Showing posts from August, 2017

The Drifting Ecosystem: Sargassum

Anjani Ganase, marine biologist, talks about Sargassum and signs of the changing ocean In recent years, regional news networks have reported on repeated inundation events occurring on many beaches on southern and eastern Caribbean islands from massive amounts of Sargassum seaweed during the summer months. Sargassum on beaches has been seen in Tobago, Barbados and Antigua; the events were first reported in 2011 – 2012, 2014 – 2015 and again in 2016. Furthermore, during 2014, the amount of Sargassum that was washed up appeared to be greater in comparison to 2011, and now, six years later the events seem to have become a common scenario. Coastlines along Brazil and in West Africa have also experienced deluge by the Sargassum. Previous records in the news and scientific reports on these Sargassum inundation events in the southern Caribbean and West Africa are rare. Scientists have begun to investigate whether these events are part of a natural long-term cycle or the result of

Exploring Kick'em Jenny Volcano

The Caribbean archipelago is a chain of small islands in a vast deep ocean. Here Dr. Diva Amon explores the underwater volcano, Kick’em Jenny, off Grenada. Dr. Amon is a deep-sea biologist with experience in chemosynthetic habitats and human impacts on the deep sea. You can find out more via her Twitter ( and her website ( The Kick’em Jenny (KEJ) volcano first rumbled into the public eye on July 23, 1939, when it shot a cloud of steam and debris 275m up into the air, and sent 2-metre tsunamis to the shores of Grenada, the Grenadines and Barbados. While KEJ may be a looming threat to us here in Trinidad and Tobago, we usually fail to look past that, never stopping to ponder what strange environments and animals may lurk beneath the Grenadian seas down on the slopes of the volcano. KEJ is the only active submarine volcano in the Caribbean, created by the subduction of the Atlantic Plate below the Caribbean Plate, and i

Mushroaming in Tobago

Jeffrey Wong Sang is a member of the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists Club and an amateur mycologist who chose to study fungi to fill a gap that has long existed in the local biodiversity of Trinidad and Tobago. He is the administrator of only local Facebook group “Mushrooms of Trinidad and Tobago" with a following of just over 800. His current objective is to raise awareness of the existence of the mushrooms and share his knowledge. To encourage others to appreciate our mushrooms, his goal is to have this country’s first Mushroom Museum. Mushroaming you ask? Yes, it is one’s ability to walk in nature and relax and explore whilst looking for mushrooms. A mushroom can be defined as the fruiting body of a fungus, and the world’s largest living organism, is a honey fungus in the Blue Mountains in Oregon stretching 2.4 miles. Orange veiled lady (Phallus multicolor) sparked the fascination with mushrooms All photos courtesy Jeffrey Wong Sang Oyster mushroom (

The Spectacular Snakes of the Main Ridge Reserve

This week Amy Deacon, Lecturer in the Department of Life Sciences at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine and Secretary of the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club continues her series on the biodiversity of the Main Ridge Reserve (MRR). Today, she teams up with herpetologist Renoir Auguste to introduce us to the snakes of the MRR.    Tobago has about 25 species of snake, none of which are venomous. Most of these species can be found in and around the Main Ridge. Among them are the Boa Constrictor - the largest snake on the island; the Brown Vine Snake - a common snake also found in gardens; and the Tobago False Coral  – which can be found nowhere else in the world! Together these three species highlight just some of the different shapes, sizes and habits of snake fauna found in the reserve. Reaching an intimidating 4 metres long, the Macajuel (Boa constrictor) is the largest snake on the island. Within the Main Ridge it is fairly common, and may be found in the tr

The Mysterious Mammals of the Main Ridge Reserve

This week Amy Deacon, Lecturer in the Department of Life Sciences at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine and Secretary of the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club resumes her series on the biodiversity of the Main Ridge Reserve (MRR). Today, we will visit the mammals of the MRR. The most abundant mammals in the forest by far are the flying ones – the bats - but we will save those amazing creatures for another article. Here we will focus on the wingless mammals that make the Reserve their home. First published in the Tobago Newsday on July 10, 2017 Many will be surprised to learn that Tobago supports 36 native mammals – 16 if you don’t include the bats. I have chosen three of the most interesting of Tobago’s mammals to highlight in today’s column, to convince you that we have lots to learn even about the most charismatic of the Main Ridge’s inhabitants. The Robinson's Mouse Opossum. This rather cute and compact marsupial spends much of its time up in

Lionfish: empowering native craft and food entrepreneurs

Fadilah Ali is an ecologist with a specialty in invasive species biology, control and management. She has a Masters degree in Environmental Science with a focus on Biodiversity and Conservation and is currently completing her PhD in Ocean and Earth Sciences at the University of Southampton in England where she researched the lionfish invasion in the Southern Caribbean As a means to raise the landed value of lionfish and encourage their removal, craft makers are utilising lionfish spines, rays and tails. These materials currently being used for jewellery are typically discarded but have been found to increase the landed value of lionfish by 30 to 60% in some cases. Lionfish spines, rays and tails have been transformed into elegant earrings, necklaces, bracelets and even cufflinks and rings. In addition to encouraging lionfish removal, use of the spines and rays for jewellery can create income for local economies whilst also empowering local people. For example in Belize