The 5th Summer School on Aquatic and Social Ecology successfully took place on Samothraki between the 3rd and 12th of June 2018.
In the course of the last years, fuelled by a vision of a sustainable Samothraki, an elaborated research agenda has been developed. A momentum has been reached, where long-lasting research efforts are bearing fruits and contribute to several policy achievements, but that is also critical in the sense that certain institutional constraints still need to be overcome. Our aim is, through an enlarged consortium, to further consolidate a research agenda for a sustainable island focused around restoring degraded ecosystems and reducing future environmental pressures, while securing a satisfactory level of well-being for the local community.
The course was designed as a ten-day excursion to Samothraki with the aim to learn and apply aquatic ecology and social ecology approaches in a local setting while supporting current research and building synergy with the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve process. The course gave students the opportunity to engage in a real-life project and utilise their scientific training to support the process further, namely the creation of a management plan with a set of activities towards sustainability, and a science plan for further research on the island that would also meet local interests. This provided students the experience of participating in a transdisciplinary research process, being exposed to a search for solutions for sustainability and development challenges, and learning to interact with stakeholders in a culturally challenging environment.
The course concluded with a reflection on the experiences and written student reports on the results of their specific research. We made an attempt to interpret these results within the framework of sustainability and development studies. The course primarily addressed Master’s Degree students from both the natural and social sciences (environmental sciences, environmental sociology, aquatic ecology, human and social ecology, environmental sociology, water resources management, development studies, etc.) with an interest in sustainability and local developmental challenges.
Lectures and methods
Theoretical input was provided by several members of the research consortium presenting different aspects of current and future research undertaken on the island. Speakers included: Prof. Marina Fischer-Kowalski (Vienna Institute of Social Ecology, Alpen Adria University), Dr. Nikolaos Skoulikidis (Research Director, Institute of Marine Biological Resources and Inland Waters, Hellenic Centre for Marine Research, Greece), Dr. Simron Singh (Associate Professor, Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo, Canada), Dr. Marjan Jongen (Forest Research Center, Instituto Superior de Agronomia and Department of Mechanical Engineering, Instituto Superior Técnico) and many others.
For the most part, students were then split into small groups and conducted fieldwork with an array of social and natural science methods frequently used in socioecological and aquatic research. Five modules were performed in parallel, each consisting of an information block, participating field research, data analysis and reporting. Each method was practically demonstrated by a tutor guiding the small student groups throughout the field work. Each student participant focused on one of the following methods and research questions:
(1) Landscape assessment in an insular protected area. This module: a) applied landscape assessment through field surveys and use of questionnaires, and b) assessed landscape integrity particularly from proposed wind farms within the protected area (Samothraki Natura 2000 sites). Methods included an analysis of cultural landscape attributes and cultural ecosystem services framework (Tutors: Vasiliki Vlami, Stamatis Zogaris)
(2) Coastal morphodynamics of Samothraki and management of anthropogenic activities using the principles of Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM): Coastal morphodynamics through a holistic view including land area and submarine zone were surveyed. Field observations and in situ measurements as well as data analyses were carried out. Moreover the module attempted to integrate anthropogenic activities and coastal areas mainly using the adaptation principle (Tutor: Christos Anagnostou)
(3) Hydrometeorological investigations and monitoring infrastructure for adaptive water management: The aim of the module was to present ways of hydrometeorological investigations through installation of automatic monitoring stations and use of models that could provide important information about the optimization of water resources management plans. Meteorological and hydrological equipment was presented and installed in a case study area while the role of the atmospheric forcing and topography on the local water and energy cycle was discussed. Optimization of existing or future water management plans was attempted by considering socioeconomic and climate change scenarios (Tutors: Anastasios Papadopoulos, Elias Dimitriou, Nikolaos Skoulikidis)
(4) Sustainable livestock farming: The small ruminant population on Samothraki reached unprecedented levels during the 1990s, causing widespread overgrazing and erosion. Still today, livestock numbers by far exceed sustainable levels and impede a recovery of the local ecosystems. In this module, we engaged in a dialogue with local small ruminant farmers to learn more about the reality of their everyday lives, opportunities and obstacles for more sustainable farming practices. With help of our local partners we arranged interviews with farmers to collect socio-metabolic and qualitative data that contributed to ongoing research efforts (Tutor: Dominik Noll)
(5) Energy metabolism: How much energy does Samothraki need, and where does it get it from? In this module we will provide a set of existing statistics and previous research results. The task for the students will be to integrate those data into meaningful information and to complement them with estimates on missing parameters (such as fuelwood use for heating etc) by interviews with local experts and possibly a few sample households (Tutors: Simron Singh, Marina Fischer-Kowalski)
Some impressions from one of the participating tutors can be found here: Athens Nature Journal