Updates from Samos

So far I’ve adopted a few projects here. I’ve taken over the macroplastic surveys; collecting, sorting and weighing trash from 3 beaches near the base. The main goal of this project is to clean up the beaches and prevent plastic from entering the ecosystem (and the stomachs of the dolphins dissected in the microplastic lab). But we are also using the results to figure out what makes up the majority of the trash washing up or ending up on Samos beaches. This information can then be used by the environmental law team to put pressure on the sources of this trash.

I am part of the Monk Seal monitoring project. There is one monk seal that occasionally can be found in the waters around the south side of Samos, and no one really knows where he goes, how long he stays, and why. The project so far just involves daily land surveys searching for the seal, but we plan on starting to do snorkel surveys of the bay area to search for clues as to why the monk seal sometimes spends it’s time in Samos. It may seem absurd to spend so much time on one animal, but the Mediterranean monk seal is in critical condition, and there are only about 700 left in the wild. Which makes every individual animal important. Also, discovering why the monk seal comes here and what makes him leave could help conservation efforts conserve the best habitat for the species.

I have also started working with another intern on a dolphin behavior project. She has been teaching me how to use a software called BORIS to classify every behavior seen and videotaped during a survey. After uploading videos of the sighting to the software and classifying them, BORIS can analyze these behaviors and their frequency and create a spreadsheet of how often dolphins leap, bow or breach and what behaviors and states tend to happen together. We had a sighting a few days ago and I was able to get some video footage, so next week I will try analyzing it on BORIS.

I am also working on creating a photo ID catalog of individual dolphins found around Samos. This involves a lot of desk work, so when I’m not in the water or on a survey I’m sorting through and categorizing thousands of photos of dorsal fins.


  1. saostrom says:

    It sounds like your research is keeping you busy with all of the moving parts and separate projects! I just have one main question about the influence of your research after this summer. You mentioned that you are collecting, sorting, and weighing trash from three beaches to clean up but also identify what material makes up the majority of trash you find so that the environmental law team can “put pressure on the sources of this trash.” Even if this isn’t directly part of what you plan on accomplishing this summer, how much change do you think the environmental law team can realistically implement, and how would this process eventually start? I think this idea is really smart to see if limits can be enforced on whatever material is most prevalent in beach trash, but I also feel like if a limit as intuitive as that one hasn’t already been put in place, then there must be something standing in the way of that happening… but, I’m not involved in that field at all, so that’s just a curiosity of mine. I am excited to read how the rest of your research goes, good luck!

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