About us

The Tethys Research Institute is a non-profit research organisation supporting marine conservation through science and public awareness, founded in 1986 and headquartered at the Civic Aquarium of Milano, Italy. Tethys’ main goal is the conservation of the marine environment, achieved through the provision of scientific knowledge to conservation policy, the participation in the international conservation process, and public awareness. Over almost three decades of work, Tethys has generated one of the largest datasets on Mediterranean cetaceans (available online), and shared the results of its research in hundreds of scientific publications. In 1991 Tethys was the first to conceive and propose the creation of an iconic protected area, the Pelagos Sanctuary for the Conservation of Mediterranean Marine Mammals, the world’s first to be established beyond national jurisdiction. Since 1987 Tethys has involved, as research volunteers, thousands of people from all over the world in its conservation activities. Funding to Tethys derive from government and EC grants, private donors, and contributions from research volunteers. The work of Tethys is based on the collaboration of approximately 30 associates and assistants.

L’Istituto Tethys ONLUS è una organizzazione senza fini di lucro dedicata alla conservazione dell’ambiente marino attraverso la ricerca scientifica e la sensibilizzazione del pubblico; fondato nel 1986, ha sede presso l’Acquario Civico di Milano. Lo scopo primario di Tethys è la conservazione dell’ambiente marino attraverso il supporto di conoscenza scientifica alle misure e alle normative in materia di tutela delle specie e dell’ambiente, la partecipazione al processo internazionale di conservazione, e la sensibilizzazione del pubblico. In oltre tre decenni di attività, Tethys ha prodotto uno dei più vasti dataset sui cetacei del Mediterraneo (disponibile online), comunicando i risultati delle proprie ricerche attraverso centinaia di pubblicazioni scientifiche. Nel 1991 è stato primo a concepire e proporre la creazione di un’area protetta emblematica, il Santuario Pelagos per la conservazione dei mammiferi marini del Mediterraneo, la prima al mondo istituita oltre le giurisdizioni nazionali. Nell’ambito di un programma di citizen science che oggi è tra i più lunghi al mondo, Tethys ha coinvolto nelle attività in mare, dal 1987, migliaia di persone di ogni nazionalità come collaboratori non-specialisti. Le attività di Tethys sono possibili grazie a finanziamenti governativi e della Comunità Europea, a donazioni private, e al contributo dei volontari di ricerca. Il lavoro dell’istituto si basa su circa 30 collaboratori.

Our mission

The Tethys Research Institute was founded in 1986 by Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara and Egidio Gavazzi.

Since its beginning, Tethys has promoted research and conservation activities on marine mammals, in particular cetaceans (whales and dolphins) and the critically endangered Mediterranean monk seal, although investigations have also extended to devil rays and marine turtles. Research activities have taken place mainly in the Mediterranean Sea, but also in the Black Sea, the North Atlantic, the Caribbean, the Red Sea and Antarctica.

Research methods used include population studies based on distance sampling (from aircraft and surface) and photographic capture-recapture, remote sensing, bioacoustic research, behavioural sampling, remote collection of biopsy samples for genetic and toxicological analyses, the combined use of laser range-finding binoculars and GPS to record the movements of whales, and historical studies.

Based on its Statute, the main goal of Tethys is the conservation of the marine environment, achieved through the provision of scientific knowledge to conservation policy, and the participation in the international conservation process as affiliate or collaborating body with organisations such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), the Barcelona Convention for the Protection of the Mediterranean Sea, the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS), and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the International Whaling Commission (IWC). Accordingly, Tethys first conceived and proposed the creation of an iconic protected area, the Pelagos Sanctuary for the Conservation of Mediterranean Marine Mammals (in 1991), which was also the world’s first marine protected area established beyond national jurisdiction. Another important element of Tethys’ contribution to marine conservation is public awareness, achieved through the institute’s presence on the social media, on popular media and public television, as well as through the involvement, as research volunteers, of thousands of people from all over the world in its conservation activities (cruises and field bases). Started in 1987, Tethys’ involvement of volunteers in its research is amongst the world’s longest standing programmes of citizen science.

Funding to Tethys derive from government grants, private donors, European Commission programmes, and contributions from research volunteers. The work of Tethys is based on the collaboration of approximately 30 associates and assistants.

