Project M.A.R.E. and Sant’Anna Marine Biology Students: Ieranto Bay Algae Project

Ieranto Bay plays as a must-see attraction if you find yourself in Southern Italy, with breathtaking views and a true hub for relaxation. Below what is to be admired from the surface awaits a highly biodiverse ecosystem filled with various forms of algae. Algae play as an essential role in a healthy marine ecosystem by releasing organic compounds through the process of photosynthesis. Algae also has the ability to manage the waste put off by humans, something that is very relevant in today’s marine environment.

A field trip was arranged for students enrolled through Sant’Anna Institute in Sorrento studying marine biology, partnering with the volunteers of Project M.A.R.E to help guide and educate the students participating in the study. Prior to arrival, the students of Sant’Anna had studied several topics regarding algae such as the three main types being green, brown and red as well as the environments in which these species thrive in. Knowledge was developed regarding the properties in which algae hold that classify them as a polyphyletic group of eukaryotic organisms that are phototrophs. As phototrophic organisms, algae have the ability to obtain energy from sunlight to synthesize organic compounds for nutrition.

For the project, each student was partnered with a Project M.A.R.E volunteer who would lead the student to various places within the protected bay where they would collect algae samples for study purposes. With the purpose of education in mind through physical interaction with the algae, the samples were analyzed by recording data than would be later be contributed to the Ieranto Bay database. The volunteers helped with setting up the project by setting up microscopes to analyze microorganisms as well as guiding the students when it came to identifying and sorting the algae in its correct group.

In addition to the activity conducted on algae, the students and volunteers collected samples of Posidonia, a common seagrass found in the Mediterranean. This seagrass holds a very high importance due to its meadows being areas with high biodiversity of animal and plant species. A calculation was completed of the Posidonia photosynthesizing surface by measuring the green tissue, obtaining the photosynthesizing surface for one rhizome. From there the value was multiplied by the density of Posidonia rhizomes in 1 square meter (512). Below you can find the final result of the photosynthesizing calculation’s completed:

 1234Average
Photosynthesizing Material (m2)6.1446.6306.2517.2966.580

The day resulted in a very successful and educational day working together as volunteers and students to gather data on Ieranto Bay’s algae presence through identification and exploration. The volunteers led the students into caves where the presence of red algae was very relevant, on contrary samples of green and brown algae was found on the sides of the bay where sunlight was at constant exposure.  While data collection was in action, the volunteers recognized by television reporters sharing their experiences thus far in their work, their daily roles, as well as the various backgrounds they come from. Overall, the day consisted of highlighting the work of the volunteers within Ieranto Bay as well as expanding the knowledge of Sant’Anna students regarding algae, its role in the marine environment and the locations in which the different types thrive.

Looking for volunteers for the first edition of the M.A.R.E. Supporting Team

Thanks to a strategic partnership with the Italian National Agency, our organization is offering the opportunity to take part in the FIRST edition of the M.A.R.E Supporting Team: a short term ESC (2 months: August 16th – October 7th) at the Marine Protected Area of Punta Campanella (Massa Lubrense NA), that will host 15 volunteers from Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Croatia, Latvia.

M.A.R.E. family is a big community made of more than 50 volunteers from more than 10 different countries that have reached the project during the last 8 years. Now we are ready to open the doors of MARE world for those who are interested!

Background Info

Project M.A.R.E. represents a unique experience in collaboration with the PUNTA CAMPANELLA Marine Protected Area (since this year), to support marine conservation programs based on initiatives to reduce human impacts on natural resources.

Volunteers will work to spread awareness about the richness of marine ecosystems, to promote ecotourism, to stop anchoring and pollution, to clean up beaches and the sea, working side by side with operators of the Marine Protected Area and many local organizations that follow the same path of sustainable development.

During the last 8 years of activities (from 2013 until today) volunteers have participated in many local initiatives, international meetings, and conferences, and they have achieved many results in terms of support to the Park and personal development.

This life-changing experience has a powerful input to make people realize what’s the interaction between humans and ecological systems, and this helps a lot to understand the direction to take along their lives.

Site Info

Punta Campanella MPA is located at the two edges of the Gulf of Naples and they represent the most natural sites within this basin.

This territory is made of mountains that fall into the sea. Due to its location in the Naples region, it is characterized to be a preferred destination for luxury and mass tourism. The Marine Parks are also protecting natural places like Ieranto bay, where there are signs of old civilizations that make these natural places still more fascinating and mysterious.

The continuous exploitation of these coastal areas led to a need for reinforcement of marine conservancy and therefore, the Marine Protect Areas were created within the last 25 years. Due to the difficult access by land and their transparent waters, these areas are the perfect spot for boats and yachts to stop and anchor during holiday periods. This leads to a big threat for marine life, especially Posidonia oceanica and hard substrate communities (made of encrusting sponges and algae, the so-called coralligenous community).

Since its foundation, the MPA is carrying out many summer initiatives to reduce the impact of mass tourism (between June and September) and to let people enjoy the Park in a sustainable way. Monitoring, ecotourism, and conservation are the keywords to have a balanced usage of marine resources, and volunteers have an important role in helping these operations.

Position offered

We are looking for 15 volunteers (short term (50 days)) that are able to work with different levels of organization:

  • The project team, made of a group of volunteers from different countries, cultures, backgrounds + a coordinator + a mentor
  • Park team, made of biologists, educators, mariners, divers, park guards
  • Networking with local organizations (Foundations, Associations, Parks, People) that work for the same cause.

Volunteers should be open-minded, curious, tolerant with a positive attitude, and willing to learn. We would like to host people with special interest and love for nature, ocean, marine conservation, education, outdoor activities, to involve in a wonderful dream made in an international environment.

