Monday, May 23, 2011

Grand Bahama to host international conference on 'Connecting with Nature through Birds'

Submitted by the BNT Communications Department

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama -- Between July 21-25, the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB), the largest organization devoted to wildlife conservation in the Caribbean, will hold its 18th regional meeting in Freeport, Grand Bahama. The meeting, which will be held at the Pelican Bay Hotel and hosted locally by the Bahamas National Trust, will bring natural resource managers, educators and scientists from all the Caribbean islands and other regions together to share knowledge and experiences and develop partnerships and projects. Over 150 delegates from 30 countries are expected to attend; all share a common interest in Caribbean birds or migratory birds who winter in the Caribbean and their conservation. For further information on the conference program, keynote speakers and registration click HERE.

The theme of the conference is “Connecting with Nature through Birds.” Dr. Lisa Sorenson President of the SCSCB described the conference “as an exciting opportunity to expand our efforts in facilitating first-hand experiences between a diverse cross-section of the public and the region’s unique and increasingly threatened wild bird species.” Dr. Sorenson notes that more than 560 species of birds call the Caribbean region home—an astounding 72% of the approximately 208 resident island birds are endemic to the Caribbean islands—that is, found nowhere else on the globe. The islands also provide a critical refuge for hundreds of migratory bird species that spend the winter in our forests and wetlands, or use them as a “refueling” stop en route to their final destinations in Latin America.

“To be successful in conserving these beautiful birds and the habitats they need to survive, we need to do a better job educating the public about their value, both economic and intrinsic,” Sorenson noted. “Not enough people know about or appreciate them, and as a result, many species are threatened with extinction—victims of habitat loss, predation by introduced species like raccoons, rats, feral cats and dogs or unregulated hunting,” said Sorenson.

Lisa Sorenson is also Coordinator of the West Indian Whistling-Duck and Wetlands Conservation Project of the SCSCB, a public education and awareness programme on the importance and value of the regions wetlands and birds. Sorenson, an ecologist and conservation biologist, has been working in the Caribbean for 25 years.

This year’s conference in Freeport will feature presentations and workshops by internationally renowned experts in bird education and sustainable bird and nature tourism. These experts will share diverse strategies for engaging a larger and more diverse constituency more effectively by inspiring interest in nature and encouraging people to recognize and utilize the economic values of birds and habitats. One of the keynote speakers is John Robinson, an ornithologist, environmental consultant and advocate for minorities in birdwatching and nature. He will share his work over the last 12 years on how to connect our youth and young adults to nature through the magic of bird watching. John Robinson is President of On My Mountain, Inc. "Your World of Birding and Nature" and author of "Birding for Everyone, Encouraging People of Color to Become Birdwatchers." For more information, visit:

“We are especially excited to be having this meeting in the Bahamas,” commented Sorenson, “they have set the gold standard in the Caribbean for a successful working relationship between government, businesses, and NGOs to protect important sites through their outstanding national park system and their efforts to develop sustainable ecotourism opportunities, both of which are key to preserving the Bahamas’ unique birds and natural beauty.” Everyone at the conference will have the opportunity to see Grand Bahamas’ spectacular birds, local ecosystems, national parks and gardens when the entire conference takes a one-day break during the intensive 5-day meeting to go on field trips to these sites.

Eric Carey, Executive Director of the Bahamas National Trust said he is thrilled that the Bahamas are hosting this year’s meeting, and he expects that, “the conference would provide a powerful interchange about habitat conservation, environmental education, and sustainable bird and nature tourism.” Carey noted that the Bahamas conference has confirmed sessions, among others, that will focus on:

Building greater cultural value in birds, birding, nature and conservation: including citizen science, outreach, education and awareness initiatives. A new program to engage youth “Digital Photography Bridge to Nature,” is one of several featured workshops.

Birding and nature tourism: including successful case studies and best practices for entrepreneurs seeking to break into the industry. There will be a special workshop on ecotourism given by The International Ecotourism Society and a workshop to develop the “Caribbean Birding Trail,” an unprecedented effort lead by the Society to connect many countries, islands and languages in a seamless interpretive trail.

Working with politicians, academics and other decision-makers to conserve birds and habitats. Leaders in this field in the Bahamas and internationally, including Mr. Carey, Dr. Earl Deveaux, Minister of the Environment, and lawyer-conservationist, Mr. Pericles Maillis, will be among those giving presentations and participating in a panel discussion on this important topic.

Priority regional conservation challenges: including climate change, species extinction, and habitat restoration. The society’s many Working Groups will meet to network and share information to advance conservation efforts throughout the region.

Major sponsors of the conference are the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Without Borders Program, U.S. Forest Service, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, (RSPB), Bahamas National Trust, Pelican Bay Hotel, the Bahamas Government, Grand Bahama Nature Tours, and Garden of the Groves.

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