Written by Lisa Böhm
Photos courtesy of Kirtan Shah and Lisa Böhm
“Dobar dan”, as the locals greet you on this island when they are passing by. We started the 3rd year of the Croatia Opwall (Cropwall) marine site, and this time you can find our team on the island of Silba. We are in our last week of the expedition, and here you can have a closer look at camp life, island life, diving and research on this beautiful island.
The Croatian marine camp of 2019 is based on Silba, which you can reach after a two hour ferry ride north from Zadar. The camp is just a 3 minutes’ walk away from the crystal blue water of the West Beach. It’s the perfect invitation to enjoy the Adriatic Sea on a hot summer day. Around 5 minutes’ walk and you are in the “city center” (so called by the staff). It’s a cute small square with a pizza place, ice cream and coffee shop and a bakery with delicious burek. Next to it is a fruit/vegetable market and the main grocery store (with an ATM). If you go further on, you will access the East beach, where you can find a seaside with sandy seafloor and amazing water, which reminds at the Caribbean and is named as one of the 3 cleanest beaches in Croatia.
Our staff is a great mix out of different nationalities. From India to Spain to the UK and Croatia of course. Divers from all over the world and mostly local scientist. Each week the team share conservation work and diving with curious and enthusiastic students.
Students have two options while on Silba. They have the chance to learn research methods while snorkeling and diving, or they spend the week completing the PADI Open Water course and being introduced the fascinating and beautiful world of diving with our highly experienced Dive Instructors and Dive Masters.
Tim, Open Water: “I loved it. I just loved learning diving. Andrea is a great Instructor and I learned so much.”
Maggie, Snorkeler: “First I thought, snorkeling is for babies. But it is not. I saw so much under water, I did research and never thought I would enjoy snorkeling so much. Awesome. It wasn’t “just” snorkeling. It was so much more.”
Mariana, Qualified: “I learned a lot while being here. How to process things under water and how to do data input. I didn’t know how to do research, but now I know it. I came here with the thought of becoming a marine biologist. Now I´m sure I want to do it.”
All students take part in a series of lectures about the ecology of the Adriatic and the purpose of our conservation work. Lecture subjects include an introduction to Adriatic marine ecosystems; the biodiversity of the Adriatic Sea, including the threats that the sea and its islands are facing.
The main objects for our science surveys are
1) to record the abundance of three species for sea urchins
(Paracentrotus lividus, Arbacia lixula and Sphaerechinus granularis)
2) to local the threatened Noble Pen Shell (Pinna nobilis)
3) to assess the health and the conservation index of the seagrass meadows (Posidonia oceanica). Little research has been done in this part of the Adriatic, and our work will contribute to long term monitoring of threats to the habitats and species of the region. In addition, we conduct beach clean-ups, usually on a weekly basis. Unfortunately, we find a lot of plastic in the sea, which often washes up on to the beautiful beaches. During the clean-up we record the location, the type and weight of the plastic. We hope to use the data to identify strategies for managing plastic waste around the island.
The students who choose to join the science teams, receive comprehensive training in research methods and they then form a valuable part of the data collection team. Typically, they will work, twice a day, with the scientists and Dive Masters on snorkeling or diving surveys from the shore, or from the boat.
But it’s not all about work. The students have the chance to enjoy some free time, where they can go to the ‘city center’ and for a nice walk around the island. On the last day of the expedition they have a fun snorkel/dive in the morning and in the afternoon, they go to the East Beach for a ‘holiday’ after their busy week. In the evening we have a social night including a quiz and a photo competition.
As you can see, we are a busy on site. But nevertheless it´s a lot of fun and the students learn a lot. To be able to live on this island, with its’ beautiful beaches, clear blue water, and no cars is amazing. Thanks to all school and university students who shared their time with us and made our Opwall season so successful and wonderful. Without you we couldn´t have done it. You are ace!
Bye, your Cropwall team on Silba