Abaco Science Alliance Conference

During the ASAC poster session, Island School graduate and current Friends of the Environment intern, Christian McIntosh of Green Turtle Cay (left), presented his group project on inland ponds of Eleuthera. Enie Buhler of North Carolina State University (right) presented her research on the effects of overfishing and habitat degradation on fish communities. PHOTO CREDIT: Friends of the Environment.
During the ASAC poster session, Island School graduate and current Friends of the Environment intern, Christian McIntosh of Green Turtle Cay (left), presented his group project on inland ponds of Eleuthera. Enie Buhler of North Carolina State University (right) presented her research on the effects of overfishing and habitat degradation on fish communities. PHOTO CREDIT: Friends of the Environment.

[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Abaco Science Alliance Conference (ASAC) is unique. Unlike other conferences that cater strictly to scientists, ASAC presents up to date information in a format that appeals to general audiences, including students and community members. Over the last 12 years, this biennial conference has been adapted to meet the needs of the Abaco community by sharing research that is relevant to conservation, education, and Bahamian livelihoods. Additionally, the conference helps expose students to careers in science and gives them the opportunity to network with researchers studying in The Bahamas.

In her welcome to the conference, Friends of the Environment Executive Director Kristin Williams emphasized the importance of partnership and information sharing between researchers, conservation managers, and the community. She also cited some important milestones in Bahamian conservation that were made possible over the last decade through such partnerships: a fixed closed Nassau grouper season, a ban on turtle fishing, and new national parks and protected areas across the country. Keynote speaker Eric Carey of The Bahamas National Trust gave the audience a brief history of conservation in The Bahamas and reminded us of the scope of needs for research to support conservation.

Participating presenters contributed to the conference through talks and posters. Presentations highlighted topics including, but not limited to, best practices for handling bonefish, the mangrove die-off in The Marls of Abaco, manatee movements, plastics being consumed by sportfish, and noise pollution in the ocean. Summaries of each presentation are available on www.friendsoftheenvironment.org/a-s-a-c.

Thanks to sponsorship by The Cable Bahamas Cares Foundation and the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, FRIENDS was able to facilitate the participation of 118 students and 6 teachers from 6 Abaco high schools at no cost to the participants. Students participated by asking questions of the presenters and visiting display tables hosted by national and international environmental organizations Bahamas Plastic Movement, the Bahamas National Trust, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust, and Trees that Feed. This was also the first time that high school students presented at the conference! FRIENDS’ after school club, the Island Investigators, shared their research on a coral restoration project at Mermaid Reef in Marsh Harbour.

This conference also marked a huge milestone for FRIENDS as it was the first time that ASAC presenters were able to stay at the new Frank Kenyon Centre for Research, Education, and Conservation. Many of the presenters contributed to the design and planning of the Kenyon Centre and have expressed interest in future partnership with programs at FRIENDS and the Kenyon Centre.

FRIENDS would like to thank all those who contributed to the success of the conference. Look out for details on ASAC 2018! If you would like more information, or to become involved, please contact FRIENDS at info@friendsoftheenvironment.org.

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