By Alexis Madrid:
The Union Island Gecko, Gonatodes daudini, is a critically endangered species whose population can only be found on Union Island. This elusive lizard is generally tiny, roughly 3 cm full-grown, with a dark-colored body and jewel-like markings. There are less than 10,000 Union Island Geckos in existence, these declining numbers are mostly due to reptile poachers capturing the gecko for the exotic animal trade. The people of Union Island understand how precious these species are to the island’s unique biodiverse ecosystems, so in 2015 The Union Island Gecko Initiative began to conserve the remaining gecko populations and prevent extinction. On June 10th, our class joined the wardens from the Union Island Environmental Alliance on a guided hike through Chatham Bay Forest Preserve. We had the opportunity to observe several species of reptiles and birds native to the island while hiking to the highest peak in the Grenadines. Although our class didn’t find any geckos on the way up the mountain, one of the park wardens found one for us to observe. My first impression was that the gecko seemed much smaller in person, and I can’t imagine how difficult they were to find throughout the dense forest. Being able to see the Union Island Gecko in person was an experience of a lifetime I will never forget.
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.