Duties:

Volunteers will support the park initiatives with a 30 to 40 hours/week commitment (6-8h/day). They will enjoy 2 Weekly free days (not weekend free days during summertime). They will also enjoy 2 monthly free days, to travel across this wonderful country, or just to relax.

The schedule is following these steps:

 DescriptionMARE supporting team
TRAINING and ORIENTEERINGIntroduction to the territory, Italian language, marine resources, outdoor activities, active communication, park rules, marine conservation.1st week 16-20 August
INTO THE BLUEA non-stop engagement in marine activities, during which everybody will be following a different schedule with different free days in order to cover a full week plan of initiatives.2nd  – 6th week 23 August-26 September
FEED BACK AND FINAL DAYSDuring the fall season, volunteers will slow down activities, and concentrate more on the evaluation of everything that will be done along with the summertime. They’ll present their work in many different meetings, from the schools to the conferences, from the local environment to the international meetings.7th week and final days 27 September – 7 October  

The SCHEDULE could undergo changes according with COVID emergency restrictions!

WORKING INFO

The Marine Parks are working on the activities that are listed below. According to the period of the year, volunteers will be involved in one or more of them. They will be asked to take part in these initiatives with a positive mood, active collaboration, using English and Italian languages.

  • Marine Conservation – to reduce human impacts on nature through reducing illegal activities, making people aware of the protected marine resources of the Park
  • Environmental Monitoring – to collect information about abiotic, biotic and human factors in the area of the park
  • Info & Awareness – to educate people about park rules and threats to marine resources
  • Outdoor Adventures – to meet nature face to face, and enjoy its power and energy
  • Beach and Sea Cleanups– to slow down one of the biggest impacts we have on our oceans
  • Intercultural Dialogue – to learn about different cultures, tolerance and diversity
  • Ecotourism Promotion – to spread info and open the doors to eco-compatible interactions between humans and nature

SUPPORT FROM THE PROJECT

The project is a part of the EUROPEAN SOLIDARITY CORPS, and it is financed by the Italian National Agency. Thanks to these funds we can cover these expenses for volunteers:

  1. Round trip – to come here at the beginning of the project, and to return back to the hometown;
  2. Accommodation – a shared flat with other volunteers;
  3. Food Expenses – an amount of 150€ per month is guaranteed to volunteer to cover food expenses;
  4. Pocket Money – an amount of 150€ per month is guaranteed to volunteers for extra expenses;
  5. Training – several training sessions will be offered to volunteers in order to give them the best tools to support our work;
  6. Orienteering – the first step of the project is to become a local person, trying to orienteer in the new town, understanding also the geography of the Peninsula and the province of Naples, to make you feel at home;
  7. Mentoring – volunteers will take part in weekly meetings with a mentor to analyze the training process and the problems that they might face during the project.

If you are interested in this project, you are WELCOME to M.A.R.E. world!!

Check out our Facebook page and our blog to better understand who we are!

HOW TO APPLY: send an email to mareapplication@gmail.com with your Curriculum Vitae and a one-minute video presenting yourself and telling us why you should be selected. 

DEADLINE: 15th of June 2021

Project M.A.R.E. meets M.A.R.E. for S.E.A.

A Dive Into the World of Communication

Last week Kristiāns from M.A.R.E. 2020 edition went on a special mission to the beautiful Ischia island to give an insight into the challenging world of communication and to share his memorable volunteering journey with the volunteers from our sister project M.A.R.E. for S.E.A. From having deep conversations about the importance of communication and creating a communication plan, to exploring the island’s highest mountains and snorkeling in crystal-clear water – every day was filled with different activities. What are everyone’s biggest takeaways from this experience, you may ask? Let’s find out!

Together in Procida

The main goal of the experience with Kristians was to get an insight of the philosophy behind the project M.A.R.E. and how it supports the Marine Protected Area of Punta Campanella in its everyday activities. Additionally, he helped us to prepare for these next 3 months in the areas of communication, economic management, and organization of upcoming activities.

Getting familiar with the Marine Park of Punta Campanella

An important part of our work is the dissemination and promotion of our activities, to help create greater awareness of the protection of our seas. Sharing is of crucial importance to reach as many people as possible. Kristians provided us with information to improve our communication skills, an area in which he has a great deal of knowledge. We enhance our abilities through different games and in a practical way. Indeed, with his activities, he showed us how important good communication is in order to pass the message we want to the audience.

Creating the communication plan

With his help, we created our communication programme to be followed during the project. We follow the SMART motto (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, time-bound). With this, we established the message we want to pass, to whom, and how to do it.

In addition, he participated with us in a beach clean-up in Procida. He gave us advice on how to best show the results of our work with the subsequent publication on social networks.  In addition, he accompanied us on several walks and excursions to various places on the island of Ischia and together we discovered beautiful landscapes such as Mount Epomeo and the Piano San Paolo viewpoint. But not only that! We also shared some underwater adventures looking for a species of limpet that is endangered: Patella ferruginea. We also snorkeled under the Aragonese Castle to see the volcanic phenomenon of CO2 emission, which only happens in the sea of Ischia. There we also made some spectacular videos that you can watch HERE.

Our findings during the beach cleanup in Procida
On top of the Mount Epomeo

Kristians, in addition to his knowledge in the field of communication, also shared aspects of his culture with us. In fact, one of the most fun and interesting nights was the Latvian cultural night. We ate three traditional Latvian dishes, played games, and learned a lot about this little-known country, appreciating the diversity and discovering new things.

