TCPI volunteer blog – Davide Lelong
Fresh from graduation from a Master of Marine Biology and with past volunteer experiences around the world, I was searching for another experience close to my country in Europe. Jack, a friend and a member of TCP told me about this project in Ischia, an island near Naples, led by Oceanomare Delphis dedicated to conservation and monitoring of the whales and dolphins that live in the region. So, I decided to apply, and I got the opportunity to work either as an assistant at first and as scientific officer in the past six weeks.
Most days of the week with favourable sea conditions we sailed the sea with an almost 90 years old sailing boat, Jean Gab, searching for whales and dolphins either with our eyes and with the aid of hydrophones that allowed us to listen to them underwater and track them thanks to a specific software. Every week, we had volunteers coming from literally all over the world to learn more about the whales and the dolphins that live in this area and you would be surprised that there are still a lot of people from Italy that do not know anything about these magnificent creatures.
During my period on Jean Gab, I found myself surrounded by incredible and friendly people that shared with everyone their passion and dedication for the sea, I could not ask for more and I will always treasure those memories and I am sure we have formed long-lasting friendships. In addition, on the biologist side, whales and dolphins continued to remind how unpredictable and sometimes frustrating they can be and how important it is to be patient in these situations. In the end, they will come up with something that will completely overcome all the waiting and that will burn deeply in your memory.
I have come to better understand the different and complex aspects of sperm whales and I have been lucky to have incredible encounters with these gentle giants and got hands-on experience with their bioacoustics and acoustic tracking. But as I came to understand better their lives, I realised how many threats they, and the other species of cetaceans, are facing in these waters. 6 of the 8 species of cetaceans regularly present in the Mediterranean are in the ‘red zone of extinction’ by IUCN (Vulnerable, Endangered and Critically Endangered). So, it is not only a matter to understand them but, foremost, to protect them and that is ODO’s primary goal!
It is not only a matter of science, I learnt about the basics of sailing, the knots and got a much more in depth knowledge of how it is to spend time on the sea and still, I have only scratched the surface. However, this experience will be extremely valuable for the future and I hope to learn more about boats and how to read the sea, at least a bit.
Thanks to all the people I have met during this period, I have become conscious of how much our passion can impact in a positive way the life of others and this probably is the most important lesson that I hope to bring with me. I wish that this testimony could be as an encouragement to never give up and find your own path, whatever it will be, to protect our planet!
P.S. Obviously do not forget about the food!!! Incredible!!