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  • Overview
  • Objectives
  • Skills you gain
  • Costs to Consider
  • Site Conditions

These expeditions have a week each in two different valleys in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania. The area is one of outstanding natural beauty with species rich meadows that have been managed with late hay cuts and no fertilisers for the last 700 years and ancient forests that were once part of the forest that covered much of Europe. On this project you will be working with specialists quantifying change in different taxa and using a wide variety of ecological survey techniques. The surveys include assessing the value of meadows from the occurrence of 30 species of plants that are indicators of high quality meadow communities, Pollard counts and sweep net surveys of butterflies, species assessments of other invertebrate groups such as grasshoppers, bees, beetles, point count and mist net surveys for birds, opportunistic surveys for herpetofauna (depending on village), small mammal trapping and camera trapping for the large mammal species including bears. In addition, there is the opportunity to go out with a member of the local community and see if you can see some of the
larger mammals in person, for example bears, wild boar and wild cat. Interview-based surveys of small farms are used to assess whether the farming practices (date of hay cuts, amalgamation of fields, use of fertiliser etc.) are changing in a direction that would threaten this spectacular scenery and wildlife. At the end of each week you will travel over the mountains and down into the next valley to repeat the surveys. Note, with European train passes it is possible either before or after your expedition to explore by train other parts of Europe including Budapest, Vienna, Prague and many other sites.

Transylvania Research Objectives

The foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania are one of the most spectacular and biodiverse areas in Europe. The species-rich landscape has been nurtured by the low intensity farming practices stretching back up to 900 years. However, since Romania joined the European Union there was a gradual depopulation of the countryside coupled with moves to increase the efficiency of farming by combining fields and more intensive agricultural practices. To mitigate against these areas of outstanding natural beauty in the foothills of the Carpathians being affected by intensification, the EU offered farmers grants to continue farming using traditional techniques to maintain the landscape. The Opwall teams in Transylvania are working with a local NGO called ADEPT and a series of scientists monitoring whether farming practices and biodiversity are changing in a series of eight valleys within the Tarnava Mare region. Changes in farming practices such as any moves to silage production, removal of hedges, usage of fertilisers and pesticides or drainage of wetland areas are being monitored since they could have a big impact on the biodiversity. Direct monitoring of the biodiversity of groups such as meadow plant indicator species, butterflies, birds, small mammals and large mammals such as bears are also being monitored as part of this programme.

  • Attend lectures/workshops on Romanian landscape conservation, ecology and its history
  • Learn survey methods to sample plants, butterflies, small mammals, large mammals, birds and bats
  • Visit local Transylvanian farmers and learn about their lifestyles
  • Work with local staff and learn some basic Romanian
  • Opwall fee
  • Cost of international flights in to and out of Cluj.
  • Cost of internal travel – which includes transport to and from the start and end points of the expedition, plus any hotels you might require. This costs around £180 or $233 on average. Extra nights’ accommodation in Sighisoara costs around £30 or $44.
  • Vaccinations and prophylactic medicines – cost can vary depending on your healthcare provider.
  • All prices in GBP or USD unless specified.

Most of our volunteers fundraise for their expedition costs. Find out more.

The Transylvania expedition is a mobile one, spending only a week each in eight different villages scattered through the Tarnarva Mare.

Each village is unique in its own way, and facilities do vary from one to another. For the majority the conditions are relatively basic with tented accommodation and long drop toilets, as you are staying in the gardens and on the properties of local farmers rather than actual campsites. For others however the expedition is in guesthouses or more prepared accommodation and campsites. As the village order is only finalized a couple of months prior to the expedition, we can only give an indication of where you may be going during the training presentation in March/April.

The weather is generally good, averaging the mid-twenties for the majority of the summer – although it can get very hot occasionally. As the expedition is Europe, rain is also a possibility!

Locations

  • Transylvania
  • Romania
  • Saxon Villages

Want to get involved with this project?

Preparation

Want to get involved with this project?

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