Playing some Latvian traditional games

One of the fundamental objectives of the projects M.A.R.E. and M.A.R.E. for S.E.A. is the cultural and knowledge exchange. This allows for professional and personal growth. And so, these exchanges are very important not only for the success of both projects but also for us personally.

End of the Project: Final Thoughts from the Eighth Edition Volunteers

Here we are, on the finishing line of our Project M.A.R.E. 2020. This year has been different, harder than the other project years due to the COVID-19, restrictions, lockdowns, stress from everything mentioned before… Despite all, we kept going and we managed to accomplish many things, to grow and to learn from each other, to become closer. This story of ours, unique at its core, how each of us from different parts of the world was brought together here, in Marina della Lobra, by a kind-hearted, passionate about marine life and its protection – Mimi, is something we will carry in our hearts. Thanks to his decision, he changed our lives forever. Now it is time to reflect, to say our last words in our project edition. Each of us volunteers had our own unique experience, and we thought it is best that each of us shares some of our thoughts and feelings in a few sentences. Here is what we have to say:

Petra | Croatia

 «I have spent my entire life studying terrestrial ecosystems such as forests and meadows, but I lacked an understanding of the marine environment. The project M.a.r.e has given me the opportunity to learn about marine organisms and the management of a protected area. I find this experience very useful because it allowed me to learn Italian and live in one of the most beautiful regions of Italy. I hope that inspired by this project, I will pass on my love for nature to my future students in Croatia.»

Arina | Latvia

 «This project has changed me for the better and gave me new life lessons that contributed to my personal growth, new friends and beautiful memories that I will carry in my heart for a lifetime. I fell in love with this country and the people in it, the stunning clear waters, the breathtaking landscapes, the mouthwatering dishes, the art, the language, and the heartwarming sunsets. I would like to stay here, by the sea, and continue to explore its inhabitants, minimise the pollution and spread awareness. I am beyond grateful I lived here, contributed to marine conservation, management, beach clean-ups and cultural exchange. I felt alive here.»

Kristians | Latvia

 «I still can’t believe the project is over. Somebody pinch me, please! I jumped into this adventure knowing two things for sure: 1) I want to help others and do my part to make the world a better place; 2) I want to find myself after feeling lost and stuck in life. And wow, it has been such an emotional roller coaster ride, a massive personal growth journey of self-discovery and development that I will cherish for a lifetime. I’m beyond grateful for the opportunity to be here, to use my knowledge and support a great cause in Italy, a country I have wanted to live in ever since I can remember myself, alongside so many incredible people, but I’m also proud of myself for everything that I’ve overcome to arrive in this exact moment and state of mind. Grazie per tutto!»

Raquel | Portugal

 «Wow!! Unbelievable!! Almost 9 months had passed since I arrived to M.A.R.E. Project. Looking back at this past year, these are the words that cross my mind: Covid-19 – End of a chapter in my life and beginning of another – Italy and Italian culture – Marine Adventures Respecting the Sea – Marine Conservation – Challenges – Respect for the others – Interesting acknowledgements about myself – Gratitude.

I can definitely say that this was one of the craziest years ever but, in the middle of the craziness, I can only say thanks to the MPA of Punta Campanella, to the coordinator of the project, to the mentors and to those that cooperated with us to make this project so special and unique!»

Akrem | Tunisia

 «You don’t know how much time flies by until you start counting. In Italy we experienced hot summer days, beautiful views, new mouthwatering foods, exquisite hikes, lockdowns and red zones, rainy cold days, cultural events and now we see the finish line. It’s a bittersweet feeling for a period that will be part of our whole life. It wasn’t perfect, but maybe because of that, it became so perfect. I will miss Italy and everyone in the project. Arrivederci carissimi!»

Gonzalo | Spain

 «We are already in the final stretch of the project and it is inevitable to think about it and make a personal and collective assessment of our work and also of our experience. In terms of work, I am very happy since I have learned a lot and discovered that in certain parts of the work I felt well and I did not think it was going to be like that, and personally it has been an incredible experience that has taught me so much and that has opened a lot of doors for me in the nearest future. I would define Project M.A.R.E. in one word: Discovery, discovery of places, people, nature and even yourself.»

Oussama | Tunisia

 «I was sure from the very beginning that it will be a memorable experience, all these different parts of the project that we have been through taught us many important things in both fields,  professional and daily life. Thank you project M.A.R.E. for giving such a great opportunity and good luck.»

We would like to wish a new project the best of luck and say thank you to everyone who supports us! We had the greatest time despite all the challenges that Covid Year brought. We did all we could. Grazie, grazie, grazie! Let’s continue our mission and contribute to a better future for our environment. See you somewhere in the World, ciao! 

Explorers of the Bay

In addition to our usual tasks and responsibilities, we managed to find time to have some extra fun, too. For one day in the early Autumn, we had to forget everything that we knew about the Bay of Ieranto and let our imagination run wild. “Explorers of the Bay” is something that volunteers usually do during the first months of their arrival but as you may have noticed already, throughout our project we had to do things a little differently, to say the least. For the game, we had to split into groups of two people and had to go on a kayak to draw a map and name the places. Whilst doing that, we had to imagine that we are the pioneers of the Bay, which was a lot of fun. After a while, we had to present our maps to each other. Some volunteers wished to create also stories to accompany their presentation. The results were so interesting that we came to the conclusion that we would like to share them with you. Thanks to the game, we rediscovered the beautiful bay where we spent our summer. Now, let’s dive into the creativity of our volunteers!

