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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Perseid Meteor Shower Peaking Now

The 2015 Perseid meteor shower will peak on August 11, 12 and 13. A new moon on August 14, 2015 will create perfect conditions for watching the meteor shower.  With Bonaire’s current clear conditions, it’s looking good that we will see quite a show.

The Perseid meteor shower, one of the brighter meteor showers of the year, occur every year between July 17 and August 24. The shower tends to peak around August 9-13.  The best time to view the Perseids, or most other meteor showers is when the sky is the darkest. Most astronomers suggest that depending on the Moon’s phase, the best time to view meteor showers is right before dawn.

Made of tiny space debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseids are named after the constellation Perseus. This is because the direction, or radiant, from which the shower seems to come in the sky lies in the same direction as the constellation Perseus, which can be found in the north-eastern part of the sky.

While the skies light up several time a year by other meteor showers , the Perseids are widely sought after by astronomers and stargazers. This is because at its peak, one can see 60 to a 100 meteors in an hour from a dark place.  The Perseids can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere. Look between the radiant, which will be in the north-east part of the sky and the zenith (the point in sky directly above you).

So exactly how does one watch a meteor shower?  First, check the weather to be sure the skies are clear.  Meteors, or shooting stars, are easy to spot, all you need is clear skies and a pair of eyes.  Next, get out of town!  Try to find a place with little light illumination for the best viewing.  Finally, prepare to wait.  Bring something to sit or lie down on. Star gazing is a waiting game, so get comfortable and enjoy!  (Source:  Timeanddate.com)

Posted by Susan Davis on August 11, 2015 at 3:24pm AST


Monday, July 06, 2015

Explore the Countryside of Bara di Karta With Newly Opened Drive, Hike, and Bike Trails

Visitors to Bonaire habitually are always eager to find new areas of the island to explore, and now that is even easier with the newly opened driving, hiking, and cycling trails of the Bara di Karta area.

Covering a large swath of the eastern coast in the middle of the island, the marked trails offer highlights of nature, culture, and just some fun exploration.  The area is named after a hill named Bara di Karta.

The driving trail is about 15 kilometers (9.5 miles) long and, if driven non-stop with a slow speed (and a slow speed is mandatory), it will take approximately 1.5 hours.  Along the way, signs will point out many of the area’s attributes, as well as some of the attractions which are available (although advance reservations are suggested for visiting some of the local attractions).

After beginning the driving trail, one of the first locations one will encounter is Plantation Washikemba, one of the larger plantations on Bonaire and which was primarily used for the growing and production of aloe vera.  Rumors still persist today that the grand old home is haunted, but the ghost only appears to women.

Another interesting item to view is the longest tree on Bonaire which has a horizontal length of 28 meters (92 feet).  Along the trail, one will see Boka Washikemba (the bay of Washikemba), as well as boulders which were transported inland during past tsunamis, local kunukus, and, of course, lots of cactus!  The trail wends its way along Bonaire’s eastern coastline, offering great photo opportunities of the waves crashing in on the island’s wet ‘n’ wild coast.

To find the beginning of the trails, follow the signs from Kaya Korona and turn east on Kaminda Lagun.  Before you reach the eastern coast, watch for a turn-off on the right side onto a dirt road.  There is a large sign there outlining the trails, and then simply follow the signs for your desired trail:  Yellow for the driving trail, blue for the bike trail, and pinkish red for the hiking trails.

On the next Bonaire vacation, get out and see a new part of the island!  (Source:  Bonaire Insider Reporter)

Posted by Susan Davis on July 06, 2015 at 2:49pm AST
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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

There’s Good News for Bonaire’s Coral Reefs

Bonaire’s coral reefs remain among the healthiest in the Caribbean. Although the island’s reefs have suffered bleaching disturbances similar to those plaguing reefs throughout the Caribbean, on Bonaire, it’s unique that the reefs are showing signs of recovery and a higher degree of resiliency.  Every two years, the Bonaire National Marine Park, under the auspices of STINAPA, and in conjunction with some of the best-known reef ecologists, performs a reef monitoring study, with historical data going back to 2003.  The results of this year’s monitoring in March, 2015 are now available.

The findings are put in the context of both the trends recorded since 2003, when regular monitoring began, as well as the most recent research related to the factors controlling the structure and functioning of healthy coral reef ecosystems.  It was determined that focusing upon the trends and key indicators ("drivers") of coral health would be the best for Bonaire’s reef system.

