Coral Conservation Continues at Forfar

On October 22-23, 2018, Reef Rescue Network and staff from Forfar Field Station on Andros braved the high seas of the Tongue of the Ocean to complete the outplanting of Acropora fragments back to the local reef. 

Trinitt Mike coral basket - reef rescue.jpg

Despite the far from optimal weather conditions, the crew ventured out beyond the reef crest of the Andros fringing-barrier reef to the coral propagation site. There, the divers, armed with loppers and milk crates, descended to the nursery. While half the divers were trimming fragments of Staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis), the other half was roaming around underneath them catching the fragments with the crates. Divers then returned to the surface to drop off the full crates to the surface crew, who counted and carefully moved each fragment in a cooler full of sea water. The team then moved to the chosen outplanting site, Strings Quartet, on the back side of the reef. There, the divers went back down and attached the fragments using marine epoxy onto different rocks within the reef. The weather took a turn to the worst, with heavier winds and rain, preventing the team from getting back onto the reef and consequently forcing them to head back to the station to try again the next morning with the hope of better weather conditions.

Matt corals scuba - reef rescue.jpg

The following day the team was met with a similar forecast, which once again didn’t stop both divers and surface crew. This time they readjusted their strategy: they outplanted 50 fragments of both Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis) and Fused Staghorn coral (Acropora prolifera) directly to the reef adjacent to the nursery to minimize stress factors for the coral. After a well-deserved lunchbreak on the nearby deserted and idyllic Pigeon Cay, the team headed back out for two more dives. They collected 39 more fragments of both coral types and outplanted them to another site along the reef called A-flats.

Overall, these two intense days of fieldwork resulted in the outplanting of 126 Acropora fragments to the local reefs with the hope that they will grow strong and healthy. In the meantime, Forfar staff will be busy in the next upcoming weeks, trimming the remaining fragments of Elkhorn coral (Acropora palmata) from the nursery and outplanting them to Strings Quartet. It was a great two days of helping the Andros coral reef with amazing team work from both parties. Forfar staff loved getting out on the water while learning and gaining experience in coral reef restoration techniques.  We look forward to collaborating again with Reef Rescue Network coordinator, Haley Jo Carr, in the following year for the next outplanting trip.

Written By:

Anna Safryghin, Educational Intern

Forfar boat group photo.jpg

Your Guide to Reef Safe Sunscreen

Did you know that chemical-based sunscreens can be incredibly harmful to coral reefs and marine species?

Sunscreens can contain two different forms of active ingredients to protect our skin, mineral and chemical filters. The sunscreens containing chemical filters including Oxybenzone (aka benzophenone), Butylparaben, Octinoxate, and 4-methylbenzylidene camphor have been found to negatively affect coral reefs and marine ecosystems - and in some cases, even human health. 

According to 2016 research in the Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, oxybenzone and octinoxate, causes coral bleaching and damages corals their ability to reproduce. When corals bleach they lose or expel the algae living inside them, losing a valuable source of nutrition. With 4,000-6,000 tons of sunscreen washing into our oceans every year, these chemicals are causing widespread damage (Downs et al. 2016).

Organizations worldwide have been inspired to take action to limit the use of these chemicals in sunscreens. In July 2018, Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed a bill banning the sale of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate. Eco-conscious companies are starting to make changes too; REI have promised to ban the use of oxybenzone in all their products by fall 2020. 

Craig Downs, researcher and Executive Director of a the scientific non-profit Haereticus Environmental Laboratory, spoke out on the importance of proper sunscreen use, explaining, “We have lost at least 80 percent of the coral reefs in the Caribbean. Any small effort to reduce oxybenzone pollution could mean that a coral reef survives a long, hot summer, or that a degraded area recovers" (Kotala 2015).

In an effort to conserve our coral reefs and the environment of Andros, IFS will not allow guests to use sunscreens with unsafe chemicals. We aim to protect the reefs of Andros so future generations of students can continue using the space to learn and explore. It's important to remember we can all create sustainable habits to support large scale conservation efforts, and proper sunscreen use is an easy place to start. 

Reef Safe Sunscreen Guidelines

  • Don't use sunscreens that contain: Oxybenzone, Butylparaben, Octinoxate, or 4-methylbenzylidene camphor.
  • Do use mineral based sunscreens with coated, non-nano ingredients like titanium oxide or zinc oxide like the ones found here and here. Also, check out the Environmental Working Groups Guide to Sunscreens.
  • Avoid using spray sunscreens; aerosol products also hurt our environment.
  • Wear clothing that protects from the sun; UV t-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, hats and rash guards.

Thank you for understanding and taking steps to conserve the reefs of Andros! 

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 2.01.12 PM.png

Tour of Nassau Historical Sites

IFS is proud to announce that we are now offering historical tours of Nassau/New Providence in partnership with Woodside Transportation. 

