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Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The second Erasmus-supported Greek Summer School in Conservation Biology Papingo, Greece, 26 July – 9 August 2011

On Saturday 26 July, 19 students from 7 European countries gathered in a lakeside restaurant in Ioannina, northern Greece, to start the second Erasmus-supported summer school in conservation biology. All arrived on time, and the bus trip in the dark has not prepared the team for the scenery that was to greet them on the first morning. As the first few days were mostly theoretical, it was not always easy to keep the class within four walls... the option to go and jump into the stream to hunt yellow-bellied toads (Bombina variegata) was enthusiastically received. The first round was not so productive, the upstream half-team catching most of the toads, and some of them from last year, but the second census a few days later yielded a more even distribution of toads up- vs. downstream of the bridge. The theoretical lessons on diversity, conservation, ecosystem services, etc. were peppered with excurions to the WWF visitors' Centre in the neighbouring Micropapingo (where we learned that the Centre leader's dog was poisoned just that morning, in "reward" to his dedication to the protection of bears in the area), to the crystal-clear Voidomatis River, and to the forests around the village to census birds.
The entrance to the Vikos

Mid-way through the course, the students put on a splendid dinner, with the (solid as well as liquid) specialities of their countries that was happily devoured by the teachers as well as the students themselves. An end-of-week excursion with geological curiosities (the national park became a member of the Geoparks Network in 2010), some frighteningly magnificient views of the Vikos River Gorge, and for some, horse-riding or whitewater rafting gave the necessary relaxation for more lectures and some intense project work during the second week.
Students had to design a small study, do field work, evaluate the results, and present them on the final day. Before that, physical endurance was put to the test during an alpine excursion – first up to the always-visible-from-the-village mountain pass refuge that proved to be further away thna in seemed from below, and beyond to the unique location of the Dragolimni ("Dragon Lake", named after the large population of the Alpine Newt Triturus alpestris). We enjoyed the clowning around of many Alpine Coughs (Pyrrhocorax gracilis) and the magnificient scenery (while nursing aching muscles, blisters and general fatigue, and envying our guide Haritakis, who showed nothing of those, even if he did the same "walk", up AND down, the day before, in rain, with a group of American tourists...). Some students declared that the end-of-the-road, small village of our residence was, in reality, all the civilisation they craved...
All teams worked on their projects enthusiastically, and presented the results in a convincing manner, and all of them passed the course with flying colours (and good grades). The topics of student projects ranged from a standard census of birds in the neighbouring area to the use of plasticine caterpillars to assess predation rates in village gardens vs. forest edges.
Toad-hunting in the creek
While there, we heard that the previous year's students from the UK went on to get surprisingly high grades in their following year. So the course has proven itself to give inspiration for students – and one cannot really expect more.
The trainers' team is looking forward to the 2012 course with renewed enthusiasm.
We thank the local organisers and participants for their enthusiastic help and dedication, especially Vana Lakka, Haritakis and Jorgos Papaioanniou, and Jorgos Yfantis.
Gabor Lövei


András Báldi said...

Looking at the photos of this and of the previous summer schools, it is really one of my priorities to get to the Papingo area to enjoy wild nature.
András Báldi

best essay services reviews said...

The Greek school supported the second Erasmus and this is so good for the students. Students are like the support and they are be more attention in their study.