THE first ever Bahamas National Natural History Conference began yesterday - and will continue until Friday at the College of the Bahamas.
The conference, announced by deputy director of the Bahamas National Trust Lynn Gape and COB president Betsy Boze, is a collaboration between the college and the BNT.
The mission of the conference is to create a forum for natural scientists to share their work with each other and the public, and to build relationships that encourage interdisciplinary research and conservation in the Bahamas.
It is hoped that the event will also inspire new avenues of research and co-operation across disciplines.
“The Bahamas National Trust has been so pleased to work with the College of the Bahamas and we have been overwhelmed with the response from the scientific community, scientists from overseas and scientists from here in the Bahamas,” said Lynn Gape.
Dr Boze feels the conference will provide a great opportunity for co-operation amongst various parties.
“This is a great event and it’s an opportunity to bring together scientists to talk about their work in the Bahamas to ensure a sustainable Bahamas and to make sure that we have a way for these people to co-operate, from our government agencies, our non-government organisations, our faculty and students, and our scientists both here and abroad,” she said.
Executive director of the Trust, Eric Carey, hailed the importance of this collaboration with the country’s premier tertiary institution.
“This is a joint operation between the Trust and the College of the Bahamas and will highlight the importance of research of the environment to the economy and human society of the Bahamas.
The conference has been designed to deliver to a Bahamian audience the results of research that is taking place throughout our country,” he said.
Originally, the event was expected to be no more than a day and a half but has grown to a full-fledged four-day conference with concurrent sessions due to the enthusiastic response from the scientific community.
A series of oral presentations, plenary talks and roundtable discussions will cover over 100 abstracts from local and international scientists.
“We know this is something that we can pursue and it should help us advance the green sciences in this country – ecology, botany, marine sciences and every other science we can think of, to assist us in managing our resources and environment as we go forward,” said Neil McKinney, president of the BNT.
The conference is expected to attract high school and college students, college faculty and colleagues from the public service, especially environmental agencies such as the Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS), the Department of Marine Resources, and the Bahamas Environment, Science and Technology (BEST) Commission.
Presentation themes will include: invasive species (both marine and terrestrial); environmental stewardship; ethnobiology; conservation of reptiles and sharks; sustainable fisheries and protected area management; ecology, conservation and movement patterns of the economically important bonefish; conservation of endangered birds and mammals and coral reef ecology among other subjects, and will also include seven conservations focused films.
Science officer for BNT, Lindy Knowles, is looking forward to sharing his research on the management of the Bonefish National Park with colleagues and the international science and research community.
“The conference offers an opportunity for me and my colleagues to present with much more seasoned members of the industry. We hope to present various topics that look at policy-making, research in the Bahamas, as well as management of protected areas which is a core mandate of the Bahamas National Trust.”
Several other BNT officers will be sharing their research on sensitive habitats and species. Local scientists will also bring their work to the table. Todd Kemp, a senior collector at Atlantis Water Features, will discuss giant manta ray conservation, highlighting the collaborative research he has done with facilities all over the world.
Bahamian Marine Biologist Nikita Shiel-Rolle who is the founder and director of the Young Marine Explorers organisation, is excited that the conference will help to engage persons in real scientific projects that can advance conservation at a grassroots level.
“It’s really important for us, in order to advance conservation within the Bahamas, to have Bahamians involved and engaged in the sciences,” said Shiel-Rolle.
The BNNHC promises to engage scientists involved in research in the country and will promote collaboration in future research and conservation endeavours.
The conference, which is free, kicks off at 9am on Tuesday March 5 and runs until Friday March 8 at the Harry Moore Library on the COB campus.