Operation Wallacea

In 2013, Fundația ADEPT began a long term partnership with operation Wallacea. OpWall carries out a worldwide programme in which schoolchildren and university students gather information about the changes in and threats to globally important areas of biodiversity. Târnava Mare is the chosen European hotspot.

Funded by: Opwall Trust

Project Duration: 2013 open end

Project Objectives

Operation Wallacea (Opwall) is a conservation research organisation that is funded by, and relies on teams of student volunteers who join expeditions for the opportunity to work on real-world research programs alongside academic researchers.

Project Objectives

  • assessing ecosystem diversity and function
  • monitoring ecosystem change 
  • monitoring socio-economic change
  • establishing and monitoring the effectiveness of conservation management programmes
  • developing financial benefits to local communities as a result of protecting the studied areas

Project Updates

Research outputs

The expeditions produce a large number of publications in peer-reviewed journals each year – over 280 so far – almost all of which had data collected by teams of volunteers. It has also led to the discovery of 37 new species that have been formally described. Independent funding enables large temporal and spatial biodiversity and socio-economic datasets to be produced and provide information to help with organising effective conservation management programmes. You can find our published papers in Opwall’s research library.

Managing Body & Contact

Toby Farman

Systems Manager - Opwall UK Office

Tel: 004 (0)721 113 110

Liliana Gherghiceanu

Project Manager - Fundatia ADEPT Transilvania

Tel: 004 (0) 721 113 110

Constituent parts of Operation Wallace - Transylvania Research Expedition

Transylvanian Ecology course

The Transylvanian Ecology course which is run alongside the biodiversity survey teams in one of the study villages, is designed to give volunteers an understanding of the cultural and ecological history of the region, of the overall research and survey objectives, and of the specific surveys and taxonomic groups that the teams will be focusing on. Lectures and discussion groups will be interspersed with practical survey sessions.

Transylvania Biodiversity Survey

This team completes surveys in a different village each week. Volunteers are split into groups and form a key part of the teams collecting data from the extensive woodlands, meadows and grasslands around a series of Saxon settlements across the Tarnava Mare and includes surveys on the following taxa:


Large mammals 

Students position camera traps in key locations in the forests and on the valley survey routes in order to capture sightings of large mammals such as bears, wild boar, beech/stone marten and deer. The team also visit likely vantage points at dawn or dusk to see large mammals, and record any prints or scat encountered. Students have the opportunity to join a local expert for an evening at a view point to see bears and other large mammals in the wild.


The bat team use a combination of static recorders and hand held detectors to determine the bat species present in each village. The hand held detectors are used on two transects near the village and utilize call analysis from static detectors to analyse the species. There is also an opportunity to visit potential roost sites and carry out mist netting.


The plant team is focusing on target species which are good indicators of the different grassland types. Quadrats are completed in low, medium and high nature value grasslands along the different survey routes where the abundance of different key species are noted. This area contains some of the most diverse grasslands in Europe and this project is a chance to work in a rarely seen and spectacular habitat.

Small mammals and herpetofauna

This team set small mammal traps late at night which are checked and emptied each morning. They also complete standard searches around the edge of river and wetland areas for amphibians, and walk the longer survey routes around the valleys either side of the village, recording mammal and herpetofauna sightings and signs.


The butterfly team is covering the same survey sites as the plant team, recording the butterflies encountered and using sweep nets to catch and identify the rarer species. Light trapping is also completed for moths in the evenings.


The bird team complete point count surveys at 500m intervals. In the evening call-back surveys are also completed for corn crake and owls. There is also the opportunity to participate in the bird ringing scheme using mist netting.

Traditional Farming

The traditional farming methods used in this region play a crucial role in the maintenance of high biodiversity. Part of the monitoring effort therefore includes visiting a number of farms in each village and recording the numbers of livestock, dates of grassland cutting, type of arable crops etc. The team is also gathering data on bear attacks on the livestock and have a unique opportunity to experience methods of farming which were lost many years ago in most of the world.

Related Videos

Fundatia ADEPT - Transylvania

Operation Wallacea - Romania Expedition

Operation Wallacea - Transylvania Schools Expeditions 1

Operation Wallacea - Transylvania Schools Expeditions 2

Operation Wallacea - Transylvania Research Assistant

Operation Wallacea Transylvania - European Wild Cat

Our Partners

Biodiversity conservation and community development in Transylvania