Kristiāns and Raquel: “La Baia Spledente”

Kristiāns and Raquels Map

“The story I’m about to tell you happened in my 30’s. I was serving the king of Spain as the captain of the Royal Crew in many expeditions around the world. Good times, I have to say!

The daughter of the king was suffering from a degenerative disease for many years and her precious life, unfortunately, was close to an end. Out of desperation, the king offered 10% of his wealth to the person who finds a cure for his daughter’s deadly disease. He made sure that this announcement spreads across Spain faster than wildfire. And it sure did, even more than that – king’s message reached every kingdom and royal dynasty you can possibly think of. People from all over the world were coming to Spain, offering the cure to the princess but, unfortunately, nothing was working. Her health got worse every day.

There seemed to be no solution to the problem and the king’s hope slowly started to fade away. However, it all changed in one fortunate evening. My crew and I went to our favourite tavern next to the harbour. We were having beers, talking about the reality of the current situation and drowning our concerns until, out of nowhere, an old man chimed in our conversation. He told us an incredible story about this magical bay of land called Mediterranea, where we can find Posidonia oceanica – a seagrass that is known for its healing abilities and most likely could save the princess. “But I warn you,” the old man whispered in a quavering voice, “the bay is guarded by queen Octoponia!” According to him, the monstrous creature is half-woman, half-octopus with shining Posidonia oceanica in her hair. The queen has an army of beautiful but extremely deadly mermaids.

“It’s been rumoured that hundreds of sailors have tried to take this magical seagrass,” the man continued, “but none of them returned back alive.” “But why?” one of my Royal crewmembers asked. The elderly man banged his fist on the table and replied in a raised voice: “Because they were blinded by greed!” Turns out that sailors who previously tried to take the seagrass grabbed more than they should have. They wanted to sell it and eventually become rich. But the legend says that if one visits the bay with bad intentions, queen Octoponia and her army of mermaids will feast on one’s heart.

After finishing his tail, my crew members were laughing as they have never laughed before. Meanwhile, I remained quiet. “But what if it is true?” I asked myself, “what if this is the only way we can save our beloved princess’s life?” I came up to the old man and asked how we can get to that magical place. My crew couldn’t believe I’m falling for the old man’s silly tale, but I was willing to take the risk. We didn’t have anything to lose. “Sail to southern Mediterranea,” the elderly man said, “and once you find l’Occhio di Mare hidden in the rocks, you will know you are there.”

We took the man’s word for it and left the kingdom of Spain the next morning in order to find the magical bay. We were sailing for a month, taking one of the most dangerous sea routes, until we reached l’Occhio di Mare the old man told us about. We quickly passed the eye and there it was – la Baia Spledente, surrounded by cliffs, hiding its remarkable beautify from greedy eyes. I still remember the feeling I felt when I first saw it. It was incredible.

As soon as we reached the shore, we immediately started looking for the magical seagrass. We explored every single corner of the bay and, unfortunately, we couldn’t find it. Feeling incredibly disappointed, I gave the order to restock our ship with valuable treasures in nature for the next few months. My men found, for example, olives, rosemary, honey, different berries, top quality wood, iron and many more things. Also, I gave an order to the crew to collect the most beautiful species of the sea in order to set up an aquarium for our beloved princess. I just wanted to see her smile again, admiring the outstanding charm of the magical waters of Mediterranea.

We spent our night on the land. Our aim was to get some well-deserved rest and leave the bay first thing in the morning. Meanwhile, some of the crew members opened a wine barrel and drank all night long. After a few hours of non-stop drinking, my men could barely stand on their feet. Suddenly the Quartermaster, my right hand, saw something spectacular – the sea was shining brighter than a diamond. The drunk men couldn’t believe what they saw, it was the magical Posidonia oceanica. Being incredibly excited and forgetting what the old man at the bar had told them, they immediately jumped into the water in order to collect as much Posidonia oceanica as possible. According to the Quartermaster, who stayed on the land, my crew members took an incredible amount of the magical seagrass…more than they should have. Their happiness quickly turned into a nightmare. Abrupt screams took over the bay and my men, one by one, disappeared under the surface of the water. The Quartermaster saw half-human, half-fish creatures jumping out of the water and dragging some of my men back into it. “I saw them cutting open our men’s chests, taking pieces of their hearts with bare hands and eating them,” the Quartermaster hysterically told me, “and, meanwhile, another creature, half-woman, half-octopus, taking back the seagrass from the crew’s cold dead hands.”

I was terrified. I immediately rushed to the sea and I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw my men – all dead, floating on the water and laying on the sand…heartless. We lost many honourable men that night. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t scared. I was trembling like a leaf. However, I couldn’t ignore the fact that my men had found the magical seagrass. The princess still was fighting a deadly disease and we swore fealty both to the king of Spain and to his dear daughter. We just couldn’t leave Mediterranea empty-handed. I tried to come up with a plan, but my men were too afraid to get into the water. And who could blame them?

The moon appeared on the horizon and the night covered up the land. Suddenly, the sea started shining brighter than gold, chasing and bundling off the shadow from the mountains. “There it is,” the Quartermaster yelled excitedly, “the magical Posidonia oceanica!” I couldn’t believe my eyes. I immediately wanted to jump into the water to get it, but, also, I was scared to death. “Please,” I shouted from the beach, “I just need a piece of the magical seagrass. The princess of Spain is dying. Please, I beg you!” There was no answer. Feeling incredibly terrified, I prayed for the Lord’s protection and jumped into the water. I took only one leaf of the magical seagrass and immediately swam back to the shore. Nothing happened. Surrounded by playful laughter, we got back to our ship and left the bay. I took my last gaze to the bay and there she was – queen Octoponia sitting on the rock with shining Posidonia oceanica in her hair. The moment our eyes met, the world seemed to stop for a moment.