This trip is a great option for groups that have a late departure time from the Nassau airport on their way back to the US. The scheduled flights for your group from Andros to Nassau will arrive in Nassau between 8 am and 9 am. If your departure flight to the US will be leaving after 3 pm, the Nassau tour will work well for your group and will provide ample time for the tour. We suggest that groups check-in for their international departure flight and check their bags with the airline before departing for the tour. The average length of this tour is between 3 and 4 hours long. 

The tour has a total cost of $25 per person (with lunch included). The tour focuses on visiting a number of historical sites throughout New Providence and includes a stop for lunch. The bus used for the tour has a capacity of 29 passengers and is driven by a licensed and insured professional driver. The driver will also act as your tour guide and will provide detailed information about each site you visit and many others that you will see while driving. They are very knowledgeable and are happy to answer any questions you may have. See below for additional details about the tour. 

To start the tour, your group will be picked up directly from the US Departures terminal at the Nassau airport.

  • The first stop of the tour is at the New Providence caves. This site is a long cave system with closed passage and there are usually many fruit bats flying around throughout the site. Your group will take around 15 minutes to explore the caves and your tour guide will provide detailed historical information.
  • Your next stop will be at Fort Charlotte. Built in 1788, at 100 acres in size, this is the largest fort on New Providence. Your group will have the option to view the fort from the perimeter or pay a small $2 fee to gain access to the Fort and explore the site on foot. 
  • The next stop is at Fort Fincastle and the Queen's Staircase. This site can be viewed from the perimeter while still on the bus, or your group can pay an additional $5 fee to gain access to the Fort and explore the site on foot. 
  • After visiting Fort Fincastle the next stop of the tour is at Fort Montagu. This site is the oldest fort still standing on New Providence and was built in 1741! Your group will exit the tour bus and spend around 15 minutes exploring the site on foot. 
  • The next stop of the tour is lunch at Arawak Cay. Groups will typically have a fish fry that includes fried chicken or fish, a side of fries, and a drink (there is also a vegetarian salad option). This stop typically takes place around 12:15 or 12:30 PM and your group will have reserved seating and access to onsite bathrooms.  If you're interested in other dining options, please contact the office to see what's available. 
  • When your group is finished with lunch, you will head back to the airport to check-in for your flight. The tour guide will plan to get you back to the airport around 2 hours before your flight departure. 

The typical drive time for the tour is around 1 hr and 15 minutes total with a maximum of 2 hours if traffic is very bad. 

There is no required paperwork for you or the students to complete. If you decide to book the tour, they will have a driver in the area around 8 am and they will be ready to pick you up from the airport with just a few minutes notice.

If you're interested in receiving more details or would like to move forward with booking the tour, please contact the office

Bats have returned to Morgan's Cave!

As some of our alumni may remember, there used to be bats present at Morgans Cave. The number of bats would vary from large groups (100+) to smaller groups (just a few), but in recent years we haven't seen any bats at the cave. We're not sure what the cause of this is, but the good news is that they are back!

While visiting Morgan's Cave in mid-June with a group our staff noticed the presence of 15+ bats roosting. This caused a change of plans and the group was notified about the roosting bats and that they would no longer be entering the cave. The bats returning to Morgan's Cave is a sign of a healthy ecosystem and we're happy that the bats have been spotted at the cave again. 

To protect the bats located in Morgan's Cave,  we will no longer be taking groups inside. Groups can still view the cave from the perimeter but everyone will need to keep a sufficient distance so the bats are not disturbed. We've also stopped taking groups to the "Bat Cave" which is also near Morgan's Cave due to fear of disturbing their habitat and the possibility of spreading white-nose syndrome. Although white-nose syndrome has not been detected in the Bahamas yet, we are still taking precautions. If you aren't familiar with white-nose syndrome, information can be found at Bat Conservation International.

There have been 15 different species of bats found in the Bahamas, but two of these are only known from fossils, and an additional three species are documented from single specimens (which are likely vagrants that do not represent resident populations in the Bahamas). This leaves the current count of Bahamas bat species at 10 (Speer et al., 2015).  The evolutionary history of Bats in the Bahamas is also an interesting one.  DNA suggests that there are two sources of bats (Florida for the northern Bahamas and the Greater Antilles for the southern Bahamas) with a gene flow barrier occurring at the New Providence Channel. (Reed 2016).

Waterhouse's leaf‐nosed bat (Macotus waterhousii) have been seen in the "Bat Cave" but we're still unsure what type of bats have repopulated Morgan's Cave.  The Bahamian Funnel-eared Bat (Chilonatalus tumidifrons) is the only endemic bat of the Bahamas occurring on Abaco, Andros, and San Salvador.  They are susceptible to disturbance due to their narrow range and small colony size and are considered to be a threatened species.  Since there is a possibility the bats in Morgan's Cave could be the Bahamian Funnel-eared bats, it is extremely important that we do what we can to promote the well-being of these bats.

