The Science of Sound for Reef Regeneration

Dr Anjani Ganase reviews a recent study where healthy reef sounds promote recovery and regeneration on degraded reefs
In a previous story, we discussed how noisy a coral reef is. (See The clicks and snaps of shrimp and crabs, and the grunts and the sighs of the many fish on the reef, may sound like white noise to us, but is easily deciphered by reef residents. Imagine walking through a city and hearing all the different sounds. The same way we differentiate sirens, street signals, chatter, construction, the fish can distinguish the noises on the reef.
Being able to hear these reef sounds is important for visitors navigating the reef; and very important for the recruitment of new coral and fish life to replenish stocks. Fish and coral larvae are attracted to the sounds that resemble a healthy bustling underwater reef city. Other areas that are more degraded with fewer reef residents will have limited sound cues …

Adventure in Bioluminescence

Duane Kenny is a Tobago adventure guide. Travel with him around Tobago from Pigeon Point to Charlotteville. Learn to “stand up paddle” (SUP) off Pigeon Point. Windsurf with his brother Brett at Radical Sports. In this adventure, Duane takes a small group to see the “lights in the lagoon” one moonless night. (This was first published in Newsday Tobago, November 28, 2019)

Take a night when moon is on the wane and endless rain has been falling on the mangroves.
Take four or five persons – the recommended minimum for a tour – who may not know each other too well: an artist, a practical do-it-fix-it man, a writer, a person helping humans with horses, and a non-swimmer. Put them together with an experienced guide.
We arrive at the Pigeon Point base of the Radical Sports Limited Tobago, where our tour guide for the evening is Duane Kenny. His briefing is casual but direct. We will all wear life jackets. We will all paddle; on no account should anyone just let the paddle go in the water. We are …

Wildfires and Climate Change

Our islands may have been paying closer attention to wildfires in recent dry seasons with precautions to eliminate them. However, fires raging across Australia, California and Brazil have been so numerous and extensive as to attract international attention. Dr Anjani Ganase looks at what might be affecting these.
In recent years, there has been a record number of wildfires occurring around the world, cycling through the northern and southern hemispheres to match the seasons of hot and dry conditions. For this year, Brazil lost over a million acres of rainforest to wildfire in August, while three million hectares of land burned in the Siberian wildfires affecting the air quality and health of numerous Russian cities. In October, parts of central and southern Africa were also ablaze along with over 6000 fires burning across California over 250,000 acres of land.Today, parts of Australia continue to burn as a result of over a hundred fires and over 300,000 acres being burned along the sou…

Leave me the birds and the bees ... please!

Like Joni Mitchell in her song “Big Yellow Taxi,” Faraaz Abdool pleads for his beloved birds: not many will survive the onslaught of toxic chemicals used to rid backyard gardens and agri-holdings of pests. What should we be doing to protect the crops? All photos courtesy Faraaz Abdool Let’s not debate what makes a pest a pest. Instead, let’s figure out how we decide what is fit to be freely dispensed into the environment. There is a wide selection of bottles and cans available in your local plant or agro-shop – herbicides and pesticides and insecticides – which do the jobs of getting rid of weeds, “pests” and insects. First of all, do we take the time to read the labels? The sad truth is that most of us don’t, taking for granted that a sense of responsibility is the characteristic of the manufacturing industry; they wouldn’t produce anything to harm a living thing, would they? Almost immediately after my neighbour cracks a container of insecticide or kerosene, the nauseating odors over…

Parenting on Coral Reefs

Dr Anjani Ganase looks at how the next generation is nurtured, on land and in the ocean
Parenting is not just something we do as humans; rather it is an evolutionary trait adopted by animals to care for their offspring during the nesting and juvenile stages of their lifecycle in order to improve the chances of survival through a successful transfer of genetic traits. Because parenting is energy intensive, parents can often only invest time and energy in a few offspring rather than hundreds or even thousands. There is a trade off in what a parent invests against the number offspring being born. Whales, for example, only produce one calf every couple of years. The mother will spend years nurturing the calf, teaching it how to hunt and survive. Conversely, marine turtles come ashore to lay hundreds of eggs, but they don’t stick around to guide the hatchlings to the water or show them how to navigate the open ocean. Their offspring rely heavily on their genetic codes to guide their surviva…

Outbreak of Stony Coral Disease

Are corals doomed? They seem to be under attack from more and different maladies that are the result of worsening environmental conditions. Dr Anjani Ganase shares information about what to look for when you dive Tobago’s reefs

The Stony Coral Tissue Loss is best explained through its descriptive name. It first appeared in the Caribbean in the Florida Keys in 2014, on a coral reef that was being impacted by a port-dredging project (Jackson and Prentice 2019). Since then, the disease has spread to at least eight other countries, including Mexico, Jamaica and with the latest occurrence in St Kitts and Nevis in August of this year (Kramer et al 2019). As the disease progresses through the Lesser Antilles and towards Trinidad and Tobago, we need to the understand the devastating impacts of the disease, and what scientists are doing in the attempt to curb the spread.

The causes of the Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease are currently unknown. The disease rapidly infects and kills the living ti…

Woodcreepers of Tobago

Who are these birds that hop effortlessly along the sides of trees, sometimes hanging upside down to peck at insect treats? Faraaz Abdool continues his exploration in the rainforest and introduces the wood creepers. All photos by Faraaz Abdool
These little birds may be considered similar to woodpeckers, but they are different. One is often unsure of whether or not the flash of brown is a bird – until it takes to the air, flapping and gliding on splayed russet feathers to assume a position on the side of another tree.  
As their name suggests, woodcreepers do seem to creep effortlessly up and down the trunks of trees, defying gravity as they hop along the underside of branches. Just as woodpeckers are tethered to large trees, so too are woodcreepers. Being smaller birds, however, allows them access to thinner branches than their heavier cousins; and thus they have the luxury of foraging further away from the thickest limbs. Most woodcreepers are designed to blend into the  barks of tre…