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.

Where are they now? A Spotlight on Previous Interns - Johnny Rader!

conducting sand dollar RESEARCH on sanibel island

conducting sand dollar RESEARCH on sanibel island

Meet the wonderful Johnny Rader!

Johnny spent two and a half years from 2012 to 2015 at Forfar Field Station! His shared love for the ocean and marine creatures (his favorite are nudibranchs - check it out) made his passion for ocean conservation and education into a career!

Johnny reflected on the practical and boating skills he learned during his time on Andros, but emphasized the importance of the teaching skills he acquired from his experience, and access to visiting professors and educators. 

 

Mist netting on andros island

Mist netting on andros island

Now, as an outdoor marine educator, Johnny shares his love for marine invertebrates and birds with his students! From Forfar to Sanibel Island, he is continuing to teach about ocean conservation to young and bright minds to help protect the planet for them and future generations.

When he is not sharing his love for the ocean with his students at Sanibel Sea School, Johnny loves diving in the Florida Keys and at Blue Heron Bridge. You'll find him with a nudibranch in hand and "a pair of 'binoc' to [his] face."

Way to go, Johnny! As an ambassador for ocean conservation, IFS is so proud to have helped you pursue your passion, keep up the good work!

 

IFS & Reef Rescue Network outplant corals from our propagation site!

coral_nursery_forfar_bahamas.jpg

Our Propagation Site

The coral line nursery (as shown above) is growing 80 to 90 fragments of Staghorn (Acropora cervicornis), Elkhorn (Acropora palmata), and Fused Staghorn (Acropora prolifera) species. These species of coral provide incredibly important habitats within reefs. Unfortunately, these fast-growing coral species face many challenges in warming waters. They are particularly susceptible to bleaching events and higher concentrations of carbon dioxide which can impair coral fertilization. To learn more about coral restoration efforts and coral propagation, check out Dr. David Vaughan's research at the Mote Tropical Research Center here.

In collaboration with the Reef Rescue Network, we are excited to monitor the progress and growth of these outplanted corals! We are thrilled about the positive results from the coral propagation and restoration efforts so far in the Bahamas. These ongoing projects give us hope for the future of coral reefs, and IFS will continue to restore, support and protect these precious ecosystems.

What is coral outplanting?

Corals are grown in a nursery for about six to nine months on average. When they are deemed ready for outplanting, they are taken to predetermined restoration sites and are directly attached to the reef with a non-toxic marine epoxy or with nails and zip ties (check out this video to see the nail and zip tie method in action). Corals can then be monitored for potential threats including disease, tissue paling, and predation. Broken fragments of coral can be reattached to the reef and grow into new coral colonies that promote genetic diversity. These broken coral fragments would likely not be able to reattach themselves to the reef or survive on their own without our help.

coral_restoration_forfar_bahamas.JPG

We are passionate about sharing the latest research and updates on the health of global coral reefs and marine conservation. Stay up to date with us here! 

The Future of Coral Propagation

We are amazed by the large scale efforts for the preservation and restoration of coral reefs being implemented today by our friends at SECORE. Coral restoration can be tedious, as each coral fragment must be manually transplanted onto the reef. However, SECORE is implementing pilot projects that utilize quicker methods for restoration in Mexico and Curacao. SECORE Seeding Units allow for rapid seeding of coral fragments (also called coral recruits). Intensive research has gone into the asexual reproduction of coral species, and the best way to propagate coral recruits with genetic diversity, while emphasizing the ability for coral species to better withstand the changing oceanic conditions that can easily stress and kill reefs.

SECORE highlights some of the greatest challenges facing the Bahamian coral reefs. Because of the shallow waters surrounding the Bahamas, the reefs are subjected to increasing water temperatures which can lead to algal growth, elevated nutrient levels and the potential for reoccurring coral bleaching (SECORE, Bahamas). Continued research aims to find the most resilient corals in a changing environment. We can't wait to follow along with their findings, projects and developing research for the health and survival of future reefs!

Click to scroll through the photos below.

Where are they now? A Spotlight on Previous Interns - Tami LaPilusa!

Today, we are excited to introduce the lovely and accomplished Tami LaPilusa!

Jason Morrison, Tami (Ohlin) LaPilusa, Earl the dog, and Matt LaPilusa (yes, they got married!)

Jason Morrison, Tami (Ohlin) LaPilusa, Earl the dog, and Matt LaPilusa (yes, they got married!)

Tami worked as an intern at Forfar field station from September 1996 to June 1998. Her ties to Forfar and IFS are still strong today.  Tami conducts research which started with her graduate degree and continues in her current faculty position at SUNY Oneonta. Her research emphasizes conservation and sustainable management for crab species in the Bahamas, including the Christmas Island blue crab, Discoplax celeste, and the blue land crab, Cardisoma guanhumi Latreille.

She recently presented her research at the Bahamas Natural History Conference in 2016 and 2018. 

Watch her presentation from 2016 here: Crab Pen Survey & Harvest Analysis of the Land Crab

During her internship at Forfar, Tami emphasized the skills she learned, from flexibility, adaptability, public speaking, SCUBA, watercraft operations & maintenance, to the ability to work collaboratively with others who may not share her views. She fondly recalls her relationship with local community members and the lasting friendships amongst her fellow interns.

Since her internship, Tami has held leadership positions in many organizations including her role as program director for the Boys and Girls Club. She was also the office manager for IFS at the Florida office. Currently, she is on the biology faculty at SUNY Oneonta.

In her free time, she continues to travel to different islands in The Bahamas. Her hobbies include beach exploration, hiking, and camping. 

IFS loves working in collaboration with Tami, and we are excited to share her research with you! Follow the link below to learn more about Tami's work:

Tami LaPilusa, Erratum to: Characterization of microsatellite markers from the commodity species Cardisoma guanhumi Latreille and the Christmas Island blue crab (Discoplax celeste)

Click on the images to scroll through!