Tales from the volunteers

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Lewis’ VET project in Greece

My name is Lewis Jones. I am currently taking part on a VET project with Archelon the sea turtle protection society of Greece at their rescue centre in Athens.


Archelon has three main objectives:

1 – To study the nesting habits of the sea turtle Caretta Caretta, looking at how best to conserve them.

2- To rescue and re-habilitate any injured or sick turtles found in and around Greece, through the use of the rescue centre.

3 – To educate the public on what dangers these creatures face and what they can do to help them.


I have had a very hands-on experience with the turtles and have been conducting the following.

– Cleaning both the tanks and the turtles.

– Conducting basic treatment of injuries, such as treatment to head injuries and missing limbs as well as the administration of drips.

– I have also conducted emergency first aid to turtles, especially when I have conducted a pick-up of a turtle. I have picked up two turtles, one is called Ariadni and Kornilllia, we hope that Ariadni will be released later in the year.

– I have also been conducting emergency procedures, most recently with the turtle Alkioni who came in with pneumonia.

– I have been conducting tube feeding, unfortunately a necessary procedure for many of the turtles that come through our doors.

– I have learnt a great deal about project co-ordination and how best to conduct all our activities while causing minimal stress to the turtles in our care.


In the next few weeks I will be helping with the final preparations for turtle releases. This requires me to work one on one with my manager Eirini as we conduct the final measurements and tagging of any turtles that will be due to be released, one of whom Ariadni is a turtle I have a very close bond with.

As it gets closer to summer and more turtles return to the Greek waters, more turtles will be arriving at the rescue centre with an ever-increasing workload.


I have learnt a great deal professionally since I have first arrived here, so much so that it has caused me to change the direction in which I want to take my professional career. Through this project I have learnt more about turtle ecology and turtle biology (especially while observing the necropsy of a four kilogram turtle who had died due to a hook trapped in his throat) and the risks that turtles face than I could ever have done in any lecture hall. The difference a place like this teaches you, in comparison to a classroom, is the difference between knowledge and comprehension. Through the care in which I have been conducting I have been able to learn in-depth about these creatures and why they have not had to adapt for thousands of years and how they are now adapting to the ever-changing environment that humans have created.


As you probably know, Marine biology is a highly competitive field. I have looked at several jobs as well as more advanced projects that require experience in many of the elements that I am receiving here. I was unfortunately unsuccessful for a job in the Seychelles on a private island, having got to the interview stage, simply because I did not have experience in turtle tagging. I was able to take this information to my manager Eirini who assured me that I will take part in turtle tagging to prevent a situation like this from happening again. Due to the length of my time here, it will give me a competitive edge for any jobs, projects or degree that require me to work with turtles in the future.


On a more personal note I have learnt a lot about other cultures. Due to the multi-cultural factor of the project I am regularly the only British person on the project. This has exposed me to many different cultures and the differences between these. For example, how people speak, the differences in mannerisms and what is acceptable in one culture but not another. There could be as many as 12 volunteers, but each person is from a different country. It teaches you how best to communicate with people when there is a language barrier and how to get the best out of each individual. We are also living in very close proximity to each other, now more than ever, therefore you learn many personal skills which would normally take years to master. Now, though, there are fewer volunteers, but it still blows my mind that I can be at a table of six volunteers/trainees and two members of staff, all speaking English, yet be the only English person at the table.


In our spare time we spend a great deal of time being common tourists, discovering the many hidden secrets of this ancient city of Athens as well as the major features. For example, the Acropolis (though in my opinion the many alley ways and houses around the Acropolis are the true stars of the city) and the old Olympic stadium which is truly beautiful. We have close ties with many people in the local community from the head waitress in our favourite restaurant to the part-time Greek volunteers who invite us to meet their families. It is not uncommon however for volunteers to come in on their days off especially as the work has increased, and after a hard days work there is nothing better than watching the sunset from the Rescue Centre decking (which in my honest opinion are some of the best sunsets I have ever seen).


As the virus has hit, the work that I have been conducting here has become even more important, as fewer volunteers can now arrive. Those who are still here are having to work even harder. There is no doubt in my mind that the best place for me is here, working with this team and helping to save the lives of these endangered turtles.


I hope that you take this testimonial as proof that this is the best place for me as a professional and as an individual.




Project co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union.


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