Summer University of Samothraki 2016: Snapshots

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Summer University of Samothraki 2016: Snapshots

An interdisciplinary experience... on Samothrace
At the end of July 2016

In mid-July, HCMR participated and co-organized the third university summer school in Samothrace. Two different courses were held. Our Course A promoted water ecology and social ecology and was supported by professors from universities in Austria, Canada, Germany, Spain and Greece. The course is designed as a two-week excursion to Samothrace, with the aim of learning and applying ecological and socio-ecological approaches to an island we know. The effort must support ongoing research and create synergies with the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Protected Area Design Process. The course gave students the opportunity to participate in real research activities and use their scientific background to support specific conservation-relevant research. Some of this research has been done in the last decade or more. It gave students the experience of participating in a transdisciplinary research process, finding solutions to interpreting natural history, sustainability and development challenges and learning to interact with stakeholders.

Course A was attended by 25 students and several experienced teachers and tutors. Course B focused on the management of biosphere reserve designation and related issues and had about 30 students and some distinguished professors. Organizing and running it was a great challenge and learning experience for the organizers and teachers.

Here I share some grim thoughts about the experience from my personal experience. The following photos do not include all the activities and sub-projects and do not do justice to the breadth and richness of the two courses.

Some thoughts:

- I was truly impressed by the high level of academic excellence, professionalism and integrity of the teaching staff and support staff. After working on expatriate programs for several years, learning a lot about natural history and efficient energy management, I found this group of professionals to be top notch. This created a wonderful teaching environment and wonderful collaboration.

- The program had a high degree of flexibility and relaxation. Although our course was ambitious - 8 modules with specific action research sub-projects - it was delivered at a varied and flexible pace with enough quiet breaks for everyone. In July, the island is a mecca for young Greeks who come to camp, dance and party. Then it inevitably becomes part of the business. Work and play can be combined.

- Samothraki lends itself to college summer adventure. On a small island we did everything from technical goat counts, overgrazing assessments, landscape quality research, trash/debris research, stream ecology, water management studies, marine biology, natural habitat history walks, riparian research and various interdisciplinary cultural approaches. The students were very motivated to study certain aspects and all this was presented in excellent PPT presentations on the last day.

- Samothraki camp in Therma and the HATHEY organization were really great in providing support and the central geographical location was excellent. Beneath the giant oriental airplanes and near a beautiful pebble beach, the camp is a great place to meet people, relax, discuss and work on research presentations with deadlines. In my three decades of experience traveling the Greek islands, I know of no other situation that could be more suitable for a college summer stay.

-The local government was very supportive and a small group of local and foreign professionals and nature lovers were very supportive. (And they have been on the island for the last few years in our academic development). On Wednesday, July 20, a selection of our scientists presented some of our findings at the Chora Cultural Center (Marina Fischer-Kowalski, Michael Skoulos, Panos Petridis, Nikos Skoulikidis and myself). This 'communication event' at a public meeting was positive (it shows a deep connection with the local government and the mayor's support for a 'protected area' on the island).

- The success of this activity is largely based on the long-term work and research of Marina Fischer-Kowalski's group and the foundations also provided by Nikos Skoulikidis. Both have been visiting the island for over 20 years and it shows. This type of work paves the way for a successful academic organization.

under the guidance of prof. Michael Skoulos and friends at the Sanctuary of the Great Gods.

The meanders and adelarras of the Sanctuary of the Great Gods.
Prof. Michael Skoulos offers an antiques column on the Corso B tour.

Discuss the river ecology of Foniastroom with Route B.

Biodiversity everywhere: a Natrix natrix snake in Fonias.

Route B stops for a swim in the Fonias stream.
Vassiliki contributed to landscape assessment through his PhD at Therma School.

Ideal for studying vegetation: Vitex agnus-castus dunes and terabino oak forests in Pachia Ammos.
Prof. Panayotis Dimopoulos and students from the University of Patras obviously delved into the landscape of A Panayia Krimniotissa.
Vassiliki, Selim, Hakan and Elias appreciate the unique scenery on the way to Kipos.

A meeting of 16 scholars and contributors to discuss the draft conference statement in the modern conference facilities of the Philelio Cultural Center.
Teacher Marina Fischer-Kowalski (right) discusses pastoral issues at school with Tamara and Yorgos.
The Walloon oak appears as a dehesa in the wheat fields in the west of the island.

The west of the island has a problem of water stress: the planned dams of Xirpotamos may not be solved.
Prof. Nuria Bonada talks about Mediterranean currents: a global synthesis.
Landscape of Lakoma Village: Vassiliki and the field team.
HCMR marine biologist Maria Salomidi teaches in the small, overcrowded school.

Armin, the cameraman of the documentary production team and the collaborators of the organization: Panos Petridis, Angelos Varvarousis, Nikos Skoulikidis and the Therma School teacher Ierotheos Zacharias.
On the cruise ship "Theodora". Island tour: visit to the southwest cape with a view of Pachia Ammos.
The lush green northern coast near the Therma campsite.

The only pebble point of Agios Andreas, on the western point of the island.
One of the rarest seabirds of the eastern Mediterranean, Audouin's gull. People seen in at least five locations along the coast.

Scientists, mentors, friends: Nikos Skoulikidis and Klement Tockner.
The Theodora lands on the secluded beach of Katarti on the south coast of the island.
Entrance to the small bay of Katarti beach. Be aware of leaf erosion and heavy coastal grazing.

Landing of Theodora at Katarti Beach on the south coast of the island.

A great view of the mouth of the Vatos River from the southern cliff path of the island.

Amazing cliff from Pachia Ammos to Vatos (I hiked alone...not for the faint of heart, and it's stupid to hike alone...).
Good friends along the Vatos River: Professor Simron Singh L.
One of the most dangerous landscapes of the island: Pachia Ammos.
Pachia Ammos semi-built tourist adventure. Is this the beginning of the end for the desert?
The harvest of terebinths and oaks in Pachia Ammos: is it sustainable?
The most dangerous wetland on the island: Lake Agios Nikolaos (near Lake Agios Andreas) near Kamariotissa.
One of the island's 20 most important wetlands: Vdelolimni on the north coast.
Spectacular oak forest in Vdelolimni...but no regeneration due to overgrazing by cattle.

Sunset with mosses over the sea in the Vdelolimni wetland.
Samothraki has a dual protection designation within the EU's Natura 2000 network of protected areas (reflecting its value for natural habitat types and for fauna and birds). We hope to revoke this designation in a fully protected area granted by the Greek state in the coming years. It comes after the completion of a specific environmental study and management plan for the protected area of ​​the island. Of course, the island is still open to various development project ideas (from a Xyropotamos zombie water harvesting project to three wind farm proposals in the mountains). Scientific research can help Samothraki with its magnetic character and wonderful cultural material.

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