Saturday, June 30, 2018

Samothraki Summer School 2018 report

Samothraki Island
June 2nd - 12th 2018

Samothraki Summer School is a "Greek Islands' institution" and a good example of how scholars can contribute on their free-time to the conservation of an idyllic island world. And it is idyllic, especially in early June, off-season really but still warm and lively as ever for such a uniquely isolated place. 

This year was a wonderful situation for me personally, I spent a total of 13 days on the island and was happy to really get to know a lot of local people (since we participated in a module that did some rapid face-to-face questionnaire surveys: we actually did 98 such mini-interviews). We thank our students Eirini and Honza for helping us. The work on the five modules in the summer school was as usual totally unique with interesting experiences and exploratory research and some wholesome environmentalism too.

Here we share just a few of our photos during the Summer School programme.  Of course they are not representative of the student's experiences but are personal photos me and Vasso have taken along the way. 

The amazing beach and landscape of Pachia Ammos on the southern side of the island. In June it is almost free of tourist hype.
These wonderful trees are actually Pubescent Oaks (Quercus pubescens) - on the sand (!!!) at the river mouth of the Ammos river, a kind of wadi really. 

Pachia Amos, has a incredible landscape, photos cannot do it justice. And it is one of the most birdy parts of the island. Here the Orphean Warblers Sylvia crassirostris where singing. A highlight on any visit to Samothraki. I just can't believe this landscape is not registered as a landscape of outstanding value (Topio Idiaiterou Fysikou Kallous). And it is threatened by future prospects for development (second homes, holiday homes and apartments, beach tourism facility expansion, illegal wood cutting and mountain roads. Of course it is also heavily overgrazed.
Chora Samothraki. Capital of the island. 
Chora Samothrakis, one of the most beautiful island villages in Greece. June is a great time on the island, less than a handful of tourists.

The Cafe at Therma. This is an emblematic locale for students and locals to hang-out under huge towering native Oriental Planes.

Totally different world on the Island's North Coast (between Palaiopolis and Agistro river) the native Oriental Planes bank the cobble-strewn beaches. This is definitely the most extensive Platanus woodland along a coastline in any island in Greece (although Euboea also has good beach-side woods, but is Euboea an island?).

Student's camp at the Varades Campsite. This is a much more organized facility than the camp at Therma, both are next to the beach.

The school house in Therma: focus of teaching and presentations. We car-pooled to-and-from camp which is a couple of km away.

A break during the sessions at the school-house in Therma. Many and interesting discussions taking place and some locals joined in (such as Dimitri -with the beard). The girl at the doorway is a Greek anthropologist doing her PhD on the island.  
First day at school! Marina Fischer- our great mentor - sits among the students to discuss issues. 

First day at school with Dominik Noll guiding us along: note the interesting curtains. 
Anastasia Lampou from HCMR and Panos Petridis are critically important organizers and tutors.

Vasso Vlami introduces the Landscape Module, with co-tutors Christos Anagnostou, Dominik Noll and Simron Singh.

On the island the tutors of the summer school also participate in various environmental issues; this is the inaugural meeting of the International Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) of “Sustainable Samothraki”, June 5, 2018 (20:30 – 0:30) . Location "Ergostasio" cinema near Kamariotissa.

One day we had decided to have a hike as a group up the mountain, near the Springs of the Fonias River (Karya). Here we are last in the trail, walking and birding along the way to Karya.
Karya pools. Many students went for a swim.

One of the day-flying moths under the Platanus and Alnus trees at Karya: Nine-spotted moth, Amata phegea. It mimics the very similar burnet moth (Zygaena ephialtes) that is full of bird-unfriendly toxins.
This is the unique endemic Viola samothracica,  growing near rocks at about 700 m. a.s.l. on the Karya Trail, on Mount Koufouklio (thanks to my good friend Kit Tan for the identification).
A fantastic Honey Buzzard Pernis apivorus nests a the Kofouklio oak wood near the Karya trail.

This is one reason we worked on landscape issues at Samothraki this year: on this ridge above Karya in a wonderful roadless wilderness at 1200 m elevation there is a proposal to create an industrial wind farm (39 wind turbines in total). 
Armin and friends from Austria and the Sustainable Samothraki team organized an amazing documentary showing at the cultural centre near the port town of Kamariotissa, students and locals mingled. 
Time in the school-house. 
Eugenia and Panos organizing everything for smooth-going conditions. 

Donkey farm at Koufopetra. 
Donkey farm at Koufopetra. 