After a month of travelling, we got back to Spain. The kingdom’s alchemist used the seagrass leaf to brew a potion, which saved our beloved princess’s life. Eventually, she became the queen of Spain, carrying on her father’s legacy.”

Petra and Judit: “Spasitelj”

Petras and Judits Map

“On a sunny September day in 1400 A.D., me – Pedro, and my dear co – explorer Judito, went to Capri to spend our holidays. Far away from our king and everyday troubles, or so we thought. At the end of the day, the pigeon with the letter from our king arrived. ”Che palle, Capri wine is so sweet, and the syrens so divine, our vacation is now ruined” – said my colleague after we read that he wants us to explore the small bay. ”Look at the small bay with the tower, I demand you to go there and conquer it, but be careful of the giant who lives there” – the king demanded.

The next morning we sailed to the bay.

”Who are you?” – the voice shouted in anger, and giants rocks started falling to the sea close to our ship. The night before, in one of the many Capri’s taverns, the fisherman told us how to please the giant named Spasitelj. ”In the treasure cave of the Bay Uvala Velika, you should dive deep and found the long lost treasure of the giant that he can not reach.” Insecure of the truth of his words, we dived in the blue depth, and surprisingly found only – a broom! ”Is that a treasure? ”- we started fearing the giant’s rage.

Once we showed the broom from the deck of our ship, the giant screamed of joy: ”Scopa!”

And the treasure it was. You see, the giant used this broom (scopa) to brush his eyelashes for which he was famous in the whole peninsula. They were so long that birds could have a rest at them instead of using branches.

”Enter the bay and take what you need! Return with your king, and we shall all together feast” – the giant said. Oh, how relieved we felt! The next morning, we explored every corner of the bay of Spasitelj and collected marine species for our king’s aquarium. Our mission was so successful that my friend Judito had been invited to the Hungarian king castle to serve as a sailor on the Danube river. And me, well… I stayed in the peninsula. To keep the bay safe from intruders boats. And from time to time, brush his majesty’s magnificent eyelashes.”

Margot

“Dear Realm of Campanella, please do not fear me. The little bohemian that I am come in peace to alert you of a place you abandoned without seeing the value of it. In exchange for sharing the precious pieces of information I have, I will just ask you a safe place to stay, a table always covered with treats, and a few thousands of your most beautiful, most valuable, most unique signs of happiness. This place is called “l’Orso” so the bear because when you approach it, the mountains surrounding it has the shape of a sleeping bear.

I will start with you my king (Akrem) I know that becoming saggio (wise) comes with a price. And the price, for now, seems to be your ginocchio (knee). In l’orso, you will find species con prorieta medicinali. I am sure your medico (doctor) Gianna will know them from la alga rossa (Asparagopsis armata) to Caulerpa a grappoli (Caulerpa cylindracea). She will learn how to use their antifungal, antibacterial and antiviral properties (maybe even to solve the covida virusera that persist among your people). Also, you have le ravine dell orso to rest during your holidays.

And you, my queen (Arina), I recently heard that you deeply need to rest? Well, know that this place is full of Cladophora caespitosa. As its name says you will be able to do molta siesta on these madrepora a cuscino (pillow coral). But also think of your people.

Dear war chef, il piu grande guerriero dei guerrieri. This place will be a perfect training area for your soldiers has it has steps, lo sentirero dell orso, wavy but also calm waters in le spiagge dell orso. To defend your regno (realm), you will need protein and it happened that many birds are resting on la piccola zampa (the small pawn). I would not be surprised that along with them are some delicious uovo (eggs).

Talking about food, you giardiniera (gardener, Petra) aren’t tired of pasta? L’Orso have treasures for you too. Starting with the Red sea plume (Asparagopsis taxiformis) you will cook tropical meals has in Hawaii. You can also enjoy Riccio edule (Paracentrotus lividus) or if you are very lucky the juicy arancia di mare (Tethya aurantium) but for this one, you might have to go deep.

Mr.pagliaccio (clown, Gonzalo), still haven’t done any joke so far? I take it as you are waiting to hear what’s in for you? Well, the inspiration of course. I think your muse will be il polpo! The affection and generosity of no one with its three heats. It has many things to teach you as he is a master of making travestimento (costumes). But while learning do not get a head as big as can be a Doglio (Tonna galea), It would be unfortunate.

Coming to your side now (Ousama), you must be tired of always filming your king… on the top of the natiche dell’orso (butt of the bear), il observatorio dell orso or sulla cresta dell orso you will have the most beautiful views. From there, you will see la grande zampa close to which are located many grotte. One of them is called l’intestino (intestine) because it goes in and out of the mountains by doing una rete (a web). This shaded place will be perfect for you dear strega (witch). But be careful it is also inhabited by sharp Madrepore cutter (Polycyathus muellerae). Hopefully, the Agelas arancia could help with your wounds.

I know the priest of the realm thinks of you as a satanic creation. I also know that the priest likes shiny stuff. la baia dell’orso is filled with Porcelain cowrie, stella serpent and star coral (Astroides calycularis). If these don’t work, you can still defend yourself by throwing a few stony sponges (Petrosia ficiformis) or stone crabs (Eriphia verrucose).

I am not so much of a believer so the only thing I will tell you mr.Priest (Domenico) Is that if I was you I would go get some dattero di mare (Lithophaga lithophaga), I have heard they are devouring stones and I have the feeling you might need them. Also, avoid porta dell inferno nel la baia dell orso.”

