University of Valencia logo Logo Master’s Degree in Biodiversity: Conservation and Evolution Logo del portal

End of the academic year 2021-22: chronicle of a second semester full of fauna, landscape and conservation

  • September 16th, 2022
Students at

As the 2021-22 academic year draws to a close, we take stock of the complementary voluntary activities that have been carried out during the second semester. This is a chronological summary of all of them:

On February 26th we went on an excursion to Vinalopó Mitjà and Hondo de Elche, in Alicante, to observe diurnal and nocturnal birds of prey.  Although bad weather and bad luck prevented the observation of peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) or spotted eagle (Aquila clanga), we were able to observe Bonelli's eagle (Aquila fasciata) and golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), as well as to see and hear eagle owl (Bubo bubo). It was a great opportunity to discuss aspects of raptor wintering and breeding.

On February 28th we carried out the "2nd cetacean census from the coast". The students, in pairs, were distributed along the coast between Valencia and Denia, to learn some methodologies of cetacean census. On this occasion we had the invaluable assistance of the NGO Xaloc, who were in charge of the photo-identification work from the sea. We detected two family groups of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the area of Cullera.

From March 1st to 7th, professors Juan Antonio Balbuena and Josep Ignasi Lucas gave a 12-hour "Introduction to R course" as a complementary training activity for the students of the master's degree. In this way, they were equipped with a basic tool for the completion of their master's degree final projects.

On March 7th and 8th we held the "2nd Conference on Conservation in Action", with the slogan: "Broadening our gaze". We were fortunate to have the participation of 13 researchers and conservation experts who are actively working on projects at national and international level. Their generous and selfless participation helped us to understand the conservation problems of multiple organisms, from rockroses to whales, and served as a window from which to look at how to get started professionally in the area of conservation.
From March 7th to 9th, "INTED 2022: 16th annual Technology, Education and Development Conference" was held in Valencia, in which the students of the subject: Ecology and Evolution of Host-Parasite Relationships presented an oral communication (online) entitled: "Teaching parasitology in biology degrees: from subjects to principles", which generated an article that was subsequently published (ISBN: 978-84-09-37758-9).

On March 31st and April 7th we carried out two mixed scientific ringing and photo-trapping trips in the area around the marsh of Almenara (Castellón). For the ringing we had the invaluable collaboration of Iván Alambiaga. The students were able to learn how to set up cameras for mammal photo-trapping, and they helped in the ringing and taking of scientific data of passerines. Although the captures in both cases were modest, we were able to detect red fox (Vulpes vulpes), wild boar (Sus scrofa) and garden dormouse (Eliomys quercinus), as well as ringing common chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), sardinian warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) and Cetti's warbler (Cettia cetti).

On April 30th we made a boat trip around the areas surrounding the Columbretes Islands, thanks to the selfless help of Juan Arlandis and Patricia Gozalbes. The main objective was the sighting of cetaceans, in order to discuss aspects of phenology and distribution in the Mediterranean, but it also served as a good opportunity to observe many other marine organisms. It was a fruitful day, as we were able to spot several pods (approaching the boat) of striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) and bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), as well as a distant fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) on several occasions. We also enjoyed the almost constant presence of Mediterranean (Calonectris diomedea) and Balearic (Puffinus mauretanicus) Cory's shearwaters, and many Eleonora's falcons (Falco eleonorae) and European shag (Gulosus aristotelis) in the Columbretes area. Other species of interest sighted were the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), the sunfish (Mola mola), the blue shark (Prionace glauca), the velella (Velella velella) and the fried egg jellyfish (Cotylorhiza tuberculata).

On May 7th we went on an outing to the SPAB (Special Protection Area for Birds) of El Bonillo and surroundings (Albacete) to observe steppe birds. The occasion allowed us to discuss the conservation problems of these birds in the context of the CAP. We were able to discover, among others, two flocks of great bustard (Otis tarda), one of the elusive Iberian sandgrouse (Pterocles alchata), as well as several Little bustards (Tetrax tetrax), little buntings (Clamator glandarius), lesser kestrels (Falco naumanni), calandra larks (Melanocorypha calandra) and common sandpipers (Calandrella brachydactyla). The day ended with a visit to the Salobrejo lagoon, where we enjoyed watching aquatic birds, among others, the white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala). A sunset to remember.

On May 21st we returned to the central area of Alicante and the bordering region of Murcia to observe taxa, especially birds. One of the target species was the ocellated skink (Chalcides striatus), which has recently been detected in the area and whose origin is of special interest. It was possible to observe other reptiles such as the betic lizard (Timon nevadensis) and the red-tailed lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus). There were five target species among the birds, namely the rufous-tailed siskin (Cercotrichas galactotes), the isabelline warbler (Iduna opaca), the caracalla (Coracias garrulus), the red-necked nightjar (Caprimulgus ruficollis) and the trumpeter finch (Bucanetes githagineus); only the latter failed to show up. 

On May 28th we celebrated Expociència, the science festival of the Science Park de la Universitat de València. Several students of the master's degree offered to carry out an informative activity based on one of the subjects taught in the master's degree: Functional Morphology of Vertebrates. Specifically, they set up a stand with various mammal skulls under the title: "Guess what I eat" and invited the audience (especially the younger ones) to try to make simple functional inferences about the diet of these species.

From June 3rd to 5th we went on an outing to the Sierra de la Culebra and Sanabria Mountains (Zamora). The main objectives of this trip were the observation of the Iberian wolf (Canis lupus) and vertebrate fauna of the Sanabria mountain. It was a good opportunity to discuss the often conflicting aspects of conservation, as well as interesting biogeographical aspects. In the Culebra (so badly damaged by the fires shortly after), we managed to see three wolves (including an alpha male). In the Sanabria Mountains, the San Antonio's frog (Hyla molleri), the black-green lizard (Lacerta schreiberi), the Leonid lizard (Iberolacerta galani), the blue-breasted nightingale (Luscinia svecica) and the Corn bunting (Emberiza hortulana) stood out.

Finally, from June 23rd to 26th we visited the Somiedo Natural Park (Asturias). The main objective of the visit was to observe the Cantabrian brown bear (Ursus arctos), but also many other vertebrates. During the outing we had the generous help of Luis Albero, from the Asociación Herpetológica Timon. It was a good moment to discuss the importance of animal personality and its impact on conservation and, again, to get into the biogeography of the Euro-Siberian fauna and the generation of endemisms. Bear watching was more than fulfilled, with sightings over the three days, including a female with two cubs. The herpetofauna was generous: among others, we were able to discover the palmate newt (Triturus helveticus) and alpine newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris), the red-legged frog (Rana parvipalmata), the long-tailed salamander (Chioglossa lusitánica), the mountain lizard (Iberolacerta monticola) and the Seoane's viper (Vipera seoanei); among the birds, the most outstanding birds were the black bunting (Emberiza citrinella), the Egyptian vulture (Neophron percnopterus) and the bearded vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) and, among the mammals, the chamois (Rupicapra pirenaica) and the Iberian wolf (Canis lupus).

In short, a second semester full of experiences to treasure.