Sanctuary of the Great Gods with our Local Guide and member of the Municipal Council, Manolis Stergiou. This rock is of Macedonia age. Some VIP's offering to the Great Gods.
Sanctuary of the Great Gods.

Eirini Gallou, our sociologist and heritage expert student with Manolis Stergiou.

One one of the nights, Professor Simron Singh (at R in orange) organized an amazing Curry Goat Dinner for us at the camp. It was definitely the best curry I have ever had (and much less spicy than the one he did two years ago). His generosity and kindness will forever be part of our top memories at the Summer School. 
Two Thracian men, the heavily bearded one is Giorgos Dellos- a very good friend of the team that builds the Summer School experience every year. Here at the our lunch (eggplant stew again...). 
Limnio Kamariotissas is the name given to this small anonymous lagoon-like pond next to Agios Andreas lagoon (Kamariotissa in the background). It is unfortunately threatened to be filled and converted to the island's sewage treatment plant! 
Best bird of the trip: Ferruginous Duck Tadorna ferruginea at Almyri Lagoon (a rare species of shelduck with mainly an Asiatic distribution).
Best bird of the trip: Ferruginous Duck at Almyri Lagoon.

Best shot of Stilt Himantopus himantopus at Almyri Lagoon.
Limnio Kamariotissas with nesting Stilts.Yellow-legged gulls were constantly coming in close and harassed-mobbed by the stilts.

This is a unique feature in Agios Andreas Lagoon, an area of Phragmites reedbed near the shore. Indicative of freshwater seepage at this area.

A snapshot of the Agios Andreas lagoon. 
A snapshot of the Agios Andreas lagoon. Here the old sluice-gate that created an opening to the sea, when the lagoon was part of a fish-harvesting system. It no longer functions and we did have a short debate about opening it or not. 
One of the damselflies at the Almyri Lagoon: Lestes macrostigma
Amazing concentration of Lestes macrostigma at Almyri Lagoon (about 1000 individuals in the "wind-shade" created by the Bolboschoenus maritimus):  This damselfly species is generally rare in most of its range being concentrated in areas with slightly brackish waters like coastal areas and steppe lakes. Populations can however be extremely large. Records from Europe suggest an ongoing decline (IUCN:
View of the Kampos and Almyri Lagoon, Koufopetra (near Chora). The Kampos is the rolling plain of western Samothraki. Most people do not consider it important but for me it is a wonderful agro-ecosystem. 
View of the Kampos and Agios Andreas Lagoon, Koufopetra. Again note the scattered, savannah-like habitats. These are moslty Valonia Oaks (Quercus ithaburensis) and important drought-resistant tree. (Gives a similar effect that you see with Life Oaks in California and Cork Oaks in the Dehesas/Montad of Iberia). Wonderful stuff for birds too. 
Students final presentation.

Students final presentation.

Nikos Skoulikidis, the man who brought me to Samothraki. 

Final presentations - this one as on the use of fire-wood on the island, it was wonderful stuff for us to here. 

A lycaenid butterfly - a blue- on the pungent Chaste Tree flowers just outside the school house. This one looks like Escher's blue (Polyomatus escheri), very similar to the common blue butterfly (Polyommatus icarus) - no final decision yet. (Thanks to my friends on Butterflys and Moths of Greece fb group...).

Vdelolimni lagoon is a freshwater wonder just west of the Fonias river mouth. 

Vdelolimni lagoon. 

I am very proud of this photo: For many years I studied Phragmites reedbeds at the Amvrakikos Gulf and never did I ever see a goat feeding in water on them! This is at Vdelolimni Lagoon. (They did not seem to feed on the Sparganium that is even more abundant at this place). 

This is a small deserted house in the Platanus woods on the beach near Vdelolimni Lagoon. I generally fear that these small fallow fields and plots may one day be roaded and build on. There is no real protection from building holiday homes or any tourist facilities along the coast. 

The emblematic Fonias river at its downstream end, near the small distributary branching that leads to the Vdelolimni Lagoon. Fotis Xystrakis and I explored this area for Alder wood habitat on the first days of the School.

The shallow waters near the Varades campsite. Our students and I did 6 snorkelling dips, I was also counting fishes. Future dream: to create a module on marine fishes of Samothraki...

Absolutely huge striped red mullet Mullus surmellatus near camp. Just one. The area seems heavily overfished.

One of a few wonderful fishes among the rocks near the Varades campsite. This is a common reef fish in shallow waters, the red-black triplefin, Tripterygion tripteronotum.
Last day of Summer School 2018! Part of the group of tutors and students, this year from Austria, Germany, Greece, Chile, Mexico, Canada, and Portugal.