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The Tarnava Mare Natura 2000 Region comprises 85,000ha of particularly rich landscape and is one of Europe’s last medieval landscapes. The area has arguably the most extensive flower-rich grasslands remaining in lowland Europe, as well as the continent’s last remaining lowland bears. The landscape still presents a medieval land-use pattern: forested ridges and gullies, pasture and hay meadows on gentler slopes and terraces, and arable land and smaller meadows on the flat valley bottoms near villages.

  • Overview
  • Objectives
  • Skills you gain
  • Costs to Consider
  • Site Conditions
  • 2022 dates available (1 week):
    22 June – 28 June 2022
    29 June – 5 July 2022
    6 July – 12 July 2022
    13 July – 19 July 2022
    20 July – 26 July 2022
    27 July – 2 August 2022
  • 2022 dates available (2 weeks):
    22 June – 5 July 2022
    29 June – 12 July 2022
    6 July – 19 July 2022
    13 July – 26 July 2022
    20 July – 2 August 2022
  • 2023 dates available (1 week):
    14 June – 20 June 2023
    21 June – 27 June 2023
    28 June – 4 July 2023
    5 July – 11 July 2023
    12 July – 18 July 2023
    19 July – 25 July 2023
    26 July – 1 August 2023
    2 August – 8 August 2023
  • 2023 dates available (2 weeks):
    14 June – 27 June 2023
    21 June – 4 July 2023
    28 June – 11 July 2023
    5 July – 18 July 2023
    12 July – 25 July 2023
    19 July – 1 August 2023
    26 July – 8 August 2023

The research team in Transylvania spends time surveying different valleys in the Tarnarva Mare region of Transylvania, in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains.

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, 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.

The 2022 project will be based out of the village of Angofa near the town of Sighisoara and will spend time both surveying the local area and travelling out to other villages to collect data from a wider area. Depending on numbers undertaking the project, this may change to a mobile team moving and staying at different villages.

The 2023 project will be a more mobile team, basing out of the villages and changing location on a weekly basis.

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 biodiversity and conservation
  • Learn the survey methods for Plants, Birds, Small and Large Mammals, Bats and Butterflies
  • Learn to ID common European bird species
  • Understand the historical and modern interactions between humans and their environment
  • Learn and experience about historical Saxon culture

The costs of a school group expedition can be highly variable. There is a standard fee paid to Opwall for all expeditions but the location you are flying from, the size of your group, and how you wish to pay all impact the overall cost.

You can choose to book the expedition as a package (which includes your international flights) or you can organise your travel yourself and just pay us for the expedition related elements.

If you are booking your expedition as a package, you also have the option of being invoiced as a group, or on an individual basis.

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!


  • Transylvania
  • Romania
  • Saxon Villages

Want to get involved with this project?


Want to get involved with this project?

   Latest from our blog

  • Field Notes Entry 14: Cristi Gherghiceanu

    Posted on 20th May 2021
    Bio: Cristi Gherghiceanu is the executive president of Fundatia ADEPT, a Romanian non-profit dedicated to protecting Transylvanian biodiversity and traditional agriculture through innovation and education. ADEPT partnered with Opwall to set up our projects in Transylvania, and have deepened the relationship by...
  • Field Notes Entry 13: Madalina Marian

    Posted on 20th May 2021
    Bio: Originally from Sighisoara, Madalina Marian is a proud advocate of Transylvanian heritage, nature, and culture. She grew up foraging in the hilltop forests, keeping an eye out for bears and chasing butterflies in Transylvania’s wildflower meadows, which inspired her passion for...
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