We will continue to monitor the activity of the bats when we are in the area and will provide you with additional updates if the situation changes. 

CAHS Scholarship Fund Recipients

androsia_forfar_shirts

Have you ever purchased a t-shirt from Forfar? If so, give yourself a pat on the back. You're part of the reason that we're able to provide college scholarships to local high school students on Andros and we couldn't do it without you!

All profit from sales of our t-shirts at the field station are pooled into a scholarship fund that we disperse to local Andros high schoolers once per year. These scholarships are used to help fund continuing education for the students and are typically awarded to graduating Seniors. 

IFS is proud to announce the Forfar Scholarship Fund recipients for 2018. Congratulations to Destiny Adderley, Ashley Sargent, DVonya Saunders, and Micaiah Miller.  All four of the students are from Central Andros High School. This year we were able to provide $2,000 in funding which was split between the 4 students. 

Destiny Adderley plans to pursue her dream of studying chemistry and forensic science. Ashley Sargent has been accepted as a student at Bethune University in Daytona, Florida and plans to pursue a doctorate in chemistry. DVonya Saunders plans to attend the University of the Bahamas and become a future mathematics teacher or professor. Micaiah Miller has been accepted as a student at Miami Dade college and will be pursuing her dream of being a doctor of pediatric medicine. 

We wish the recipients of the scholarship fund the best as they continue their education and pursue their personal and professional dreams!

 

 

Your Guide to International Medical, Travel, and Dive Insurance

IMG_20170319_082556.jpg

Required International Medical Insurance

IFS requires that all participants in our programs have international medical insurance. Some medical insurance plans provide international coverage, but many do not. Make sure to check with your healthcare provider to confirm that your plan includes international coverage, medical evacuation, and major medical benefits.

If your plan does not provide international coverage, you can check the plans provided by MEDEX Assistance, HCC Medical Insurance Services, HTH Travel Insurance, or the International Student Identity Card (ISIC).  The Department of State has also provided a comprehensive list we encourage you to review. These options should provide adequate individual coverage.  Group coverage is also available for academic institutions with groups of 20 or more.

Optional Travel Insurance

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 10.15.09 AM.png

IFS suggests that participants purchase travel insurance that covers trip expenses such as natural disasters, travel delays, and emergencies. Hurricane season in the Bahamas lasts from June to the end of November. Groups visiting during this time frame should strongly consider the additional coverage. If your group will be in the Bahamas during hurricane season, the National Weather Service can provide further insight or any necessary precaution at www.nws.noaa.gov.  

Medical and Travel Insurance Combined

Two of the international medical insurance options listed in this post also offer international travel insurance. The International Student Identity Card (or International Youth Travel Card or International Teacher Identity Card) can save students, teachers, and overseas visitors money on travel insurance plans and other discounts or benefits. All cards issued in the U.S. come with international travel insurance. Learn more here: https://www.myisic.com/insurance/. StudentSecure coverage from HCC Medical Insurance Services, LLC is another good option for internationally traveling students to protect against unexpected expenses. This coverage is available for secondary school and college students or researchers. Learn more here: https://www.hccmis.com/student-secure-insurance/index.php.

The IFS policy states that deposits and fees are non-refundable, and IFS will not be held responsible for trip cancellations. If IFS cancels a trip due to natural disasters or other emergencies, your group may be eligible for a partial refund. Please see the group leader agreement form for more information on the IFS payment/refund policies.

Dive Insurance

Forfar Field Station is located in a very rural area and the nearest hospital and hyperbaric pressure chamber are located in Nassau. In a dive emergency, every second counts and life-flight transportation will likely need to be used. Most health insurance and/or travel insurance policies do not cover diving accidents. The policies that do cover dive accidents usually provide minimal reimbursement and if there is an accident, you will be responsible for the majority (if not all) of the related fees and charges. 

For certified divers who plan to dive at Forfar Field Station, dive insurance is not required but is strongly encouraged. If you are receiving any dive certifications at Forfar, then dive insurance is required

We recommend that all divers purchase DAN diving insurance prior to their trip to the field station. DAN offers a low cost and highly respected dive insurance policy that is regarded as the gold standard among divers. DAN has over 250,000 active members and over 30 years of experience helping divers. Annual plans start as low as $35 per individual and $55 per family (prices are subject to change). DAN Benefits include $100,000 Medical Evacuation, TravelAssist, and a 24/7 Emergency Hotline. Other dive insurance providers include World Nomads and Dive Assure

While we do not anticipate you will have a need for dive insurance at Forfar because our number one goal is safety, diving is an inherently risky activity and accidents can happen.  It is better to have the insurance and not need it than to be without it when you do.

If you are uncertain about purchasing international medical, travel, or dive insurance, please contact our office. We are happy to provide additional assistance to help determine the best coverage for your personal and group needs during your time at Forfar. 

Please note: we do not endorse any of the plans mentioned above, they are just some options available to you.