So my chapter has ended at the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organization and FRIENDS of the Environment as I left Abaco on Thursday. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to work with BMMRO and to volunteer, however brief, with FRIENDS. The skills that I have gained and honed, the friendships that I have made, and the memories that follow will not be forgotten anytime soon. The adventurers have become who I am now and have helped shaped my mind and soul for my future to coming back home.
Despite leaving an island that I fell in love with, a new chapter began here in Nassau, New Providence the same day I arrived in the big city. For those of you not familiar with The Bahamas, our capital is in the northern center of the country, the main area outside of Freeport, Grand Bahamas that receives the majority of tourists. So when someone says they have been to The Bahamas, it is most likely that they were either in port in Nassau, spent time on Bay Street in Nassau, or stayed at the Atlantis resort on paradise island.
I have yet to stay at Atlantis: it is on my ‘To Do List’ for The Bahamas. Speaking of ‘To Do List,’ I had prepared one for myself before leaving Abaco. I had a plan for myself of things I have to do and appointments to keep. One of them involved a very special group and person.
In March of this year, the Bahamas National Trust held an international conference for all individuals who have done research within The Bahamas. The conference was the 2nd Annual Bahamas Natural History Conference, where I was a presenter representing the university I graduated from, the University of Saint Francis in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The presentation was a combination of two theses on a patch reef in North Andros called Dave’s Patch Reef. My masters thesis involved creating an underwater map using GPS and underwater photography and my colleague’s was a health assessment using bioindicators.
Funny enough, this was the first introduction I had to Dr. Diane and her research with marine mammals. She had a presentation that dealt with the whales that roamed the tongue of the southern portion of the Tongue of the Ocean along the eastern side of Andros island. More particularly those that travel around the AUTEC (a US Naval Range) range. She studied the behavioral changes of the whales in that area when testing had occurred and/or after. For more information please check out the BMMROs website here.
Another individual who had presented that was on my list was Nikita Shiel-Rolle, the founder of Young Marine Explorers, a non-profit environmental organization. Her presentation fascinated me since it dealt with the marine environment, particular patch reefs. Similar to my research, her’s focused on creating a simple system that would be efficient and effective for youth to use when they go into the water to collect data. The purpose was to create a list of the top 5 endangered coral that could be readily identified as indicators that the patch reed is relatively healthy.
Anyways, back to the story. I had met with Alexio at the College of The Bahamas after one of their YME meetings. Unfortunately I had missed Nikita, but he was able to meet with me and give me some information on any current events that they were going to do that I could volunteer or help with. He had asked me if I would be free this Saturday the 20th in the morning for a coastal cleanup down on South Beach starting at 8am till 11am.
‘Meet with YME,’ check.
When Saturday came, I was there ready to begin. You wouldn’t expect a small island to have so much trash, right? I was absolutely astonished and disgusted at how unkempt people can be with the environment. The registration desk had given each group of 10 a data sheet to complete as they picked up trash, garbage bags and plastic gloves. I had honestly lost count. Broken glass, cigar buds, bottle covers, cans, plastics, foam, heels, shoes, etc. Even beds, scrap metal, couches, construction material, wooden planks, bath tubs, refrigerators, tires, and freezers. Everything including the kitchen sink.
How can people just dump these items here? You can see that many of these items had been here for a long period of time. The metal items had rust and were degrading. I was appalled.
And at the same time amazed. There were all ages from elementary school students, college students, teachers, and community volunteers. Everyone was there. I spent most of my time picking up the micro trash, that is, broken glass, cigarette buds, can top tabs, the small stuff that many past up to go for the larger items that catch their eye.
I picked up over 300 pieces (that I could remember) of glass, lots of napkin pieces, beer bottle tops, scrap metal and other items all along on the parking lot and around the border. There was a girl there that I worked with that had never volunteered for something like this. She actually was doing this to complete her volunteer hours to graduate from her nursing program. She hadn’t realized before this how much trash we throw away onto our ground. And along a beach as well!
Eventually, I found my way over to the YME group that was further in the bush surrounding the area. As i worked with them, I looked at the groups that was heading in. My eyes caught a group of elementary school students working in the mini dump that was next to the shore. It was filled with construction supplies such as broken cinder/cement blocks, degrading couches, bed mattresses, a freezer, wooden pallets, just a whole bunch of large objects. They worked together as a team to get the freezer and larger objects to the curb for the garbage truck to haul away.
They were amazing. These young kids are participating in something that can make them now double think what they use, throw away, and how/where they throw it away.
It is making a difference. And that is what YME is about; making a difference in peoples lives through environmental education.
I cannot wait to work more with them.