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General Information: Malta Malta is a tiny Southern European island country just over 316 km 2 consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. Malta's landscape contrasts rocky stretches of coast that ends in limestone cliffs, with pocket bays of crystal clear blue water and red-gold beaches. The islands' many marinas is equipped with large yachts to traditional luzzus painted with eyes. Snorkelers and divers can explore a new world underwater as well, full of caves, crags and wrecks. The architecture is very rich, the capital city of Valletta was built by the Knights of St John, along with the ex-capital Mdina and Victoria, built as fortresses on hilltops and watchtowers dot the coast. Built area goes way back the Neolithic Temples who also left miniature figurines and mammoth sculptures of ‘fat ladies’, which have survived millennia. Traditional Maltese food mixes Sicilian and Middle Eastern flavours, while making use of traditional ingredients such as rabbit and honey. We as people are warm and welcoming, helpful with any queries of directions.

When? Where? Malta is the perfect location for those who love the idea of summer. The sun is shining on most days and the island is surrounded by exotic beaches and diving locations. Winter can get a bit too chilly and summer definitely gets too hot, which is why Spring is the perfect season! Easter time is usually the best time of the year as it’s usually warm, sunny and breezy, perfect for any activity such as hiking, cycling and even swimming. Not to mention the delicious cultural foods associated with this time of year, such as the traditional kwareżimal and figolli. Therefore we will be organising the congress from the 14th till 19th April. A limited number of applicants (80) will be available. We are working on lowering the participation fee as much as possible through sponsors, so the current participation fee is the maximum amount.

Whilst the specific accommodation venue is still being settled, the congress itself will be held around Malta. This is in fact the advantage that we share with islands of our size, that essentially it is very easy to cross the entire length of the island within a maximum of 2.5hours. We have decided to exploit such an advantage and to ensure that participants get the opportunity to visit different locations within the island throughout our variety of scientific excursions and recreational excursions. If funds permit, a final surprise visit to a very popular destination might also happen on the final day, hence ensuring that your experience of the Maltese archipelago is complete.


Workshops Human Geography - The Economic Life of Islands

Due to their insular nature and their limited size, islands often display economies that vary greatly from that of mainland Europe or any other large land masses. The Maltese Islands are no exception to this. Due to its strategic location in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea, the country spent most of its recorded history passing the hands from one foreign empire to another. With each shift in power, the economy was dominated respectively by agriculture and aquaculture, by the best Christian piratery observed in the entire Mediterranean Basin during the crusades, and eventually by the most extensive medical care and treatment location for the Allies in the midst of World War I. Nowadays, temperate and tropical islands like Malta, are often regarded as a major tourist destination for their sun, sand and sea. However, our economy, as is that of other islands, is still evolving and beach tourism is not the only major economic sector that we host. If you want to learn more about how Malta’s history, surroundings and population density have shaped our economy, and how this varies or resembles patterns observed in other island economies, then this is the workshop for you. Participants will also get the chance to visit the former fishing villages of Marsaxlokk and B’Bugia found along the southern coast of Malta during a scientific excursion designed specifically for this workshop theme.

Human Geography - Coastal and Marine Area Management Following rifting in the vicinity of the Maltese Islands, the country experienced uplifting in certain regions, giving the archipelago a tilt towards the NE. Consequently, Malta displays two predominant coastal features. The low indented shoreline of the north-east comprising all of the few natural sandy beaches in the archipelago is contrasted with the sheer, rectilinear coasts in Malta’s south-west. In addition to this, being an island, Malta’s marine territory is far greater than the land area covered by the island itself and is therefore regarded as an essential economic, natural and social resource. Following a period of zero option management in most local coastal and marine environments, coastal zone management has now become a priority of the country whereby several Marine Protected Areas have been designated and a number of Natura 2000 sites have been established. However, the main focus of our management currently targets local sandy beaches. Maltese beaches attract a vast number of visitors annually, who enjoy sunbathing in the sun, taking in the beautiful scenery and relaxing in the refreshing seawater. Their popularity however is a stress on the system and proper management is needed for their sustainable use. Additionally, natural erosion processes also impact beaches. Via Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM), management plans aim to underline certain priorities for each beach, be it tourism, conservation or others, whilst putting in place the right infrastructure to make this possible. Għajn Tuffieħa is one Maltese beach protected for its natural features and its coast is part of the Natura 2000 network. Conversely, Golden Bay, which is another sandy beach right next to Għajn Tuffieħa, follows management that targets more the beach’s recreational and economic potential. If you’re interested in concepts like ICZM and in Malta’s future possibilities for better coastal and marine management, then you should not miss this workshop. Participants will also benefit from the opportunity of visiting the beaches of Għajn Tuffieħa and Golden Bay on the NE coast of Malta.

