Four Young Environmental Stewards Start a New Journey

After a highly competitive application process with candidates applying from Grand Bahama, New Providence, Eleuthera and Abaco, four new Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholars (BESS) have been selected. The programme provides scholars with an enriching and life-changing opportunity offered by BREEF and the Cape Eleuthera Island School. 

Scholars for the 2020-2021 BESS Programme are Antonia Ferguson from Nassau Christian School (NCS), Edward Munroe from the Leadership Academy, Haley Bethel from Forest Heights Academy and Aquinas College and Dominique Bowleg from C.R. Walker Senior High. Scholars will spend a life-changing semester at The Island School and a four-month paid internship at BREEF. BREEF and The Island School mentor these independent students through solutions-based learning and scientific research internships. Recognizing the growing need to problem solve in a rapidly changing world, the scholars will be well equipped to lead The Bahamas into a more sustainable future once they complete the programme.

Antonia Ferguson from Nassau Christian School (NCS)

Tonia Ferguson, Valedictorian of NCS, made quite a splash in the news stating her aspirations of being a marine biologist and a professional mermaid. “I am aching for an innovative learning experience in BESS. The ocean and science were always my two loves and I have a passion for sustaining our beloved resources for future generations. I want to encourage people, especially children, to care for our beautiful waters and aquatic animals, in particular sharks and their conservation” – Tonia Ferguson

Edward Munroe from the Leadership Academy

Edward Munroe has been actively involved in caring for our coasts through community and beach cleaning initiatives. He is very excited to be at The Island School, eager to be a part of the Center for Sustainable Development as well as learning about fish farming, food security and marine protected areas. Edward, currently residing in Eleuthera, will also be participating in an internship with the One Eleuthera Foundation before attending the Island School next Spring.

Haley Bethel from Forest Heights Academy and Aquinas College

Haley Bethell experienced first hand the destruction of Hurricane Dorian and the loss of her beloved Eco- School, Forest Heights Academy in Abaco. The event taught her, “that material things should not be the focus of one’s life journey because we could easily lose them in a flash”. Her hobbies are swimming, baking and making things with her hands. Hayley is looking forward to studying marine biology and using social media to affect positive change, with a possible focus in eco-tourism or water management.

Dominique Bowleg from C.R. Walker Senior High

Dominique Bowleg was the Vice President of her Environmental Club at C.R. Walker. She wants to focus on a career researching new marine plants and invertebrates with hopes to discover possible treatments for incurable diseases.  Dominique also wants to help protect key species with new legislation to prevent depletion of our fisheries resources. She will be interning at BREEF this September and attending The Island School in the Spring.

These four scholars will begin their journey this fall, gaining hands-on experiences and forging lifelong relationships in the BESS Programme.

Since 2008, 47 young Bahamians have benefitted from this exceptional educational experience, with most scholars going on to pursue related tertiary studies or being currently employed in the environmental field.  Coral Vita’s Alannah Vellacott states that “Hands down the BESS – Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholars programme changed my life and was the springboard for the incredible, adventurous life of marine research and conservation I live. BREEF  I am forever grateful for you believing in me.”

BREEF and the Cape Eleuthera Island School thank all the partners, donors and sponsors whose support makes these opportunities possible.

Read more

A Growing Love for the Environment: Kaitlyn Archer’s Story

From the moment I became involved with BREEF, it has been an enlightening experience. It all began in November 2019, when I learned about the Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) programme through my Eco-School Club at St. Anne’s School. Both the Eco-school Bahamas and YRE programmes provide great opportunities for young people to learn about the need for environmental sustainability and practical measures we could adopt to make a positive difference.

My enthusiasm for the environment led me to register for the YRE national competition. I wanted to gain greater insight on issues such as global warming, ocean pollution and conservation.

Shortly after registering, my schoolmates and I attended the YRE seminar. There, we were exposed to many different forms of media as well as the tools needed to start creating our competition entries. The presentations were not only informative but engaging. The seminar also allowed us to further develop our interpersonal skills as it fostered communication and collaboration with other competitors throughout the island. We were given the opportunity to hear from persons who shared similar passions for the well-being of our planet.

Kaitlyn and team at the YRE workshop (February 8th, 2020).

That experience was only the beginning of something exciting and new. BREEF then granted my friends and I, an experience we could not pass up – a chance to explore the mesmerizing BREEF Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden. There, we got to experience unique fish species and marine animals up close. The thrill of this experience compelled me to accept another invitation when the opportunity arose. 

