Increasing Grenadines Biodiversity Education and Conservation Capacity
Increasing Grenadines Biodiversity Education and Conservation Capacity
The Wildlife Reserves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines are prime examples of “paper parks.” Despite being the last refuge for a variety of wildlife, there is a paucity of research, conservation, or law enforcement presence on these and other uninhabited islands. Some of these islands had their first comprehensive seabird survey in 2009 as part of EPIC’s Seabird Breeding Atlas of the Lesser Antilles. While much remains to be discovered about the biodiversity of these sites, the Atlas surveys identified two Grenadine islands that classify as global Important Bird Areas for seabirds, meaning they represent more than 1% of the global population of one or more species, while five other islands are regionally important.

A lack of local resources as well as the remoteness of some islands has been a challenge in properly managing these sites and given them the attention they need. They are primarily visited by local fishermen who make use of the islands during fishing trips, whether to prepare a meal, wait out a storm, or collect seabird eggs and chicks.

Many islands no longer have any breeding seabirds left, likely due to anthropogenic forces, such as introduced predators or harvesting by people. In addition, fires periodically cover some islands, whether by accident or to keep brush down and facilitate seabird harvest. A recent socioeconomic survey of fishermen and other stakeholders indicates that while consumption of seabirds or eggs is practiced by approximately half the respondents, the practice also holds little to no economic value for the majority of resource users.

The biological richness of many sites has never been assessed. For example, the herpetofauna of many islands has not been catalogued. However, the discovery of a new species of Gecko on inhabited Union Island illustrates the potential for additional new species in these remote sites, some of which likely remain free from introduced predators.

Threats to the islands have also not been assessed. The impact of seabird harvesting and introduced predators in particular merits attention as seabird populations continue to decline. A recent stakeholder survey showed that over half of respondents consume seabird eggs while nearly half eat seabirds. Non-native wildlife, such as rats, can impact plant ecology as well by consuming seeds and modifying habitat.

A key component in protection of these habitats is developing advocates who value biodiversity. The current school curriculum lacks a biodiversity component or introductions to native flora and fauna. In addition, there is limited media to promote the protection of biodiversity among schools or the general public.

Goal
The goal of this project is to develop knowledge and stewardship of the biodiversity of the Grenadines among the public, government officials, and potential funding agencies.

Objectives
1. Assess the biological richness of at least four Wildlife Reserves in the Grenadines through surveys.
2. Cultivate advocates for the protection of Grenadine biodiversity.
3. Increase capacity for enforcement of wildlife protection legislation.

A. To address Objective 1 we will complete the following activities:

1. Bring together leading researchers to conduct biological inventories of herpetofauna, introduced predators, and plants on at least four islands which are designated by government as Wildlife Reserves: Petit Canouan, Battowia, Isle de Quatre, and Petit St. Vincent. Surveys will take place over a three-week period outside of peak seabird breeding periods in order to reduce disturbance. The team will use a chartered sailboat as a mobile research station, thus avoiding logistical issues with ferries, hotels, and hiring water taxis to transport researchers and gear to remote islands. Two to three days will be spent on each island. All necessary permits will be secured prior to beginning research. Non-invasive methods, such as live traps, will be used. If a new species is suspected, a specimen will be collected for genetic and morphometric analysis.
2. Seabird monitoring will be conducted by individuals trained during a seabird workshop (A.4) as part of this proposal. They will conduct two surveys per year, during summer and winter breeding seasons, over the long-term to determine baseline seabird breeding population for five islands and provide crucial data on population trends. Each surveyor will receive a daily stipend for each survey completed and transportation costs for reaching the island will be reimbursed. Data will be compiled by EPIC and included in the public database at OBIS/SEAMAP http://seamap.env.duke.edu/dataset/418 as well as in eBird Caribbean and provided to West Indian Seabird GIS.
3. All data will be compiled in a central database. Data ownership will be shared among EPIC, SCIENCE, the Forestry Department, and each lead researcher, who will retain the right to publish findings.
4. Conduct a two-day workshop on seabird identification and monitoring techniques in order to increase the capacity of SCIENCE staff and volunteers, and residents to assess declining seabird populations and threats. Training materials and methods have been provided by BirdsCaribbean, which held the very successful West Indies seabird training. Training will take place when migrant breeders are present in June. The training will include classroom and field components as well as resources such as field guides and binoculars. After the classroom and workshop sessions, break-out groups will develop a monitoring protocol and methodology for the island they will be surveying. Trainees will make a commitment to fulfil the protocol and train others to assist them. .

B. To address Objective 2 we will complete the following activities:

School program:
1. Develop at least four lesson plans on biodiversity and native flora and fauna to be integrated into existing science curriculum in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. This will include classroom activities and interactive learning experiences in addition to field trips.
2. Conduct a minimum of five teacher training workshops, three on Grenadine islands and two on mainland St. Vincent, reaching a maximum of 100 teachers. Provide classroom and field experience as well as materials. SCIENCE Staff, board members and supporting personnel will also be exposed to this training.
3. Provide start-up funds for teachers to facilitate field trips, providing students with first-hand experience in identifying and understanding the role of native flora and fauna in the environment. Funds will allow 600 students in 5th and 6th grades to go on initial field trips. Teachers will report back on number of students who participated in field trips and provide a written description of the event.
4. Survey teachers directly after training workshop and three months post-workshop to assess effectiveness of training.

