Editor’s note — This interview takes a more detailed look at our latest Ocean Organization Spotlight piece, which featured the YWF Kido Foundation. Read the feature here.
Asta is a Canadian marine biologist with a Master’s of Professional Science from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Her interest is in citizen science initiative development and marine educational outreach. Asta recently spoke with Dr. Marina Fastigi of the YWF Kido foundation to get an update on KIDO’s most recent work.
Q: How is KIDO involved in scientific research on the island of Carriacou?
A: Researchers and their assistants stay with us at the research station and carry out projects through KIDO, utilizing our database and adding their new findings to it. The networking, data storage and sharing is made simpler via internet and local students benefit taking part in the field research in Carriacou.
Q: One of the main research topics at KIDO is the nesting behaviors of Sea turtles species. Have you noticed any changes in the behavior of sea turtles?
A: We have observed one alarming trend in Petit Carenage, our main nesting beach for Leatherbacks; ongoing illegal sand-mining and rising sea levels have reduced the width of the sea turtle nesting site beaches. In the past few years, our leatherback mothers, both new turtles and returnees of several years, tend to nest too close to the high water mark and even almost in the water, requiring the KIDO turtle team to remove and relocate nest after nest to safer areas further from the water line. Their once safe nesting environment is crumbling under their digging fins!
On the ‘good’ side, we have had fabulous hatching rates for relocated nests, which is felt as a reward for the hard monitoring work. In the 2013 season we have recorded overall the highest number of nesting activities of leatherbacks and hawksbills- close to 300! We have also observed a decline of nesting leatherbacks and a rise of nesting hawksbill turtles.
Check out this amazing video of a leatherback turtle rescue from KIDO volunteer:
Q: What do you feel is the most dangerous local behavior or attitude towards the environment?
A: Garbage disposal and coastal development encroaching in the few remaining mangrove areas seem to be the most dangerous behaviors. Development in mangrove areas is often a foreign multimillion (dollar) project. This makes the projects harder to negotiate with.
Garbage disposal involves almost every household, business and social activity: the entire process, from conception, design, production, sales, transportation, consumption and finally waste, is webbed within our society. We need to change each step of the process, yet no one or two steps alone may solve such a pervasive problem.
In KIDO’s approach, small as we are, effective hands-on education is immensely important: through our field trips in nature our students see without a doubt what is nature and what is not natural! That experience establishes an awareness that no argument can later erase. The younger the students, the deeper the experience. In other words, 20 years from today, they cannot claim that they did not know!
Q: How does YWF KIDO work to educate and develop the community of Carriacou?
A: KIDO provides extra curricular educational programs for kids from age 9-17: our themes are rooted in environmental education, yet we raise questions of personal responsibility, commitment and, more widely, patterns (trends) of social behavior, which affect the entire island and in particular its marine ecosystem.
Each school in Carriacou sends its students to KIDO for weekend field trips to our many nature hotspots. Students gather invaluable hands-on experience through these trips. In fact, most kids have never been to the amazing sites we take them to. How could they be asked to care for something they do not even know of? Awareness, at all levels of perception, is the base we need to share. And it works. KIDO also trains local nature guides, establishing standards and tests for ecotourism professionals. We connect with international ecotourism agencies to organize guided tours of the island of Carriacou. The local managers and guides necessarily need to show proficiency education, scientific facts about Carriacou’s fauna and flora, geology and coastal marine ecosystems.
Q: How has your work affected the mindset of the local community?
A: The plight of sea turtles, turtle nesting and the island environment has now entered the social discourse of Carriacouans. The communities have absorbed the general knowledge of the beneficial roles of turtles in the marine ecosystem, and have also become more aware of the dangers and damages to the Ocean caused by human development. From the hard evidence of plastic pollution along the coast to the more insidious heavy metals, mercury & PCBs in fish, locals are becoming more aware of these issues and their affects on the sea overall.
Of course, this discourse took many years to develop, starting from winning over suspicion of our motives and outright opposition from locals. However, the awareness is now a fact in the local culture, the language has been learned; next, we need the politicians to comply with new regulations to rein in plastic pollution as well as declaring a total ban of sea turtle hunting.
We launched a petition asking the Government of Grenada for a total moratorium on sea turtle hunting and we collected to date more than 78.000 signatures!
Q: How are your volunteers integrated into your work at the research station?
A: Volunteers act as facilitators during fieldtrips, as IT assistants in the computer lab, as well as organizing meetings, developing programs and visiting schools to do Power Point presentations on environmental issues. Some volunteers returned to KIDO for the third time especially to run the first Kids with Cameras Carriacou environmental photography course! (three months)
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