Back in 2021, we started off with a brand new project, which gave us the chance to hold internships and organize work experience by stipulating agreements with the main Italian universities and schools. Both the experience which we have gained over the years and the presence of highly competent professional figures within the Outdoor Portofino staff allow us to create targeted projects with the objective of making students’ professional choices easier.
Snorkeling Monitoring in Paraggi Bay
Isabella and Sophie - Outdoor Portofino internship (March-June 2021)
Our project consisted in carrying out a basic study of the flora and fauna in Niasca Bay. In other words, this meant classifying and mapping out the main animal and plant species present on the Bay’s sea floor. Data collected will be fundamental in the future for comparing the presence and abundance of key species, especially those which are known environmental indicators.
In the current global climatic-environmental crisis situation, it is fundamental to have the chance to study natural habitats, to understand how these change in relation to the variations of the environmental parameters so that we can intervene and limit the damage. Exactly for this reason, before, after and during our work we collected oceanographic data – such as the temperature and salinity of the water – in order to keep monitoring eventual sudden changes in these parameters. On the Meda2 buoy site in the Marina di Portofino we have been able to find this data, updated daily and hour by hour. BOA Meda2 Marina di Portofino — Maciste Portofino.
Specifically, the study was divided up in the following way:
Use of the Reef Check Med monitoring protocol for the study of benthic organisms associated with the Bay’s lateral rock walls REEF CHECK MED – Welcome to Reef Check Mediterranean Sea!
Use of the Fish Visual Census of Climate Change Indicators protocol for studying fish present in the Bay’s waters Fish Visual Census of Climate Change Indicators
The data gathered, as well as being used by Outdoor Portofino, was sent to the institutions that created the protocols, in such a way that they can be used by all.
Furthermore, based on the gathered data, we were able to work on the second part of our project: the creation of a distribution, abundance and biodiversity map regarding the species present in the Bay as well as a technical-informative guide that includes a snorkeling guide. Both will be uploaded to the official Outdoor Portofino site.
By now Niasca Bay has become our second home.
Swimming around, we know exactly where to find every single thing, almost as if it was the neighborhood that we walk through every day. There are seagulls with their chicks, the unique and extremely precious Cladocora caespitosa (the largest building coral present in the Mediterranean), expanses of sea daisies and even some baby barracuda fish that roam the bay in a menacing way, as if they were the neighborhood gang. The sea is truly a universe of its own waiting to be discovered and we thank Outdoor Portofino for having given us the opportunity to get to know its secrets from up close!
After a three-year degree in Natural and Environmental Sciences at Parma University, I am now continuing with my master’s degree course in Marine Sciences at Bicocca University in Milan.
Despite having grown up amidst the mountains of Bolzano, my innate passion for the marine environment has always accompanied me throughout my youth and during my study course.
I have always been a very active person, being a great lover of sports and of animals. I adore being out in the open air in the midst of nature and, exactly for this reason, I would above all like to work in the field in the marine biology context, gathering environmental data and samples and at the same time performing my own biological and chemical analyses in the lab.
I have lots of ideas and projects for the future and the internship experience that I have had the chance to experience with the Outdoor Portofino group has contributed to nurture my interest for the study and safeguarding of the sea even more. In particular I found it truly stimulating to see how a group of people so young have been able to create a situation so articulate and varied and above all how they are always sustained by great motivation and enthusiasm.
When I was 8 years old I decided that I wanted to become a marine biologist and even though I was born in Valle d’Aosta, I am trying to fulfill the dream. In 2018 I went to Australia as an exchange student for 6 months: there I was finally able to see with my own eyes the Great Barrier Reef which had been an obsession of mine since I was small.
At the Australian High School, I took a Marine Science course for the first time, on which I carried out a monitoring activity of a stretch of the coral reef near the Orpheus Island coast, one of the most extraordinary experiences that I have ever had.
In 2020 I began a Marine Biology course at Stirling University in Scotland, but unfortunately owing to the pandemic all of the lectures were held online and I really missed having a direct contact with the sea. Thanks to Outdoor Portofino I got the chance to carry out a real, complete scientific monitoring activity, but above all I found it wonderful living my life according to the sea. Every morning I had to decide what to do with my day, based on the state of the waves – it was like returning to a natural rhythm of life.
`”NIASCA BAY HAS BECOME OUR SECOND HOME BY NOW”
The Portofino Seaweed Garden Project
Edoardo - internship at Outdoor Portofino with Alessandra, a founding member of OP (June-September 2021)
After my honors degree in Natural Sciences at Florence University, I started my Master’s in Marine Biology at Bologna University, at their Ravenna campus.
I have always been a really active guy, who loves traveling, sports and animals. I profoundly enjoy staying out in the open, whether it be in the mountains or by the sea, just as long as I am out in nature. I am an enthusiast of trekking, underwater and outdoor sports. My greatest passion though remains the sea, especially its safeguarding and conservation.
