Zika Virus in the Bahamas

Currently the Bahamas does not host the Zika Virus. The Bahamian government is, “intensely monitoring the (zika virus) situation.” They have also taken proactive steps to reduce the chance of Zika transmission which include increased fogging and continued education to both citizens and resorts that will help to reduce mosquito breeding habitats.

At Forfar Field Station, we have eliminated areas with standing water, cut back vegetation near the cabins which allows for the area to dry out preventing breeding areas, and fog the areas behind the cabins.  We have installed mosquito nets on all the beds for nighttime protection.  We encourage the use of bug spray when visiting but your best defense is to where lightweight pants and long-sleeve shirts (it’s also your best defense against sunburn!)

For more information:

CDC Zika in the Bahamas Resource Guide

CDC Press Release (Zika in Bahamas)

Bahama Government Statement on Zika & Prevention

What is Ciguatera Toxin?

Before you visit Andros, it’s important to know about Ciguatera: a foodborne illness caused by eating fish that are contaminated by the ciguatera toxin. The concentrated toxin is often found in large reef fish such as barracuda, grouper, red snapper, moray eel, amberjack, parrotfish, hogfish, sturgeon fish, kingfish, coral trout, and sea bass. Ciguatera toxin accumulates in these fish as they consume smaller fish which feed on toxin producing algae (dinoflagellates).

Ciguatera toxin is harmless to fish but poisonous to humans. It is odorless and tasteless and cooking does not destroy the toxin. The symptoms from ingesting Ciguatera toxin are similar to other types of food poisoning and may consist of nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle pain, numbness, tingling, abdominal pain, dizziness, and vertigo. There are over 50,000 reported cases of ciguatera poisoning each year but by following just two simple tips, you can nearly eliminate your chance of ingesting the toxin.

When visiting Andros Island:

  1. Do NOT eat large reef fish that feed on smaller fish, especially if the fish weighs over 6 lbs. This is the safest way to not ingest the Ciguatera toxin. If you don’t eat the fish that accumulate the concentrated toxin, then you will not be at risk for Ciguatera poisoning.

  2. If you decide to eat large reef fish, avoid the parts of the fish that concentrate the toxin: liver, intestines, roe, and head.

Fun at Forfar Field Station

Hocking College is at Forfar Field Station!
Our current visiting group at Forfar Field Station is Hocking College's Bahamas Ecotourism Adventure Travel (BEAT) class.  Each year a group of knowledge-hungry college students come for a 6-week course at Forfar Field Station. This past Saturday, BEAT and Bahamas National Trust (BNT) took a trip to Andros West Side National Park for a fantastic educational experience.

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December NSTA Conference

Come join us! 
IFS will be at the upcoming National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) Area Conference held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, December 1-3, 2016.  Feel free to stop by and learn about our programming for 2017! Know local teachers that might be interested in a Field Study experience abroad, encourage them to attend and visit our booth!  Additionally,  we are available to come and give a presentation at your school in a department staff meeting or other appropriate meetings. Contact Matt at office@intlfieldstudies.org for more information.

Wishing for Wheels

That's right, IFS' Holiday Wish List is for a new vehicle at Forfar Field Station!

With your help we can purchase a new vehicle! It's no easy task getting a vehicle to Forfar from the USA. In fact, it's extremely expensive. IFS not only pays for the vehicle, but also for the transportation to Andros, a 70% duty on the vehicle, and 7.5% value added tax. All of those costs add up and make purchasing new vehicles a pricey and tricky endeavor. 

By donating to IFS, you will help us continue to provide quality education and field experiences to hundreds to students from the US and Bahamas annually.  With a new reliable vehicle, we can continue to help educate students,  facilitate researchers in the work, and promote  conservation with our on-island partners.

Please give by December 31, 2016.  All donations are tax-deductible. 

Hurricane Matthew Repairs

Thank you to everyone who has donated their time and money to help Forfar with Hurricane Repairs! Specifically, we would like to thank recent donors Rachel Marschner, Kathleen Hughes, Jessica Pyle, Alan Curtis, Barbara Sadovnic, Connie McCardle, Seth Ransohoff, Marie Trudeau, Maya Wilson, Rachel Stewart, Gene and Royal Mapes, and Christine Rhuel.

