Alumni Spotlight: Irini Kounoupias


Irini Kounoupias is an 18-year-old student from London, England, currently studying for her A-Levels at Putney High School. She is hoping to go to medical school in September, but in her spare time enjoys music, exercise and exploring new cultures.

Describe your typical morning as a volunteer with Ocean Spirits in Grenada.

The setup of each morning differed day to day as there was a weekly rota which ensured that work was evenly distributed and that everyone got the opportunity to get involved with all aspects of the project.

Some mornings consisted of a Morning Survey where a couple of volunteers would wake up in the early hours and walk down to the beach to rake over turtle tracks in order to stop poachers from digging up the eggs.

If I wasn't doing morning survey, the morning was spent either relaxing or sleeping if I had been on night duty. Volunteers were also free to go to the beach or into town.

Describe your typical afternoon as a volunteer.

The main afternoon activity was nest excavation where we would be given the coordinates of a nest and had to locate it then dig it up. This was important as we could then look at the success rate of the nest, i.e. how many eggs hatched, at what stage in development the unhatched eggs stopped developing, and the reasons behind this. If we were not on nest excavation then there were often chores to be done like cleaning or doing the shopping.

Some weeks the program ran an environmental awareness summer camp for the local children, so a few afternoons were spent teaching the children and playing games.

What about a typical evening as a volunteer?

Evenings would begin with a meal all together, which was a great opportunity to get to know the other volunteers. If I was on night duty then I would go down to the beach with a group of volunteers and supervisors for night survey.

We would take turns patrolling the beach with a supervisor, and if a turtle was spotted then we would have to wait for it to dig its nest, then one volunteer would catch and count the number of eggs laid while another volunteer documented details like the size of the turtle, the coordinates of the nest, the depth of the nest. We would then check to see if the turtle was tagged.

If I was not on night duty then I was free to relax; this included baking, going to the local bar or watching a film with the other volunteers.

What was the highlight of your trip?

My fondest memory of the trip from a social perspective was the night when the supervisors decided to cancel night survey so that we could all go out to a restaurant to celebrate one of the volunteer's birthdays. This night was special for me as it reinforced how close everyone had become and gave us a good opportunity to sample local food and see the beautiful island at night.