Ambassador Cindy McCain, US representative to the United Nations agencies in Rome, accompanied by the Honorable Clay Sweeting, Minister of Agriculture, His Excellency Winston Pinnock, Ambassador to the Food and Agriculture Organization, and other U.S. and Bahamian delegates toured sites in The Bahamas on January 30th including an important stop at The Island School! Their goal was to understand how climate change is negatively affecting the islands and consider potential partnerships between the U.S. and The Bahamas that could further assist in climate sustainability efforts.

The Island School tour included the campus farm, and visitors were fortunate to meet Deep Creek Middle School students participating in a week of School Without Walls and learning projects outside of the classroom.

During the tour, Ambassador McCain observed traditional crop-yielding and hydroponic farming methods and explained that when it comes to food insecurity (in terms of the science and technology being used to grow food), The Bahamas is making quicker progress than other countries she has visited. She added that her tour of The Island School and other organizations, like One Eleuthera Foundation, has shown that there are already “amazing projects” underway to help beat food insecurity.

With regard to climate change in The Bahamas, we discussed how climate change is causing warmer waters that can have negative effects on our coral reefs, an area of focus for our research and marine conservation efforts. Coral reefs are known as the “rainforest of the sea” because they support 25% of all marine biodiversity. They also provide essential goods and services that boost the local economy in The Bahamas. However, some coral species, such as staghorn and elkhorn, are endangered because local and global stressors are killing reef populations faster than they can recover and reproduce. Our researchers at The Bahamas Coral Innovation Hub (BCIH) are combining both proven and innovative coral restoration techniques to speed up and improve the reefs’ natural recovery process in South Eleuthera. Visitors toured The Island School Wet Lab and learned about our coral research projects.

Dr. Nick Higgs explains how The Island School research team is testing different substrates in our wet lab to grow coral that will eventually be out-planted on reefs as part of the restoration process.

“The Island School is something that your children in The Bahamas are going to be able to proceed to be adults and has a background in how to not only save your islands but work with your islands and keep the planet safe,” said McCain.

We are proud to have been recognized by Ambassador Cindy McCain for our leadership and work in research and education. We were pleased to also welcome many delegates from The Bahamas who have not yet had an opportunity to visit South Eleuthera and The Island School. It was a pleasure to share our campus with them and to think about opportunities to partner nationally and internationally to support education, research and innovation throughout the region.