Forfar Field Station was without water for 13 days after the hurricane. Additionally, it had no power for 23 days. IFS volunteers and staff had to replace the roof on the work/dive shop, make roof repairs to the lodge, and cabin 4.  In total, Forfar lost 50+ trees on the property. Thank you again to friends and staff of IFS for helping bring it back to tip-top shape!

November Work Week Progress

The November Work Week crew did a fantastic job of cleaning up and restoring Forfar Field Station after Hurricane Matthew's visit.
IFS sends a grateful thank you to volunteers Alan and Pamela Curtis, Joe Starzynski, William Donato, Willie Zamora, Annah Ellingston, Jonisha Cartwright, Marlin and Cynthia White, and Nina Sanchez.

What did our hardworking volunteers accomplish? 
Nina and Jonisha from BREEF (Bahamas Reef Environmental Education Foundation) are shown in the photo above cleaning out one of the vans. Additional tasks accomplished: restored many of the garden beds, cleaned the bonfire area, added sand to the volleyball court, and fixed the shutters on the buildings damaged by the  hurricane. Volunteers painted Big Boat, chainsawed and cleared trees, did trail maintenance on Calabash, installed a new shower in Cabin 1, and cleaned the workshop. Lastly, they sorted through unneeded items from the laundry and kitchen areas to donate to Lowe Sound (most affected by the hurricane).
 
Interested in joining Work Weeks in the future?
Anyone able-bodied and willing to work hard to improve the field station can join! Our December Work Week is completely full and closed to additional registrations. Stay tuned for our upcoming Work Week opportunities in 2017!

Upcoming Teacher Information Sessions

If you know someone that may be interested in our program, we encourage you to share this information with them!

International Field Studies, Inc (IFS) will be hosting an information session on November 17th from 4pm to 5pm at the Upper Arlington Library (Friends Theater), 2800 Tremont Road, Upper Arlington, OH 43221. We will be providing details about our international educational opportunity for your students, experiences from local teachers who participate in our programs, and we will answer any questions you may have. Light refreshments will be provided and we expect the session to last about 45 minutes.  All attendees will be eligible for a scouting trip to Forfar Field Station at half-price the normal rate.

If interested folks are unavailable to attend we will also be at the upcoming NSTA Area Conference held at the Greater Columbus Convention Center, December 1-3, 2016. Additionally we are available to come and give a presentation at your school for department staff meetings or other appropriate meetings.

Please RSVP (by emailing IFS) for the November 17 informational session by November 14, 2016.  If you would like to request a presentation at your school,  please contact us through email (office@intlfieldstudies.org) or by phone at (614) 268-9930.

Hurricane Matthew Havoc

Category 4 storm Hurricane Matthew pounded the Bahamas on Thursday, October 6 with storm surges as high as 15-20 feet. 

With wind speeds as fast as 130 mph, roofs were ripped from buildings and many homes were flattened on the north end of Andros.  Lowe Sound lost nearly 90% of their homes with one fatality.  Additionally, more than 700 power lines are down, adding to the estimated cost of repair damage in the Bahamas which is said to be close to $400 million, according to The Nassau Guardian. International Field Studies, Inc, along with many other local businesses, have been effected by the storm. 

Forfar Field Station sustained some significant damage.  We lost the roof from our storage area, shingles from our office trailer, workshop and dive shop.  We had over 50 trees that came down on our property.  Water was finally restored after 12 days and the power is still off at Forfar but has been restored to Stafford Creek and Blanket Sound. Our maintance crew (Cardo, Allan, Randall, and Franklin) along with some community help (Ashton, Jackson, Cordell, and Rico) have done a fantastic job of clearning away the downed trees and vegetation.  We were fortunate that we didn't have any major structrual damage to the buildings but it left us weeks behind schedule.  Androsians are resilient and our local staff are doing well.  

We are asking for monetary donations in order to  get Forfar Field Station back up and running for our incoming November groups. With a functioning station, we will be able to provide even more help to the surrounding community.

