BREEF News

Sebastian was right; life under the sea is way better

By Nerandza Nikolic  

Soon after I moved to The Bahamas in the early August of 2019 to start teaching at the Lyford Cay International School, I was fortunate enough to attend a presentation by Mrs. Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, Executive Director of BREEF, where, among other things, I learned about coral nurseries. Wait, what? Underwater gardening is possible? Where do I sign up?! Needless to say, I was mesmerized and made a decision that once an opportunity presented itself, I was going to join this noble cause.

Although my plans got postponed by Covid-19, I was not going to give up. So, in the meantime, I took part in the BREEF Paint & Sip fundraiser and became the proud adoptive mother of a coral; her name is Renata, which in Spanish means “reborn”, thus symbolically representing the rebirth of our coral reefs and safeguarding the oceans.  

Photo 1- Endangered species, Staghorn coral out-planted onto the nearby reef.
Photo 2- Nena out-planting her adopted coral “Renata”.

So, finally, in October 2020 I got a chance to become a PADI Certified Diver with the help of one of the star BREEF instructors and one of the most passionate environmentalists, Allison Ballester-Longley. Now, bear in mind that the writer of these lines has fought the fear of swimming for years and thanks to the patience and expertise of my instructor, I not only managed to stay underwater, diving for lengthy periods of time, but I also out-planted two corals at the BREEF Coral Reef Sculpture Garden and socialized with various schools of fish which insisted on photobombing and interrupting our communication expecting to be fed. Rude!

Photo 3- Nena, photobombed by a blue tang at the BREEF Coral Reef Sculpture Garden and Coral Nursery.

Where from here? How does pursuing my Reef Rescue Diver certification and swimming with the sharks at Stuart Cove sound to you? Exactly!

Photo 4- PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, Allison Ballester-Longley and Open Water student Nena, heading out for a dive.

BREEF created the Coral Reef Sculpture Garden to draw attention to the threats facing our coral reefs, and to drive action to protect them. BREEF has created coral nurseries at the Coral Reef Sculpture Gardens and on the Andros Great Barrier Reef. At these coral nurseries, we are growing the endangered species, Staghorn coral.

BREEF is proud to be a part of the Reef Rescue Network in The Bahamas. Join us! Help rebuild our reefs by adopting a coral or become certified as a PADI Reef Rescue Diver!

Read more

BREEF Hosts First Virtual Eco-Schools Bahamas Workshop

Eco-Schools Bahamas students exploring BREEF’s Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Gardens 

Under the theme “Lessons from Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19: Building a resilient Eco-Schools Bahamas Programme,” the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) held its annual and first ever Virtual Eco-Schools Bahamas Coordinators Workshop. The Eco-Schools Bahamas Programme is part of Eco-Schools Global which is the largest sustainable schools programme in the world supporting student environmental leaders in 68 countries. During her opening remarks Laura Hickey, FEE Eco-Schools Director said, “Our common goals and interests are to prepare young people to develop the academic, social, and environmental knowledge and personal skills they need to be successful, fulfilled, and able to live in a sustainable world that they help build.”

The three-day workshop hosted participants from the USA, Abaco, Cat Island, Grand Bahama, Eleuthera, Exuma, Long Island and New Providence who examined current challenges facing environmental education. Participants explored strategies to promote healthy oceans and actions to combat climate change.

The workshop featured a wide range of speakers including Mrs. Rochelle Newbold, Director of the Department of Environmental Planning and Protection, Nikita Shiel-Rolle, CEO of Cat Island Conservation Institute and Young Marine Explorers, Dr. Ancilleno Davis, CEO of Science and Perspective, Cha Boyce, Executive Director of Friends of the Environment and Environmental Journalists at ZNS, Julian Reid and Crystal Darling . Presenters discussed topics ranging from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals to environmental education in a climate crisis and COVID-19 reality. Workshop participants also shared personal stories about their own personal and professional lessons learned from Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19.

Commenting on the guest presentation by Mrs. Rochelle Newbold, Director of the Department of +Environmental Planning and Protection, Eco-Schools Bahamas Steering Committee member Samantha Cartwright said, “The Director’s presentation was insightful and her advice to Eco-School students and their facilitators to continue to take action no matter how small the effort is was a great take home message. The presentation has helped all of us to understand the connection of how the SDGs help provide insight into the key question: Are we moving in the right direction? And if not, what needs to change now so that we are on a better path as we head to 2030?”

