Marine Ecology Supervisor
THE INSTITUTE OF MARINE CONSERVATION
Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation based in the Aegean Sea islands of Greece with the mission to defend and protect the biodiversity of both the marine and terrestrial environments of the North-Eastern Mediterranean. To achieve this aim, Archipelagos combines applied scientific research, education, conservation actions and community engagement. Since 1998, the close cooperation with the local communities provides a strong foundation and strengthens the efforts made by the Institute at not only a local, but a national and a European level, promoting the protection of both aquatic and terrestrial life against ever-increasing and harmful human activity.
Archipelagos’ main research bases are on Samos and Lipsi Islands, with four additional research stations in other parts of the Eastern Aegean. The three boats are equipped with state- of-the-art research equipment and serve as mobile platforms for marine research and conservation work throughout the region. Archipelagos is made up of a multidisciplinary team of scientists, researchers and other professionals from all over the world, all sharing a passion for protecting the environment. One of the main focuses of their work is to fill in knowledge gaps to protect key species and habitats. This includes dolphins, whales, monk seals, seagrass meadows and coralligenous reefs, as well as rare island species such as golden jackals, Mediterranean chameleons, and over 200 migratory bird species on land.
THE FOREST OF THE SEAS – SEAGRASS CONSERVATION
Posidonia oceanica is a seagrass species, endemic to the Mediterranean, that plays a crucial role as an ecosystem architect. It provides shelter, a breeding and nursery ground and a habitat for over 300 species of marine plants and 1,500 species of marine animals. It is a long-living, slow-growing species, over 10,000 years old – one of the longest-living organisms on Earth. Despite being a priority protected species, over the past 50 years, human activity has resulted in an alarming loss of Posidonia seagrass meadows. This plant is of fundamental importance for the area’s marine life and biodiversity having a vital role in combating climate change by absorbing up to 35 times more carbon compared to tropical rainforests. One of the key actions of Archipelagos Institute is dedicated to halting the decline of Posidonia meadows, working actively, in cooperation with international research and academic institutes contributing to their conservation through innovative replanting techniques. Based on low-cost, high-yield practices they use natural and biodegradable materials that can be implemented in large marine areas.
By mapping, studying, and monitoring the seagrass meadows, Archipelagos is able to fill knowledge gaps about these important habitats. Accurate maps are the prerequisite for the implementation and enforcement of necessary management measures. Surveys are carried out with the research boat “Aegean Explorer” and specially equipped kayaks for habitat mapping. The Aegean Explorer has state of the art equipment, such as a multibeam sonar for 3D imaging of marine ecosystems, a biomass scanner for fish stock estimates, an ROV (Remotely Operated underwater Vehicle), a cartographic camera system that reaches depths up to 300m, an autonomous vehicle for habitat mapping, underwater drones and a crane for deep-water sampling. The data collected using this equipment is combined with GIS software and compared to satellite images, providing the most accurate distribution maps possible to aid establishment of protection measures to conserve this important species. This also adds to the awareness-raising efforts of Archipelagos by informing local communities and authorities about Posidonia oceanica and Greece’s legal obligation to protect it.
THE AEGEAN MARINE LIFE SANCTUARY
Archipelagos’ current priority is the establishment of the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary (AMLS) on Lipsi Island. Progress on the Sanctuary is ongoing, and once completed it will be a first-of-its-kind globally natural sanctuary for formerly captive dolphins. It will also serve as a rehabilitation centre for injured marine animals, such as turtles, dolphins and monk seals, where they can receive expert veterinary medical care. As a research and educational facility, allowing study without human disturbance to the animals, professional training in marine animal welfare, as well as practising conservation and fieldwork will also be provided. The AMLS aims to become an innovative prototype model for the development of future sanctuaries.
CITIZEN-SCIENCE AND ECO-NAVIGATION
Eco-Navigation is a citizen-science platform, developed by Archipelagos, to allow the exchange of information with sea enthusiasts from all over the world. By joining forces with sea enthusiasts and sailors from around the world, we are better able to protect the rare wildlife of our seas from the increasing threats of human activity – a challenging endeavour which needs help from all those who care and that is what this project is truly about.
The project aims to have a wider understanding of populations of sea turtles, dolphins, whales, seals, sharks, invasive fish species and jellyfish blooms by asking these sailors, divers, fishermen and sea enthusiasts to report any interesting observations while at sea. In addition to these reports, it is also encouraged to report any pollution incidents such as plastic debris and oil spills as well as any other unusual or interesting sightings. The information they gather and share with Archipelagos is also made available to expert scientists throughout Europe, strengthening the co-operation between citizens and scientists for the conservation of our oceans.
Marine mammal research and conservation has been a key area of focus for Archipelagos Institute since its establishment. Work in this field targets the population distribution of marine mammals, whilst also recording and understanding the key factors that impact the survival of these populations, of rare and endangered species. Fisheries interactions, depletion of prey stocks, shipping traffic as well as pollution (plastic, chemical and noise pollution) are also assessed.
The North-Eastern Mediterranean hosts some of the most important remaining marine mammal and sea turtle populations in the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the international and national legislation on the species of this region, there is a clear lack of effective conservation actions, causing further threats. Archipelagos’ research and conservation work on marine mammals of the NE Mediterranean with a focus on the Aegean Sea aims to improve the implementation of conservation actions in order to lasting reduction to the threats impacting these charismatic species. Mediterranean Monk Seals are an important, highly endangered species and the Eastern Aegean region is considered a key habitat for the vastly reduced population. The Archipelagos Institute researches this species to develop and enforce realistic conservation, while monitoring interactions with fishing communities and other threats. The research is conducted through citizen science awareness and campaigns, habitat suitability and identification with fishing communities, as well as surveys to monitor the individuals’ behaviour.
The Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation will continue its hard work to protect the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas and the highly biodiverse ecosystems they host. While there is an ever-growing team of researchers based in Greece, this responsibility needs to be shared with all those who care to help conserve the wealth of the Mediterranean Sea for the next generations to enjoy. You can learn more about Archipelagos’ conservation efforts in the Institute’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter pages, and share this information with your family and friends. You can join Archipelagos as volunteer or intern, on-site or remotely, or donate to support the conservation projects!