On PADI Women’s Dive Day (July 18th, 2020), BREEF afforded me the privilege of snorkeling their underwater sculpture garden for a second time. I felt extremely honoured to be in attendance and embraced by qualified women in science.

Kaitlyn being interviewed by Crystal Darling from ZNS on PADI Women’s Dive Day.
Mermaid model, Linzi Belton-Knowles

Through YRE’s extensive platform, my peers and I have definitely gained an acute awareness of protecting our ecosystems and the species in our native land. I have learnt so much from BREEF – from the significance of the Coral Reef Sculpture Garden to the ways I can help promote sustainability and conservation of our environment.  These experiences opened new doors for me, and I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to participate in BREEF events. I am also appreciative of BREEF’s employees who continue to allow me to spend time with the organization. 

I call on anyone that has a passion for our environment to partner with BREEF. It just might be the place that allows you to fulfill your desire to care for our environment.

Read more


Left to right -Crystal Darling, Antonia Ferguson, Nadia Pinder-Morris, Mallory Raphael, Channing Thomas, Crashonda Roye and Casuarina Mckinney-Lambert, In front – Allison Longley, Kaitlyn Archer, Linzi Benton-Knowles

PADI Women’s Dive Day begun six years ago and has grown to be the largest single day of diving in the world. This year BREEF celebrated PADI Women’s Dive Day with a dive and snorkel at the world-renown BREEF Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden. A variety of women and girls in science were present including Crystal Darling, a journalist who has a keen interest in marine science, Mermaid Linzi, an ocean activist as well as BREEF Young reporters and new BESS Scholars.

The day was filled with laughter and inspiration as the girls got to meet and network with science journalists, conservationists and BREEF Staff.
Check out this ZNS story to view highlights from this special day.

Read more

BESS Alumni Spotlight: Trueranda Cox

Nine years later, BESS alumni Trueranda Cox still remembers the moment she learned that she was accepted into the BESS programme.

“I was extremely happy – I probably smiled for a week nonstop.” Trueranda said. 

Trueranda’s enthusiasm was seen and felt in everything she was asked to do. From research projects to helping with sea camp and even now when BESS students reach out to her, she is ready and willing to assist.

“Looking back on every research trip that I had the opportunity to go on, I am in awe that at 17 years old I was able to contribute to real world science in rooms filled with scientists both local and international,” Trueranda said

Trueranda participating in Lionfish research.

Trueranda now runs Ultimate Tours Bahamas, an eco-tour and activity company that highlights Bahamian culture, history and the environment. She credits the opportunities experienced during the BESS programme for the path she is currently on.

Trueranda leading a tour

“The network of people I have been exposed to during this programme [the BESS programme] is probably one of my greatest assets so far in my career. I don’t think I would be where I am today if I did not have the chance to be exposed at such a young age,” Trueranda said.

This is not the only thing Trueranda gained during her time in the programme.

“The BESS programme has challenged me to be more of a critical thinker. Critical thinking skills are crucial in developing a problem-solving mindset and once you can approach every challenge or obstacle with a problem-solving mindset, I think you may have found the secret to a happy life,” she said. 

Trueranda shares this piece of advice to current and future BESS scholars.

“Take advantage of every opportunity that is presented to you through the programme. The skills and network you will gain is priceless. You will be light years ahead of your peers if you do.”

Read more

BESS Alumni Spotlight: Kenaro Malcolm

Drive and transparency are two characteristics that BESS alumni Kenaro Malcolm embodies. From the day he accepted his BESS scholarship to now, we have seen Kenaro’s drive take him to new depths! 

From a very young age Kenaro was inspired by his Grandfather to foster a connection with the ocean. He comes from a long line of family fisherman and spent a lot of time on the water. His favorite fish is the Atlantic Tarpon, also known as the Silver King in the sport fishing world. 

“As the pinnacle of inshore sport fishing just the idea of a 300lb tarpon at the end of my fly rod is enough to make any experienced angler weak at the knees,” – Kenaro said.

Kenaro, a self-confessed Fish ‘FIN’atic, was in heaven during his Island School semester when he participated in research on Fish Aggregation Devices (FADs). During the research, he assisted scientists with monitoring colonization and succession of species on pelagic FADs.

Kenaro tagging sharks during his time at the Island school.

