I am a 4th year geology student at the University of Edinburgh, School of GeoSciences. This summer I will be undertaking an expedition to Transylvania, Romania. I will be a research assistant to a scientific team studying the biodiversity of the Sighișoara area. The expeditions aims are to study the ancient woodlands, study traditional farming techniques, survey the animal & plant populations and see how modern farming techniques are changing the landscape. The research is used to advise farmers on preserving the unique character of the landscape. As Transylvania contains one of the last untouched medieval woodlands in Europe, the conservation work is important for its preservation. The research project involves participants and academics from multiple European universities.
Along with geology I am deeply interested in conservation, European woodlands, sustainable farming and European history. This expedition would enable me to partake in all those in only two weeks. What would I be doing on location?
As part of the two week project I would be staying in two valleys for one week each. In the valleys I would be trained on how to survey animals, insects and plant life. After training I would undertake the surveys of the following local populations:
- Song birds
- Larger mammals like bears
- Wildflowers growing in the local meadows
- Tree populations in the local forests
I would be working with farmers to help them keep their traditional farming practices and help their work to be integrated into eco-tourism. As part of a team I would study the possible current effects of climate change on the region. The data would help the locals and the Romanian government to better deal with the upcoming challenges of a warming and globalising world.
I would learn more about Saxon and Romanian culture, allowing me to first hand see how old human farming practices interacted with the land. It would be interesting to learn how civilisations in Transylvania developed differently when compared to the UK.
Some of the research would include hiking in the local mountains, following trails on a map and navigating with a compass. This would enable me to further my map navigation skills. It would be a great character building exercise with a scientific purpose.
What would the wider public get out of it?
The woods of Transylvania are a unique ecosystem in Europe. It is deeply important to preserve them. In order to do the preservation properly, good scientific knowledge is required. These scientific studies would enable just that. By donating to me, you would help me to conserve the natural heritage of Transylvania for the future.
The skills I gain will be useful for the people of Scotland, too. I would be able to bring back the knowledge gained from the surveys to Scotland and help with forest conservation here. After all the Scottish government wants to restore the old Caledonian forest. It would be good to have people who studied one of the last ancient European forests in Scotland, helping with the restoration.
As part of my fundraising efforts I will be giving a short talk in my old secondary school about the importance of forest and wildlife conservation. The information gathered from these research trip is usually released to the public. By donating to me, you would enable further education of the public in Scotland and around the world.
I would take photos of the specimens studied, of the local culture, of the wider landscapes. These would be released on all of my social media pages enabling you to learn more about my research activities in Transylvania. (I will also try to post photos of the local geology.)So what do I need the money for?
I need to money to pay for a section of the expedition, to cover the transportation costs and to buy the equipment needed for the surveys.
Any donations would be deeply appreciated!The Research Objectives of the Expedition as defined by Operation Wallacea:
The foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania are one of the most spectacular and biodiverse areas in Europe. The species rich landscape has been nurtured by the low intensity farming practices stretching back up to 900 years. However, since Romania joined the European Union there was a gradual depopulation of the countryside coupled with moves to increase the efficiency of farming by combining fields and more intensive agricultural practices. To prevent these areas of outstanding natural beauty in the foothills of the Carpathians being affected by intensification, the EU offered farmers grants to continue farming using traditional techniques so as to maintain the landscape.
The Opwall teams in Transylvania are working with a local NGO called ADEPT and a series of scientists monitoring whether farming practices and biodiversity are changing in a series of 8 valleys within the Tarnava Mare region. Changes in farming practices such as any moves to silage production, removal of hedges, usage of fertilisers and pesticides or drainage of wetland areas are being monitored since they could have a big impact on the biodiversity. Direct monitoring of the biodiversity of groups such as meadow plant indicator species, butterflies, birds, small mammals and large mammals such as bears and boars are also being monitored as part of this programme.
If you would like to learn more, you can find the website of the expedition bellow: https://www.opwall.com/expeditions/research-expedition/transylvania-expedition-1/
The location of the expedition covering the different valleys where the study of the area's biodiversity would be undertaken