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…

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.

United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 and its Importance for Coastal Marine Ecosystems

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This week, the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 is taking place in Glasgow, United Kingdom. This conference will bring together world leaders so they can address global climate policy and action, and assess the progress made to address climate change that was promised in previous years. The decisions made at this meeting could have lasting consequences for marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, that are particularly sensitive to climate change.

The primary goals of COP26 are to secure global net-zero carbon emissions by mid-century and to adapt policies to protect communities and natural habitats. Net-zero carbon emissions does not mean no carbon will be released, but that any carbon emitted will be offset by other actions taken to remove it from the atmosphere.

Certain coastal marine ecosystems, such as mangrove forests, seagrass beds, and salt marshes, are particularly good at sequestering carbon by pulling it out of the air and storing it underground. Protecting and restoring these ecosystems (as we do in our Mangrove Education & Restoration Program) can not only conserve the marine environment, it can also help combat climate change. These ecosystems can also help coastal communities naturally adapt to other impacts of climate change by protecting the coast from storms, reducing erosion, and helping the shoreline keep up with sea level rise.

A New Mangrove Conservation Program: Mangrove DEALs

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In 2018, we partnered with Alligator Head Foundation to implement our Jamaica Awareness of Mangroves in Nature (J.A.M.I.N.) program in Port Antonio, Jamaica. Through this program, we have educated teachers and youth about the mangrove ecosystem. Although this initiative has …

Announcing 2021 Science Without Borders® Challenge Semi-finalists – Ages 15-19

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Two days ago, we announced the semi-finalists of the 2021 Science Without Borders® Challenge for students participating in the 11-14 year old category. Today, we are thrilled to announce the semi-finalists in the older group of students 15-19 years of age.

This international student art contest engages students in important marine science and conservation issues through art. The theme of this year’s challenge is “The Magic of Mangroves,” and students were asked to illustrate one or more of the benefits mangroves provide to people, other organisms, or the environment. They did not disappoint.

Once again, our judges were put to the test to make some incredibly difficult decisions evaluating the almost 330 pieces of artwork entered in this category. They came to a consensus to include 34 of these entries as semi-finalists. Like with the younger semi-finalists group, students used a variety of styles, techniques and media to portray the importance of mangroves. Some students created artwork that illustrates mangroves in their local community, while others drew inspiration from far off places. Overall, students in this category ranged from 13 different countries.

We would now like to invite you to meet our 15-19 year old semi-finalists:

Education Partner Teacher Profile: Lianna Burrows

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In honor of International Education Week, the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation has chosen to profile Lianna Burrows at Friends of the Environment (FRIENDS). Lianna works with us on our Bahamas Awareness of Mangroves (B.A.M.) program, which teaches students about mangrove forests while helping them restore this vital ecosystem.

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.

Mangrove Tannin: The Power of Healing

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Throughout human history, compounds found in plants and animals have been used to heal an array of medical conditions. Traditional medicine, sometimes referred to as “bush” or “folk” medicine, was used to treat ailments prior to the emergence of modern medicine. Many of these customs are still being practiced today. The healing properties of mangroves were first discovered by those practicing traditional medicine. Like with modern-day medicine, many of its uses were discovered through trial and error. When a cure worked, the knowledge and information was passed along from generation to generation.

Mangrove Tannin: What is it?

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In January, our second-year J.A.M.I.N. students were tasked with collecting a variety of growth measurements from the mangrove trees that they tagged and identified inside their quadrats. Before we started, I wanted to review the characteristics that are unique to each species of mangroves, a skill they learned previously during the first year of the program. I decided to quiz the students instead. “How can we identify the red mangrove?” I asked. The replies came quickly. “Prop and drop roots.” “Pointy, thick leaves.” “Green bean-like propagules.” All correct. But among the flurry of eager replies, one stood out as several students shouted in unison. “Red tannin!”