Biology Research: Bahamas National Trust Conference

Jul 25, 2018

by Kaitlin Brittain ‘18 and Alexandra Weot ‘18

The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) hosted its biennial conference at the Baha Mar on Nassau, Bahamas and among the attendees were Drs. Gabriel Langford and Eric Kjellmark, and two FSC students: Kaitlin Brittain ‘18 and Alexandra Weot ‘18.

A green anole lizard, the subject of Brittain’s research
A green anole lizard, the subject of Brittain’s research.

The BNT was formed to advise the Bahamas government on development and conservation issues, including concerns related to decreasing biodiversity. The Bahamas National History Conference (BNHC) facilitates avenues of research and encourages collaboration between various agencies and research disciplines. The BNHC supports research of the environment, economy, and human society within the archipelago of the Bahamas.

“I have been coming to the Bahamas for several years now,” Dr. Kjellmark said. “I completed my dissertation in the Bahamas, and I am really excited to share the opportunity to present at the conference with my students.”

Dr. Kjellmark presented a research talk entitled “Pollen and Charcoal Analysis of a 37 cm Sediment Core from a Shallow Lake Near Fresh Creek, Andros Island, Bahamas”.

Brittain and Weot, both graduating in May, are majoring in Biology. The students were a part of a Tropical Ecology class that travelled to the Bahamas for a Junior Journey in March of last year.

“The opportunity for us to not only take a Junior Journey related to biology but to also obtain relevant research experience was an absolutely incredible opportunity,” Brittain exclaimed. “On top of the research experience we also got to go and present at a conference and help to possibly make a difference in the Bahamas for their future.”

Kaitlin Brittain during her presentation at the Bahamas National Trust Conference
Kaitlin Brittain during her presentation at the Bahamas National Trust Conference.

Brittain presented her research entitled “A Parasite Survey of Lizards on Andros Island, Bahamas with the Discovery of a New Species of Trematode” and Weot presented her research entitled “The Vegetation of History of Andros Island, Bahamas: Pollen and Charcoal Analysis of Charlie’s Blue Hole”.

“The talks were well received and stimulated exciting conversations, including potential future collaborations,” Dr. Langford commented.

This was Weot’s first time presenting at a conference, and she remarked on the atmosphere of the BNHC. “It was really exciting to be able to go and present my research to such a welcoming crowd and be able to share something that I am passionate about,” she said. “I really enjoyed the experience and am sure that the skills I learned throughout this process will assist me in my future endeavors.”

Indeed, Weot and Brittain learned a lot about the biology of the islands and its people.

“We need to document the current biodiversity as well as collaborate to increase the chances that we are protecting these animals effectively for the long term,” Brittain explained. “For example, researchers were able to collaborate on the future of bonefish fishery and how the industry is impacting the population from multiple points of view.”

Alexandra Weot during her presentation at the Bahamas National Trust Conference
Alexandra Weot during her presentation at the Bahamas National Trust Conference.

Collaboration between researchers and the government is important for the inspiration of new laws to continue to preserve the beauty that is the Bahamas. The BNT is continually working on conservation and through their biennial conferences.

“The opportunity to present in front of people that care immensely about what you have to say was an incredibly inspiring experience,” Brittain said. “I not only met so many researchers that helped to broaden my scientific knowledge, but I was also given some new ideas on directions I could take my research in the future.”

“It was really exciting to be able to take students down for the conference,” Langford commented. “As we continue to visit the Bahamas for Tropical Ecology, this conference gives us an exciting way to reward the hard work that students put into their research as well as inspire them to continue in their chosen path. Presenting is a great skill to nourish and it is important to broaden student horizons.”