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Greek Corner
MEdIES in the GAP Partner Network 1

Neroupoli, the Greek water-city

MARLISCO exhibition


First World Non-Formal Education Forum
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Course A: Aquatic & Social Ecology: Theory and Practice

Organized by: the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, the Vienna Institute of Social Ecology,
Alpen Adria University and the University of Patras


Samothraki is a Greek island in the north-eastern corner of the Aegean archipelago endowed with high cultural and natural assets. However, there is at present a fragile situation of slow decline of population and ecological challenges that might possibly be brought to a tipping point by impacts of the Greek economic and governance crisis, as well as climate change.

The Vienna Institute of Social Ecology (SEC), Alpen Adria University (www.aau.at/socec) has been conducting research on the social metabolism of the island of Samothraki since 2007, acknowledged by the Sustainability Award 2010 received by the Austrian Ministry of Science and Research. This interdisciplinary research on energy, material flows, land use and the island economy, and the simultaneous networking with local civil society and stakeholders, prompted the communal administration, unanimously, to make an effort at turning the whole island into a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.For more information visit: http://www.sustainable-samothraki.net

The Institute of Marine Biological Resources & Inland Waters (IMBRIW) of The Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR) (http://imbriw.hcmr.gr/), has been studying the island's freshwaters for 15 years. From 2013 onwards, HCMR, in collaboration with the Municipality of Samothraki, initiated an inland waters research initiative, based on self-funding. In the frame of this effort, springs, streams, wetlands and lagoons have been investigated for their chemical-physicochemical and ecological quality. Thus, related data refer to hydromorphological and habitat features, physico-chemical results and biological characteristics. Finally, a Memorandum of Collaboration between HCMR and the Municipality of Samothraki has been signed to establish the Samothraki Nature Observatory (16-12-2013) on the island, aiming to research, promote, manage and protect its natural heritage.

The Department of Environmental and Natural Resources Management, University of Patras, was founded in 1998. During its 17-year operation, it developed and organized, constituting well-equipped educational/research academic laboratories which are specialized in the study of inland & coastal waters, including lake, river, lagoon and coastal ecosystems, aiming at their integrated management.

The course

Course A is designed as a 2-week excursion to Samothraki with the aim to learn and apply aquatic ecology and social ecology approaches in a local setting while supporting current research and building synergy with the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve process. The course gives students the opportunity to engage in a real-life project and utilise their scientific training to support the process further, namely the creation of a management plan with a set of activities towards sustainability, and a science plan for further research on the island that would also meet local interests. This will provide students the experience of participating in a transdisciplinary research process, being exposed to a search for solutions for sustainability and development challenges, and learning to interact with stakeholders in a culturally challenging environment.

The course will conclude with a reflection on the experiences and written student reports on the results of their specific research. We will make an attempt to interpret these results within the framework of sustainability and development studies. The course addresses advanced Master Degree students from both the natural and social sciences (environmental sciences, environmental sociology, aquatic ecology, human and social ecology, environmental sociology, water resources management, development studies, etc.) with an interest in sustainability and local developmental challenges.

Lectures and methods

After the morning plenaries that will be shared with Course B participants, for the most part, students will be split in small groups and conduct desk and fieldwork in an array of social and natural science methods frequently used in socioecological and aquatic research. Each method will be practically demonstrated by a tutor guiding the small student groups throughout the field work. Each participant will focus on one (and be exposed to another 1-2) of the following methods and research questions:

  • (1) Animal numbers and their drivers on the island: livestock counting and estimation of livestock densities on different habitat types by distance sampling. Analysing farmers’ income by sources (utilization of animal products on markets, in subsistence, from state subsidies). Creating an empirically based estimate of current livestock numbers and putting it into perspective of causes and impacts. Tutor: Raffael Hickish
  • (2) Problems of overgrazing and soil erosion: analysing the impacts of agricultural land use and land-cover change on the vegetation cover. Mapping vegetation cover and erosion sites, discussing landscape change, its drivers and impacts. Exploring the outcomes of recent animal feed seeding experiments. Tutor: Tamara Fetzel
  • (3) Exploring the current social metabolism of the island in terms of material and energy flow analysis by field observation and expert interviews, with a special focus on the fate of wastes. Exploring potential social tipping points (undersupply that might cause population decline) in the health and education services. Structural legal and statistical analysis and stakeholder interviews. Tutor: Simron Singh
  • (4) Local initiatives and their chances to drive socioecological change. Oral narratives and interviewing with local initiatives on whether cultural change toward collaboration may occur and widen the range of possible solutions even during a prolonged economic deadlock. Tutors: Aggelos Varvarousis, Panos Petridis
  • (5) Aquatic chemistry and macroinvertebrate fauna of Mediterranean streams. Field protocols, field measurements and sampling campaigns in streams of Samothraki will be carried out in order to explore biodiversity issues, assess their ecological status and interpret the factors and processes that control it. Tutors: Nikos Skoulikidis, Anastasia Lampou, Momir Paunovic
  • (6) Stream riparian and landscape module. Visual survey techniques will be utilized to collect floral, wildlife and anthropogenic degradation data to assess ecosystem integrity at the riparian corridor and landscape scale. Three survey methods will be completed at a number of stream sites. Tutors: Stamatis Zogaris, Panayiotis Dimopoulos
  • (7) River hydrology, physical processes, stream hydrologic assessment, watershed assessment. Water resources management, watershed management. Survey to conceive the island's water resources management scheme, including an estimation of water uses and understanding of common irrigation practices. Tutor: Ierotheos Zacharias
  • (8) Visual survey techniques, protocols and indicators for the ecological assessment of the Mediterranean sublittoral zone, with emphasis on benthic ecosystem structure and functions. Fieldwork to collect data within the island’s marine Site of Community Importance (GR1110012). Analyze and report on identified status and trends. There will be saltwater, you’ve been warned. Tutors: Maria Salomidi, Yiannis Issaris

Literature / References

The references include some basic readings for Course A as well as per module literature:


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