Shortly after Saulé, an intern from Lithuania, finished her undergraduate studies in ecology and environmental management at Klaipeda University, she came here to Archipelagos seeking to gain more knowledge of coastal biodiversity, artificial reef research and implementation, and imagery analysis. Due to self-motivation, and because of wonderful colleagues and supervisors from different research fields, her expectations at Archipelagos were well surpassed.

Saulé started two different projects from scratch, using the skills she had gained in university and applying them in her field work. During her stay, she also learned new things about different methodologies to assess fish and macrobenthos habitats, as well as how to use different software, like PhotoQuad and R studio. Her daily tasks involve taking fish video samples and testing her methodology, assisting in other surveys, analyzing fish camera videos, working with statistics, and performing image analysis.

One of Saulé’s two projects involves fish assessment in Vroulia Bay on Lipsi Island; she uses a non-destructive photographic method and image analysis to provide more detailed insight into the biodiversity of the fish of Vroulia Bay, the future site of the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary. With this project, there is also the potential to compare results to more traditional Underwater Visual Censuses biodiversity assessment methods. The aim of her work is, ultimately, to estimate reef-associated fish abundance and diversity in Vroulia Bay. The project holds great importance for conservation: underwater video provides a non-invasive way to record relative abundance, density, size, species composition and habitat characteristics. It is crucial to know the status of fish populations in Vroulia Bay before the addition of top predators like dolphins, as we must first fully understand their impact to the environment.

Saulé’s other project surrounds the structure of microphytobenthos and sessile macrozoobenthos on hard and soft bottom substrates in Vroulia Bay. She uses a non-destructive photographic method and image analysis PhotoQuad software to evaluate the biodiversity of sessile benthos species in Vroulia Bay. Biological indicators are widely used as a tool to gain knowledge of the state of the marine environment. The introduction of top predators – namely, dolphins – into an environment like Vroulia Bay, where prior they never existed, will possibly have an impact on the natural environment. It is therefore crucially important to define macrobenthos species living in the bay today for future comparison after the dolphin’s introduction and the establishment of a fully operational sanctuary. Image analysis is also a great tool to estimate microphytobenthos and sessile macrozoobenthos coverage area, number of species, and size.

Saulé’s contributions to Archipelagos have been incredible, and we wish her the best of luck with the remainder of her project and all her future endeavours!