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This is a guest blog by current student Martha Davis studying BA (Hons) Communication and Media.

My experience

When I said I was heading to Greece for a few months to work in marine conservation, many people oohed and ahead, envying at the mamma mia lifestyle I was heading to! I can confirm that living under the Mediterranean sun is incredible! However, working for a very basic NGO on the (sometimes) stormy coastline of an Eastern Aegean island, makes for an quite a rudimentary experience. Sharing Archipelagos’ research base with other vegetarians, ethical livers and young activists is brilliant, but I’m not bathing in a sea of feta and olives!

In August 2018 I moved to Samos island in Greece, joining the media team whose key role is to communicate the conservation efforts of the different teams, including marine and terrestrial conservation and marine mammal research. Prior to arrival, my expectations were fairly non-existent, I knew I was going to a non-profit with a diverse range of interns, but that was about it. I had allowed myself a few days to gently settle into life at Archipelagos however soon found out  settling in wasn’t really an option. I started work the following day, attended a Jackal necropsy, familiarised myself with the team, met the directors of the organisation and spent the next three days celebrating Samian independence from the Ottoman empire, a long weekend packed full of festivities.

I soon got into the motion of the daily surveys; plastic collection, bird monitoring at the local wetland and boat surveys around the north eastern Aegean Sea. One of the surveys I was particularly interested in was Archipelagos’ citizen science program Eco-Navigation. The programme, designed for sailors, fishermen and sea enthusiasts, aims to increase awareness of the rich biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea. Recording valuable data through reported sightings of rare and protected species, marine mammals or marine pollution allows Archipelagos to acquire data that would have otherwise been missed. This survey ran for the tourist season in 2018 and I was in charge of coordinating volunteers for the bi-weekly survey and recording and inputting data for the latter three months of the summer season.

The most enjoyable aspect of my placement at Archipelagos has been working with people from all over the world, students, graduates and volunteers. I have met people from a wide variety of fields including marine biology, wildlife conservation, geographical information mapping, illustrators, designers, researchers, communication students, videography and photography, ecosystem studies, marine conservation…the list goes on. Meeting such a range of people on a very special island in order to help protect Greece’s incredible ecosystems and wildlife and share topics that unite us is really incredible.

Being introduced to my first role within a scientific NGO has been really interesting. Seeing lots of research projects in action can seem quite intense at times and the NGO is constantly busy. However, working to communicate the work of this unique NGO and creating awareness material for Samian locals has been great and something I never thought I would do!

The largest, and most long term project I have been working on, is the development of the Aegean Marine life Sanctuary, a rehabilitation centre located on Lipsi island in the north eastern Aegean Sea. It will be dedicated to providing medical care and refuge, primarily to dolphins in captivity, as well as other marine mammals that suffer from stranding and entanglements at sea. Creating business plans, learning about budgeting and website development as well as assisting with the construction of the Sanctuary roof, it has been  an incredible process.

My internship was due to finish at the end of February 2019, however in January I was offered the role of the media team supervisor, staying for an additional 5 months, which I greatly accepted. I am thrilled to continue working for an organisation tackling global conservation concerns and defending the biodiversity of the northeastern Aegean Sea. I am looking forward to seeing the sun to return to Samos as I start my new role and assist the media team in communicating conservation actions. My work will now take a slightly different route, I am sad not to be working so closely on the Sanctuary as I alter my work to focus on helping interns to develop their individual projects such as article writing, film making and design.

On reflection

During my placement search, the help and encouragement from the team at Bournemouth University was wonderful; the resources provided and advice given at meetings was really helpful, letting me explore different options and carefully assess the benefits of one placement over another. Whilst on my placement, Vianna, my Placement Development Advisor, has been really helpful. She has been updating my course via group email, social media and responded to individual queries I have had. The placement review meetings have been really useful to ensure that I stayed focused to get the most out of my placement. I have also been encouraged to keep looking towards the next role or internship to improve my CV.

Working within conservation has confirmed my thoughts that I am definitely interested in humanitarian and environmental work. Whilst working at Archipelagos I have had the chance to talk to other interns about roles within environmental and climate work. It is really interesting to learn about the routes others have taken and I have enjoyed researching around this area of work, whilst considering where to focus my particular interests.

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