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Watching a Big Island Burn

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What do we have to learn from the environmental disasters in Australia? Dr Anjani Ganase, coral reef ecologist, who studied and worked at the University of Queensland, reviews the timeline to extinction.
The fires in Australia are examples of the abrupt and severe consequences of human induced changing climate. According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, 2019 has been the hottest (1.5 C above average) and driest year (40 % less than the average rainfall) on record; their data goes back to 1910. The fire season is longer and more severe than ever; bush fires started since spring in September and have yet to ease. Along the eastern and southern parts of the country, over 100,000 square kilometres of land have burned. This area is equivalent to the size of Cuba, the largest Caribbean island.
The Australian bushfires are the most obvious among the environmental disasters that are theresult of the climate getting drier and hotter. Most severely impacted are framework ecosystems –fore…

Is the Portuguese man o war a jellyfish?

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Dr Anjani Ganase looks at jellyfish and their relations.
Jellyfish encompasses a broad group of animals under the group Cnidaria, which include the true jellyfish (medusozoans) that we are familiar with. However, there are many that are closely related to the jellyfish. These include hard and soft corals, sea anemones and hydrozoans (such as the Portuguese man o war), and although they are not true jellyfish, they share very similar ecological functions and lifestyles. The life cycle of Cnidaria includes a drifting phase in the open ocean, as well as a sedentary phase connected to the seafloor. Within the different groups in the Cnidaria phylum, the time spent between the different phases can vary considerably, and some phases are even lost. Adult jellyfish release sperm and eggs into the water column to form fertilized eggs or larvae. The larvae seek to settle on a surface or the seafloor as polyps and then continue to grow and develop.While a coral will live in one spot for the rest…

Protect Toco's coral reefs!

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Dr Anjani Ganase talks with Dr Stanton Belford about the coral reefs at Toco, different from Tobago but in need of protection. This is also Trinidad’s only reef system.
Dr Stanton Belford grew up on Temple Street, Arima, while spending most of his childhood traveling between Arima and Blanchisseuse where his father’s family lived. This was Stanton’s first introduction to life underwater in the ocean and in the rivers and streams of the Northern Range. When he was not riding the waves on the north coast, he was catching fish and crab in nearby streams. Nature encouraged his passion for research in biology, particularly the marine environments of northeast Trinidad, which he was fortunate to experience when he was in high school.
“In 1993-94, Dr. Carol Draper took the biology sixth form class from Arima Senior Comprehensive School to do a survey of the patchy coral reefs at Toco. This essentially was the major spark for my interest in marine science. It was the foundational interest whic…

12 Birds of Tobago

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Faraaz Abdool brings you twelve of Tobago’s birds. Enjoy these stunning photos of island residents in their common habitats. All photos courtesy Faraaz Abdool; Trinidad Motmot by Joanne Husain

Tobago boasts some of the bird world’s most incredible representatives – a mixture of South America and the Caribbean with seasonal migrants from as far as the Arctic Circle. Coincidental confluences of southward migration and the Atlantic hurricane season bring to Tobago some Europeans as well. Exciting rarities aside, let’s look at some of the island’s most familiar inhabitants. 

Although Red-billed Tropicbirds don’t quite look like grizzled seafarers, they spend most of their life at sea. Dainty and delicate, they touch land only to breed, preferring uninhabited and often inhospitable offshore islands for protection from predators.. Lacking sharp talons or even an aggressive personality, Red-billed Tropicbirds are extremely vulnerable to human activity on their nesting grounds such as Little To…

Beaches of Tobago

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Dr Anjani Ganase checks the health of beaches around Tobago. We are fortunate, she believes, that significant areas of the edge between land and sea remain undisturbed. But we also need to be mindful of how buildings and other structures can alter beach habitats. (All photos courtesy Anjani Ganase)

Beaches are areas of dynamic interaction between the ocean and the land. Ocean current, wind and waves erode rock and coral skeletons to produce sand that washes ashore. Not all beaches are sandy. Sometimes, beaches are pebbly or composed of coral rubble. We can tell a lot about our beaches and their surroundings from the sand. The colour of the particles and the sizes tell us about the marine habitats as well as the type of rock our islands are made from. Black sand beaches are formed from the erosion of volcanic rock, while white sand beaches come from the breakdown of corals, but there are green and pink sand beaches as well.
Beaches are important unique ecosystems with a lot of marine cr…

Consider Cruise Ships

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Dr Anjani Ganase asks us to reflect on what is gained or lost when cruise ships come ashore to our islands.
Do cruise ships add or take away from the Caribbean? The cruise ship industry has boomed in the Caribbean over the last fifty years, transporting 500,000 passengers annually in the 1970s to over 20 million today. The increase in passengers corresponds to investments in engineering for bigger ships with better features and services. Over the years, cruise ships have increased in size at a rate of 90 feet every five years with the largest cruise ships today carrying over 6000 passengers. Cruise ships come with cinemas, sky diving simulators, rock climbing walls, wave riders and biking facilities along with the 24-hour all you can eat buffets on top of dining halls, bars and restaurants. It is more about the journey than the destinations! The majority of visitors come from the USA and Europe, and the most popular destinations are the Bahamas, Mexico and St Maarten. There is no doubt …