Fondato da Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara e Egidio Gavazzi, l’Istituto Tethys ha promosso, fin dagli inizi, la ricerca e la conservazione dei mammiferi marini, in particolare cetacei (balene e delfini) e foca monaca, specie gravemente minacciata in Mediterraneo, oltre a mobule e tartarughe marine. Focalizzate principalmente sul Mediterraneo, le ricerche si sono estese occasionalmente anche a mar Nero, Atlantico settentrionale, Caraibi, mar Rosso e Antartide. I risultati delle ricerche vengono regolarmente comunicati in occasione di seminari, conferenze e incontri internazionali, ed hanno prodotto ad oggi oltre 500 pubblicazioni scientifiche. I metodi di ricerca comprendono studi di popolazione con Distance Sampling (sia dalla barca che dall’aereo), cattura-ricattura fotografica, telemetria, bioacustica, campionamento comportamentale, raccolta di biopsie a distanza per analisi genetiche e tossicologiche, l’uso combinato di binocolo con range-finder al laser e GPS per il rilevamento degli spostamenti dei grandi cetacei, e studi storici. Da statuto, l’obiettivo principale di Tethys è la conservazione dell’ambiente marino mediante il supporto di conoscenza scientifica, e la partecipazione al processo internazionale di conservazione come affiliato o ente collaborante con organizzazioni come la Convenzione sulla Diversità Biologica (CBD), la Convenzione sulle Specie Migratorie, la Convenzione di Barcellona per la Protezione del Mediterraneo, l’Accordo sulla Conservazione dei Cetacei nel mar Nero, Mediterraneo e nell’Area Atlantica Contingua (ACCOBAMS), l’Unione per la Conservazione della Natura (IUCN), la Commissione Baleniera Internazionale (IWC). Un altro importante elemento del contributo di Tethys alla conservazione del mare è la divulgazione scientifica presso il grande pubblico attraverso la presenza sui media, sui social, e nelle televisioni, e inoltre il coinvolgimento, in qualità di partecipanti sul campo, di migliaia di persone da tutto il mondo.

Click on the button to the right and read our Statute. The document is in Italian

30 years devoted to research and conservation

On January 31, 2016 the Tethys Research Institute completed 30 years of activities. Many are its achievements in the field of scientific research on large marine vertebrates, particularly cetaceans, but also mobulidae and seals; over 500 publications have seen the light in this period, in collaboration with the most prestigious international institutions.

Research by Tethys has always been aimed to the conservation of the marine environment and its species diversity, particularly in the Mediterranean. Several challenges have been faced by the institute. Simultaneously, Tethys has carried out science, education and public awareness, which are key in the implementation of conservation measures.

The slider below summarizes Tethys’ milestones.

1986 January 31st. Foundation in Milano, with Egidio Gavazzi, AQVA magazine's editor 1987 In Losjini, former Yugoslavia, the Adriatic Dolphin Project takes its start until 1999 1988 Citizen Science programmes boost research campaigns funding in Italian seas and Atlantic Ocean 1990 The long term Mediterranean Fin Whale Project starts in the Ligurian Sea: it will then become Cetacean Sanctuary Research (CSR) 1990 "I adopted a whale" fund-raising campaign in collaboration with Europe Conservation: it enables the purchase of the Gemini Lab research boat 1991 The Pelagos Project is presented to Prince Ranieri III, in Monaco. In 1999 France, Italy and Monaco will sign the agreement that creates the Pelagos Sanctuary 1991 The Ionian Dolphin Project starts in Greece, initially settled in Ithaki, then in Kalamos and finally in Vonitsa 1992 European Cetacean Society congress organized in Sanremo. People from Tethys will cover the role of President in 1993 - 1997 and in 2007 - 2011 1992 First absolute abundance estimation of fin whales and striped dolphins in the Ligurian Sea, aboard the Sirius in collaboration with Greenpeace 1994 Genetics and toxicology studies on fin whales biopses collected since 1990 reveal that Mediterranean population is autocton and at toxicological risk 1994 The project on cetaceans in Sardinia begins - it will continue until 1996 1995 Convention with the City of Milano to establish the main headquarters at the Civic Aquarium 1996 The Squid Loving Odontocetes Project (SLOPE) begins: it will become the Cetacean Sanctuary Reseach project (CSR) 2001 ACCOBAMS partner, Tethys contributes to the Agreement Scientific Committee work, covering the role of Chairperson in 2002 - 2010 and in 2014 - ongoing 2009 Mediterranean cetaceans abundance assessment by aerial surveys with financed by the Italian Environment Ministry and in collaboration with the International Whaling Commission (IWC) 2011 Feasibility study for the Foundation Albert II Prince of Monaco for the protection of the Mediterranean monk seal: it will become the project CYCLADES LIFE+ financed also by the European Commission in 2013 2012 Satellite telemetry studies on Mediterranean fin whales with the support of the Italian Ministry of Environment and in collaboration with the International Whaling Commission (IWC) 2013 It prepares the project Pelagos 2.0 for the re-evaluation of the Pelagos Sanctuary, with the support of Eulabor Institute It provides backing to the IUCN for the establishment of the Important Marine Mammal Areas (IMMAs), with the support of the Eulabor Institute 2015 It participates to the XXX Italian expedition to Antarctic in collaboration with ISPRA 2015 2016 January 31, it turns 30 years

