Nikolina Rako is the Scientific Director at the Blue World Institute and has worked there since 2006. We caught up with her to find out how she first got involved with the Blue World Institute and what interesting projects she is currently working on.
Nikolina Rako And The Blue World Institute
How did you first get involved with the Blue World Institute?
I heard about the Adriatic Dolphin Project (ADP) from an article in 1996 and I decided that to meet the people who were involved and help with the project. I travelled to Lošinj with some friends, and the people we met were really nice and helpful, they gave us an informative presentation on their work they do and told us more about the project, I was really impressed. However, the main issue was that they were from Italy and at the time I did not speak Italian. I decided to study Marine Biology in Italy as there were no Marine Biology courses available in Croatia. After studying for 5 years, I contacted the team I has previously worked with to find out if there was any possibility of me joining them. When I returned I found that the whole organisation had changed, it had been renamed the Blue World Institute and had a whole new team – predominately English and Croatian, so I no longer needed to speak Italian!
What is a typical day in the life of a volunteer?
The volunteers will join us for 10-11 days and will shadow us on the boats, but before this they will undergo the necessary training so they will be confident in assisting us on board. Whilst at sea, the volunteers will assist us with collecting data and will be involved with every aspect. When the weather is bad and the sea is rough, we will take the volunteers back to the office with us. Here they will be able to help analyse the data collected, attend lectures about our research and topics they may be interested in and will have the opportunity to ask questions.
The volunteers will also have free time to spend exploring Croatia and all that it has to offer. In the evenings the volunteers generally eat and socialise together, many of the volunteers form great relationships and remain in contact even after the programme has ended.
Where will the volunteers be staying?
The volunteers will live together in a flat in Lošinj. It is a big flat with plenty of bedrooms, bathrooms and a kitchen. The flat is big enough for volunteers to have their own space and privacy.
How many volunteers are on the programme?
We have a maximum of 5 volunteers because we have limited space on the boat, and we like to keep the volunteers as one group rather than separate them. That way they can all see the dolphins at sea or attend lectures at the same time.
Are you currently working on any interesting projects or research?
Yes, we are full of projects. At the moment I am working on a project which focuses on monitoring underwater noise in the Adriatic Sea. This area of the sea is popular for ships and tourist boats, so we are monitoring how the noise impacts the marine life living in the area. From our research we can then propose new regulations to help protect them.
We are also working on projects with a focus on marine litter and monitoring different parameters that can give us an indication of how healthy the sea is.
How do you think Croatia is encouraging more sustainability environmentally?
I think more people are becoming aware of how the environment is deteriorating. On social media you can find information on climate change and images of marine litter, I think because of this people are becoming more aware of climate change and the devastating effects it has.
Croatia is a popular destination for tourists, particularly in the Summer, and I think Croatia is trying to encourage them to become more responsible when they do visit and make sure they are conscious of the environment by keeping the sea and beaches clean.
But in terms of how much the government support the cause and would finance more research into it, I’m not sure. We receive a lot of funding from the European Union for our projects and so I think more can be done at that level.
What is your best advice for how tourist visiting Croatia can be more mindful of their impact on the environment?
Tourists travelling to Croatia could visit some of the tourist agencies which will provide more information about the places they are visiting. For example, the tourist agencies in Lošinj have a lot of brochures and leaflets with information about dolphin watching trips, on board they have expert marine biologist who give presentations about the dolphins, how they reproduce and their environment. People could take advantage of this activity and learn some interesting facts whilst dolphin watching
In the tourist agencies, you will also be able to find information about the code of conduct and how to act responsible around the dolphin groups for those travelling to around Croatia by boat. Since these leaflets and brochures have been introduced, there has been a noticeable difference, especially with nautical tourism. We have noticed how those on the boats are more cautious and manoeuvre the boat in order to avoid the dolphins. This has been a big change we have seen over the years.
You can join Peter and the rest of the team at BWI on our brand new Croatia Conservation and Exploration Scholarship, which is offering one travel and nature enthusiast a conservation scholarship. You will have the opportunity to travel around Croatia and learn about the local marine environment. Learn more about our scholarship and details on how to enter here.
We are currently raising money to help build the new Blue World Education Centre, we have set up a Just Giving page online where you can find more information and gives you the opportunity to donate to an important cause.
We would appreciate a contribution of any amount.
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