Cecilia - internship at Outdoor Portofino (June-September 2022)
Despite a career that began as a Biomedical Engineer, I have always nurtured a strong passion for the sea and its inhabitants, so much so that I decided to undertake a specialist degree in Marine Biology. I am a dynamic girl who loves being surrounded by nature, I really like playing outdoor sports, especially those that allow me to explore less traveled places. Observing nature makes me connect with it, giving me a unique energy. For this reason, during my university period I have always tried to seize all the opportunities that would allow me to understand the sea firsthand, in direct contact, through field activities. While studying Marine Biology, I learned about the various possibilities of doing marine conservation in a “participatory” way. There is nothing more exciting and engaging than doing science directly in nature. Even more if this experience is shared and if it is possible to enter people’s hearts, making them aware of our influence on the sea and vice versa. “Portofino Seaweed Garden” is a project that combines marine conservation, outdoor sports and citizen science: the right and also fun mix to do research on the sea.
A CASE STUDY ON HOW THE WATERSPORTS COMMUNITY CAN BE USEFUL TO MARINE CONSERVATION
Financed by the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) amongst 280 international projects, the Portofino Seaweed Garden aims to be a “window on the Mediterranean sea” for this brown seaweed E. amentacea through the creation of a submerged garden, protected and monitored by Portofino’s outdoor community.
Ericaria amentacea is a brown seaweed typical of the rocky Mediterranean coasts; it loves waves and sunlight and lives just above and below the sea surface, up to a 4 meter depth. Just like a tree on dry land, it reproduces in the summer and sheds its leaves in the autumn; its fronds, thick and lush like an underwater forest, play host to an extremely high level of biodiversity. E. amentacea is considered to be a sentinel species for coastal biodiversity. In fact, amongst those fronds, molluscs, tiny worms, crustaceans and also fish find their food, shelter and a tranquil environment where they can lay their eggs.
Unfortunately, the Mediterranean populations of E. amentacea have been reduced greatly recently due to the loss and alteration of its habitats and due to the presence of chemical pollutants in the sea. Tiny variations in salinity, light, temperature or wave action can drastically reduce the presence of this seaweed along our coasts.
This seaweed’s Mediterranean populations are therefore under surveillance because they are considered to be vulnerable by numerous international institutions, amongst which: IUCN, RAC/SPA, and MedPAN.
The lack of adults that produce reclute and their limited capacity of dispersion pose obstacles to natural recolonisation. The species therefore seems to be facing an extremely high risk of natural extinction.
Therefore the intent of the study, within the Portofino Seaweed Garden project, is to investigate the feasibility of the implantation of young Ericaria amentacea (ex. Cystoseira amentacea) thalli within a site chosen by the Portofino Protected Marine Area, as an instrument for the development and renewal of the Mediterranean populations of this brown seaweed, in a Marine Citizen Science perspective.
- Particularly the research project has the following objectives:
Renewal of the E. amentacea population via the implantation of young seaweed thalli within a site chosen by the Portofino Protected Marine Area, in order to create a genuine submerged garden.
- From a Marine Citizen Science perspective, make aware and involve Portofino’s outdoor sports community in the renewal, monitoring and protection of the Ericaria seaweed forests, by creating the “submerged garden”, via the use of outdoor water sports enthusiasts (Kayak, SUP, snorkeling and coasteering) as a “glue” that joins together sport, nature and science.
- Development of an “ad hoc” monitoring protocol for the Portofino outdoor sports community, to succeed in better involving people during the monitoring phases of the seaweed’s growth.
- Make the Portofino Seaweed Garden become a pilot project for other projects in the area assisting on how to communicate, safeguard and renew this seaweed through involving the local outdoor communities.
The data gathered from citizen science projects is numerous, accurate and presents a really broad time and geographical scale: in fact this data is not only important in order to support the research project itself (citizen science in a marine environment is not just a data collection instrument) but actively involves people in research, making them part of marine conservation. Thus this practice also supports a progressive ‘Ocean literacy project’, promoting the so-called Ocean Literacy (Earp et al., 2019; Kelly et al., 2020).
Portofino Seaweed Garden is this in a nutshell: it makes people aware of the status, importance and problems connected with this seaweed and with the sea and at the same time helps them to live the experience actively, helping out in the field. All of this turns citizen “scientists” into ambassadors, aware of the influence that the sea has on our lives, and as a consequence of our influence on the sea.
My internship experience at Outdoor Portofino? I spent 5 months in a beautiful place, with fantastic people doing exactly what I love: studying and understanding more about the sea. I had a “complete” experience from all points of view: I found a young, curious, competent, honest and responsible team, with whom you can still have dialogue and make comparisons, with everybody ready to help you with anything at any time. This experience allowed me to grow, not only from a professional standpoint, but also on a personal level, allowing me to connect and compare experiences with other people. And it’s the people that count, especially within a team like this.
From the point of view of professional training as a marine biologist, this experience has allowed me to follow and manage, at 360°, a real marine biology project on marine conservation, working for the sea in the sea.
However, what I consider even more important is having learned to work in a team, especially during the more critical and problematic phases of the project in the summer of 2022, due to the low fertilization rate of E. amentacea: listening, discussing and clashing but in the end supporting each other each other. Working together as a true ecosystem, where everyone counts and is an integral part of this synergy.
Finally, despite the various “ecological” problems, the months spent at Outdoor Portofino have been a clearly positive experience. Participating in the Portofino Seaweed Garden project has given me the opportunity to meet and collaborate with young people with the same goals and interests as me, to grow and challenge myself for what is closest to my heart: the sea and its protection.