Saturday, March 23, 2013

FOR THE LOVE OF THE BAHAMAS: The First National Natural History Conference

THE COLLEGE OF THE BAHAMAS. The first National Natural History Conference of the Bahamas took place on the beautiful campus of the College of the Bahamas, located in Nassau, New Providence. (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
Hallelujah for the Commonwealth of the Bahamas! Hallelujah for a chain of islands rich with flora and fauna spread out for 180,000 square miles in a jeweled aquamarine sea! In 2013, as the Bahamas is celebrates its 40th year of independence, the Bahamas National Trust hosted the first National Natural History Conference of the Bahamas!
WELCOME TO THE CONFERENCE. In true Bahamian manner, a beautiful banner greeted natural history conference participants at registration on Tuesday morning, March 5(photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
The mission of this first natural history conference? First and foremost, it took place to highlight the importance of research, conservation and environmental stewardship in the Bahamas. And I was delighted to be a part of this gathering of knowledgeable people to learn from them and share what I know about the way CREATIVITY (see my blog) plays a powerful role in connecting all of us to our natural environments!

Below, I happily share with you only a few glimpses (Yes, I include a snippet about my participation!) I captured of this historical event in Nassau, New Providence, while I was there between March 5 and 8, 2013.   Just think, the Bahamas National Trust made this event FREE to anyone! And ANYONE could attend! ANYONE!
THE RIGHT APPROACH TO THE ENVIRONMENT. Prime Minister Perry Gladstone Christie elevated the importance of this natural history conference by speaking at the opening ceremony. He stated that the children of his country must understand the significance of the environment. (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
THE NATIONAL LIBRARY OF THE BAHAMAS. The Harry C. Moore Library on the campus of the College of the Bahamas was the site of many of the sessions of the natural history conference(photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
CONNECTING WITH THE NEXT GENERATION. Hosting the natural history conference on the College of the Bahamas campus, the Bahamas Natural Trust strongly encouraged student attendance for the talks and poster sessions(photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)

QUEEN CONCH, STROMBUS GIGAS. College students had the opportunity to familiarize themselves with a creature that is commonly consumed for a snack or meal in the Bahamas. The queen conch population is declining and may disappear altogether if legal harvesting laws are not followed. (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
THE ENDANGERED ALLEN CAYS IGUANA. Dr. John Iverson, of Earlham College, gave an incredible talk on Allen Cay Iguanas based on 30 years of researching them in the Exumas. He told us about this iguanas diet, its longevity, the  natural causes of death, and the impact that mice, barn owls, and tourism has had on their populations. A note of warning to tourists: Be careful about feeding iguanas if you have red nail polish! Iguanas will bite your toes(photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
ENGAGING CHILDREN WITH THEIR ENVIRONMENT THROUGH CREATIVITY! Dear Pilgrims, along with Sandy Voegeli, I spoke at this conference in the name of CREATIVITY! Here is the abstract of our talk:
Let’s inspire children to be caretakers of their environments by celebrating the living jewels of the land, sky, and sea! Songs, stories, and art are three viable ways of inviting children into lively discussions about their role in conservation, while also educating them about Bahamian plants, animals, and environments. We will introduce and demonstrate activities developed from a newly published Bahamian animal-conservation story, The Misadventures of Maria the Hutia, which can be used in elementary or secondary school classrooms or at home to teach Bahamian children about these topics. Among the activities we propose using are a song, Living Jewels of the Land, Sky, and Sea, which has a clear conservation message about many animals native to the Bahamas. This song was later expanded into the book, The Misadventures of Maria the Hutia, which focuses on the main character from the song, Maria, who is a Bahamian hutia (Geocapromys ingrahmi). Artwork developed for the book engages children in learning more about the life and habitats of marine and terrestrial environments of the Bahamas, including a map of the Bahamas that shows Maria’s journey. Some of the black-and-white illustrations of Bahamian animals from the book were used for coloring activities at the 2012 Sea Camp on San Salvador, and we plan to provide more of these illustrations in a supplementary coloring/activities book. A combination of song, story, and art can thus help lead Bahamian children to be in awe of their environment and build the foundation for their stewardship.
(Since my Chiboogamoo, aka Tony Martin, was not there to document my participation, sadly there is photo of Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)

RESTORING ECOSYSTEMS ON ALLEN CAY. Deputy Park Warden Cameron Saunders presented his work for Bahamas National Trust  evicting mice from Allen Cay. The presence of this invasive rodent has been attracting a larger and mightier predator to Allen Cay--the barn owl! And the owl's presence has been devastating to populations of the shearwater, an endangered bird. It was wonderful to hear Mr. Saunders' first hand experience. Sitting behind me in the auditorium were about 40 junior high school students who benefitted from hearing a fellow Bahamian speak about conservation. (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
HALIMEDA--ENGINEERS OF THE ECOSYSTEM. What is halimeda? Good question! Deborah Freile, professor at New Jersey City University, talked about  the significant role this macroscopic calcareous algae plays in creating sediments in the Bahamas. What would happen to the environment if this important algae were unable to photosynthesize and in its life cycle be unable to produce sand? This organism is way under appreciated! (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)

WELCOME RECEPTION. Conference participants celebrated the first day of the conference at the Bahamas National Trust and in addition to wonderful food and drinks were entertained by a Junkanoo band. (photo by Hallelujah Truth, aka Ruth Schowalter)
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: I acknowledge Eric Carey, Executive Director  of the Bahamas National Trust, for bringing this First National Natural History Conference of the Bahamas to fruition. Congratulations for a wonderful event, allowing for a wide sharing of information and important connections to be made. I am excited for the future of environmental stewardship in the Bahamas. I also want to recognize the enthusiastic educators I met who are affiliated with various organizations: Bahamas National Trust, Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF), and Ardastra, the Zoo, Gardens, and Conservation Centre. Thank everyone for delving into the pages of The Misadventures of Maria the Hutia, written by Ron Shaklee and illustrated by me, Ruth Schowalter. It is my greatest wish that this young hutia's journey will serve as a fun educational tool nurturing young environmentalists to care for their beautiful land, sea, and skies of the Bahamas.
FELLOW TRAVELERS AT THE FIRST NATIONAL NATURAL HISTORY CONFERENCE OF THE BAHAMAS. Hallelujah for sharing this amazing life journey with such wonderful friends who are so wise and capable! I continue to admire Sandy Voegeli for her love and dedication to the environment and her strong sense of efficacy--our conservation efforts make a difference (she is sitting directly behind me). I am so thankful for having the opportunity at this conference to get to know professors Deborah Freile (to my right)) and Melanie DeVore  (top left)better and to learn about their teaching and work in the Bahamas.  (And in case you didn't know, I'm the woman in the green dress  and am the Hallelujah Truth of the blog, aka Ruth Schowalter)(photo by Conference Participant)

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading this blog, Ruth, and learning about these island animals–nice that the president of the Bahamas kicked off the conference.