Importance of Biodiversity
The concept of biodiversity can mean different things to different people. It came to my attention that many academic specialists define and understand the term differently according to their own experiences working with species collections, their own research and field studies. From the perspective of a science educator who has witnessed first hand research taking place in many field locations around the world such as the La Salva Biological research station in Central America, and Borro Colorado Island in Panama and from studying the topic, that there needed to be a way to create a greater awareness of the impact of widespread lack of preservation and conservation efforts related biodiversity.
Biodiversity became important to me years ago as an undergraduate student studying, conducting research and writing papers in the many ecology and biology courses that I took. I remember reading about the widespread deforestation taking places in rain forests around the world. I took an interest in botany and agriculture and the many issues related to the sale and production of food . I took many field based courses in geology, biology and ecology, such as physical geology, aquatic ecology and field botany . The land and water research activities that I experienced and research about began my journey into the not so perfect environment tale that eventually lead to a life long adventure to answer the bigger the questions as to why such suppression of natural resources and the environment and its inhabitants takes place. I began to look for solutions to the dilemma and possibly what things would look like if those processes were repaired, reversed and monitored.
Little did I know that I would later become the Indiana Jones version of the biodiversity topic peering into the critical awareness of every concept related to taking care of our big blue planet. My many years of teaching interdisciplinary science topics in the classroom, courses taken as a student, and working as a field study researcher gave me an edge to looking into the problems with more detail and perspective. My field courses continued as a masters student as I began to travel to more locations to study conservation biology topics. I began to get more involved with the biodiversity topic. In a graduate course in science education at Akron I began to develop a proposal for secondary curriculum for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I wrote the proposal before I went on the Bahamas field research trip. A professor at YSU took interest in the topic and allowed me to develop similar topics for the island of San Salvador, Bahamas.
I remember working with the Living Jewels Conservation efforts on the Island of San Salvador, Bahamas. The one of the smaller island in the many chains of islands in the Bahamas. There are no high rise buildings or commercialization efforts on San Salvador. There are only 1000 people who live on the island. We stayed at a Navy base while conducting conservation biology and geology research. My job was to create a curriculum project that would tie into the preservation and conservation efforts of San Salvador. The were 3 schools on the island for primary grades, middle school and high school with a little under 150 students at each location. The school children had little supplies or access to the internet. They mostly had teachers from Cuba who would teach in incremental contracts. The living jewels foundation was developed to try to create a national park or conservation efforts to conserve and protect the species of animals and plants that live on San Slavador. I was able to visit the school and work with the administration to create a curriculum for the island. I can post the curriculum project to this website and you can read more about the Living Jewels foundation at the Gerace Research station library and staff and at the The Living Jewels Educational foundation. To find out about conservation efforts taking place on the island go to the B.R.E.E.F. Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation . The school children on the island had many agriculture project that they were working on and were flown to Nassau to record a song that that they created. Students and teachers involved in conservation and preservation (the songs, t-shirts, field studies with children in grades 4-9 on the island). The Gerace research center has natural history symposium books, videos media. The living jewel
The Living Jewels Song by the children created by Dr. Ron Shaklee
England has her Kings and Queens, a Royal legacy, Their jeweled gold and silver crowns, that few will ever see, The crown jewels of Bahamaland, are shared by everyone, Living jewels of the land, sky and sea, set in a crown of golden sun. Verses My name in Lana, I’m an iguana, with my skin so green, If you steal me away from where I should be, soon there won’t be any more of me, One less jewel in the sunlit crown, of the land, the sky and sea. My name is Rupert, I’m a Nassau Grouper, I’m plump and sweet, Catch me before I have a chance to breed, soon there won’t be any more of me, One less jewel in the sunlit crown, of the land, the sky and sea. My name is Dawn, I’m a conch, such a tasty treat, If I don’t have a lip when you take my meat, soon there won’t be any more of me, One less jewel in the sunlit crown, of the land, the sky and sea. My name is Myrtle, I’m a sea turtle, swimming over the reef, If I can’t lay my eggs on a quiet beach, soon there won’t be any more of me, One less jewel in the sunlit crown, of the land, the sky and sea. My name is Hector, I’m a woodpecker, I have a sharp beak, But if you cut down all of my trees, soon there won’t be any more of me, One less jewel in the sunlit crown, of the land, the sky and sea. My name is Trish, I’m a crawfish, I’m a delicacy, If my legs have berries, let me be, or soon there won’t be any more of me, One less jewel in the sunlit crown, of the land, the sky and sea. Stop! Who are you? My name is Maria, and I’m a hutia. A what? A hutia! I’m a small, brown furry rodent. We used to be found all over the islands. What happened? Man came. He hunted me with his animals. He cleared the land and destroyed my habitat. Now I’m only found on two small islands where no one ever goes. That’s sad. Yes it is.
