The third edition of the Survivor’s Guide to Stable Isotope Ecology for PhD students and researchers has just finished at the Exedra Mediterranean Center. Course tutors from as far afield as Canada and Chile met with young researchers from Australia to Colombia, Saudi Arabia to Finland, to study the application of Stable Isotope analysis to ecology.
Sponsors Elementar Italia and AquaBioTech Group Malta supported the course, and students were able to study a dummy IRMS machine, as well as work on the software for analysis. The intense week of classwork was complimented by visits to historic sites in Ortigia, such as the Hypogeum at San Filippo, where a fascinating night-time tour of four underground levels that include a burial crypt, air-raid shelters of World War II and a Jewish ritual bath fascinated all the course participants. A visit was also arranged to the Area Marina Protetta Plemmirio as an introduction to the Mediterranean marine ecosystem, and students did practical work in the lab there.
At the end of the week, as part of Exedra’s “Conversazioni in Sicilia” series, the scientific course coordinator Alexia Massa Gallucci, together with Fabio Cilea, director of the Riserva Naturale Saline di Priolo gave a short talk about flamingos. Fabio talked about how the flamingos have returned to nest and breed at Priolo in recent years, despite the site being in the middle of an industrial area with severe problems of pollution. Alexia explained how the technique of stable isotope analysis was being applied to the flamingos and the areas where they eat (Priolo, Vendicari) to try to reconstruct the food chain and spot potential problems of pollution that might affect their health and habits.
A short film about the Salt-flats of Priolo and the flamingos brought the evening to a end and encouraged the audience to go to visit the site themselves.