Welcome to SPNI's Field Schools
While I was in Northern Israel, I got to experience life at SPNI's field schools. Our group stayed over night at the Achziv field school. It was located along the Mediterranean Sea just south of Rosh Hanikra. We were guided by Dudu and accompanied by his dog Shadow. We walked out to Achziv Beach where Dudu explained that the sea was currently purging itself of trash and depositing it onto the beach. This is a two month long process that happens naturally every year. In order to keep the beach clean both humans and animals work together (sand crabs have been known to take away some of the smaller pieces of garbage and waste). We also discussed the plight of sea turtles. Currently there are only around twenty female sea turtles between Rosh Hanikra and Acre. The newly hatched eggs have a very low survival rate (between 0-1%) until they are around ten years old. In order to help increase sea turtle numbers, a small turtle farm has been created to protect the turtle eggs. As we walked around, Dudu pointed out a number of fascinating plants. The Judean Viper's Bugloss is a pink flower that turns purple once pollinated. This allows bees to know which flowers they have already visited. There was a flower that has seeds that look like small pieces of coal. These seeds are able to survive in saltwater for five years without damaging the seed. We saw a caper plant and learned how to make capers and we also saw a cannabis plant that contained a highly toxic defense mechanism.
The next school we visited was on Mt. Meron. The Mt Meron field school is located in the middle of the highest nature reserve in Israel. Dudu explained to us that the field school has been in a battle of brains against a group of wild boars. The boars would knock over trash cans to eat whatever was inside. To prevent this the field school team decided to come up with a new type of trash can, but the boars proved determined to find a way to break into the trash. After three different designs had been defeated by the boars, a new design was successful. This new trash container was elevated off the ground by being attached to the side of a building. It contained bars to prevent the wild boars from reaching the trash bag and a chain to keep the top securely closed. Currently the Mt Meron field school is undergoing some renovations and I am excited to see what it looks like in the near future.