I'm Maša from Slovenia and I started my IVY volunteering experience at the beginning of February. My host organisation is National Institute of Biology, where I am included in a research project Eco-AlpsWater. Our aim is to improve the traditional monitoring approaches for lakes and rivers by using new molecular tools. We are trying to develop a method that would enable us to detect toxins in our water bodies as early as possible. Having a biological background myself, this project is an excellent opportunity for me to gain some experience that could help me with my career and at the same time contribute to local community.
During the past two months we've been working on optimizing methods for DNA extraction and gene amplification, which means testing different protocols in the laboratory. We also started collecting our samples in the field. In cooperation with Slovenian Environmental Agency (ARSO) we did a field trip to lake Bled, where we took a boat ride to the middle of the lake and sampled water for laboratory analyses. The weather couldn't have been better that day and anybody who knows Slovenia's lake Bled will believe me it was an amazing experience. The lake is fairytale-like but often too touristic – well, on the shore at least. So going far from the shore with a boat we were hidden from touristic crowds and could enjoy the peace and beauty of the lake and its small island with a church. And at the same time get some work done, of course.
On top of that I am learning a lot about the importance of water resource management. I had the luck to attend a course on »New molecular methods to assess biodiversity«, which took place at Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala, organised by the SLU Research Schools Soil and Waters and Ecology and the EU COST Action DNAqua. That gave me an opportunity to meet many experienced scientists from the field of monitoring water quality, biodiversity, taxonomy and environmental assessment. I also learned a lot about communicating science to non-scientists, which is just as important as doing the research itself.
So after almost two months I can say I already learned much more than I hoped for and I am really looking forward to the next four months on the project. I am thankful for the opportunity and would definitely suggest IVY volunteering program to anyone who wishes to broaden their horizons!