Upon returning home from the Bahamas I began to work with the idea of conservation efforts closer to home. I started to write what latter turned into the Cuyahoga Valley National Park field study curriculum. I wrote the curriculum for my Biology 2 class that I was teaching at the time. I spend many hours planning the field courses. The curriculum and guidelines are posted in the field study and biodiversity section of this website. I have a lot of the projects that students created at the park that I could post so that you can also complete similar activities possibly with a National Park close to where you live. I took even more interest in the topic and became an advocate for conservation efforts. The students took interest in their assignments related to the park and enjoyed the field trip experience. I traveled to the CVNP with professor from Youngstown State University and a friend who has her masters in historical preservation who was also interested in the topic. Together we were able to work out an itinerary and broke the field trip into 3 or 4 activities. We chose the Beaver Marsh area as it is more diverse than any other areas in the CVNP.
I presented the CVNP field study curriculum at National Association of Biology Teachers 2008 in New Orleans. There I met Dr. Jacqueline McLaughlin at a luncheon who also taught about conservation biology and biodiversity field studies. I next traveled to the NABT in 2009 in Denver, Colorado. I joined Penn State Chance in 2010 and traveled to Central America to part take in continued education, research and conservation biodiversity efforts. More of the story in future post…stay tuned….
The Penn State Chance 2010 program was quite the eye opener. Talk about planes, trains and automobiles. This field trip was not for the amateur. The itinerary was broken down into 3 smaller trips with 5 travel days at each stop. The bus ride to the first stop was amazing. The Caribbean side of Central America was filled with lush vegetation. There were farmers on horses tending to the crops. The sugar cane crops were very tall and everywhere you looked was green mountains. We had to bring water with us as we were in a remote area. Our 1st stop was Gandoca where we spent time in remote villages and worked with the Widecast – Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Preserve research group to help protect the leather back sea turtles. Our research group of scientists, educators and biologists had many assignment and spent many waking hours patrolling the black sand beaches of Gandoca protecting the baby sea turtles, waiting for them to hatch and send them back to sea. One one four hour patrol we had to dress in black pants and long sleeve shirts, use flashlights with a red filter. We also practiced what it is like for a full grown sea turtle dig a nest for their eggs. I remember how hot the beach sand was that day. I also remember talking to Kathy Wainwright who was a pre-education major and how kind and interesting the conversations with the students and professors were that day. Eight hours later I got picked for a four hour patrol we had to dress in black pants and long sleeve shirts, use flashlights with a red filter as to not distract the turtles. It was so hot that night and we barely sat we just kept patrolling. It was so hot even ant night and we could see a storm brewing. I was actually thankful when it started to rain. We walked back to camp and washed the sand off before we went to bed . My next patrol was with Radhika Vachhhani who was a medical student sat on duty with me in the wee morning hours to patrol the turtle nests. Although we didn’t see turtles hatching that morning we did share the shooting stars, amazing conversation and saw pods of dolphins jumping across the ocean skyline. The girls stayed in one camp and the guys in another. Our camp cook was a wonderful Spanish woman named Maria and her niece. Although they didn’t have as for food stock they gave their heart in the foods they cooked for us the 5 days we were there. Realizing that we would not be eating much dairy products or foods we were used to from home we made due with what was provided for us to eat. We were all so appreciative just to have a meal. Usually rice and beans and fruit and some pasta with tuna. I remember getting up and trying to put my makeup on only to have our tour guide in a coy way ask me where I thought I was going. I laughed and just looked up at him and laughed. In between our assignments we could go sight seeing or chill with a good book, or our journals in nearby hammocks. We did find a pile of coconuts and did actually get one open. We sat and shared the coconut chunks and our beautiful camp cooks made us brown sugar and coconut cookies for desert that night. They were delicious! I remember how satisfying the foods were and filling, could be the protein from the rice and beans. We all brought gifts from home for the camp cooks. It was so much fun to watch Maria and her niece open the presents. I bought peanut butter, tuna and a fly swatter with a flower and some dish towels. They loved them.
Our next stop was the Borro Colorado Island (meaning the mouth of the bull). We took a boat there which was really interesting. Many families live on the edge of the water ways. The port was small and most areas that lead to the boat were rough in nature. There was graffiti on the train cars and some fencing near by. We loaded our luggage into a speed boat. The water was mucky and not clear near the port. The boat driver once we were successfully in the boat literally pushed the full throttle to get us out of the area as fast as possible. Once we got into open water areas a La Selva Biological Station in the Braulino Carrillo National Park.