04 September 2010

Ionian Dolphins 14 (29 August - 4 September)

When our work of dolphin researchers and conservationists seems ultimately irrelevant and frustrating, when harsh criticism and internal fights strike, and everybody tells you—you have not done a proper job, you should have done more, you suck. Then, reading the comments left by project participants in our field diary brings a blow of fresh air. Looking at their photo albums is enlivening, even if I have not spent a single day with the dolphins this year. This suggests, perhaps, that I should keep doing work from behind the scenes to the best of my possibilities, beyond my own shortcomings and biases. I should let more of these fine people participate in one of our dolphin projects and be amazed by marine wildlife. Participants in this team left the field station and each other with tears on their face. I was hiding in my cave, but could share a part of the empathy. And I, too, could share the enthusiasm when the crew came back from the field every day. Once again I could see dolphins, seabirds and waves through the eyes of my youth.

Giovanni Bearzi
Project manager and science coordinator, Coastal Dolphins


Well, that was pretty good, wasn’t it? What began as a simple excersise in getting a bit of extra field experience for my ecology degree quickly became one of the best overall experiences of my turbulent life to date. From the people that I have met here to the superb education that I have been given on cetacean behaviour and the state of the seas and fisheries, there has not been a moment that I haven’t thought to myself “Damn it Nathan, this is awesome”. I have felt Galaxidi to truly be my home for the past two weeks and am happily embracing the Greek way of life – whenever I am sitting on my backside doing very little and somebody has the audacity to ask me to do something, my response shall forever be “I am busy”. And hopefully I’ve picked up some Italian cooking ideas along the way… My thanks go to the Tethys team – Silvia and Phillipa have been excellent teachers, guides and friends and they have been able to answer most of my largely irrelevant questions, while only persecuting me when it was absolutely necessary for comic effect. A special mention must of course be given to bottlenose dolphin 'Nemo' for giving us something to watch on bad weather days and to my fellow volunteers who have been superb companions with whom I would love to travel and work again. I have every intention on keeping in touch with Tethys and supporting their projects in whatever way I can and I wish you all the very best of luck in the future. Until we meet again,

Nathan ‘Adrian’, UK


This has been one of the best experiences of my life. The town of Galaxidi is incredible, and the relaxed atmosphere is perfect for all of the hard working researchers and volunteers. The first day in the field was exhilarating - from the first meeting of Nemo, to the amazing swordfish who decided to breach in front of the boat. Nemo continued to impress the rest of the week, and the last day was in fact my favourite – the striped dolphins and the several common dolphins amongst the group did not disappoint (and of course Nathan scaring us out of our wits). Because of their passion for the sea and for cetaceans, Silvia and Phillipa are two of the most beautiful, intelligent women that I have ever met. The researchers at Tethys are doing an amazing job on their projects. All of them, and the four other incredible volunteers have given me hope that there are still people who care enough about the seas to protect them. Thank you all for such a great experience, and I look forward to seeing you (or your work) in the future.

Katie, Canada


I was terrified about coming to Greece on my own, but I can assure anybody that is thinking about doing this that there is absolutely nothing to worry about. The Tethys team are amazing, and with their colourful sense of humour and friendly, laid back attitude they made everybody feel at home straight away. The trips out in the boat were amazing, and we were very lucky with the variety of wildlife we saw. It is rewarding to feel that working with Tethys and learning about the research might contribute to marine conservation. I am definitely going to do my best to spread the word at home. The other volunteers and Silvia and Phillipa were all great to work and live with. I hope we all stay in touch.

Laura, England


When I was coming here, most of my thoughts about it were worrying if I would be able to get to the place all right, but I really needn’t have worried. Everyone was willing to help me and entertained my obvious questions. The first time out on the boat was absolutely amazing, seeing the dolphins’ complete freedom in the sea, unburdoned by the the things that plague humans. Words aren’t really enough to convey my experiences here, and nothing I say could really do it justice. I will always be grateful for this experience, the wisdom I’ve picked up along the way and the wonderful people I have met. Every day has been a wonderful experience and a gift, and trying to explain things to my friends and family at home just won’t be enough to articulate just how amazing this experience has been. I’ve made firm friends, and enjoyed learning about the regional differences in our speech. I’m sorry that my accent has been difficult to understand at times, but I’m glad that I provided amusement with phrases that are perfectly normal to me. I’m not sure what else I can really say, words aren’t enough. I came here a jaded court reporter, coming from a stressful job and this has definitely changed me for the better. Philippa and Silvia haven’t seen the last of me!

Suzy, Ireland


Il Dolphin Field Course è stata un’esperienza anticipata da intense aspettative: la curiosità verso il posto in cui avrei trascorso questa settimana e nei confronti dei ricercatori e dei ragazzi che avrei conosciuto, che mi avrebbero coinvolto nelle ricerche a cui sogno di potermi dedicare in futuro e, infine, ovviamente l’entusiasmo al pensiero che avrei incontrato i cetacei nel loro ambiente naturale e li avrei conosciuti meglio! Nessuna di queste aspettative è stata delusa: ho provato un grande stupore al mio arrivo a Galaxidi, un posto così caratteristicamente greco, dove la vita scorre ancora ritmata dall’andare e venire delle barche dei pescatori e dove la luce rosata del tramonto illumina la costa montuosa sfiorata dalle sfumature blu del mare. Ho conosciuto ricercatori veramente coinvolgenti e disponibili, grazie ai quali ho potuto vedere oltre e comprendere i problemi che mettono a repentaglio questo meraviglioso angolo del pianeta, così come molti altri e ho avuto l’occasione di parlare e divertirmi con ragazzi provenienti da paesi differenti! E… l’avvistamento di un branco di stenelle striate con delfini comuni nel golfo e quello di un tursiope (il ‘nostro’ Nemo) che banchettava agli allevamenti di pesce lungo la costa sono stati momenti che non posso descrivere a parole: è troppo emozionante stare sul gommone, tutti a scrutare le onde col fiato sospeso finché un urlo di gioia sovrasta il soffio del vento e… li vedi lì! E’ stato sempre necessario un attimo per riprendere la concentrazione e prendere i dati e le foto, che ogni pomeriggio abbiamo poi trasferito sul computer analizzandole e discutendo tematiche relative alla ricerca e alla conservazione dei cetacei. Credo che quello che ci è stato offerto sia l’approccio ideale perché non trascura né l’aspetto dell’emozione umana né l’aspetto della precisione scientifica e penso siano entrambi necessari, ovviamente perché senza i dati non si potrebbe condurre una ricerca, ma anche perché senza l’emozione non ci si potrebbe sentire coinvolti in essa e il coinvolgimento è il primo passo verso la sensibilizzazione di cui l’uomo ha così bisogno nei confronti dei problemi ecologici che affliggono il nostro meraviglioso ma fragile pianeta. Silvia, Philippa, Katie, Laura, Suzy, Nathan… thank you so much for everything!!!

Beatrice, Italy

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