Thursday, October 1, 2020

Friends of the Environment September E-News

Preserving the environment of Abaco, The Bahamas through education, conservation and research facilitation. Established in 1988.

Dear readers,

As the rubble is removed, we are looking at the empty foundation of our former Education Centre not as a sad thing but as an opportunity to expand our horizons and reach for a new level of environmental awareness in Abaco while staying true to our mission, including education, conservation, and research in every step of our growth. 

We know you love Abaco because you have put down roots, shared the island with friends and family, or even become a repeat visitor. Our wish is to share that passion for our beautiful island and build pride and environmental stewardship for all that we hope to preserve for future generations. Will you join us?

Imagine driving through Marsh Harbour, taking a turn down the tree lined dirt road to FRIENDS' Campus and arriving at a destination that is more than brick and mortar. A destination that is about all of us: the people who have a connection with Abaco. This is a space for inspiring young environmental ambassadors, sharing knowledge of the wonders of Abaco, and learning the importance of our coral reefs, mangroves, pine forests and so much more. 

Imagine FRIENDS' Learning Centre as a destination for discovery, learning, and exploration, with outdoor spaces to provide an oasis in the middle of town. Join us on this journey and help us turn imagination into reality.

We are excited to announce that we have just signed a contract with Homebound, a newly formed Bahamian company with roots in California, to facilitate the pre-construction phase of our project. Homebound's record and meticulous processes assure us that we will end up with a quality plan and a good foundation to move forward with construction. They are aiding in our recovery by donating their services and ultimately allowing FRIENDS staff the time to stay engaged with students, research and conservation projects. 

We are incredibly grateful to all of you who continue to support FRIENDS' efforts and we look forward to sharing this exciting time with you! Imagine the day when you are able to visit our campus again and I can give you a tour of our new Learning Centre that will be an incredible addition to the growth of FRIENDS and the Abaco community.

Cha Boyce
Executive Director 

Environmental Education Online:
Adapting to Virtual Needs
We are currently approaching the re-opening date for schools in The Bahamas. Due to COVID restrictions, schools are set to re-open virtually on October 5th. Hopefully, hybrid models will begin near the end of the year or at the beginning of next. 
FRIENDS' education model has always been to support classroom education with hands-on experiences and field trips to help build connections to our environment. This is a bit of a challenge with virtual education! Our Education Team is not daunted, however! They have been researching ways to develop virtual field trips for our local ecosystems so that Abaco's students don't miss out. Virtual field trips will take students to some of our favourite ecosystems and field trip sites, including Snake Cay, part of the East Abaco Creeks National Park. Snake Cay is our first "test site" for a virtual field trip and is an ideal spot for educating about mangroves as we will be able to demonstrate what a mangrove ecosystem looks like and easily highlight the four species of mangrove found in The Bahamas.

Our Outreach Coordinator and Education Officer snapped some photos and videos of mangroves in Abaco to share with students in the virtual classroom. Enabling teachers to download this material will allow us to share even if we have internet/connection issues during a virtual class visit.

We've also digitized programs that we'd like to introduce in schools as soon as possible, such as our WASH & DRY (Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Disaster Recovery) program
Our hope is that by providing virtual programming and content that overlaps with The Bahamian curriculum we can help teachers navigate these challenging times.

Changing Seas Event on PBS  
"Hurricane Dorian: Impacts Below the Surface"

FRIENDS was invited along with the Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation and the Perry Institute for Marine Science  to participate in their "Changing Seas" virtual event on September 30th. This event focused on how Hurricane Dorian impacted our marine environment. FRIENDS presented on marine debris. We were honored to be invited to speak and raise awareness on the environmental challenges that have arisen post-Hurricane Dorian.

Watch the recorded version here: 

Hurricane Dorian: Impacts Below the Surface | Changing Seas
Hurricane Dorian: Impacts Below the Surface | Changing Seas

Solar replacement progress at FRIENDS

FRIENDS recently received a grant from the United Nations Development Program Global Environment Facility Small Grants Program (UNDP GEF SGP) to assist FRIENDS with hurricane recovery and resiliency.  Specifically, we are setting out to replace the solar panels and inverters that were damaged by Hurricane Dorian, while working to incorporate ways to build capacity in the community in the renewable energy sector. Working alongside our contractors, Engineered Electric Services, we will be offering two month paid apprentice positions for two young Abaconians who are interested in investigating solar as a future career. Learn more and apply here.

An integral part of the support from this grant is helping to share what we have learned through this experience, so that you can also benefit. So please stay tuned! We are excited to move forward with this project as part of our rebuild and new goals for community education.
Environmental Highlight: Moving forward with Marine Debris Assessments

While some of the most pressing navigational hazards have been addressed, there is still a large amount of debris in Abaco's waters. Moving forward, prioritization of debris removal will be essential in addressing this problem and making most efficient use of available resources. To further our efforts in debris data collection and partner coordination, FRIENDS has teamed up with Juliette Deal of UNDP to assist in conducting marine debris rapid assessments. Juliette has been instrumental in coordinating hurricane debris management in Abaco over the last year and her expertise is invaluable. Our Education Officer, Lyndeisha Curry, has participated in assessments for  Elbow Cay, Tilloo Cay, Lubbers Quarters, Marsh Harbour harbour and Green Turtle Cay, with plans to go as far north as Grand Cay in the coming weeks.
You can help! Do you know of any locations around Abaco that have a large amount of marine debris? Let us know here

Sunken boats are a common item found during these assessments. Pictured is one sunken in a mangrove ecosystem. Photo credit: Juliette Deal
National News: Oil Drilling on the Horizon?
The Bahamas Petroleum Company has been granted five licenses for exploratory oil drilling within The Bahamas' exclusive economic zone. Drilling was expected to commence earlier this year, but was delayed due to COVID-19. If the company does not drill by the end of 2020 their licenses will expire. The prospect of drilling in Bahamian waters is extremely concerning with implications for the entire region. Fishermen are one of the groups speaking out about potential impacts to their industry and way of life (not to mention our food source!). We encourage everyone to learn more about what is proposed, the dangers of oil drilling in The Bahamas, and how you can use your voice to help protect The Bahamas from oil drilling. 

BPC license map

Friends of the Environment, PO Box AB 20755, Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas