By Sabrina Joval:
Many people believe the most valuable treasure is hidden somewhere locked within a chest, but truth is the treasure surrounds us like a comforting hug. In Union Island, the Chatham Bay Forest welcomed me with the whistles of the birds to the crunch of the leaves. Each step led to a story untold, trees entangled hiding the unknown, and waves crashed into a beautiful whispering tune. Learning about this protected gem, Chatham Bay Forest, was a mystical journey one could never forget. From the Naked Indian Tree that is used to make small craft boats to the Brasilia, the fourth most dangerous plant that can send you to the hospital with a little scratch. As the healthiest dry forest on the island, Chatham Bay inhabits the Red Footed Tortoise, the Chakalaka bird, the Grenada flycatcher, the Frigge, white snakes, scorpions, tarantulas, and the Union Island Gecko. Reaching the highest peak in the Grenadines, 999 ft above sea level, history unfolded in front of our faces as knowledge was shared with us. Whether it was knowing William Pit Younger was the youngest prime minister at 21 years old or that out of the 2,500 residents only 40% of them are locals, this hidden treasure was beyond remarkable to experience.
The authors of this blog are students enrolled in Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation, field courses run in the Caribbean by the University of South Florida. In 2019 and 2021, the course went to the Carmabi research station in Curaçao and dived around the island over a 10-day period, for training and to carry out research projects. In 2018, the group went to Soufriere, Saint Lucia, and took part in various projects in partnership with the Soufriere Marine Management Association. In this blog, students will document their activities and how they relate to course material.