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Showing posts from 2016

12 Creatures on Buccoo Reef to cherish all year round

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In observance of the season of celebration and thanksgiving, Jahson Alemu shares 12 creatures special to Buccoo Reef that we should cherish and protect. Make a note for 2017 to appreciate the marine environment that surrounds Trinidad and Tobago. Without it, we are rocks in the ocean, black dots on the map.  Follow Jahson on twitter: jahson_alemu

Christmas is in the air. The smell of pastelles, black cake, ham and all sorts of seasonal goodies tantalise our taste buds. From simple to intricate lights adorn houses; and like moths drawn to a flame, paranderos flitter from house to house to spread joy, serenade and wish us well for the season. In the spirit of the season, here is a Christmas tribute to some of the creatures that add vibrancy, wonder, colour and life to our Buccoo Reef.


On the first day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me,
One Red Cushion Starfish (Oreaster reticulatus).



On the second day of Christmas,
My true love gave to me,
Two French Angelfish (Pomacanthus paru), an…

Forests on the Edge

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Jahson Alemu, marine biologist, discusses the importance of mangrove ecosystems to the enhancement and protection of coastlines, and also to our future. This feature was first published in the Tobago Newsday on Thursday December 15, 2016
Follow Jahson on twitter: @jahson_alemu.

If trees are the lungs of the earth, mangroves must be the kidneys. Like botanical amphibians, mangroves live life on the edge. Uniquely positioned at the dynamic interface between land and sea, they are highly productive tropical coastal ecosystems comprised mainly of trees and shrubs capable of thriving in humid heat, amid choking mud and salt levels in which only a few plant species can survive (Duke et al 1998). If you’ve never seen a mangrove, picture a lattice of tangled tree legs rising up from brackish water. At one point in our history, mangrove forests were treated as wasteland considered only useful as dumps, and haven to bad spirits, jumbies, runaways and criminals.

The mangrove swamp was avoided an…

Lights in the Lagoon

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Jahson Alemu discusses the phenomenon known as bioluminescence, and conditions where it thrives: the protected Bon Accord Lagoon in Tobago is one of these rare spots.. Jahson is a marine biologist completing his PhD study on Buccoo Reef and its value in the ecosystem of south-west Tobago. This feature was first published in Tobago Newsday on Thursday, December 8, 2016. Follow Jahson on twitter: @jahson_alemu.
Imagine a world without light!
That may seem difficult to imagine and it is likely you don’t think about it often! But for several animals part of their lives are spent in absolute darkness (such as at night or in the deep sea), and as such, they have evolved to cope with life in darkness by producing their own light, much like fireflies. This ability is called bioluminescence and simply put, it is the production of light due to an internal chemical reaction. More technically, it is the light energy produced as a result of the interaction of the compound luciferin with oxygen cat…

Islands in the Orinoco

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To the east of Trinidad and Tobago is the Atlantic, on the west the Caribbean Sea. However, the most powerful influence of water on these islands might be the fresh waters coming off the South American mainland. This week, Anjani Ganase, marine biologist, looks at the mighty Orinoco river whose delta comprises islands many times the size of Trinidad. This feature was first published in the Tobago Newsday on Thursday, December 1, 2016 Follow Anjani Ganase on twitter: @AnjGanase
“When Columbus sailed into the Gulf of Paria he had to make sense of two anomalies. His navigational readings were picking up the earth’s equatorial bulge, and the Orinoco being in spate meant that the water was fresh. Captivated by the apparently friendly natives, the exuberant vegetation, the benign climate and the extraordinary landscape, he called the area Tierra de Gracia (Graceland).” -John Stollmeyer, Place of Beginnings, the World Views of the Amerindians of Cairi and of Medieval Europe, 2003
Columbus sai…

Cuba's Jardines de la Reina

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One of the more pristine coral ecosystems in the New World, the Jardines de la Reina, south of Cuba, was named by Christopher Columbus for Queen Isabella. This week, Anjani Ganase, marine biologist, wonders how the opening up of Cuban-US relations will affect the protected marine park that was once Fidel Castro’s favourite fishing ground.  This feature was first published in the Tobago Newsday on Thursday, November 24, 2016 Follow Anjani on twitter @AnjGanase
Recent discussions between the USA and Cuba have begun to open up relations between the two countries. For the first time in over forty years, we consider the question how opening Cuba’s market might affect the rest of the Caribbean with respect to economic competition and trade deals. For others, there is concern that this dramatic shift in Cuba’s economy will impact its natural environment. Will Cuba be precipitated into the development faux pas experienced by the rest of the Caribbean? Or will Cuba, an observer over these years, …

Release the Kraken!

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In the movie, Clash of the Titans, Zeus unleashes his ultimate weapon when he commands, “Release the Kraken!” What is this monster (pronounced krak-en)? This week, Anjani Ganase, marine biologist, tells us about the oceanic giant squid that has been invoked in other films such as Pirates of the Caribbean. Although none as immense as those described by fishermen of a thousand years ago have yet been seen, who can say what lies in the unexplored deep seas that encircle our world.  This feature was first published in the Tobago Newsday on Thursday, November 17, 2016 Follow Anjani on twitter @AnjGanase

The Norse legend of the Kraken tells about the mythical sea creature that lived off the coasts of Norway and Greenland. It is a giant squid that rises up from the deep to crush vessels and pull fishing boats to a watery grave. Some of these stories recounted since the 1200s were documented by the Danish naturalist, Bishop Erik Pontoppidan, as part of his written works on the natural history …

The Caribbean War against Lionfish

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This week, Anjani Ganase, marine biologist, tells us what we need to know about the presence of lionfish on Caribbean reefs. With no natural predators in the Atlantic, lionfish feed voraciously upon juvenile fish that are essential to healthy coral reefs. Introduced carelessly in Atlantic waters, man must take on the responsibility to stem the invasion. This article was first published in the Tobago Newsday on Thursday, November 10, 2016. Follow Anjani on twitter @AnjGanase Lionfish Invasion Naturally present in the Indo-Pacific tropical waters, the lionfish is a common ornamental fish in the aquarium trade. In the 1980s, two species of lionfish - red lionfish (Pterois volitans) and the devil firefish (Pterois miles) the less common of the two - were introduced into the marine waters along Florida’s east coast, a notorious “hotspot” for marine introductions. Lionfish is one of over 30 introduced marine species off the coast of Florida. By the 1990s they expanded their range farther alon…