This expedition has a week in each of four different valleys in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania. The project is based in an area of outstanding natural beauty that represents how most of Europe looked prior to the intensification of agriculture, when there was no fertiliser, herbicide or insecticide use. Working with a number of specialists quantifying change in different taxa, the four week project gives more opportunity to fully experience the wide array of different survey types conducted in Transylvania. 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, point count and mist net surveys for birds, 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, allowing you to experience the diversity of a number of different villages. It is possible to specialize in one or more of the projects or to keep circulating between the different survey teams and by the time you have finished your four week stay in this beautiful part of the world, you will have an excellent grounding in survey techniques used to quantify different taxa.
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.
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!