Attendees were encouraged to use outdoor spaces around their homes and school grounds for teaching and learning as studies have shown its vast benefits. BREEF’s virtual presentations were also highlighted as helpful tools that educators can use to continue education in these challenging times. In addition to celebrating the achievements of Eco-Schools Bahamas during 2019 -2020, participants networked to strengthen the growth and impact of Eco-Schools in The Bahamas. BREEF is extremely grateful for the commitment of Eco-Schools Bahamas benefactors, coordinators, partners and volunteers who remain resolute in inspiring future generations of environmental stewards.

Eleuthera’s Harbour Island Green School utilizing outdoor classroom spaces on their campus

Kevin Glinton, BREEF’s Education Coordinator and Eco-Schools Bahamas National Operator stated, “Children are very resilient. I am gratified by the participation of Educators and participants from several islands. And I am confident that our dedicated Eco-Schools Bahamas coordinators will continue to inspire them toward environmental actions in spite of Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19.”

According to Casuarina McKinney-Lambert, BREEF’s Executive Director, “The Bahamas belongs to our children and Eco-Schools gives them the tools and the global reach to protect it.”

Having completed a year- long pilot programme, BREEF also rolled out its new Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) Programme with the support of the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme. The Young Reporters for the Environment Programme is also sponsored by the Foundation for Environmental Education and managed in The Bahamas by BREEF.

BREEF is grateful to Rolex’s Perpetual Planet Initiative for their support of the Eco-schools Bahamas programme.

Read more

The Outdoor Classroom

The outdoor classroom is not a new phenomenon. Educators around the world have been practicing it for years. In fact, there is a long tradition of outside learning that includes Waldorf schools and open-air lectures by Aristotle and other ancient philosophers.

BREEF snorkelers

At BREEF the ocean is our classroom. We have always believed that incorporating outdoor education with a traditional classroom is beneficial, as it improves kids’ health, gives children a love and appreciation for nature, improves personal child development and provides practical experience. Most of our programmes are outdoors and we see these benefits firsthand.

In this new climate of social distancing, educators across the globe are moving towards the outdoor classroom. Scientists believe that the transmission of Covid-19 is less likely to occur outdoors as the infected droplets disperse faster in fresh air. Studies have also shown that sun and wind can help reduce the presence of viable viruses on surfaces.

BREEF student check out some coral reefs

As we all search for a new normal, BREEF would like to encourage everyone to find ways to incorporate outdoor learning into their routine. Although the beaches are only open a few hours each day, here are a few ideas to incorporate outdoor activities into your homeschool curriculum:

  1. Let’s put our feet in the sand – Write a descriptive story about being on the beach from the perspective of your feet. What do your feet see, feel, enjoy, about being on the beach and in the water?
  2. Go on a scavenger hunt – There are many resources available online with quick scavenger hunt lists. Make a game of it and see how many items on the list they can find in an hour. 
  3. Let’s take a walk – Kids are missing the outside. Sometimes a quick walk on the beach is all they need to catch a second wind and it promotes exercise.
  4. Discover your neighborhood on a drive – Are there any historical landmarks nearby? How far is it between the house and the beach? Is it faster if we go by bike or by car? How many miles did we travel? Can we convert that to km? 
  5. Channel your inner artist – Have your child draw pictures of fish they may see while swimming or a beautiful tree on the beach. BREEF has waterproof fish slates for sale that you can use to name animals you may see on your beach excursion.
  6. Relax – Sometimes the best thing for a busy child (and parent) is to rest. What better way than to rest on the beach!

These are just a few ideas. If you are interested in more resources please check out our website https://breef.org/index.php/free-education-resources/ 

For more land based resources, check out this guide to nature-based classrooms provided by the North American Association for Environmental education.

Outdoor education is certainly at the heart of what we do at BREEF. We believe that once a child can experience nature, they are more likely to protect it.

Read more

BREEF OFFERS PADI Airborne Pathogen Awareness Course

Are you a school looking to protect your teachers, students and community? Or perhaps a business looking for guidance on how to provide a clean and hygienic environment. Sign up for this online course today and let BREEF certify you and your team!

Register today by emailing us at breef@breef.org.
Read more

NO WASTE IS GOOD WASTE!

2020 Young Reporters for the Environment (YRE) National Competition Entry: Tony Gardiner, St.Anne’s School-Nassau, Bahamas

In The Bahamas there are numerous locations like this one that are stocked with waste. The trash’s effect on plants can be contamination, growth restriction and inhibition of nutrient uptake, all which causes stunted growth and eventual death of the plant.

Plants are very important to our ecosystems. They provide us with for food, oxygen and medicine. A decrease in the amount of plants in our country will have a negative effect on our environment.