“We dropped a deep anchor with 2,000 ft of line and we monitored the small fish which first came, then larger and larger fish all the up to apex predators. I also got to tag sharks to study their health, growth and migration in the Bahamas,” Kenaro said.

Kenaro also interned at the Bahamas National Trust and took every opportunity he had to dive and snorkel with BREEF. 

Kenaro cleaning corals during his Coral Nursery and Restoration (CNR) certification.

After completing the BESS Program Kenaro was awarded a scholarship by the Lyford Cay Foundation. He is currently studying Marine Environmental Technology at the College of the Florida Keys.

“The BESS programme made me realize that anything is possible if you’re willing to put your all into it,” Kenaro said. “ I can remember as clear as day one of my professors during the time of BESS saying to me – If you continue to pursue your passion, it will one day become your profession.”

Kenaro alongside Shedd Aquarium staff.

We are looking forward to seeing all that Kenaro accomplishes in the coming years! He is focused, determined and everything we love to see in our environmental stewards!

“Just like everything else in life there’s going to be ups and downs. BESS was the “up” that put me on top of the world,” Kenaro said. “To think something so overlooked could be sitting under people’s noses, oblivious to wondrous experiences are available through this scholarship.“

Read more

Six Years Later the BREEF Sculpture Garden Explodes with Life.

The BREEF Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden was built as an incredible living art gallery, a habitat for marine organisms, an underwater classroom for students, and to drive marine conservation efforts. Created and deployed in 2014, the Coral Reef Sculpture Garden is now a home to many species of coral, fish and invertebrates such as sponges and sea urchins. 

Several sculptures make up our artificial coral reef garden and Ocean Atlas by Jason de Caires Taylor is at the center of them all. Ocean Atlas is a living statue of a Bahamian girl holding the future of our oceans on her shoulders. She calls for the next generation of environmental stewards to take up the torch of marine conservation.

Over the past six years, Ocean Atlas has made a few new coral friends. Her hand is now covered with encrusting brain coral and her back with finger coral. 

Encrusting Brain Coral on Ocean Atlas’ hand.
Finger Coral on Ocean Atlas’ back.

Star coral, mustard hill coral and fire coral are developing all over her body.

Corals have embraced Ocean Atlas and the other statues in our coral garden. The Virtuoso Man by Willicey Tynes, shown just after deployment in 2014, has been growing fire coral and golf ball coral all over his body.  Various fish and marine invertebrates have also made the Virtuoso Man’s staff their home. 

Sponges, oysters and coral making themselves at home on the Virtuoso man. One of our BESS Scholars, Seth Bullard, posing next to the Virtuoso man.

The Reef Balls are developing into a living reef, housing octocorals and long spined urchins that help keep algae in check. 

Long spined sea urchins on reef balls.
Octocorals growing on reef balls.

The artificial reef sculptures also host sea fans, arrow crabs and other species of corals.

Sea fan on reef ball.
Arrow crab on reef ball.

Larger marine animals such as spotted eagle rays, manatees and dolphins have also visited the BREEF sculpture garden.

Spotted eagle rays swimming by Ocean Atlas.

Near the sculpture garden, you will find one of BREEF’s coral nurseries. There, corals are fragmented and regrown on coral trees using the propagation method. When these corals are large enough they are out-planted on the reef and secured with underwater epoxy.

Allison Longley BREEF Outreach and Education officer, Mallory Raphael, BREEF Research and Environmental Education Officer getting ready to outplant corals from the BREEF nursery.
Photo Credit: Hayley Jo Carr, Reef Rescue Network
Outplanted corals from 2018

Two years later, this reef of outplanted corals is full of life! Just look at all of these fish taking shelter in the ‘BREEF Reef’ now!

Restoring coral reefs is very important for the health of the marine environment and sustaining our livelihoods. A structurally diverse reef can provide a multitude of habitats for species. Healthy reefs also reduce wave energy by 95%, thus protecting our coasts during major storms!  

We have outplanted over 200 corals from our nursery and counting. Our coral restoration effort is part of the REEF Rescue Network.

You can help BREEF rebuild our precious coral reefs by adopting a coral today!

Read more

BREEF Celebrates World Oceans Day

Every June 8, we celebrate the beauty, wealth and promise of our oceans. Preserving it for future generations is important for the health and well being of our planet. This World Oceans Day organizations, scientists and activists around the world are calling on our leaders to protect 30% of our blue planet by 2030

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) do just that!

