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Conservation Volunteers in the Lesvos Petrified Forest Geopark

Source: Published:Dec 24,2008

Consolidation of the fragile surfaces of a complex of in situ fossilised trees in Plaka Park. Conservation treatment performed by Flavia de Souza (BSc student at the University of Goteborg, Sweden) and Ashley Jehle (volunteer from USA, currently working for the Smithsonian Institution)

 Filling of the cracks of a standing petrified tree in Plaka Park. Conservation treatment performed by Magdalena Piotrowska (PhD student at the University of Lodz, Poland) and Evangelia Kyriazi (conservator at the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest)

Always open to the youth, the Lesvos Petrified Forest Geopark once more this summer welcomed the arrival of students from Europe and America, who participated in its voluntarism programmes.

The Lesvos Petrified Forest Geopark, fully aware of its educational role and responsibility, has been accepting students and volunteers from the very first beginning of its creation. Some of the goals of this action are for participants in the programmes to familiarize with the Lesvos Petrified Forest Natural Monument, the plants and animals that lived in the North Aegean area 20 million years ago, the volcanic activity that led, among others, to the fossilisation of a complete subtropical ecosystem and the geology and geomorphology of the region, as well as with methods of protecting and promoting the geological heritage of our planet. Students and volunteers can choose to participate in any of several activities of the Geopark, such as documentation of collections and geotopes, organisation of exhibitions and events, mapping, excavation and conservation of fossils, management of protected areas, public awareness rising and educational programmes.

Within the context of the annual voluntarism programmes, conservation students from Brazil, Canada, Poland, Sweden, the USA and the UK spent this past summer from two weeks up to two months with the Conservation Department of the Natural History Museum of the Lesvos Petrified Forest, supervised by Ass. Professor N. Zouros, director of the Museum, and Miss E. Kyriazi, conservator at the Museum.

The placement work of the conservation volunteers included recording the initial condition and conservation treatments of fossils, cleaning, adhesion, filling, aesthetic restoration, waterproofing and labeling of fossils, creation of supports and bases for in-situ fossils, making of solutions of adhesives and consolidants, transportation of small fossils for conservation or storage purposes and, even, participation in the “first aid” treatments for newly excavated fossils. Theory was connected to practise, so students discussed the properties of conservation materials, compared different conservation products and argued on decision-making in conservation.

Public awareness rising is a key element for the Lesvos Petrified Forest Geopark. Conservation volunteers, while working in-situ, gladly assisted in informing the visitors of fossil sites within the Geopark about the creation of the Petrified Forest and the activities of the Geopark. The volunteers’ lively contribution made the Geopark and the Museum a much more vivid place than it already is. At the same time, the volunteers gain very useful working experience in many different aspects of geodiversity protection and promotion. The Lesvos Petrified Forest Geopark is always glad to accept passionate, ambitious and responsible people within its premises and commits to continue offering the chance to volunteers who wish to live this experience.