Summer conservation program in the Mediterranean
Marine biology is an area of increasing importance to many young people. Jasmine Spavieri looks at the work of Alnitak, and invites schools and students to become involved – by cruising the Mediterranean Sea this summer.
Alnitak is a non-profit organization focused on Marine Research and Education. On any given summer evening, you can find our boat nestled in a pristine Mediterranean cove. At first glance, it might remind you of a pirate ship, with red sails and rigging bunched neatly around an ancient wooden mast.
But rather than pillage and plunder, we protect and preserve – sailing to monitor the rich wildlife of the Cabrera Archipelago in the Balearic Sea, one of the planet’s Hope Spots for biodiversity.
During the summer we run survey expeditions, studying species like the Bluefin tuna, Risso’s dolphins, loggerhead sea turtles and the endangered Balearic shearwater. For over 28 years, our ship has been the meeting place and working site for researchers and volunteers from all over the world.
Student crew members
Today, as part of our educational outreach program, students aged 15-18 can join us on board and gain first hand experience in ocean conservation. With its spacious wooden deck and gentle, seafaring curves, the Alnitak research vessel is an ideal place to learn.
Students work side by side with marine biologists and are 100% involved in every aspect of the science on board. They participate as research assistants, and are handed responsibilities such as searching for animals and recording data. Among other things, they will learn to identify different species of whales, dolphins, sea turtles and sea birds, recording their observations on our database, help listen for whales with our hydrophone, help tag and releasing sea turtles if we can find one.
On most days, you will hear over four different languages spoken across our ancient wooden decks. “Lunch is served!” or “Dolphins at six o’ clock!” are some of the sentences yelled enthusiastically to the rest of the crew.
The program goes beyond just marine science, putting an emphasis on environmental responsibility and conservation – empowering students to be advocates and ambassadors to the planet they will one day inherit. Living on a ship is an amazing way to learn about what it means to be truly sustainable and reducing waste – there is no place to throw things “away” on-board. Last year, we have reduced our use of plastic packaging by 90% and have our own fresh water maker on-board…meaning no plastic bottles!
Changemakers at Sea
Sadly, we encounter more plastic than wildlife at sea, and a large part of our program focuses on salvaging plastic from the ocean and learning how to reduce our waste.
In 2018, our Changemakers At Sea competition challenged upper school students to come up with active solutions to the problem of plastic pollution. Over 25 schools from across the island of Mallorca participated, with hundreds of students working hard to reduce plastic consumption in the community. It was wonderful to watch how driven and creative the students could be when they set their mind to it. From rap songs, to wall murals, Instagram campaigns and videos – the young adults had come together to fight a global crisis, providing local solutions and engaging the entire school to reduce plastic waste.
The winning teams were invited on-board on one of our week-long expeditions at sea – some of the students had never left the island. The prize was far from a holiday, students were up at 7 am, helping us scrub the decks, cook meals and getting ready for their daily watch duty. All the hard work is easily forgotten when a sperm whale is spotted at the side of the boat, diving gracefully and displaying its beautiful fluke to the crew!
The Alnitak team
Our captain and head scientist, Ricardo Sagarminaga, has over 30 years experience running expeditions on board his ship. On board the wooden decks, he developed one of the most extensive marine science data sets in Europe, a vital tool for the conservation of our seas. Engaging younger generations in ocean conservation is a dream come true, as he believes everyone should experience the amazing biodiversity the ocean has to offer. Seeing wildlife first hand is the best way to understand our deep connection to the ocean ecosystem.
Want to join our expeditions?
Students can join as individuals, gaining work experience and ECTS university credits.
You can also join as part of a team organized by your school. We’re happy to work with teachers to help complement the curriculum and make sure the trip has academic value. We have spaces available in June, July and August – every crew member pays a contribution to cover costs of fuel, crew and science equipment.
If you wish to join an expedition or want to know more, please contact Jasmine – email@example.com
For more about our work: www.alnitak.org or follow us on @alnitakmission
Jasmine Spavieri leads the educational program for Alnitak. She has over 10 years experience working with young people in science communication for educational institutions like London’s Science Museum and Boston’s Museum of Science.