both sites have changed due to sea currents or storms. Both sites were similar in the beginning but not anymore.”

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Known within Archipelagos for her passion for diving, Jente decided to share her skills amongst other interns: “It’s a relatively new thing, but I noticed not many people have the skills to free dive. It is essential for conservation surveys and helpful in collecting photographic evidence, so I worked with my supervisor to implement training for fellow interns.

Reminiscing over the past seven months, Jente expresses how it has been “a unique experience, it’s very interesting living with so many people of different nationalities which has taught many new social skills and given me a different take on life.” The total length of her internship is ten months, but she expresses how a shorter timeline would have limited herself, “I would not have been introduced to the designing aspect of my internship if I was here for a shorter period of time.”