Conversation among Corals

Shaueel Persadee imagines a discussion among inhabitants of an undersea community facing threats from the world over which they have no control. Persadee is a student of Biology and Environmental Sceince at the University of the West Indies and education officer at the Pointe-a-Pierre Wildfowl Trust. He also writes a creative blog
One great ocean, spreading around the globe, its waters connected by a complex variety of courses and transformations. One great sun, shining down from the heavens, spreading light and heat more intense than the world could ever hope to use. Yet, beneath the rolling waves near some tropical islands, where the water is blue as the sky, and fish still swim in schools rather than in solitude, there lies a different world. This world of colourful cities and fascinating fellows not only depends on the mercy of the sun and the sea, but the mercy of those who live above the surface of the water.
Normally all citizens would carry on t…

Underwater Tobago

The Maritime Ocean Collection is a collaboration of Underwater Earth, the Trinidad and Tobago marine NGO, SpeSeas and the Maritime Financial Company to document the reefs of Tobago and present them for online viewing in “virtual reality.” When complete, The Collection will be an education and research resource available on the Maritime Financial Company’s website; as well as on the webpages of the partners.  
In the last week of March, marine biologist Dr Anjani Ganase and Jonathan Gomez, Marine Technician with the Institute of Marine Affairs started an exploration of the coastal waters around the northern end of Tobago. The Institute of Marine Affairs  (IMA) is the Trinidad and Tobago government organization (under the Ministry of Planning and Development) responsible for marine and environmental research. This is where Jonathan began his career surveying Tobago’s coral reefs. Here is Jonathan’s story:

Talk about your relationship and attachment to the marine environment. I was born i…

Celebrating Nature in the Commonplace

Look outside your window, your car, your self, and take note of nature nearby. All around us, in Tobago and Trinidad, says Faraaz Abdool, there’s some small natural wonder to connect us with the living world. If we can enjoy the nature in our backyards, we can to a greater extent appreciate the rare and exotic.(Photos of the birds by Faraaz Abdool) As birders, we’re often jaded when it comes to birds we’ve grown accustomed to. As human beings, this occurs not just with birds but with other facets of our lives. A saying has been coined to reflect this very phenomenon: “one man’s trash is another’s treasure” Why has it become second nature to take things for granted? Have we evolved into a superficial species whose lives are comprised of hurried snapshots of our surroundings – surroundings which are quickly fading into oblivion with the increasing popularity of a self-absorbed culture? With instant gratification a baseline requirement, facilitated by continuous connectivity to social medi…

Keeping Giant Manta Rays around Tobago

The recent sighting of a Giant Manta Ray at Buccoo Bay prompts Shivonne Peters, marine scientist, to consider the simple measures needed to keep these and other creatures in Tobago waters, and to build an attractive marine-based tourism industry. Two weekends ago, beachgoers at Buccoo Bay were startled by the sight of a pair of black fins rising out of the water only a few meters from shore. At first, these fins were presumed to belong to some species of shark; an equally thrilling sight but also rather uncommon along Tobago’s populated beaches. Bathers scampered into ankle-deep waters but remained in awe of the creature that seemed unbothered by their presence. For over half an hour, we watched as this majestic animal, now decidedly not a shark, cruised gracefully along the beach performing the occasional somersault extending parts of its body out of the water. Every evening for the entire week, this animal exhibited the same behaviour and pattern of movement, a swim along Buccoo Bay…

Beyond Recycling

Communities around the world are doing more than we know to halt the process of climate change. Many of the initiatives have been collected in the book Drawdown (reduction or decline in greenhouse gases) edited by Paul Hawken; here are some of them. What can you and your community do?
There’s a great battle going on. The rise of consumerism as the great index of human progress is pitted against the planet’s natural ability to maintain balance in the face of depleting resources, not just oil and gas and minerals but loss of wildlife and biodiversity. We are in the midst of what is being called the sixth mass extinction.The previous five mass extinctions took place over millions of years:
443 million years ago: a severe ice age led to sea level falling by 100m, wiping out 60-70% of all species which were prominently ocean dwellers at the time. Then soon after the ice melted leaving the oceans starved of oxygen. 360 million years ago: a prolonged climate change event, again hitting life in …

The dark side of Bamboo

Dr Anjani Ganase, marine ecologist, takes a look at the land and specifically one plant that can overgrow areas where forests are cleared. Alongside the cultural utility of bamboo, there is significant cost to the environment as bamboo spreads rapidly, edging out other plants and depleting the soil.

Bamboo is the backdrop for picturesque scenes across our island landscapes. They create the settings of perfect postcard wedding photos; and they shape many scenes of Cazabon paintings. Bamboo is literally intertwined into our culture: essential for the celebrations of Divali, the stalks are split and bent and displayed with deyas. Bamboo is also used to make furniture and jewellery. Clumps of bamboo line many roadsides in north Trinidad, and can easily be spotted on the rolling hills of central and south Trinidad. In Tobago, bamboo may be less obvious, but take a closer look at the forests you pass along the windward roads; you will see clumps of bamboo among the canopy of the forest.


The Sounds of Life Underwater

Dr Anjani Ganase, marine biologist, asks us to use our sense of hearing even when exploring under the sea. The sounds of life are some of the clues that scientists can detect on healthy coral reefs. 
When we snorkel and dive on coral reefs, the cues are mostly visual. We observe coral, sponges and soft corals of different shapes and sizes, and if we accidentally brush up against a fire coral we are quickly reminded what touch feels like. But have we thought about the sounds we hear from coral reefs? To our untrained ears, the sounds we hear – the cracking and the snapping – are like background radio static. This noisy discord comes from the busy underwater activity from the many reef residents. Reefs are incredibly noisy places and it may be difficult to distinguish particular noises, since some are outside the range of hearing for humans. 

Next time you go diving or snorkelling, listen carefully to the reef because you may be able to hear the low grunts of a fish nearby, the snapping…