Although coral reefs are complex ecosystems, relatively few drivers control much of their structure and how they function. “Drivers” are key processes that control functionally important aspects of coral reefs. Several processes can interact with one another.  For example seaweed (also called “macroalgae”) are known to poison corals and reduce or halt the settlement and survival of reef corals. It has also been shown that herbivorous fishes are capable of reducing or eliminating macroalgae from coral reefs. Thus, herbivores--such as parrotfish--facilitate the recruitment of reef corals, reduce toxic seaweed, and create complex habitats into which juvenile reef fish can find homes. These drivers and their interactions have been viewed as integral to a complex system of feedbacks that maintain healthy coral reefs.

One driver is coral cover.  At all the monitored sites, coral cover was nearly 50% and algal cover was extremely low from 1999 until the coral bleaching event of 2010, when about 10% of the coral died and macroalgal abundance markedly increased. For these two indicators of coral reef health, the impact of the bleaching event is easy to see. However, how the ecosystem responded after the event is extremely important. Coral cover increased very slightly in 2015 and it was observed that some of the heavily impacted coral species, such as Colpophyllia natans, were recovering from the bleaching event.

Additionally, Bonaire’s reefs see a positive trend in seaweed abundance because it is low and declining. The impact of seaweed scales with its volume. A cover of low-canopy seaweed has much less impact on reef corals than does one with a high canopy. This is represented by an “algal index”, which is the volume of macroalgae. The macroalgae index recorded in 2011 was less than 300 whereas the Caribbean average ranges between 700 and 900.

Overall, Bonaire’s monitored coral reefs have relatively abundant fish that contribute to healthy reinforcing ecological feedbacks thus maintaining resilient reefs. Recently a review of reef fish abundance for the ocean systems of the Pacific, Indian and Caribbean determined that reef fish biomass was “functional” around 1000 kg ha-1 and that it could take as long as 30 years for a reef depleted of fish to recover to functional abundances. However, Bonaire’s reef fish biomass is similar to the biomass of fully protected reefs within no-take reserves.

Coral cover has not only remained high relative to the rest of the Caribbean, it has shown signs of recovery following the bleaching event of 2010. This, along with the increase in crustose corraline algae and the decline in macroalgae since the 2011 assessment, suggests that Bonaire’s reefs are relatively resilient.

To summarize, the 2015 monitoring study has determined that there are five drivers which have reversed a negative trend and are now indicating a positive trend.  This is the first time that such a wide reversal has been seen, since monitoring began in 2003.  Bonaire also created Fish Protected Areas in 2010, and it’s theorized that these FPAs are now showing positive results.

This study was completed by Robert S. Steneck (University of Maine, School of Marine Sciences), Suzanne N. Arnold (The Island Institute), Ramon de Leon (Reef Support BV), and Douglas B. Rasher (University of Main, School of Marine Sciences) on behalf of STINAPA and the Bonaire National Marine Park.  (Source:  STINAPA)

Posted by Susan Davis on June 17, 2015 at 4:33pm AST
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Monday, June 01, 2015

Save the Date--Sunday, June 7th, 2015--for Washington Park’s Annual Open House

It’s an annual tradition for STINAPA to hold an annual open house at Washington-Slagbaai National Park.  Admission to the park on this day is free, and there are plenty of activities to keep one occupied from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

As usual, there will be a variety of food and beverages available. The kid’s corner will be present again, as well, with the very popular face-painting.  STINAPA will host a guided hiking trip for adults at 8:00 AM through Mondi Suit and a mountain bike race starting at 7:30 AM.  For those who don’t want to traverse through the entire park, there is transportation available to Slagbaai at 9:00 AM then again at 12:00 Noon. At 3:00 PM, transportation is available to bring everyone back from Slagbaai.

Local bands will be making music for anyone who just wants to dance starting at 1:00 PM.  There is a market specializing in local food and handicrafts. It’s a great day to come out, meet your neighbors and friends you haven’t seen, and enjoy the day.

Posted by Susan Davis on June 01, 2015 at 3:19pm AST
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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

STCB’s Mabel Nava Joins Regional Conservation Leadership Program Protecting Nature and Communities

Mabel Nava, Manager of Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire, has been selected as a participant in the 2015 Conservation Leadership in the Caribbean (CLiC) fellows program. Funded in part by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and supported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), CLiC is an opportunity for conservation professionals in the wider Caribbean region to gain invaluable skills and experience working with proven conservation leaders. Graduates will have the competence necessary to lead on critical issues facing wildlife in the region.

The 2015 CLiC fellows are 20 representatives from 14 nations in the Caribbean region with a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences in the conservation field.

“I am honored to be among those participating in the CLiC program,” said Mabel Nava. “Following the academic training, I’ll work on a team to design, implement and evaluate a program that links biodiversity conservation with sustainable development in the Caribbean. CLiC will allow me to increase my leadership network and build new skills that focus on the critical link between the sustainability of nature and the well-being of the human community.  All of this will allow me to better support STCB’s mission on Bonaire and in the wider region.”

