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I spent my first week of the Opwall Expedition with some of my biology class, as well as other schools, in Krka National Park in Croatia, where I was able to take part in many different surveys as well as experience living in a busy communal space and meeting new people. The surveys I took part in all allowed me to learn something new, whether it was mist netting with birds and bats, catching butterflies or measuring and identifying mammals, as well as finding out how animals are monitored, labelled and conserved. All surveys were done alongside a member of the staff who was a specialist in the area who was always happy to explain or teach about their profession and what we are doing. While it is understandable that we cannot directly handle the animals, some of the staff went out of their way to make sure we all got the most out of the experience and were actively involved, for example, I was allowed to hold birds and snakes, as well as take measurements and collect data myself during the bat survey and mammal survey.



My favourite surveys were the habitat survey and the cave
survey. In the habitat survey my friends and I basically collected all the data and were fully involved. The staff who were with us were also very fun, while the cave survey was adventurous and unique as we entered a cave and walked around.


The lectures that were given alongside most surveys explained that certain animals and plants are beneficial to the ecosystem and must be conserved, which is why Opwall carries out all these surveys. It was also explained that all surveys are standardised so that they can be
compared year to year. I also learned a lot of fun facts like snakes don’t have eyelids and that bats do not show signs of age as they do not lose
telomeres! The staff who presented the lectures all truly seemed passionate and happy to be there and radiated that energy onto us. The staff also organised less demanding activities like butterfly drawing, name game, debates and a photo competition and had card games and books available for everyone to use during our free time.


Overall, I am extremely grateful for this experience and I could describe it as one of the most fun and interesting things I have ever done. I have met so many fun and interesting people as well as learned so much about the environment around me.


Photos by Martina Pietropoli and title photo by Sara Raichi

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