Media and outreach campaign:
1. Create at least four Public Service Announcements, highlighting particular native flora and fauna, to be aired on radio stations.
2. Convene a televised panel discussion (regarding the value of Grenadines’ biodiversity) comprised of government and NGO representatives and relevant stakeholders.
3. Complete an educational video, approximately ten minutes long, which showcases the biodiversity of the Grenadines and its value to society. This can be played for schools, on television, at community meetings, and for government officials as part of larger efforts to advocate for biodiversity protection.
4. Produce at least five press releases related to the biodiversity of the Grenadines and 20 social media posts.
5. Report back to the community on survey findings through media and, where feasible, community meetings.
6. Disseminate results of research through local and international media as well as peer-reviewed publications and conferences. Findings will be used to advocate for biodiversity protection in the media and through government. Research results which demonstrate the conservation value of these sites can also be used to promote future funding from foundations and government.
7. Outreach will use charismatic seabirds as a focal point or mascots, with particular focus on seabird harvest. We will connect personal behaviour, such as eating seabird eggs, to the resulting decline in seabird populations.
8. Outreach will be used to open opportunities for Grenadines’ persons to join the awareness and conservation effort by, for example, assisting the efforts of SCIENCE and helping with outreach and/or research.

C. To address Objective 3 we will complete the following activities:
1. Contact fishermen and other stakeholders who have previously expressed interest in helping to conserve seabirds and other wildlife while also recruiting additional persons. Develop volunteer patrols of islands in order to validate and recognize local concern for Grenadine habitat and seabird protection while assisting government with enforcement capability.
2. Complete a Volunteer Warden Manual, in consultation with stakeholders and government, to be used during trainings and as a reference for wardens.
3. Conduct training workshops for Volunteer Wardens including classroom presentations and a field trip as part of the seabird training workshop (A.4). Wardens would not have enforcement capability but would serve as ambassadors for wildlife and reserves while recording observations and reporting illicit activities to the appropriate authorities. Wardens will take part in a pledge ceremony and be provided with outreach and presentation materials to assist with promoting biodiversity conservation. Each volunteer vessel is provided with a flag which identifies it as part of the patrol.
4. Provide stipend for volunteer wardens to help cover fuel costs in getting to Wildlife Reserves. Each warden will submit a reimbursement form to SCIENCE outlining the dates and locations of patrols. In addition, each warden must submit an observation form in order to be reimbursed.
5. Work with Department of Forestry, Fisheries Division, National Parks, Beaches, and Rivers Authority and other enforcement agencies towards integration of Wildlife Reserves in patrol routes and increasing enforcement capabilities in the region.
6. Provide training for fishermen and other stakeholders on how to serve as a bird guide for the seabird colonies. (SCIENCE staff and supporting team will be exposed to this training as the organisation also conducts bird education activities, and thus training and refreshers in seabird identification will be an asset). Develop reference materials, including protocols to avoid disturbance of wildlife, common names used by tourists, and biological and cultural information of interest. Fishermen expressed interest in capitalizing upon the growing sector of wildlife tourism, which would serve the dual purpose of diversifying the local economy while also creating conservation buy-in from stakeholders who benefit from healthy wildlife populations. This training would take place as part of the seabird training (A.4).
7. Lend support for the formulation of the Wildlife Conservation Committee decreed under the Wildlife Protection Act but which does not currently exist (as noted in the “Review of Protected Areas Management Framework in St. Vincent and the Grenadines”).

Long-term Impact

• By training teachers, and SCIENCE staff and volunteers, we ensure that the knowledge being transferred will be passed on students for years to come. SCIENCE’s ongoing relationship with schools throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines will reinforce the biodiversity lesson plans as an active component of the curriculum.
• Warden patrol funds have been secured through online fundraising campaigns, which can be expected to grow as the results of the project are demonstrated to donors and we grow our supporter base. Coordination with enforcement agencies can result in a policy shift which further prioritizes Wildlife Reserves and biodiversity conservation and increased government funding for such activities.
• Demonstrating the ecological value of Wildlife Reserves and other islands through research will serve to promote the protection and active management of these sites, including further research. The presence of threatened or endangered species will assist with securing future funding through foundations.
• Outreach efforts will build a network of biodiversity advocates which SCIENCE will continue to maintain through online communications and in-person meetings. With a dedicated volunteer staff and Board, funding is not necessary to ensure that this advocate network remains strong and continues to grow.
 
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Project Snapshot

Grantee:
Science Initiative for Environmental Conservation and Education
Country:
Saint Vincent and Grenadines
Area Of Work:
Biodiversity
Grant Amount:
US$ 39,325.00
Co-Financing Cash:
US$ 4,487.00
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 115,560.00
Project Number:
STV/SGP/OP5/Y3/CORE/BD/14/09
Status:
Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
Notable Community Participation
SCIENCE is one of evolving NGO in SVG that focuses on cultivating and enhancing interest in biodiversity conservation and the preservation of local heritage through exploration, interactive discovery and stimulating learning environments. • Community meetings to report back on findings from socioeconomic study • Community meetings allowed individuals to express interest in serving as bird guides within the Grenadines. Discuss biodiversity curriculum with Department of Education staff.
Gender Focus
The composition of the Organization includes 5 males and 2 females. The project seeks to include both gender and create equal capacity building and livelihood opportunities for men and women.
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Grantee Contact

Ms. Lystra Culzac-Wilson Culzac-Wilson
Email: lystraculzac_wilson@hotmail.com
 

Address

New Montrose
Kingstown , Caribbean , VC0100

SGP Country office contact

Ms. Tasheka Haynes
Email:

Address

P.O. Box 2338, SeaBreeze Bldg. Arnos Vale
KINGSTOWN, CARIBBEAN