The People

Board of Directors

Simone Panigada

Simone Panigada

President
Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara

Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara

Vice President
Arianna Azzellino

Arianna Azzellino

Scientific coordinator Cetacean Sanctuary Research
Joan Gonzalvo

Joan Gonzalvo

Coordinator Ionian Dolphin Project
Caterina Lanfredi

Caterina Lanfredi

Principal Field Investigator Cetacean Sanctuary Research
Marina Costa

Marina Costa

Member of the Board
Maddalena Jahoda

Maddalena Jahoda

Communication Manager

College of Arbiters

Margherita Zanardelli (President)
Sabina Airoldi
Chiara Piroddi

Honorary Presidents

Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara
Margherita Zanardelli

Honorary Members

Claudio Cavolla
Massimo Demma
Carlo Nastri
Primo Vismara
Riccardo Zucchini

Historical records of Tethys’ board and management

Staff

Margherita Zanardelli

Margherita Zanardelli

Administrator
Adriana Geraci

Adriana Geraci

General & administrative secretary
Elena Politi

Elena Politi

Web Designer
Maddalena Jahoda

Maddalena Jahoda

Communication
Sabina Airoldi

Sabina Airoldi

Cetacean Sanctuary Research Manager
Paolo Pinto

Paolo Pinto

Field researcher & Skipper
Roberto Raineri

Roberto Raineri

Field researcher & Skipper

Field researchers

Nino PierantonioPrincipal Field InvestigatorIonian Dolphin Projectn.pierantonio@gmail.com
Sara Sánchez-Quiñones RosellóField ResearcherIonian Dolphin Project
Giuseppe SciancaleporeField ResearcherIonian Dolphin Project
Marina CostaData Analysis and ConsultantIonian Dolphin Projectmarinza.costa@gmail.com
Dimitrios K. MoutopoulosFisheries advisorIonian Dolphin Project
Chiara PiroddiEcosystems modelerIonian Dolphin Projectpiropiro12@yahoo.it
Myron PapadopoulosField ResearcherIonian Dolphin Project
Martina BottaroPrincipal field investigatorCetacean Sanctuary Research
Gioele PassoniPrincipal field investigatorCetacean Sanctuary Research
Alessia ScuderiPrincipal field investigatorCetacean Sanctuary Research
Morgana VighiPrincipal field investigatorCetacean Sanctuary Research
Viridiana JimenezPrincipal field investigatorCetacean Sanctuary Research
Federico De PascalisField ResearcherCetacean Sanctuary Research
Valentina De SantisField ResearcherCetacean Sanctuary Research
Vittorio FaddaField ResearcherCetacean Sanctuary Research
Julia GostischaField ResearcherCetacean Sanctuary Research
Virginia IorioField ResearcherCetacean Sanctuary Research
Sylvan OehenField ResearcherCetacean Sanctuary Research
Federica SalandraField ResearcherCetacean Sanctuary Research
Giulia SoldanoField ResearcherCetacean Sanctuary Research
Livia TolveField ResearcherCetacean Sanctuary Research
Francesco VenturaField ResearcherCetacean Sanctuary Research
Raul Zabala BelenguerField ResearcherCetacean Sanctuary Research