Help BREEF protect our oceans, rebuild our reefs and preserve our blue Bahamas by purchasing a Paint N Sip package today!

BREEF partners with Art n Soul and Young’s Fine Wine to create a one of a kind World Oceans Day Celebration!

Enjoy a relaxing and fun experience in the comfort of your own home while enjoying a bottle of Murphy Goode wine.  

$100 Donation Package includes:

  • 1 Bottle of Murphy Goode Cabernet Sauvignon or Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 Stretched Canvas 12×12
  • 1 Paintbrush
  • 1 Palette
  • Acrylic paint 
  • Video tutorial on how to paint a turtle!

Purchase your package today! Promotion expires Friday, June 12th. *Must be 21 years old to purchase.

Read more

BREEF and Rolex Partner to Preserve and Protect Nature

The Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) and Rolex are celebrating their partnership for a better future with a short film about our beautiful blue Bahamas. The film highlights BREEF and Eco-Schools Bahamas students and the actions they are taking within their schools and communities to combat climate change and to sustain our way of life. Rolex’s Perpetual Planet initiative celebrates partnerships like this that encourage and inspire the next generation of underwater explorers and conservationists.  

Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, BREEF Executive Director at the BREEF Coral Nursery

We are thrilled to share the wonders of the underwater world with children who live in our archipelago. Through our Eco-Schools programme we are able to reach young people in The Bahamas and around the world and inspire local and global action. We are working on the ground to protect and restore our coral reefs and the tremendous biodiversity they contain. This short film is an inspiration and a reminder to us all of our responsibility to protect the marine environment especially in the face of a changing world. ” stated Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, BREEF Executive Director.

The pandemic has left people around the world searching to find a new normal. Amid digital meetings, lockdowns, and curfews it is important to remain connected to the environment. Whether it’s growing a garden, watching a nature film, or teaching children about the ocean, people are finding ways to bring the outside in. And meanwhile, there is a growing understanding of the importance of protecting the world around us for our long-term sustainability. Global challenges such as climate change are still crucial issues to address as countries rebuild in ways that provide social, economic and environmental resilience. 

Rolex – the vision and values of Hans Wilsdorf still guide the company today. From exploration for pure discovery to exploration as a means to preserve the natural world, Rolex continues the legacy of its founder. For nearly a century, Rolex has supported pioneering explorers, pushing back the boundaries of human endeavour. With the Perpetual Planet campaign, launched in 2019, Rolex is committed for the long term to support the explorers in their quest to protect the environment. To start with, this commitment focuses on the Rolex Awards for Enterprise and partnerships with the National Geographic Society and Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue initiative. But this is just the beginning. 

Carleah Culmer, age 13, Eco-School student at Deep Creek Middle School, Eleuthera, is motivated to protect nature and here is her explanation- “I am a young teenager who will be inheriting this earth and if we do not make more sustainable choices in our everyday life the next generation will suffer. I believe that my generation can change the direction we are headed for the better.’’

The film was created before the COVID-19 pandemic and includes students from Deep Creek Middle School, Eva Hilton Primary School, Harbour Island Green School, and C. I. Gibson Senior High School. It will debut on May 19th, 2020. It will be released on the BREEF website and BREEF’s social media platforms, Instagram, and Facebook. 

BREEF is an important part of the conservation and education community in The Bahamas and the world. From providing on-the-ground instruction for Bahamians to be stewards of the environment and advocating for strong policies, to actively restoring reef habitat, BREEF has a successful multi-pronged approach to protecting the waters around us. 

BREEF also is the Bahamas National Operator for the international Eco-Schools programme that operates in 68 countries around the world and reaches 19.5 million children.  Our Bahamian Eco-Schools network currently consists of 34 public and private schools on Abaco, Eleuthera, Exuma, Grand Bahama, Long Island, and New Providence. 

Schools interested in learning more about or joining the Eco-Schools Programme can contact BREEF at 817-0772 or email: or

Read more

Marine Medical Treasures

As scientists race to find cures for the COVID-19 virus, maybe they should look to the ocean for some help. Ocean discoveries that helped advance the medical field are not something new. For decades, scientists have turned to the ocean for new drugs.

Think about it, marine organisms are often surrounded by fungi, bacteria, and other organisms waiting to turn them into food. As a result, both the predator and the prey have developed complex biological molecules that help them survive. Over the years, scientists found that biological molecules created as a defense mechanism by marine animals often turn out to be great antiviral, antibacterial, and anticancer drugs.

