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Reflecting on TAFS IIIb fieldwork in Peneda-Gerês National Park, Portugal

TAFS IIIb took place from the 4th of July until the 9th of July. This was the planned and highly anticipated part B of TAFS III which took place in March. The goal of this part B was to gain the fieldwork experience that we missed during the last two digital TAFS meetings. Peneda-Gerês National Park has from the very beginning of TerraNova been a perfect model for the TAFS meetings and in the many proposal stages.

The region of Melgaço had a low number of Covid-19 cases at the time of departure, but in some countries, the growing number of Covid-19 cases in Lisbon unfortunately prevented certain ESRs and supervisors from being able to join. Everyone present at TAFS IIIb entered the country safely with negative PCR-tests, did several self-tests at the location and kept their distance when inside. Luckily, our activities were outside and in a very remote area!

Monday the 5th of July

The week started with an opening speech by project coordinator Sjoerd Kluiving, who introduced the project and gave some updates on the progress of each ESR. Then, there was some time for a Q&A-round with Deputy Director for Northern Portugal of the Institute of Nature Conservation and Forests, Duarte Figueiredo, who introduced the group to the area and stakeholder issues in the community. Henrique Pereira finally a presentation to introduce Peneda-Gerês National Park in an ecological and geological approach.

The panel: Henrique Pereira, Duarte Figueiredo, and Sjoerd Kluiving. ESRs were present on Zoom and in the room.

For the second part of the day, there was a long hike planned to the Castro Laboreiro Plateau, led by local guide Pedro Alarcão. We visited megalithic structures and tried to decipher various symbols on a mount, which was hard due to the weather circumstances.

Deciphering symbols
Guide Pedro Alarcão answers some questions

Through the mist and the rain, we also spotted wild horses and cattle, and identified flora in the purple moor grass.

Our pollen expert ESR Maria Antonia Serge identifies local flora

In the evening, as part of the Beyond TerraNova evening lectures schedule, we enjoyed a talk by postdoctoral researcher and Iberian wolf expert Francisco Álvares. The group learned about Wolf populations in Castro Laboreiro and Peneda-Gerês.

Tuesday the 6th of July

Today’s focus was on population monitoring with camera traps. Our camera trap expert, TerraNova ESR Josiane Segar, sadly could not be there in person, but she gave a perfect introduction to the day’s activities over Zoom. Together with Henrique Pereira, Josiane monitors the camera traps in Peneda-Gerês, which are placed in a grid to cover the area, and have to be checked manually. This was our task for today. In a gorgeous hike through the park (which according to Josiane was easy/medium, but some of us begged to differ) we searched for the camera traps and took out the SD cards to discover which animals had frequented this place. Below are some results:

Young wild boars
Roe deer
Wild TerraNova researchers!!

Upon return at the hotel, the group had the pleasure of listening to a talk by Sónia Carvalho (Federal University of Minas Gerais) who called in from Brazil, about Futures in Castro Laboreiro.

Wednesday the 7th of July

In the morning, the TerraNova researchers visited the Castle of Castro Laboreiro, which had previously been hidden by the mist, but now presented beautiful views of the village and the landscape. A perfect place to learn how to fly a drone! We captured some gorgeous shots (to be seen in the aftermovie) as well as this great group picture.

Group picture made by the drone

In the afternoon, there was some time to work on collaborative projects or to catch up on some work. ESRs really appreciated the chance to work on papers and future plans with their project partners, for the first time not over Zoom.

Because this was the first glimpse of some good weather, we could not stay inside the whole afternoon: a visit to the Roman fort was upon us. Just over the border with Spain, there was Aquis Querquennis: the remains of a Roman military camp. The Romans benefited from the hot springs nearby, and so, solely to research their methods, we had to emerge ourselves in some nearby hot springs as well…

Selfie!

All relaxed from our all-natural spa experience, the group entered the Visitor Centre of Peneda-Gerês National Park for roundtable discussion with local stakeholders in ecotourism, farming and lodging. They spoke of the future of the landscape, of sustainable tourism, and of cattle farming. The discussion was simultaneously translated from Portuguese to English so that all the perspectives of the local stakeholders were heard and understood. The ESRs were very impressed by this session and were presented a realistic image of the community’s priorities and concerns for their environment.

Thursday the 8th of July

The last day of TAFS… and we have finally been blessed with clear skies! A perfect day to do vegetation mapping with an eBee drone flight. The view from our take-off and landing strip was great and our megafauna expert, ESR Marco Davoli spotted some eagles (not to be mistaken for our V-shaped drone!)

A final hike for our drone fieldwork

With the eBee drone flight, the educational aspects of the fieldwork were finished and so the afternoon could be used for some free time to work on papers, and even better, to do some swimming in an ice-cold creek, with a beautiful view on the Roman Bridge of Cava da Velha. We celebrated the last evening with a BBQ at Henrique Pereira’s house. What an eventful, educational and social week it had been with our TerraNova researchers in this unique national park.

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