We (Emma, Casey, and Luciana) have now been working on the GIS Team at Archipelagos for the past eight weeks, allowing for the opportunity to work on many interesting projects. We all arrived around the same time at Archipelagos and it has been very beneficial to collaborate and exchange ideas and knowledge when tackling new projects.
We decided to intern at Archipelagos after hearing about the different conservation work that takes place in the institute. It seemed to be a great place to learn and use the principles of conservation mapping while using our previous GIS skills in an international environment.
When arriving here, we were amazed by the number of different projects there were and the variety of methods that we would be learning to use. The projects that we are working on, aim to understand the location of different species using remote sensing and GIS data in order to centre conservation efforts onto these specific areas.
Posidonia oceanica Distribution
The main project that the GIS team has been working on is the mapping of Posidonia oceanica which is a species of seagrass that is found to abundantly grow in the Aegean Sea with many environmental benefits. Our method aims to map the location of P. oceanica in the Aegean Sea with higher accuracy than previous maps.
The technique we used combines Sentinel-2A satellite imagery with ground truth data collected using DownScan sonar on kayak and boat surveys and image classification techniques. Many of the nearby islands have been previously mapped by interns at Archipelagos. However, the island of Arki could be remapped using this technique in an effort to increase the accuracy of the mapping. After using this methodology, the accuracy coverage of P. oceanica around the island of Arki had improved. Partaking in kayak surveys has allowed us to plan and experience applied GIS techniques in the field.
Marine Mammal Boat Survey Transects
Emma and Casey, two of the three GIS interns, have been working on producing transects for the Marine Mammal Teams boat surveys to improve the scientific output from each boat survey. To ensure full coverage of the Aegean Sea surrounding Lipsi and Samos, the transects were produced using software called ‘Distance’ which allows for transects to be made according to specific parameters. The transects are already being used and produced sightings of Loggerhead Sea Turtles (Caretta caretta) and Common Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus).
Wildfire Mapping using Sentinel-2 Satellite Imagery
Additionally, we have been working on mapping recent wildfires that took place on Samos in order to understand the extent of fire damage. Sentinel-2A data recorded recently after the wildfires was used for locating the wildfires. The damaged areas were calculated using the Normalized Burn Ratio. As a result, we were able to grasp the degree of damage that occurred in the areas of Samos which were affected by wildfires and use the data for future monitoring of these areas.
Lastly, we have contributed to writing a literature review about coralligenous habitats. The main purpose of the literature review is to better understand coralligenous assemblages and their distribution. We have brought together past studies and synthesised their methodologies to better understand best practice for mapping coralligenous ourselves. We also gathered knowledge on protective legislation and new research branches relating to coralligenous reefs in order to have a well-rounded scope and grasp of all that mapping coralligenous entails.
Overall, we have greatly enjoyed working on these projects and hope to spend the rest of our internships here continuing to help with a diverse array of conservation efforts.
Island Life on Lipsi
Aside from the projects, it has also been great living on the island of Lipsi. This island is full of picturesque beaches and many hikes to explore at the weekend. Our research base is in the town of Lipsi and so everything we need is on our doorstep. The island also has a very strong sense of community and the villagers are very welcoming to all the volunteers with events such as weekly Greek dance and language lessons.
Emma Carroll, BSc Geology and Physical Geography, University of Edinburgh
Casey Ahlborn, BSc Geography, University of Minessota
Luciana Bertucci, Bachelor in Engineering, University of Mississippi