GCFI Conference

From November 5 – 9 I attended the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute conference in San Andrés, Colombia. I presented both a poster and a talk summarizing our study of how Sargassum is affecting hawksbill nesting ecology in Antigua. There was a full Sargassum session of presentations at the conference, which was a great opportunity to get more exposure to the issue and ongoing/future research. My takeaways: the issue is massive, is not going away, and while some are starting to build capacity to adapt to it – we are way behind in terms of quantifying its ecological impacts. Checkout a GCFI Sargassum press release distributed after the conference HERE.

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Turtle TED Talk

 

Last December Dr. Brendan Godley, from the University of Exeter and its Marine Turtle Research Group, gave a TED Talk on sea turtles. Really interesting to see someone at the top of the field distill down much of what we know about sea turtle ecology for a wide audience. Check it out HERE!

 

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Fulbright Conference in Chile

I am capping my Fulbright Fellowship with a conference in Chile in late August. Fulbright student researchers from across the Western Hemisphere are coming together to reflect on the theme of “sustainable and inclusive development.” This is a far cry from my ‘comfort zone’ in sea turtle research, so I am looking forward to a stimulating conference. My conference paper is titled Feedbacks between science education and (sustainable) economic development: a perspective from Antigua, West Indies. I will discuss it and others during a panel session during the conference.

Stay tuned for a blog post when I get back to NC State this fall – I will wrap-up my Fulbright fellowship and reflect on the 8-month experience.

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Sargassum in the Caribbean: causes, impacts on sea turtles, and management approaches

 

Last month I gave a presentation on the Caribbean Sargassum “invasion.” This is a massive regional issue, and I reviewed the problem and discussed a project assessing its effects on hawksbill nesting. We did our best to film it with a cell phone – and you can check out the resulting video here!

 

Filmed by Alexandra Fireman.

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Sea turtle friendly street lights

Hatchling sea turtles are drawn to light, so manmade artificial lights behind beaches can be a major issue. Hatchlings might head the wrong direction and end up in yards, pools, or even streets. There are a few areas in Antigua where streets run very close to nesting beaches, and the government has started to take measures to help sea turtles at those locations. Installing red street lights reduces impacts on hatchlings, while using LEDs helps to make sure drivers remain safe. 10 years of lobbying the government finally paid off for the Antigua Sea Turtle Project!

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The “New Sargasso Sea”

More on the Sargassum issue! Colleagues in Antigua are saying that 2018 is already, without a doubt, the worst Sargassum year to date. Check out this image that shows how it affects coastal waters when it collects in high densities.

For more on the issue, check out this youtube video highlighting research out of IRD, Aix-Marseille University, the University of the West Indies, and the University of Western Brittany.

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Antigua’s National Cleanup

Unfortunately some of the amazing natural areas in Antigua are plagued by large amounts of garbage. There is an effort ongoing to clean this up – from removing bulk waste at unauthorized dump sites, to coastal and community cleanups happening this weekend. I am excited to participate!

This is another step in a positive direction for a sustainable Antigua & Barbuda. Single use plastic bags have already been banned, and styrofoam is next in line. There is hope that this cleanup effort will not only remove tons of waste from the environment here, but also help to lead to a change in waste management behaviors.

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A heavy Sargassum year to come

My research with the Jumby Bay Hawksbill Project has brought me face to face with the Sargassum issue in the Caribbean. Huge amounts of the seaweed have been clogging coastal waters periodically since 2011. We have highlighted this issue in Abaco Scientist blog posts, and published a natural history note about it in 2015.

2018 is trending to be a major year for the macroalgae. We are seeing significant Sargassum arrivals already – of the scope that typically don’t show up until the summer. We will be watching the issue closely this hawksbill nesting season (starts June 1!). We will also be monitoring the region for potential solutions. Offshore harvesting, beach harvesting for fertilizer, etc., have shown promise but are nowhere near close to grappling with the amounts of Sargassum in the region.

Photo credit: David Stubbs

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Antigua Seminar Series

One of the core components of my program as a Fulbright Fellow in Antigua this year has been to coordinate a Conservation Seminar Series. We have had a seminar per month so far, and will continue into the summer. It has actually exceeded my expectations so far and student attendance has been stellar. March featured Colin Donihue who presented some of his research describing lizard rapid evolution. We have uploaded Dr. Donihue’s talk to YouTube so that anyone can check it out. Watch it HERE! (Phikwe Goodwin [checkout his instagram page] filmed and edited this video!)

Our other seminars were fantastic as well. January featured Kate Levasseur discussing hawksbill conservation genetics, and February brought Sara Ramirez who presented research highlighting synergistic tourism and conservation in St. Kitts. We are now looking forward to Seth Stapleton‘s talk in April, pivoting to a very different topic: polar bear conservation.

 

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NCSU Press

I recently got a nice writeup from the International Programs office of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences at NC State. It highlights my international fieldwork in Antigua, and specifically delves into my Fulbright work.

Check out the article HERE!

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