Coral Restoration in the Bahamas

In an intense 9 day workshop held at the Cape Eleuthera Institute in August, IFS was represented by one of our Forfar Interns, Ahmed Mendez.  The workshop was titled, “Reversing The Decline of Bahamian Coral Reefs: 1st Coral Workshop 2016” and was led by the Perry Institute for Marine Science and the Bahamas National Trust.    
 
Using reef restoration methods developed by SECORE, the participants collected coral spawn and fertilized thousands of Acropora palmata eggs, and got larvae to settle from at least two brooding coral species – Undaria agaricites and Favia fragum. Additionally, AGRRA (Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment) training and surveys were performed around the South Eleuthera reef.  We are excited about the positive results from the coral propagation and restoration efforts so far in the Bahamas.  IFS will continue to partner and assist with the ongoing efforts.  There is hope yet that we can restore, protect, and reverse the decline of our beloved coral reefs.

Hello and Good-bye

In March, we said goodbye to Kate Hammond and Joey Marullo and their two beautiful children as they literally sailed away from Andros.  We appreciate their time at the station and wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors. 

Conversely, we said hello to Liz Richardson as the new Forfar Field Station Director in February.  An alumnus of the program from Westerville North High School (OH), she comes with a diverse background in group leadership skills and logistics.  Welcome to the Forfar family Liz!

We are also looking for interns to start in the fall.  If you have completed your undergraduate degree in marine biology or similar field, have some experience working/teaching/leading groups, and the ability to commit to one year in a rural and challenging environment, then we want you to apply!  Send your resume and cover letter to lindsey@intlfieldstudies.org.   Additional skills that we are looking for (but not required) include: boat driving (24 feet and over), SCUBA diving experience, and camp/field station experience.

2015 Highlights from Forfar Field Station

We had a great year on Andros creating “the magic” that is Forfar:  sharing our love for science with groups new and old ranging from 6th graders up through graduate students.

We also hosted a greater number of researchers from the scientific community than in recent years and we are excited to expand that number in 2016.   For example, one of our greatest highlights of 2015 has been our involvement in the installation and care of a 100-piece coral propagation project in 40ft of water off of Pigeon Cay. The project is in association with Dr. Craig Dahlgren and Bahamas National Trust (BNT). It delights us to visit the fragments, track their growth, and keep them clean. With hope, we’ll be transplanting pieces back to the reef in late 2016. A couple of our staff spent several nights camped out in the Joulter Cays tagging and releasing Piping Plovers with the Audubon Society and BNT. Some Clark Montessori students experienced an extra bit of enchantment when they sailed aboard the s/v Flying Dragon, a very real pirate ship owned and operated by Capt. “Topsail” Bill.

We successfully completed year one of the BNT Navigator’s program with high school students from Central and North Andros High. We are currently moving along with year two of the curriculum. BNT is just one of several Bahamian organizations Forfar assists in their mission of educating Bahamians about their own environment.

Year after year, Andros continues to “WOW” us with her beauty, on land and in the water and we look forward to sharing that magic with you in 2016!

Changes at IFS

Going back to the beginning of IFS in 1970, Dr. Walter (Ben) Bohl has served as Executive Director of the organization.  During these 45 years, this organization through Ben's leadership has touched thousands of students, teachers, staff, researchers, and others who share his vision for interdisciplinary educational experiences outside of the classroom.  Thank you Ben for your many years of service and dedication to IFS.  The IFS Board of Directors in November named Ben as Executive Director Emeritus in honor of his leadership, devotion, and service to IFS.
 
The IFS Board of Directors has hired Lindsey Christ to serve as the new Executive Director.  She comes to IFS with a background in non-profit management, a Master’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Ecology from the University of Florida, and extensive teaching experience from K-12 grades through to the college level in Environmental Education.  She is excited for the future of IFS and the potential to grow and expand reaching thousands more with the field study experience at Forfar Field Station honoring Ben Bohl’s legacy.  She would love to hear from you at lindsey@intlfieldstudies.org.