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  07.08.2019, 07:25h

Operation Wallacea 2019

During June and July 2019, 300 students from prestigious foreign universities from seventeen countries participated in the Biodiversity Research Program at Krka National Park.

The international camp is organized in cooperation with the firm BIOTA j.d.o.o., which acts as the economic entity of the Croatian Institute for Biological Diversity and the British company Operation Wallacea Ltd of the prestigious Oxford University. The overall objective of the program is to provide students from various international universities and colleges with the opportunity to carry out practice in natural science through fieldwork. Students have research camps available at fifteen of the world's most beautiful natural sites. Croatia has also been included In the company of tropical paradises such as Peru, Honduras, Thailand, and others, as of 2017.

Students choose the research projects in which they wish to participate and are given a unique opportunity to participate in active scientific work with quality leadership. Furthermore, students gain practical knowledge and experience for their further careers in nature conservation, scientists are given the opportunity to finance fundamental research, and the Krka National Park receives accurate and correctly gathered data about the entirety of the studied ecosystems. Multi-year investigations have confirmed the presence of the Visovac trout along the Krka River, and the list of species present in the Park has been expanded by twenty-some, as, for example, the first finding of a European roller has been recorded. A surprisingly small population of wolves, wildcats, Illyrian chub, and other important species was also detected. The collected data serves the Krka National Park in more efficient management of the park. This year, as part of the camp, an action was also undertaken to collect and sort waste at Brljan Lake.

The Republic of Croatia was selected as a country participating in the project because of its unique natural features and rich biodiversity. In Croatia, the foreign students attended a two-week professional internship in the Krka National Park and on the island of Silba. For a week at each location, students participated in different research groups, thus studying fish, reptiles, birds, butterflies, mammals, and caves on the Krka River, and mostly marine ecosystems on Silba. In this way, over nine hundred students have been introduced to the biodiversity of the Krka National Park since the camp opened in 2017, and were given the opportunity to experience volunteering on a research project. The BIOTA firm has also developed an application for Android and iOS smartphones for the purpose of this project, so that each participant, can enter data directly in the field. This data is instantly available to all other colleagues else. This was a pilot project whose results will show to what extent and in what way the foreign students camp should be held in the coming years. As of this year, students will be housed in the BIOTA Research Center in Puljane, and some of them will become the first visitors to the volunteer center of the Krka Eco Campus in Puljane after the work is completed.

The high Dinaric Mountains represent a natural obstacle and separate continental and Mediterranean flora and fauna, however this karst river, the Krka, connects the area below the Dinars and the underground with the Adriatic Sea, which makes it a special natural phenomenon. The specific research objectives of the Krka National Park were to determine the number of mammals, especially jackals, foxes and wolves, to determine the impact of canyon height on bird and reptile communities, to determine biodiversity in caves, and to determine fish communities and their habitats specific to the Krka River area. Most of the research took place in the inaccessible and untouched parts of the Krka River canyon from Lake Brljan to the Roški slap waterfall.

Operation Wallacea (Opwall) is a research and conservation organization founded by volunteer students who have joined research expeditions in search of internships and job opportunities on specific conservation projects conducted by prominent experts: ecologists, researchers, scientists, and academics in the fields of biodiversity, and social and economic studies. In addition to the academic community, field staff are active, who supplement and encourage the acquisition of professional volunteer practice.

Due to the high interest of students for such research, the number of students will be increased to 400 from 2020, of which a large number of places have already been filled.

As part of this year's international camp, waste collection and selection was also held in the Brljan Lake area.

The students and their mentors leave the Krka National Park on Thursday, August 8th, after two months of intensive work. We would like to thank them for their hard work and dedication, which we believe has contributed to the development of scientific research into the natural phenomena of the Krka River. We look forward with great interest to seeing their results. We also hope that the achieved results and experience gained in Croatia will contribute to their continued education, the development of knowledge and skills, and acquiring international recognition.

We wish the students and mentors a successful continuation of their scientific and research careers and look forward to seeing them again next year!