Education and volunteer participation are considered to be key activities of TAIB. The educational objective is to increase insight in biodiversity conservation and wetland management.
TAIB training courses have been developing steadily since 1989, usually in Spring (April/May) and Autumn (October/November). Teams, consisting of volunteers, scientists and students, are designed to allow scientific fieldwork to be conducted in parallel with a training program – particularly in the related topics of biodiversity and environmental management.
TAIB organizes an “International capacity building field course: Monitoring for biodiversity and environmental change at s’Albufera de Mallorca”. They are designed to be entirely practical. The aims of the courses are to:
- provide participants with practical experience of monitoring techniques, species identification and data collection;
- undertake capacity building in wetland management and protected area management;
- permit participants to study and experience all aspects of nature reserve management alongside TAIB scientists and the Parc management team;
- assist TAIB scientists in data acquisition;
- provide an international forum for the exchange of information and experience between protected area managers, conservationists and field biologists;
- and standardise monitoring methodology, particularly for Mediterranean countries.
TAIB aims to enhance the skills of the participants in doing ecological fieldwork (design of fieldwork studies, sampling methods, statistics, data analysis). The course is multidisciplinary and participants are encouraged to place the fieldwork in the context of local management strategies and regional/global environmental change.
TAIB fieldwork teams comprise TAIB scientists working alongside with volunteers, protected area managers, personnel from environmental NGOs and others with an interest in ecology, biodiversity, conservation, physical geography or similar subjects. The courses are in English but TAIB scientists also include a good number of Spanish and French speakers so these languages can also be accommodated.
Every year now s’Albufera Natural Park managers with the TAIB team, identify gaps in knowledge wich are consectuently developed as studies to be developed in the course. In addition to those main themes, a series of other activities are planned. They include:
- Long term Monitoring: transects and ringing of birds; transects of butterflies and dragonflies; moth trapping.
- Water quality monitornig: macrophytes, aqutic invertebrates, etc.
- Biodiversity research: a new Biodiversity Catalogue, listing some 4000 biota, is near completion but there are clearly gaps.
- Workshops: Public use and management of the Parc, by Maties Rebassa, Director of the Natural Park; Environmental education in S’Albufera, by the Parc’s Education Team; other initiatives from visiting volunteers and researchers.
The traineesTAIB Project S’Albufera has, from the start in 1989, sponsored young Balearic and Spanish Peninsular scientists, conservationists and environmentalists to participate as volunteers in the Project.
This policy is considered a key part of the programme, acting as a training school in field techniques and ensuring local involvement, awareness and knowledge of both the project and conservation issues generally.
A number of trainees have progressed to important and influential environmental posts (Wetlands International coordinator, MedWet sub-project on Inventory and Monitoring; two successive Heads of Eurosite, Iberian Peninsule; Government biologists; teacher-naturalists; university staff; officers within wildlife and conservation groups).
Through the Project, the Park has now become a focus for education at a much wider level.
The project has always attracted volunteers from throughout the World. This has been extended to include sponsored fieldwork experience and training courses.
The African Fellowship programme was an important development because it recognised the scope of the Project and the role it can play in acting as a model for other sites and areas of the World. The programme brought ecologists from a wide range of sub-Saharan countries to s’Albufera for training. The scheme was established by Earthwatch Europe and sponsored by the European Commission and the Darwin Initiative of the UK government. It ran from 1995 to 1999. This form of volunteer participation was continued into the current century through collaborations with MedWetCoast, the French Atelier Technique des Espaces Naturels and various universities. The project’s value lies in the way it integrates ecological research with training, education and management for protected areas. The various initiatives have brought an international band of highly motivated, skilled ecologists, all with a desire to learn as much as they can about conservation and environment issues.
The programme has even greater benefits because of the cooperation and support of the Park directorate and Balearic government departments, which have provided additional material, seminars, organized activities and information. This gives trainees the opportunity to gain an insight into conservation and the environment in Mallorcan, Balearic and national contexts as well as allowing them to place their experience of TAIB Project S’Albufera work and activities in a wider perspective.
Because the Project programme has been designed to use straight forward methodology that is both cost-effective and user-friendly to volunteers of all kind, the trainees are able to learn techniques which may be adapted to situations in their native country. In the last 25 years, trainees have taken these skills back to over 50 nations and 5 continents.