Connecting Students to Nature

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The sun is blazing intensely in a cloudless sky, and the lack of a breeze makes the sulfur, rotten egg-like smell even more intense. It feels like 95°F (35°C) and I am sweating profusely as I trudge through the mangroves, one of my favorite marine ecosystems. It feels like home to me.

After two and a half years of putting the J.A.M.I.N. program on hold, I am quickly reminded how much I missed not only teaching and interacting with students face-to-face, but also being in the mangroves. The same feelings happen to me every time I venture into this amazing ecosystem: feelings of curiosity, awe, and respect, mixed with a sense of calm tranquility. And it is these same kinds of feelings we hope to foster in our students while they participate in our program…

Time Out for Turtles – Part 2

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I meet my colleagues at Alligator Head Foundation (AHF) at 7am to gather materials that will help us to monitor sea turtle nests. Despite the early morning hour, there is a contagious enthusiasm in all who are going to search for sea turtle nests. We pile into two vehicles and drive to the beach.

We drive down a gravel road getting the first glimpse of the Jamaican turquoise blue water glimmering in the sunlight. Gathering our supplies, we walk across a wooden plank straddling a small ravine that leads to a small sandy beach in a quiet little cove, which is a perfect location for sea turtles to lay their eggs.

Francine Cousins, a conservation officer at Alligator Head Foundation looks for turtle tracks that could lead us to a nest. The weekend’s tides have washed away the evidence, so she grabs a thin rounded stick and looks for disturbed areas of sand. When she finds one, she gently begins poking her stick through the sand, feeling for areas where the sand easily gives way. She methodically and repeatedly pokes the sand until she strikes gold. She finds an area where the stick easily slides through the sand. Alligator Head Foundation’s employees, Floyd and Kymani anxiously, but carefully, begin removing the sand until a tiny round white egg, the size of a golf ball, appears…

Welcome, Saskia! KSLOF welcomes a master’s student to study our Mangrove Education & Restoration Program

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Six months ago, I was certain that I would be travelling to Indonesia to research mangrove crabs for my master’s thesis. The project was funded, and I was prepared to leave for Indonesia when suddenly, I received information that local fishermen could not catch enough crabs for me to conduct research. At such a late date, this was incredibly stressful news!

Around this time, I began to wonder if I could picture myself in the biological sciences or if I should make a step towards the field of social science. During my travels around the world, I was always interested (and often shocked) to observe the interaction between humans and nature. A few years ago, I travelled to southeast Asia to study whale shark populations. While studying these majestic creatures, I noticed the interactions occurring between tourists and the whale sharks. I had moments where I was frustrated, angry, and emotional, seeing whale sharks startle tourists who would fearfully kick and hit the whale sharks. Not only did I get angry at the tourists but at the local people working in this industry; however, after getting to know the locals and seeing their dismal economic situation, I began to think differently. I wanted to understand local people and their problems. I realized that in order to make a difference, you need to incorporate social sciences into environmental science, so that both can find a way to live in harmony.

We be J.A.M.I.N. Again!

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I see the twinkle of anticipation in my colleagues’ eyes as they hold up their phones waiting to record me filling my lungs to say, “Gooooood moooorning, Port Antonio High School!” My colleagues at Alligator Head Foundation beam and I grin back at them and wink. We have all waited two and a half years for this moment. This long-awaited welcome officially marks the start of the Jamaica Awareness of Mangroves in Nature (J.A.M.I.N.) and it feels good to be J.A.M.I.N. again.

The last time I was in Jamaica implementing J.A.M.I.N. was in early February 2020, before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. When the pandemic hit, none of us imagined that it would be years until we could implement the program again. It crushed me when we had to cancel the remainder of the 2020-21 academic year and then again, the following year. Now, we renew program again with more enthusiasm than ever.

Our partners at the Alligator Head Foundation and the University of the West Indies Discovery Bay Marine Lab are by my side aiding me in implementing the program. I couldn’t be more overjoyed to be working with them again. We fell right back into routine with each other as if no time had passed at all.

Happy Graduation J.A.M.I.N. Students!

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I am happy to announce that we are graduating our first group of J.A.M.I.N. students in Port Antonio, Jamaica! It’s hard to believe that it has been three years since I first starting planning the program with our partners at Alligator Head Foundation (AHF). As the saying goes, “Time flies when you’re having fun!” These past two years have given me countless wonderful memories while working with my partners at AHF. Sometimes it feels like they have been with us since the program’s inception. It is incredible what two like-minded organizations can accomplish when they work together. Thank you to all of the staff at Alligator Head Foundation for your tremendous work ethic and determination throughout the program. Special thanks to Denise Henry, who led the program for AHF. I couldn’t have done it without you. The Living Oceans Foundation looks forward to partnering with AHF in the years to come.

J.A.M.I.N. Students’ Discovery a First for Port Antonio

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Despite an earthquake, our resilient J.A.M.I.N. students from Port Antonio and Titchfield High Schools were back in their classrooms and ready to investigate the presence of mangrove disease earlier this year. Our students were the first to research the occurrence of mangrove disease in Port Antonio, Jamaica. They were ready and eager to begin.

J.A.M.I.N. Students First to Investigate for Mangrove Disease in Port Antonio

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Giggles, chatter, and the sound of squeaking rubber boots echoed through the mangrove forest surrounding Alligator Head Foundation, where second year J.A.M.I.N. students from Port Antonio and Titchfield High Schools trudged through the thick mangrove mud to reach their square quadrats. Inside the quadrats, they used scientific equipment to collect data for a variety of environmental parameters such as salinity, dissolved oxygen, and mangrove tree height. They also gathered red mangrove leaves that contain necrotic (dead) tissue. The students later conducted an investigation to see if these leaves contained the presence of a disease-causing fungus.

Titchfield High School – A Window into History

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The last time I was at Titchfield High School in Port Antonio, Jamaica, I took a moment to look out the window at the old cannons that line the walls separating the school from the clear turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean. I was there with my colleagues from Alligator Head Foundation to implement the J.A.M.I.N. program. It’s hard not to let my imagination run wild, wondering what happened on this spot centuries ago when, long before it became a high school, it was a well-armed British defensive structure called Fort George. And so, the story begins…