Erika Audry, with a Masters on Ecology and Fresh Water Ecosystems, is a volunteer as service civique (1) for the Pole Relais Lagunes network, based at the Research Institute for the Conservation of Mediterranean Wetlands, la Tour du Valat in Camargue, France, created by Dr Luc Hoffmann in 1964.
In 2015, Erika was an intern in the coastal lagoon l’Etang de Berre, in the Eastern Camargue, where she developed a study to monitor the evolution of the seafood population.
Since May 2016, she is at the Pôle-Relais Lagunes Méditerranéennes, one of the five Wetlands Transfer Units in France created in 2001, after the launch of the 1st National Wetland Action Plan implemented by the French government (Link to the plan). Each Pôle-Relais is devoted to a wetland type: Mediterranean lagoons, mangroves and wetlands overseas, Atlantic marshes, the Manche and North Sea wetlands; inland and alluvial valleys wetlands; and peatlands.
The Pôle-Relais Lagunes Méditerranéennes helps managers, scientists and decision makers in the Mediterranean French region to better manage and monitor coastal wetlands.
The Pôles-Relais’ mission is to exchange best practices on wetland management and to disseminate information among wetland stakeholders, decision makers, scientists and managers. They also coordinate events during the year, such as the World Wetlands Day and the Heritage Days, and communicate the activities organised in each wetland to the general public. Another important objective for the Pôles-Relais is to ensure a good wetland management, working together with local governments and organising meetings with scientists and managers to standardize protocols on managing wetlands.
Erika helps to maintain a constant communication among the different wetland stakeholders in the French Mediterranean region. She writes articles about wetland managers in order to share their experience and to give advice to other professionals working in these ecosystems. Erika highlights the work done together with artists interested in wetlands to raise awareness among local communities: educative books, films, documentaries, etc. (for more information, click here). She also worked on the organisation of educational events for children. The main objective of these days was to raise awareness among the kids on the different species of seafood, sea birds and algae living in the beach near l’Etang de Berre.
At present she works on a project that seeks to demonstrate to local politicians the services wetlands provide to the human population in order to promote the protection of these habitats. Erika highlights that there are a lot of factors to keep in mind, as wetlands as important biodiversity hotspots, are not only the habitat of numerous species, they also provide priceless services for human populations, such as flood control and potential tourist areas. Lagoons and wetlands in general protect us from natural disasters such as floodings, and at the same time they purify and clean waters. Once the project finishes, Erika will create different info-graphics to disseminate the results and raise awareness among decision makers.
Working for the Pôle-Relais Lagunes, Erika is becoming familiar with the network of national and local wetland stakeholders and participating in the implementation of the national policy for wetlands. She is also learning to communicate effectively with people who are not aware wetland values.
In Erika’s words: “I want to continue to deepen my knowledge of wetlands and improve my ability to work for the management and conservation of wetland resources”.
Following the IUCN and MedWet campaign #NatureForAll and #WetlandsForAll, the young conservationist affirms that wetlands are essential for life and they allows us to discover the wonders of nature.
Virginie Mauclert (coordinator at Pôle-Relais Lagunes Méditerranéennes)
Learn how to take action for wetlands: The national portal for access to information about wetlands! (click here)
(1) This civic service is a French volunteer program which gives young people the opportunity to work in different areas of interest and organisations and research centres within Europe.