Showing posts from January, 2020

The Shape of Water

Dr Anjani Ganase looks at the influence of rivers, the creation of deltas and the places where the sea comes in. River deltas are formed where rivers meet the ocean. The dynamic water movement driven by the forces of waves, tides and river flow all shape deltas and result in unique wetland ecosystems that live within the narrow margins between the land and sea. As seasons change, as storms surge and tides turn, we also observe shifts in the distribution of soil, vegetation and aquatic life that utilise the confines of the delta. Rivers bring soil from inland, and the sediment settles out as the river slows where it nears the ocean. This is because of the flatter, even terrain that occurs when the river reaches sea-level that allows the river to widen as it is no longer is restricted by the river banks and can spill over a low lying flood plain. Apart from the river flow, ocean waves, tides and even the spin of the earth (coriolis effect - which is the deflec

The Pelicans of Tobago

On coastlines around our island, you can see easily pelicans. They nest and breed on the offshore islands that have been designated sanctuaries, and roost on rocks or fishing boats, any perch that offers a vantage point above the waters where fish school. Faraaz Abdool tells us what makes this bird such an efficient fisher. (All photos courtesy Faraaz Abdool)   The wingspan of an adult Brown Pelican can be up to seven and a half feet across.  “A wonderful bird is the pelican, His bill will hold more than his belican, He can take in his beak Enough food for a week But I'm damned if I see how the helican!” - Dixon Lanier Merritt Popular in poetry, prose and legends, pelicans have charmed our hearts for centuries. With a lineage extending as far back as 30 million years ago, the eight species of pelicans alive today don’t look much different from their prehistoric ancestors. These large, distinctive birds are distributed across the world, occ

Watching a Big Island Burn

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 the result of the climate getting drier and hotter. Most severely impacted are framework ec

Is the Portuguese man o war a jellyfish?

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 f

Protect Toco's coral reefs!

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 wa