The 7th Biennial Abaco Science Alliance Conference (ASAC) was held from Jan.6-9 at New Vision Ministries. Kristin Williams, executive director of Friends of the Environment, led with opening remarks explaining that the conference began 12 years ago in an effort to raise awareness of the importance of our environment, and to encourage more research and education of communities in The Bahamas.
Dr. David Steadman of the Florida Museum of Natural History served as the moderator for the Jan. 7 presentations, while Lindy Knowles of the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) moderated the Jan. 8 talks.
Following the opening, Eric Carey, BNT’s executive director, spoke on the topic: “Parks for Science; Science for Parks.” He said the national parks in The Bahamas represent extraordinary national assets, they serve as benchmarks for climate change, and they also provide an opportunity for long-term research.
“We are putting science into creating protected areas,” he shared. “National parks are important for protecting ecosystems.”
Next, Carey zeroed in on the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, which was created in 1959 and declared a Marine Fishery Reserve in 1986. He emphasized that the Exuma Park is a replicable method to apply to other national parks, which saw an increase in numbers at the latter part of 2015. He focused on the value of our blue holes as treasure troves of our history, and also highlighted ongoing bonefish and Piping Plover research.
Over the years, Carey said that he has tried to find opportunities for Bahamians to receive training. Additionally, emphasis was placed on social science because Carey recognized that enough focus is not placed on how communities are impacted.
“There is incredible knowledge in these local communities, but people in these communities feel like no one is listening,” he said. “With the new protected areas and plans, we are putting the social aspect into it.”