BREEF Brings Lessons of Conch & Coral to Southern Islands

Monday 16th, December 2013 / 09:08 Published by

The newest members of the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) team recently travelled to Crooked Island and Acklins to share educational programming about Bahamian coral reefs and the Queen Conch with local island high school students.

BREEF’s Research and Environmental Education Coordinator, Falon Cartwright, and Bahamas Environmental Stewards Scholar (BESS) intern, Rebecca Strachan, visited Crooked Island High School and Acklins Central High School on November 21st and 22nd, respectively, to lead two engaging days of educational activities for all 10th, 11th, and 12th grade students.

Both days began with the Virtual Coral Reef Field Trip workshop, an educational resource developed by BREEF at the request of high school teachers, to bring the coral reef ecosystem into classrooms.

The workshop began with a screening of the film “Life on the Bahamian Coral Reef” which highlights important players on reefs, from the coral polyps that build reef structures, to top-level predators such as the ‘endangered’ Nassau grouper.

The film also raises awareness of the many ways Bahamians benefit from healthy coral reefs, the threats reefs face, and simple steps we can all take to help protect them. Students also became marine biologists for the day, surveying a virtual coral reef to identify fish and other unique creatures.

During the second session, the students participated in the ‘My Science! My Conch! (MSMC)’ project and learned what useful information can be ‘hidden in the midden’.  MSMC is a hands-on experience, engaging local communities in collecting scientific data to better understand and make informed decisions about how best to use Queen Conch, so that they are still around for future generations.

After basic training, students conducted supervised surveys of conch middens (conch shell piles) to collect and analyze information on shell length and lip thickness, which helps to determine whether conch would have had a chance to reproduce before being caught.

“My Science! My Conch!” is a national citizen science program developed by BREEF and the non-profit conch research organization Community Conch to support the Bahamas’ National Conchservation Campaign coordinated by the Bahamas National Trust.

Ms. Cartwright reflected on the importance of bringing quality, experiential education programmes to the Family Islands.

“I think it’s great that we were able to bring both of these programs to Crooked Island and Acklins. Sometimes our budgets don’t allow us to travel as far, and it’s really important that students throughout the Bahamas benefit from the same educational opportunities.” With a grant from the MacTaggart Third Foundation, BREEF has been able to reach remote island communities that are eager to benefit from this sort of experiential education activities.

Falon Cartwright was hired in June 2013 as BREEF’s Research and Environmental Education Coordinator, a three-year position funded by the Moore Charitable Foundation. She is very pleased to be able share her passion for the environment with students around The Bahamas thanks to this financial support to BREEF.

Ms. Cartwright received her Master’s degree in Environmental Science at Florida Gulf Coast University in 2012. She was accompanied by Rebecca Strachan, who is currently a Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholars (BESS) intern. The BESS program, which affords recent high school graduates the opportunity to study at The Island School and intern with an environmental organization, is administered by BREEF and the Island School in Eleuthera.

BREEF offers a range of interactive and educational marine conservation programmes intended to support and enhance the learning experiences of our children in schools throughout the country.

To learn more, contact BREEF at 327-9000, or visit www.breef.org/web.BREEF offers a range of interactive and educational marine conservation programmes intended to support and enhance the learning experiences of our children in schools throughout the country.  To learn more, contact BREEF at 327-9000 or visit www.breef.org.

Captions:
Photo 1: Falon Cartwright of BREEF trains Crooked Island students.

Photo 2: Students at Acklins Central High collecting conch data.

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