Arina and Gonzalo

Arinas and Gonzalos Map

Akrem and Oussama

Akrems and Oussamas Map
Akrems and Oussamas Point Names from the Map

Clean up of Cala di Mitigliano

As March started, we were blessed with beautiful, calm, sunny weather, and what can be better on a day like that than to go out in the world and make a difference. On Thursday, 4th of March 2021, our M.A.R.E. team went on another beach clean up mission. This time, we chose a new location: Cala di Mitigliano. A quite remote place, accessible by the water or by foot. It has a rocky beach, with clear, transparent water that mesmerises, a calm atmosphere and a stunning view on a Capri Island.

Cala di Mitigliano is quite small and it is an inlet between Punta Baccoli and Fossa Papa. It is one of the most pleasant of the ones in the territory of the Marine Protected Area of Punta Campanella, and it is under C-type zoning. To reach it by foot, the not very demanding path starts in Termini, Piazza Santa Croce. We decided to visit Cala di Mitigliano by kayak, starting from Marina della Lobra.

Upon arrival, at a first glance, the beach looked clean. After disembarking from the kayak, and walking a bit further into the rocks, we started to notice piles of plastic, mostly plastic water bottles, some detergent bottles and occasionally flip-flops. A moment later, we saw enormous amounts of polystyrene, hidden in between rocks. Our team did the best we could to collect as much as possible, but unfortunately, some plastic was dead-stuck between heavy, steady rocks. Before we came, we thought we will collect one-two bags maximum and bring them back with us on a kayak, but we ended up with six full bags! We decided to leave them far from the reach of the sea, and organise a boat to arrive and collect them another day.

As usual, seeing such amounts of plastic and polystyrene pollution makes us sad and think how much more of it is on the other beaches and in our seas. We make a small change, and we invite you to do the same! Please, whenever you can, try to reduce your plastic consumption, purchase a reusable bottle, do not leave the trash in any, especially remote places. Our sea is ill now, and it needs help. The future is in our hands and each of us can make a big difference!

Take care of yourself, the people around you and our planet, and ci vediamo on our next clean up! 

Maradona, Eleanora, Dios and Zia Franca

Being part of Project M.A.R.E. means that we are part of a bigger network of conservationists and people trying to preserve nature and biodiversity. It has been the goal of the project since its creation: protecting the Posidonia meadows in the Bay of Ieranto from their mechanical destruction caused by boat anchoring. Based on that argument and under the banner of the MPA of Punta Campanella, we take part in activities regarding the conservation of marine turtles. We are part of the Tartarughe Marine in Campania network that takes care of the nesting season of marine turtles Caretta caretta in Campania and in Cilento specifically. On the other hand, this network takes also care of beached and turtles caught accidentally in fishermen’s gears, also called bycatch, which is one of the biggest problems for marine organisms. It is a catastrophe killing more than 250,000 marine turtles, more than 300,000 dolphins and small whales and more than 100M sharks.

Image from WWF

To reduce this phenomenon, fishermen are mostly targeted in campaigns and trainings to raise awareness. But most of the time, they are more aware of what’s happening around them in the sea. That’s why it has been and still is imperative for the MPA to build contacts and establish cooperation with them.

We were lucky to have had a phone call on January 7th from a fisherman in the golf of Salerno, a place well known to be a resting spot for marine turtles in winter, about two Caretta caretta turtles caught in his nets that morning. We immediately dispatched to the port of Salerno where we met Luigi Guida and Antonio Di Mai, the two captains that found the turtles. The turtles seemed to be in good health. It is a tradition for the one who finds the turtles to name them: One 50kg adult male named Maradona, of 64cm, and a smaller 30kg sub-adult, named Eleonora, of almost 50cm. It is necessary to keep them warm in winter as, like most reptiles, they run on a very slow metabolism, so keeping them cosy is necessary especially after all the effort that they do to liberate themselves from the nets.

That’s why they stayed the night at our mentor’s house and the morning after were taken to the turtle rescue centre in Portici, which is part of the Zoological Station Anton Dohrn of Naples, where they will get tested and have some health check-ups. They will also spend a few weeks in the rehabilitation basins to be sure that they don’t have any health issues. That’s when our job ends when we know that the animal is in good hands.

Our January proved to be very busy turtle-wise as on the 20th, we get a new call from the same fisherman, Captain Luigi again. We went to the port of Salerno on the same day of the call, where we also met the coastal guard and other fishermen. We were able to get our hands on a 62kg Caretta caretta male of 72cm given the name of Dios.

The animal was in good shape and was this time directly transported to the rescue centre that night. We met Dr. Andrea Affuso, a veterinarian from the Zoological Station who conducted an X-Ray on the turtle which came out clean but had some air bubbles in the kidney, which are caused by the sudden rise from the depth while caught in the net. The turtle will pass few weeks in the rehabilitation basins before being released once the veterinarians are sure it’s in good condition to be back in the water.

The French say that things come in threes and on February the 3rd that proved to be correct. We got a call again from the fishermen of the port of Salerno, this time from Captain Giulio Oliviero of the boat Zio Franco. It was about another Caretta caretta again the victim of bycatch, which was recuperated as they said in 50m deep, something extremely rare for turtles as generally, they rest in about 40m. This was a massive adult female turtle of around 77cm long, the biggest that we rescued in these two months, given the name of Zia Franca by captain Giulio. The fishermen told us that this one was too energetic and that it was moving the whole day in the boat, in comparison to the others where they very calm the whole process.

The same day after picking it up from Salerno, we took it directly to Portici, where we met Dr. Antonino Pane who immediately took care of the new guest. He took the morphological measurements that showed that it’s a 65kg female. We also took off the parasitic barnacles on her carapace. Later an X-RAY came out clear but also showed some small bubbles in the kidney. So the doctor immediately started her treatment.

