15/11/2023

The Field Leaders of 2023 and their role

Every year, hundreds of volunteers come from far and near to ARCHELON's Projects with a common goal: to protect sea turtles. They have to be trained on how to record and protect nests, data collection, public awareness and have to adapt to living with people of diverse backgrounds, communicating daily in English. Field Leaders are there to help and train them navigate these challenges. When volunteers first arrive at the ARCHELON Research Stations they will be welcomed by the Camp and Volunteer Field Leader. After getting settled, they will meet the other Field Leaders and their training will begin. A unique experience awaits them in the coming weeks.

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" As a Camp and Volunteer Field Leader, I deal with the day-to-day organization and proper operation of the camp, such as the food supplies, the cleaning and cooking schedules. But the most important thing is making sure that all the volunteers are happy and feel comfortable to approach me for anything. I am something like the camp mom, but I also participate in recording the nests and informing the public", says Irene Pulido Anton, Camp and Volunteer Field Leader at the Messara Bay Project for 2023. Who other Field Leaders worked in Crete this summer? Amelie Weiler was the Public Awareness Field Leader in Messara Bay Project, while Audrey Busa, Vasilina Vradeli, David de Haan, Lizzie Burows West and Matthew Leveridge helped immensely as Field Leaders in Rethymno.

Matthew had his first experience with ARCHELON last year as a volunteer in Rethymno. This summer, he returned to the same place as the Public Awareness Field Leader. “We run information tables on the nesting beach for the every-day beach users. Beach visitors have the biggest impact on the beaches and the turtles, so we're here to let them know. Also, we make presentations in hotels in the evening and we run the ARCHELON Information Station in the city center of Rethymno. Sometimes we also participate in school activities and local events. There's always something new!”, he explains. " My role was to train the volunteers and organize their weekly tasks in the field of raising public awareness. This is very important because many people come to Rethymno for their holidays and have no idea that there are sea turtles here. Of course, I participated in some monitoring and camp organization shifts as well", Mathew adds.

Lucie Grosjean, Gracie Rowe and Thomas Chazlnoel worked as Field Leaders in Chania. For the smooth implementation of all 3 projects in Crete, Sam Finlayson and Melina Milidaki worked as Coordinator Field Leaders under the supervision of George Vrambas, the Project Manager for Crete, and Pely Tsoussi, the Assistant Project Manager.

The Monitoring Field Leaders train the volunteers to record the nests and protect them in night and morning surveys that take place every day during the turtle nesting and hatching season. They also take part in other tasks as needed.

In Kyparissia Bay, home to the largest breeding population of the Loggerhead sea turtle in the Mediterranean, this was a very demanding summer. The Field Leaders in the Kyparissia Project were: Sarah Kelliher, Leonie Marzecki, Aris Tsiroglou, Judith Hoste, Rachel Forster, Sam Brown and Dafni Nikisanli. "Despite the difficulties, we succeeded, bonded and created our own little family", says Michalis Souroulidis, the Project Manager for West Peloponnese. Due to the large number of nests, in addition to the Field leaders, new volunteers had to take on several responsibilities. I want to thank Matheo Merle, Enora Bourgeois, Aurelie Chaput, Elisa d'Allibert for all the hard work!”, he adds.

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Continuing in the Peloponnese, together with Alexandros Karaplis, the Project Manager for South Peloponnese, the Field Leaders who worked in Lakonikos Bay were Judith Glaser, Laura Suppan and Despina Papageorgiou. In Koroni, Field Leaders were Noha Ratouit, Tabea Morgenstern and Kostas Kotsiras. "It was a very demanding season, since we had unprecedented numbers of nests in the Southern Peloponnese Projects. Despite this we built a very strong team and friendship. I would like to thank Mael Probst, Audrey Kieffer, Antonin Gillot, Elain Friob, Antony Couffrant, Sophie Laderriere, Martin Vanham and Justine Masselot, and so many other volunteers who helped our projects and our Field Leaders", says Alexandros.

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In Zakynthos in 2023 several hundreds of nests were recorded by ARCHELON as well. Their protection was carried out in collaboration with the Management Unit of the Zakynthos Marine Park of N.E.C.C.A. Thanos Michailidis (Project Manager) and Anna Maria Tyra (Assistant Project Manager) collaborated with the Field Leaders Tarrit Vincent, Tobias Juul Jakobsen, Marcia Abreau, Sarah Crosse, Tanya Narshi, Sarah Bala, Anita Szymanska, Lucie Fauchard. "I want to thank everyone in the field for their contribution, and in particular, our Public Awareness Field Leader, Lucie, who shouldered the burden of so many outreach activities with a small number of volunteers whose communication skills have come to the fore this summer", says Thanos.

In the Amvrakikos Project in 2023, Zuzanna Gasienica Gewont was the Field Leader who trained the volunteers in capturing and collecting biometric data of sea turtles in just a few minutes. “We thank all 37 dedicated Field Leaders who participated in this year's projects. They too, like all of us at ARCHELON, started one summer as volunteers knowing little about turtles and their protection but wanted to return with a different role. Our collaboration this year began with a training seminar in April and continued throughout the summer. They helped us substantially and it would be impossible to have such a smooth operation of the projects without them”, says ARCHELON's Research Coordinator, Aliki Panagopoulou.

Become an ARCHELON volunteer! Check out how here

Learn more about Field Leaders and other special categories of volunteers here

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