Physical Geography - Island Geomorphology

The geology of the Maltese Islands is relatively young when considered within a geological time frame, with the oldest rock dating back only to the Tertiary period. The Islands are for the most part composed of marine sedimentary rocks. Although the sedimentary platform on which the Maltese Islands are situated was formed during the Triassic, there are no surface outcrops of this age. All exposed rocks were deposited during the Oligocene and Miocene periods dating back to some 30 to 35 million years ago. Consequently, the Maltese Islands, whose land connection to Sicily and Italy was exposed during the Messinian Salinity Crisis and a number of ice ages due to low-standing waters within the Mediterranean Sea, now constitute five major rock layers whose composition is dominated by limestone and clay. Most of these layers can be clearly observed on the SW coast of the island, where most coastal cliffs are found. Just like another landmass, the geological formation of the Maltese Islands have been exposed to both mechanical and chemical weathering that have worked and shaped our landscape via geomorphological agents, mainly freshwater, wind and waves. Consequently, the Maltese landscape boasts a multitude of geomorphological features. These include arches, stacks, caves, karst plateaus, erratics, clay taluses, valley systems whose drainage flows towards the NE coast due to Malta’s natural tilt, sandy beaches, rocky bays and headlands, cliffs, boulder screes, wave cut platforms, small sand dune systems and a number of faults. If you are interested in learning further about the formation of the Maltese Islands along with the benefits and limitations that we experience on a daily basis due to past and ongoing geomorphological processes, then this is the workshop you need to choose. Participants will also get the opportunity to hike across karst plateaus, and visit the island’s largest cave in Siggiewi and walk along Malta’s highest coastal cliffs in Dingli.

Biogeography - Island Endemism and Biodiversity

There are two ways by which islands become inhabited by flora and fauna species once they form. Some islands of volcanic origin are too far from the mainland and they take longer to exhibit life, and this often constitutes mainly avifauna, or else seeds or gravid female species that reach the island by mistake. Conversely, sedimentary islands that are still connected to the mainland via land-bridges, become islands, only once interglacial periods increase the surrounding sea level. Hence these have it easier in forming diverse ecosystems. This is because during Ice Ages, species from the mainland would have already populated the island, and are only cut off once sea level rises. Being connected to both Sicily and Italy via shallow underwater land bridges, the latter method explains the history of our country’s biodiversity. These two methods by which islands gain biodiversity as well as the distance of the island from the mainland also shape the number of endemics that an island hosts. Since our country was once connected to mainland Europe, most indigenous species have not yet had enough time isolated from the mainland to evolve into endemics. However, we do host a number of endemics, the most common of which are the 4 subspecies of Maltese Wall Lizards spread across the Maltese archipelago. Aside from endemism, island species sometimes display Island Gigantism and Island Dwarfism, in order to adapt to the new limited environment in which these species would have found themselves. In fact, the Maltese Islands experienced this phenomenon to a high degree, whereby dwarf hippos, dwarf deer, dwarf elephants and giant swans dwelled within the confines of our country, until they eventually went extinct. Participants choosing this workshop will get the opportunity to visit a cave in southern Malta, which hosts remains of all these extinct species along with evidence of early human settlements. Therefore, if you are interested in learning more about the relationship between island formation, human influence and island biodiversity, this is the workshop for you.

Recr eatio nal Excu rsion s For the recreational excursions, we intend to give our participants a holistic taste of our charming islands through diverse and enjoyable outings designed to target their predominant interests. For those Interested in culture and the anthroposphere, an excursion to the two

most influential and iconic settlements in Maltese history will be held, taking them for a day in Valletta and Mdina. On the other hand, those who feel more at home in nature can embark on either of the two hiking excursions we have planned within the limited but beautiful Maltese countryside. Finally, for participants which simply feel like kicking back and relaxing whilst grabbing a cold beer, we will also have an excursion to one of our captivating beaches for some sunbathing and optional swimming.

Valletta and Mdina

Join us for the cultural excursion to the awe inspiring walled cities of Valletta and Mdina where we will show you the main sights, let you explore the streets, and get a taste of Maltese society and culture. The cities are rife with historical museums, monuments and national pride, as well as souvenir shops and restaurants for those who wish to take something back with them apart from a wonderful experience.

Hard hiking - Baħrija, Blata tal-Melħ The first hiking adventure will take you to the magnificent western coast of Malta, fringed with imposing yet spectacular cliffs and textbook coastal geomorphological structures for those physical geography addicts. This excursion might be a little tougher than the second hiking option, however, it is still very open to everyone.

Easy hiking - Victoria Lines The second hiking option will take you down a route along the historic Victoria Lines, originally designed and constructed to impede the advancement of invaders through the countryside, which today makes for a great hiking trail. The lines literally cut through the country, spanning from the eastern coast at Madliena to the west coast at Fomm ir-Riħ. Although slightly more leisurely, this hike is quite long so bring your water, sunscreen and shades to guard against the Mediterranean sun.

Beaching it The final excursion option will take its participants to one of our captivating pocket beaches, Għadira. You will be free to explore the surrounding natural areas, a nearby nature reserve, swim, sunbathe and enjoy the Mediterranean spring, which is basically summer. On that note, swimming conditions are likely to prevail, however, it will naturally be subject to the concurrent weather conditions.

Orga Team

To ensure that the topic is as complete as possible, part of the Orga team went to Iceland to study Island Life there too :D

EMRC 2019

ISLAND LIFE By: EGEA Malta Dates: 14-19th April 2019 Number of participants: 80 wonderful EGEAns Location: Malta