IMG_7967In March, Florida State University Master’s students Brendan Talwar and Mackellar Violich, and Flats Ecology and Conservation intern Georgie Burruss traveled to Great Exuma to present at the Bahamas Conservation Symposium. The Symposium was organized by the Exuma Foundation, the Elizabeth Harbour Conservation Partnership, the Bahamas Marine EcoCentre, and the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and hosted by the Exuma Foundation. The idea for the Symposium arose as a way to share scientific knowledge on the years that the Bahamas National Trust Conference does not meet. The Symposium was open to a general audience, drawing in community members of the Exuma Cays as well as local scientists.Catherine Booker (Exuma Foundation/Community Conch) introduces Brendan Talwar (FSU/CEI) to an eighth grade science class at LN Coakley Secondary High School

Brendan Talwar gave a talk on deep-sea sharks, followed by Georgie Burruss’s talk on the Bahamas Initiative bonefish tagging program and their recent bonefish tagging trip to the Exuma Cays, and Mackellar Violich presented on deep-sea diversity, the Medusa project, and deep sea traps.

Through the coordinating effort of Catherine Booker (Exuma Foundation/Community Conch), Brendan and Georgie went on to present at LN Coakley Secondary High School in Moss Town, Great Exuma as part of their Science Week. Head of the LN Coakley Science Department, Mrs. Keniqua Burrows, as well as science teachers Mrs. Musgrove, Mrs. Adderly, and Mrs. Deleveaux, organized a “Science Makes Cents” week for their students to inspire young scientists. Brendan presented to forty 8th graders on deep-sea sharks and isopods. Georgie spoke to forty 10th graders about the bonefish industry and the Bahamas Initiative in the Exuma Cays. They were joined by Nikita Shiel-Rolle, founder of Young Marine Explorers, who spoke to fifty 11th and 12th graders about YME and young Bahamians in scientific fields. The students were very engaged, asking many thoughtful questions about the presentations. The presenters also encouraged the students to pursue programs such as the Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholarship and the Young Marine Explorers After School Program.

The Symposium continued with presentations from Dr. Ethan Freid (BNT) on Endemic Plants of the Exumas and the Bahamas, Nikita Shiel-Rolle (YME) on Building Capacity through Conservation, and Kathleen Sullivan-Sealey (University of Miami) on Islands, Nutrients, and Tourism in Changing Climates: Great Exuma. The Symposium continued with presentations from Erick Mueller (Bahamas Marine EcoCentre) on the waters of Exuma, Catherine Booker (Community Conch) on queen conch conservation, William Hayes (Loma Linda University) on the conservation of the Sandy Cay rock iguana, and Sandy Buckner (BNT) on the iguanas smuggled from Sandy Cay.

Many thanks to the Exuma Foundation for being gracious hosts and to all those that presented at and attended the Bahamas Conservation Symposium: Exuma 2015.