Protecting the Danube with the head and the hands!
My name is Raphael and thanks to the IVY programme, I volunteer at the Interreg Danube Transnational Programme to be specific at the DANUBEparks Network of Protected Areas. I started on the 15th of July at the Donau-Auen National Park in Austria, a beautiful place and one of only two locations in Austria where the Danube can flow freely. The Danube Transnational Programme involves 9 EU Countries (Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany - Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria-, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia). DANUBEparks is a network of National Parks and Nature Reserves that aim to protect the wilderness along the Danube. The goal of DANUBEparks is to bring together all Protected Area administrations. Nature does not recognize state borders, so nature protection needs cooperation across all borders!
Fig. 1: Participating Countries in the Danube Transnational Programme (http://www.interreg-danube.eu/about-dtp/participating-countries, 15/08/2019)
I really enjoy working with both my head and my hands, so the Project DANUBEparksCONNECTED was perfect for me. Mostly I work in Communication with our partner countries, but I also have to do some hands on work to. The main Projects that I am Involved with are:
The Danube WILDislands Habitat Corridor, a nature conservation project that did an inventory of over 900 islands with more than 128 000 hectares along the Danube. 147 of these islands are classified as untouched by human influences. They represent true wilderness in the heart of Europe. And I have to honour to help build up the Website (http://wildisland.DANUBEparks.org/#wildisland), organizing media from all our project partners to create a Website that helps EU-Citizen to better understand the importance of natural flowing rivers.
Fig. 2: A Slovakian Island - Veľký Kamenický ostrov (http://wildisland.DANUBEparks.org/#map, 19/08/2019)
A Grazing Project on the flood protection dike that is a Partnership between the Slovakian Organization Bratislavské regionálne ochranárske združenie (BROZ, https://broz.sk/) and the Donau-Auen National Park. 44 Sheep are grazing the flood protection dike, and it is my job to make sure they are happy. I make sure that they have enough water, that the fences are secure and I also care for the newborn lambs. The dike is an important habitat for many endangered species. This is because it features a dry grassland habitat, this type of habitat is getting quite rare nowadays. The sheep help to safely and environmentally friendly mow down the grass without the need of intensive labour or machinery.
Fig. 3: The sheep enjoying a lazy afternoon.
I also manage the DANUBEparks blog and social media accounts. I have experience in graphic design that's why I also do work on a Magazine for one of DANUBEparks communication Projects.
What amazes me the most is all the energy and passion the people I work with bring to the Job. Everyone shares a deep love for the Danube river and nature conservation. It seems like the Danube not only physically connects our countries but also the minds of the people that share a love for it.
Finally, I also get a bit of creative free time here. I love photography and along the Danube there are many picturesque nature scenes that make humans small by comparison. With all its easy accessible meadows and beautiful trees the area is perfect for environmental portraits.
Fig.4: Self portrait, at the sheep's meadow.