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  27.07.2018, 12:37h

Operation Wallacea 2018

During June and July, 300 students from prestigious foreign universities from 18 countries participated in biological diversity research at Krka National Park.

The international camp was organized in cooperation with BIOTA j.d.o.o., which acts as an entrepreneur branch of the Croatian Institute for Biodiversity and the British company Operation Wallacea Ltd of the prestigious Oxford University. The general objective of the program is to provide students from various international universities and colleges with the possibility of carrying out natural science practice through field work. Students have at their disposal scientific research camps at fifteen of the most beautiful natural sites around the world. Croatia is now in the company of tropical paradises such as Peru, Honduras, Thailand and others.

The students selected the scientific research projects they wanted to participate in and received a unique opportunity to participate in active scientific work, under excellent guidance. Furthermore, students obtained practical knowledge and experience for their future careers in nature conservation, the scientists received opportunities for financing fundamental research, and Krka National Park received precise and planned collected data on the complete researched ecosystems. Last year's research confirmed the presence of Visovac trout in the course of the Krka River, the distribution ranges of several species were expanded, and a surprisingly small population of wolves was found, and much more.

The Republic of Croatia was selected as the partner country in this project due to its unique natural characteristics and wealth of biological diversity. In Croatia, foreign students took part in the two-week expert practice programme in the Krka and Mljet National Parks. Spending one week in each park, the students participated in various research groups, and studies the fish, reptiles, birds, butterflies, mammals and caves in Krka National Park, and marine ecosystems in Mljet National Park. In this way, more than 300 students had the opportunity to become acquainted with the biodiversity of Krka National Park during June and July 2018, and obtained the opportunity to experience volunteering on a scientific research project. BIOTA j.d.o.o. developed a smart phone application for Android and iOS for this project, via which each participant could directly enter data from the field. These data were then immediately visible and accessible to others. This was a pilot project, and its results will determine how the foreign student camp will be run in the coming years. In anticipation of the final phase of completion of the Puljane Eco Campus, students this year received accommodation in the Cultural Centre in Kistanje.

The high Dinaric Mountains represent a natural obstacle separating continental and Mediterranean flora and fauna, however the karst Krka River connects the foothills of the mountains and the underground with the Adriatic Sea, making it a distinctive natural phenomenon. Specific research goals at the Krka National Park were: determining the number of mammals, especially jackals, foxes, and wolves, determining the influence of the canyon height on the bird and reptile communities, determining biological diversity in the caves, and determining the communities of fish and their specific habitats in the Krka area. Most of the research was conducted in inaccessible and untouched parts of the Krka River canyon from Lake Brljan to the Roški Slap Cascades.

Operation Wallacea (Opwall) is a nature conservation and research organization based on volunteer students who have joined research expeditions in search of professional experience and employment opportunities on specific conservation protection projects carried out by prominent experts: ecologists, researchers, scientists, and academics in the area of biodiversity, as well as the humanities and economic studies. Along with members of the academic community, there are also fieldworkers who complement and encourage the acquisition of professional practices among the volunteers.

Due to great interest of students for this research, all 250 spots for 2019 and a part of the spots for 2020 are already filled.

Students and their supervisors will be leaving Krka National Park on Wednesday, 2 August after two months of intensive work. We would like to thank them for their invested efforts and dedication, as it is certain that they have contributed to the development of scientific research of the natural phenomena of the Krka River. We await the results with great anticipation. We also hope that the achieved results and experience gained in Croatia will contribute to their continued education, the development of skills and knowledge and gaining international affirmation.

We wish the students and their supervisors a successful continuation of their scientific and research careers and we look forward to meeting again next year!