We can avoid a decline in plants by having set days for everyone to help clean up areas where there are a lot of plants. These days can be named ‘pick up and go.’ We can also set laws on littering no matter the place. Finally, we must teach the younger generation the value of sustainable practices like planting trees, using reusable water bottles, having beach clean ups and more.

As a nation we all should come together and fight to keep our Bahama land clean GREEN and pristine for future generations. 

Read more

Our Hearts are with Mauritius

The ship, MV Wakashio, which ran aground in Mauritius.

On July 25th, 2020, the island of Mauritius experienced a devastating environmental disaster. A Japanese-owned ship carrying 4,000 tons of fuel oil hit a coral reef in a marine sanctuary. Twelve days later as the ship began to break a part, 1,000 tons of oil leaked into the surrounding marine environment.

“The oil leak from the stranded ship caused severe damage to the people of Mauritius, and the economy of which largely relies on tourism and the beautiful ocean,” said Noriaki Sakaguchi, a representative from the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The amount of oil that leaked into the surrounding seas was relatively low compared to other oil spills around the world. However, it is the location of the spill rather than the size that made this spill so devastating. It was so destructive the Mauritian government declared a national emergency.

The location was in the midst of multiple UNESCO protected corals, turtle nesting grounds, mangrove forests, low lying ebony forests, grasslands and important fish breeding habitats – areas that have been protected for decades.

“The toxic hydrocarbons released from spilled oil will bleach coral reefs and they will eventually die,” said Professor Richard Steiner, an international oil spill adviser and a marine biologist in Alaska, US.

The toxic chemicals will not only destroy marine habitats and kill marine animals; they will also gravely affect the health of many Mauritians. This is heartbreaking to say the least.

Mauritian native scooping oil out of lagoon sanctuary. PC: Jean Aurelio PRUDENCE / L’Express Maurice / AFP

The Bahamas is also an island nation that relies heavily on the ocean and tourism. COVID-19 gave us all a glimpse of what a crippled tourism industry looks like. Fortunately, we are coming out of quarantine to crystal-clear waters, beautiful white sand beaches and rich biodiversity.

Could you imagine all that soiled with oil? Well that is the reality for our island friends across the world.

Oil is dangerous on many levels and it is vital that we move away from it. As we are seeing with Mauritius, even a small oil spill can have detrimental, long lasting effects.

Together we must urge our nation leaders to make clean energy decisions before it’s too late. Our future depends on it.

Learn more about the threat of oil drilling in Bahamian waters.

Click here and sign the petition to oppose it.

Read more

BESS Alumni Spotlight: Walcott Miller

Walcott on a research expedition with Shedd Aquarium.

“In the end, we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand, and we will understand only what we are taught.” – Baba Dioum

Twelve years ago this quote was shared with BESS Alumni, Walcott Miller by his Magnet Marine Science programme coordinator, Ms. Marcia Musgrove and it still resonates with him today.

“She really helped foster this love [for the ocean] with her dedication to field based learning,” Walcott said. “This helped me get comfortable working with BREEF and studying at The Island School.”

While at C.V. Bethel Senior High School, Ms. Musgrove introduced Walcott to BREEF, The Island School and the Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholars (BESS) programme.

Walcott examining a lionfish.

Walcott recalls how the programme pushed him out of his comfort zone and has taught him many lessons that he still uses today.

“One thing a lot of people don’t know about me is that I didn’t learn to swim until high school and didn’t become proficient until I went to The Island School,” Walcott said.

He shared how a teacher at The Island School took him under their wing and helped him become a strong swimmer.

“At the end, I was able to complete the four-mile open ocean swim,” Walcott said. “I felt really accomplished!”

Exciting yet challenging is how Walcott describes his BESS experience. “There were so many memorable moments but I think my most memorable moment was being able to meet so many people from different backgrounds as well as the things I learnt doing research and in classes,”  he said.

Upon completing the BESS programme, Walcott spent ten years working at the Atlantis Aquarium. He credits his success in this field to the knowledge gained during his BESS experience.

Walcott during his time at Atlantis Aquarium

“The BESS programme helped me immensely when I worked in the aquarium; from basic animal knowledge and species identification to interacting with people from different backgrounds and ideologies,” he said.

Walcott encourages current and future scholars to “embrace the opportunities that take you out of your comfort zone. That’s how you’ll grow and in the process, you may find a part of yourself that you didn’t know you had.”

Read more

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

BREEF CELEBRATES PADI WOMEN’S DIVE DAY

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