The complex three-dimensional structure of the Mediterranean Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows provide habitat, feeding niches, and nursery grounds for many ecologically and commercially important fish species. P. oceanica meadows most often occur as a dominant habitat in a shifting arrangement with other biotic structures (rocky-algal reefs, matte, sediments with macroalgae) in close proximity – the seascape context, and over different seafloor characteristics (flat rock/rocky boulders/sediments). Within-meadow architecture also varies in space and time, and the changes in density and cover affect associated faunal communities. Despite its importance, P. oceanica meadows are under severe anthropogenic pressure leading to a decline in their distribution and cover. Data on the spatial distribution and architectural characteristics of seagrass beds around Silba are urgently needed to enable scientists to evaluate the relative importance of each seascape context and help with decision making on protection, management and sustainable use. Students on this project will work on assessing seagrass cover and density using quadrats, mapping lower and upper edge of the meadows, as well as defining the seascape context of each patch including the distance to the closest rocky-algal reef. The information will be processed using GIS software and the resulting maps can later be used to evaluate the effect of the P. oceanica seascape context on the variety of associated faunal communities. In addition Underwater Visual Census surveys of fish usage of these seagrass meadows exhibiting different characteristics (e.g. overall size, depth, density/health of the seagrass, distance to shore etc.) will be collected so that the ecological value of the seagrass as a habitat for fish can be determined.
If you would like to do a dissertation or thesis with us but your university hasn’t started dissertation planning or the project selection process, that’s no problem. You can cancel your expedition with zero cancellation charges up until the 15th of April of if you provide documentation from your university saying that they won’t support completing a dissertation project with us.
The Krka Valley runs from the Dinaric mountains bordering Bosnia to the Adriatic and is only 77km in length. However, since the river runs through limestone there are some spectacular gorges and this is one of the most scenic river valleys in Europe. It is also important from a biodiversity viewpoint containing nine Croatian and three Krka endemic fish species and spectacular cave systems containing a number of potentially new species to science. Opwall together with Biota (a Croatian biodiversity research organisation) has built a research centre in the central part of the Krka valley with easy access to the whole park. The centre is based in a restored house and grounds within 100m of the park boundary and has access to all the habitats throughout the park and surrounding countryside. The National Park Authority have requested we perform baseline surveys to increase the known inventory for the Park, as well as collect long-term monitoring data to answer a series of their management questions.
Tourist visits to Krka National Park are heavily concentrated towards the lower stretches of the river and very few people visit the central and northern parts of the valley. The Biota/Opwall research centre is based within a rural community that has suffered from significant depopulation and land abandonment in recent years. The centre is designed to give benefits to the local community from the visits (e.g. provision of employment etc). Whilst the main research effort each year from this centre comes through the Opwall programme, the centre will remain open year round in an attempt to attract some of the many visitors to the Croatian coast further inland, increasing revenue for the Park and local communities.
Silba Island is in the northern Dalmatian archipelago and is a car and hotel free island. The island markets itself as a haven of tranquillity and much of the island is still covered by Mediterranean black oak and maquis. The objective for our partners on this island is to develop the first marine research centre for northern Dalmatia and they have a series of research projects on seagrass, sea urchins, protected species and fisheries, as well as marine plastics.
Croatia is hot during this time of the year! In both Krka and Silba the daytime temperature rarely drops below 30 degrees and can reach 40 degrees.
Fitness level required
Moderate. Whilst there are not many steep hikes in the forest, the hikes are still quite long and the temperature can make them tiring.
At Krka you will either be staying in dormitories or in shaded tents with shared western style bathrooms and toilets. There is also some limited phone signal in Krka (but not reliable for a data connection).