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Internship at Archelon “Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece”

From August to October 2016 Lauren Lopes (Elite Graduate Program Global Change Ecology) was an intern at the Sea Turtle Protection Society of Greece – Archelon. This organisation is spread throughout Greece and tries to cover and protect the most important nesting habitats for the target species Caretta caretta “the Loggerhead Sea Turtle”.

Release of a recovered Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) back into the Mediterranean Sea.

As an intern, just like the camp leaders, I lived in a tent at base camp for the entire duration of my stay. My tasks were diverse and changed every day and week. The organisation works on two essential pillars within conservation: building scientific knowledge and building public awareness. As an intern, I got to deal with both.

Starting as early as 5 a.m. I had to take on morning surveys along the 12 Km beach stretch where the turtle species nests. These surveys were aimed at searching for new tracks created over night by hatchlings, identifying nests that had hatched, finding disorientated hatchlings, excavating the hatched nests to determine the success rates or even fatal problems such as bacterial infections in the eggs, flooding, predation, etc. All data, including the number of tracks, of hatched, unhatched, dead, live or lost hatchlings were recorded. Additionally, habitat violations that put at risk the safety and success of the endangered Caretta caretta’s nests were recorded. All the data was then delivered to the European Commission to support the legal protection of the nesting beaches of Greece. When stranded and injured turtles appeared, we were the first contact point before they were sent to the Rescue Centre, based in Athens.

Moreover, I also had public awareness shifts which would consist either of spreading information to the public at a kiosk located in the city centre or at information tables at hotels, where we would also hold presentations about the Caretta caretta. These events were not only important for informing tourists but also locals about the endangered turtle species that nest on their beaches. Additionally, these information desks were the only way in which this NGO receives donations to continue operating in the following seasons.

This experience was very unique as it allowed me to understand better how an NGO works, not only with regard to outreach aspects but also with regard to the functioning of interpersonal relations within the actual organisation. This internship was interesting and fulfilling, specially when talking and informing different people every day. It was extremely enriching to see so many people from all over the world come together for one cause.

Author and Photograph: Lauren Lopes

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