One of the virtues of Project M.A.R.E. is this, having the opportunity to get an inside look at marine conservation efforts. This can only improve our perspective and our ecological thinking. In the end, we would like to thank all the people involved in this turtle rescuing effort, especially the fishermen of the golf of Salerno for their impeccable hospitality and care for the animal. Thanks to such individuals, we are able to help preserve endangered species. This shows how important it is to include fishermen and people of the sea otherwise marine conservation networks would never be as efficient as they are. We would also like to invite any fisherman to work with us and to connect with us in order to save and preserve the Mediterranean biodiversity.

A Dive Far Up North to the Latvian Culture

Located in northeastern Europe with a population of over 1.9 million people, Latvia has vibrant traditions and a long history dating back to early 9000 BC. It’s an extraordinary land that encompasses a mosaic of magnificent woodlands, marshes, lakes, rivers, and other habitats. When comparing to all European cultures that are present in this project, it’s safe to say that there are some distinct qualities that make Latvia really stand out. You can see it, for example, in pagan origins, work ethics or manners when men open doors for women or insist on carrying all the heavy bags. Yes, chivalry is alive and well in Latvia!

Latvian chefs on duty

To be honest, for us, Latvian culture was like quantum mechanics – we had heard of it but knew nothing about it, so having our amazing Latvian friends, Arina and Kristiāns, here was an extraordinary opportunity to discover it. Little by little, throughout December, we got familiar with Latvian culture by trying some delicious foods, exploring their cinematography, history, language, popular games, and music. These experiences really helped us to broaden our perspective of this mesmerizing Baltic country.

Trying potato pancakes

Latvia is such a small country, almost five times smaller than Italy, yet so full of beauty and rich in history, filled with hope and glory. They have a deeply rooted culture and a very strong identity, that they had defended on so many occasions throughout centuries. It has always been under the domination of larger nations, for example, Germany or Soviet Russia. After Latvians became free of the Soviet rule, their cultural heritage was reignited once again.

National symbols of Latvia

Before the Latvian culture month even started, we already had a glimpse of the language whenever Arina and Kristiāns were talking together – so many new and beautiful sounds and a lot of logic behind them. During the first cultural evening, we were trying to read the alphabet and speak the language ourselves, but we must admit that for many of us it was quite a challenge. We got a chance to discover a small part of Russian culture too, since a large percentage of the Latvian population is of Russian origin, as it is the case with Arina. Seeing and comparing both Latvian and Russian alphabets, we noticed how different they are. There are way less, if hardly any, similarities than we expected.

Latvian and Russian alphabets

Our friends offered us a virtual trip to Latvia through a series of videos and storytelling. We got to know cities and towns, such as Jūrmala and Alūksne, where they grew up in and, also, Riga – the capital – which is crossed by the Daugava river that meets the Baltic Sea. The clean and calm environment fantastically contrasts with the bright and vibrant colours of the buildings. We would be lying if we said that we didn’t feel the desire to experience the beauty with our own eyes.

Enjoying Latvian film “A Limousine the Colour of Midsummer’s Eve” (1981)

During the Latvian culture month, we had the opportunity to try many treats. Cold, warm, crunchy, or soft – Latvian cuisine has a lot to offer. Potatoes were included in almost every meal. We really liked the delicious Olivier salad which for some of us even brought back some dear childhood memories. However, the uncontested superstar was the snack ķiplokgrauziņi – fried garlic breadsticks from heaven. Honestly, one of the most savoury and aromatic garlic bread we have ever tasted.

Ķiplokgrauzdiņi
Vareniki and some appetizers
Honey cake

Latvians are still very much pagans at heart. They worship nature by celebrating the summer solstice which arguably is the most important national holiday. It’s a pagan tradition when Latvians celebrate the shortest night by staying up to greet the rising sun, weaving wreaths out of grasses and flowers, burning bonfires and jumping over them. Not only that, they still preserve a form of ancestor worship in celebrating Remembrance of the dead. That said, one thing that some of us found to be the most interesting one was the Ancient Latvian signs. There are so many different symbols and they all have geometrical and abstract forms which represent ancient deities and unique meanings. Kristiāns prepared a mesmerizing surprise by giving each of us a hand-painted wooden piece with an ancient Latvian sign on it so that they could be carried around as protective and empowering amulets. Thank you so much, Kris, for looking after our wellbeing!

Hand-painted wooden ornaments with different Latvian ancient signs

Some of us had heard that people from the north are cold, but we would like to disagree with that statement. It’s quite the opposite – they are probably the most caring people in the group. Once you get to know Latvian, the friendship will be very deep and personal. When either Kris or Arina are in charge, every detail counts and they always pay attention to each and one of us.

Liels paldies Arina and Kristiāns for being so generous and sharing this month with us!

Playing some Latvian games

Our lovely Latvian hosts Arina and Kristiāns: “Looking back to the start of the Latvian cultural month, we remember how confused we both were. We didn’t really know how to present our country in the best possible way. Not because there is little to show but quite the opposite – there are so many beautiful traditions, interesting facts, and tasty foods to share. Soon after starting the preparations, everything fell into place and both of us got extremely excited to show our fellow volunteers how proud we are to be Latvians.

Italian culture is so different from Latvian, it’s like night and day. However, one thing that unites both is the love of food and cooking. We had to choose the recipes carefully because Italy does not have many products that we usually utilise in our cuisine. Many meals that were served, we prepared for the first time in our lives and they turned out fantastic. We can proudly say that we gave our all and succeeded and overcame all the challenges and presented our culture as best as we could! 

