What better way to play an active role in this year's European Green Week than to join Earthwatch, the international environmental charity, as a field researcher in some of the most unusual and fascinating parts of the continent?
The annual event is organised by the European Commission and takes place between 1st and 4th June and has a clear message that we need to 'change our behavior and make informed choices if we are to achieve a greener Europe'.
With volunteers required from 11th June, Earthwatch is calling for members of the public to take up the challenge of signing up for the Baltic Island Wetlands and Wildlife project and being a part of its conservation work in Western Estonia.
Vormsi Island, Western Estonia'a Archipelago Biosphere Reserve, is considered to be an eco system of international importance. Its coastal wet grasslands are characteristic of this Baltic nation and support species such as orchids, elk, lynx, cranes, and white-tailed eagles.
However, these grasslands are not natural but have been maintained by centuries of pastoral management. Unfortunately, during the Soviet era, access to the island was restricted, and maintenance of these grasslands began to decline, threatening the very survival of the island's wetland habitats.
This project, coordinated by scientist Dr. Chris Joyce, has been launched to develop management strategies that will help to save this grassland and its habitat. The timing of the study is critical as Estonia joins the EU, adjusts to its recent independence, and plans on repopulating Vormsi and surrounding islands.
Volunteers, who are vital to the success of this project, spend two weeks working along the sweeping coastal panorama of Vormsi, and the spectacular Matsalu and Silma National Nature Reserves on the Estonian mainland. They will help to survey the region's coastal grasslands and assess the abundance of indicator species such as rare orchids, small mammals, and birds, such as the endangered corncrake.
Former volunteer Tim Hall recalls, 'I had a great time on the Baltic Island Wetlands project, there were a wide variety of tasks to undertake and the level of team spirit among the other volunteers was amazing. I learned a lot about this threatened ecosystem, its flora and fauna and its value to migrant bird species. As an amateur birder, I was amazed that the team managed to record 109 species during the two weeks. It is difficult to think of a better way to learn so much and have so much fun in such a short period of time.'
The next project fields on June 11th 2004, with two more operating this July and August. Further European projects include Icelandic Glaciers, Wildlife of the Volga Delta, Europe- Africa Songbird Migration, Bogs of Belarus, Mountain Waters of Bohemia, Butterflies and Orchids of Spain, and Spanish Dolphins. To find out more about dates and prices of these projects as well as information about more than 140 other projects around the world visit www.earthwatch.org/europe or call + 44 (0) 1865 318838 for details.
For more information, case studies, images and interview please contact
Zoe Gamble, Press Officer, Earthwatch, on + 44 (0) 1865 318813 / firstname.lastname@example.org