Record Details

Carter, Ronald L;Hayes, William K;Voegeli, Vincent;Voegeli, Sandra
Celebrating Biodiversity - 2002 Conservation Education: A Responsibility of Higher Education
The 10th Symposium on the Natural History of the Bahamas
Conference Proceedings
Cyclura rileyi rileyi
Environmental degradation is, unfortunately, widespread in The Bahamas, as expansion and concomitant development continue to threaten sensitive environments. Intensified scientific research and public and decision-maker education area needed at a national level. However, we must also convey a conservation message to those most likely to impact sensitive ecosystems-the local communities. These communities are in the best position to ameliorate problems and safeguard their environments. Without effective local education, well-intended conservation programs can quickly be rendered futile. Believing that the greatest impact will be left with the next generation, we developed an innovative, ands-on experience for the educators and students of San Salvador Island. In April 2002, all children from grades 4-10, and their teachers, participated in one of three, one-day programs titled Celebrating Biodiversity 2002, funded by the Disney Conservation Program and hosted at the Gerace Research Center. Following an introductory multimedia presentation, each of the ca. 150 participants spent a full day engaged in three primary activities that groups rotated through. One involved a boat trip to visit the endangered iguanas on Green Cay and the nearby seabird colonies; the majority of participants had never visited an offshore cay nor seen a live iguana. A second activity provided hands-on learning, about research tools at a mock field camp at the GRC. Participants became acquainted with radiotelemetry, optics, a laser thermometer, data loggers, calipers, and other data-collection methods. The highlight was "burrow-scope" examination of an imitation iguana nest, and subsequent discovery that they had "trampled" a nearby nest. The third activity comprised hands-on discovery of the island's rich biodiversity (invertebrates, plants, seabirds, reptiles), and included a transect survey to estimate land crab burrow density. At the end of each day, we gave participants a t-shirt, a certificate, and a challenge to become better-informed stewards of their unique but fragile ecosystems. We believe that our program serves as a model education program for a nation seeking to develop a stronger conservation ethic, and challenge other visiting researchers to similarly reach out to local communities.