The best gift for us was to see how our fellow volunteers and mentors enjoyed the food with a warm smile on their faces. We are beyond proud of our friends because they were so dedicated and gave their all in every cultural evening. We really do appreciate their effort in speaking Latvian because we know it is not easy.

We are grateful and blessed to have each other because we really proved to ourselves that we are a real dream-team. After this experience, it definitely feels like we can do anything together!”

Clean-up of Marina della Lobra

On Wednesday, February the 3rd, we, M.A.R.E. 2020 team, decided to make our day meaningful by giving back to the local community and to begin a journey of positive impacts. After getting suited up with our gloves and trash bags, we dedicated our day to make Marina della Lobra, our dear home, beautiful again. It was such an incredible experience!

Following all safety precautions, we aimed to collect as much waste as possible. It was a true team effort that brought us closer together. First, we started cleaning the small beach near our house. It was filled with tiny pieces of glass and plastic and a lot of cigarette buds. Then we continued by cleaning the path along the coast which was drowning in waste. A lot of it was trapped between rocks and plants. We stumbled upon an overwhelming amount of polystyrene which is rapidly becoming an environmental nightmare. Also, we found plenty of plastic bottles, bags, shoes, hundreds of small plastic pieces washed ashore and, of course, face masks – an item that is still creating a big impact on our environment.

While cleaning the beach, it was very nice and sweet to receive some uplifting words from the locals. People showed their support by stopping by and expressing their gratefulness, asking some very interesting questions, and giving us tons of encouragements. A simple grazie, “complimenti” and “buon lavoro” really did wonders and gave us motivation and joy to carry on with the work. That’s a good reminder that one kind word or a simple appreciation can change someone’s entire day.

There is a major difference between seeing photos of pollution online and witnessing it with your own eyes. It really makes one think about the devastating impact human activity has on the environment. We strongly believe that picking up trash is one of the easiest things a single person can do to help the environment. Imagine if a hundred people start doing it, then a thousand, a hundred thousand, a million…we could make a really big change. We have got only one Earth. Please be respectful and treat it right!

Beach clean-up in Tordigliano

On Monday, 18th of January, we continued the series of beach clean-ups proceeding with Tordigliano beach – the last one before the Punta Germano where the Marine Park officially ends within the zone C. To arrive there, we followed the windy road which going further leads to the famous places of Amalfi coast such as Praiano, Positano, and Amalfi. It took us around 20 minutes to reach Tordigliano following the sentiero (eng trail) which offers beautiful views.

Once we reached the sea, we observed the small beach with very thick banquettes of decaying Posidonia oceanica. Sea Grass Posidonia oceanica plays an important role in the marine ecosystem by providing habitat and nursery for diverse fish and invertebrate species and reducing coastal erosion. Facies of banks of dead leaves of Posidonia have been recognized as a EUNIS habitat type (A2.131). These facies are characterized by the accumulation of plant debris made up mostly of dead Posidonia oceanica leaves and/or other marine phanerogam* species.

*phanerogam species – species of plants that reproduce using seeds, not spores.

It is also known as “the lungs of the Mediterranean” because it produces oxygen and absorbs carbon dioxide. Posidonia is being endangered and mechanically damaged by anchoring of the boats. For this reason, we are monitoring the Bay of Ieranto during the summer season and do not allow unauthorized boats to enter.

Posidonia beds

In Tordigliano we stumbled upon a couple of fishermen repairing the fishing nets and, also, a lot of cats lurking around the area. Well, Tordigliano is famous because around 20 cats inhabit this hidden paradise. Cats of all colours and sizes enjoy their ”private” beach, and although they are not completely wild, do not expect that they will want to be stroked!

After crossing the small beach, climbing metal ladders, and a big pile of rocks, we discovered a stunning and spacious rocky beach. At the first glance, it seemed that the beach is clean and that we will not have a lot of cleaning up to do. However, when we took a closer look, between the rocks and other hidden spots, once again we witnessed the big amounts of plastic waste, mainly polystyrene, two big car tires, pieces of iron, and abandoned or lost fishing gear. Moreover, the nets are known as ‘’ghost nets’’ which continue to float in the sea, entangle and kill marine wildlife.

Tordigliano beach

The most common waste was foamed polystyrene, or as we mostly call it a Styrofoam, which is one of many types of plastics, puffed with air becomes incredibly light and useful in food packaging, housing insulation, or in protecting our products while being transported. So light and practical, yet so harmful material that easily breaks into very small pieces. Waves and the sun help to break it into tiny pieces which are very hard to collect and remove from the environment. Pieces of cooling boxes that probably come from the fishing boats, buoys, and many other products are threatening sea birds and many other sea organisms. In which way will we ever get rid of famous tiny polystyrene balls remain an enormous challenge for humanity. Some scientific studies show that there are efficient decomposing bacteria and sunlight which can turn polystyrene into Carbon Dioxide and Dissolved Organic Carbon. For more information, read the full paper HERE! However, what we know for certain is that as individuals we can try to reduce our negative impact by paying attention to the packages that we are buying, especially to be careful with the takeaways packed in polystyrene boxes!

Before and after

After 1.5 hours of cleaning the beach, a lot of trash was been collected. Besides the project M.A.R.E team, we had help from a young man who came to soak up the sun but motivated by the collective action he joined and helped us with the cleaning.

Our special thanks go to the Comune di Massa Lubrense, Comune di Positano, Terra delle Sirene, società Multiservice and Associazione Macchia Mediterranea for helping us with the transport and a proper disposal of the trash next day!