Take sea sponges, for example, they cannot move and lack physical defenses, which make them vulnerable to other marine organisms such as turtles and fish. However, sea sponges have developed a variety of defense molecules to ward off predators.

In the 1950s, the first marine-derived anticancer agent, Ara-C was created from a shallow-water sea sponge – Cryptotethya crypta, now known as Tectitethya crypta. Today, the drug is still used to treat lymphoma and leukemia. Cryptotethya crypta was also used to make the drug AZT which helps fight the HIV virus.

Mangrove Tunicate in Nassau, Bahamas (Photo Credit:

The mangrove tunicate is a colonial sea squirt that’s found right here in The Bahamas. It was used to create a cancer drug called Trabectedin. Similar to the sea sponge, adult mangrove tunicates have limited to no mobility. Sea hare eggs also produce compounds that inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

Black sea hare swimming over algae. (Photo Credit: CreativeCommons – PedroPVZ)

Then there is the Pacific cone snail whose venom is used to create the drug Prialt. The cone snail has harpoon-like stingers that release poison strong enough to paralyze and/or kill fish and humans. 

 “I thought that if these snails were so powerful that they could paralyze the nervous system, smaller doses of the compounds from the venoms might have beneficial effects,” said Baldomero Olivera, a biochemist at the University of Utah. 

Olivera conducted the research that led to the discovery of the drug Prialt. The drug is used to treat severe and chronic pain and is said to be 1,000 times as powerful as morphine.

Other ocean discoveries like marine microalga acids have revolutionized human life. The marine microalga, Cryptocodinium cohnii, produces two essential fatty acids found in human breast milk. Scientists have extracted these acids and used them to create infant formula. 

These discoveries only scrape the surface. With more than 80% of the ocean unexplored, who knows what new discoveries are out there. 

Ocean Atlas sculpture representing the youth holding the future of our ocean on their shoulders (Photo Credit: Lili Wagner) 

There is an old Island saying that goes “Take care of the boat and the boat will take care of you.” From the beginning of time, the ocean has supported human life. It provides us with food, medicines, water, and oxygen.

As we look to the ocean for medical solutions, we must ensure fair access to and equitable benefits from the marine resources extracted. It is important that local communities, indigenous people, and the world benefit from these resources. 

Let us all do our part to conserve, protect, and preserve our marine resources, discovered or undiscovered.


Quote from biochemist, Baldomero Olivera extracted from Smithsonian article. 

Read more

BESS Alumni Spotlight: Jason Petty

Jason leading a group of kids during a field study.
Jason tagging turtle with the Bahamas Sea Turtle Tagging Network.

When Jason Petty first arrived at BREEF in 2017, he was a nervous wreck. Moving from Grand Bahama to New Providence was very scary but he was excited to be a part of the Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholarship (BESS) programme and his eagerness to learn stood out.

“For as long as I can remember I have had a deep interest and connection with the ocean,” said Jason. He spent the first part of his BESS year with The Island School and the latter part interning with BREEF.

“The BESS programme was one of the greatest decisions I have made thus far,” said Jason. “I was exposed to other cultures and ways of thinking unlike any that I have experienced before.”

Jason measuring the lip thickness of a Queen Conch in the field.

Throughout the year, Jason conducted research on Queen Conch populations alongside The Cape Eleuthera Institute and The SHEDD Aquarium. During his time with BREEF, Jason assisted our team with sea camp, marine presentations, and field studies. We watched as his life skills and passion for marine life grew stronger and stronger. Our staff also had the privilege of watching Jason excel in things that once challenged him. 

Jason taking the icon Island School leap off of High Rock.
Jason and Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) colleagues

“I was terrified of public speaking at first but as time went on I became more comfortable with it,” said Jason. “Giving these presentations allowed me to display my true personality and gave me the confidence to ace my interview with my current organization.”

Jason is currently working on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is an Emergency Medical Technician at Doctors Hospital in New Providence. In his spare time, he continues to volunteer with BREEF, especially during our field studies block. He is always ready and willing to answer questions from new BESS interns. 

“There was no part of my BESS experience that I would trade,” said Jason. “Now I have tools for life and every day I try to be an advocate not just for the ocean but for the environment.”

The BREEF Team is very proud of Jason and wishes him continued success in all of his future endeavours! 

Read more