I received a financial award to carry out an internship with the Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation which is location in the Dodecanese islands of Samos and Lipsi. This award allowed me to create my own project involving macroplastics on the island on Lipsi, gaining valuable leadership skills and both lab and field experience.
With an increasing awareness of the growing level of plastics in the environment, human activity has a significant impact on the health of both marine and terrestrial ecosystems. The macroplastic project primarily focuses on measuring the influx of waste items into the Aegean Sea onto specified beaches of Lipsi. My project was to survey 6 different beaches around the island which were touristic and non-touristic to allow for comparison between data. Furthermore, we also began collecting data on nurdles on these beaches as both projects did not exist beforehand.
With this venture being my first internship, I had a few worries but they were quickly quelled several days into my work. I was worried that I would be under qualified to carry out certain tasks, however I soon found that everyone is given the same opportunities and fellow interns and supervisors are there to support.
The experience allowed me to develop both academically and personally. I learnt much about micro- and macro plastics, witnessing dissections of marine seabirds and fish and about the importance of macro plastics in relation to human behaviour and oceanic currents. Because I was one of two leading the project, I gained invaluable leadership and presentation skills which allowed me to pass on the message to others through my enthusiasm and confidence in the project I have created. Whilst this project was physically laborious, the best feeling is knowing that the project I created will continue to thrive and make a positive impact on the island. During my time with Archipelagos, in 1 month we collected staggering amounts of consumer litter, with 998 bottle caps and 309 plastic straws.
Another skill I’ve attained is how to professionally present my findings to the public, creating a report of my findings to the mayor of Lipsi, recommending ways to reduce litter and its impacts on local flora and fauna.
Lastly, the internship taught me the importance or connecting our decisions with the lasting impacts they create and that we must change our behaviours and attitudes if we are to fully commit to protecting the environment.