The goal of the Conservation Leadership in the Caribbean (CLiC) fellows program is to have an established, sustainable Caribbean leadership-training program enabling effective regional networking and action to achieve sustainable conservation. (Source:  STCB)

Posted by Susan Davis on May 26, 2015 at 4:00pm AST


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

STINAPA Celebrates the International Day of Biodiversity--May 22, 2015

To celebrate the International Day of Biodiversity, STINAPA has extended an open invitation to those interested to join them at their Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival at Washington Slagbaai National Park at 9:00 AM on Saturday, May 23rd, 2015.  After a short presentation, the group will enjoy some birdwatching at Gotomeer. 

Participants should bring good walking or hiking shoes, water, and binoculars (if possible).  Participation is free, and the event is anticipated to take about two hours.

Biodiversity is essential for sustainable development and human well-being. The examples are plenty:

• Biodiversity is a vital asset in global and local economies. Biodiversity directly supports major economic activity and jobs in such diverse sectors as agriculture, fisheries, forestry, pharmaceuticals, pulp and paper, cosmetics, horticulture, construction and biotechnology.
• Food production depends on biodiversity and the services provided by ecosystems. The thousands of different crop varieties and animal breeds are founded in the rich genetic pool of species. Biodiversity is also the basis for soil fertility, pollination, pest control and all aspects important for producing the world’s food.
• Clean and secure supplies of water also depend on biodiversity. Ecosystems function as natural water infrastructure, costing less than technological solutions. Forests protect water supplies, wetlands regulate floods, and healthy soils increase water and nutrient availability for crops and help reduce off-farm impacts.
• Biodiversity and ecosystem functioning provide goods and services essential for human health--including nutrients, clean air and water and regulation of pests and vector-based diseases. Biodiversity is essential for the regulation of the immune response. Biodiversity is the basis of traditional medicine, and a large number of top-ranking global prescription drugs contain components derived from plant extracts.
• Biodiversity is the basis for sustainable livelihoods. Benefits of biodiversity are especially important to poor and vulnerable groups. To many, the goods and services derived from biodiversity directly constitute social safety nets and can mean the difference between misery and well-being.
• Biodiversity plays a major role in mitigating climate change by contributing to long-term sequestration of carbon. Biodiversity also underpins ecosystem resilience and plays a critical role as part of disaster risk reduction and peace-building strategies. Forests, wetlands and mangroves play a critical role in reducing the impacts of extreme events such as droughts, floods and tsunamis.
• Green areas in cities reduce the incidence of violence, enhance human health and well-being, and strengthen communities. Despite these facts, biodiversity is being lost at a greatly accelerated rate, largely due to human activities.

For additional information about biodiversity, visit the web site of the Convention on Biological Diversity by clicking here(Source:  STINAPA)

Posted by Susan Davis on May 20, 2015 at 3:29pm AST


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

CIEE Hosts Two Informative Talks This Week

CIEE will host two very informative presentations this week at their headquarters at Kaya Gobernador N. Debrot #26, on Wednesday and Thursday this week, from 7:00 PM until 8:00 PM.

The first presentation, on Wednesday, May 13th, 2015, will have Jennifer Collins, Ocean Education (National Museum of Natural History--Washington, DC, USA) speaking about Smithsonian activities and resources for the ocean enthusiasts in us all.  Jennifer will talk about the range of marine resources and programs available through the Natural History Museum to citizens including teachers and students, the science community, and the public.

On Thursday, May 14th, 2015, Dr. Allen Collins (NOAA’s National Systematics Lab) will present a talk on Jellyfish and The Polyps That Give Rise To Them.  Allen is an expert in medusozoan cnidarians, a/k/a jellyfish and kin. He will talk about biodiversity and systematics (evolutionary relationships) between these groups.

As always, entrance is free, and everyone is welcome.  (Source:  CIEE Bonaire)

Posted by Susan Davis on May 12, 2015 at 2:09pm AST


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

CIEE Hosts STCB this Week for their Public Presentation on Sea Turtles

The bi-monthly Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire on the “Sea Turtles of Bonaire” will be held at CIEE this week and will be held on April 22nd, 2015 from 8:00 PM until 9:15 PM.

The presentation is free and open to the public.  It will be held at the CIEE headquarters on Kaya Gobernador N. Debrot #26 in Kralendijk.  Everyone is welcome!  (Source:  CIEE Bonaire)

Posted by Susan Davis on April 21, 2015 at 12:46pm AST


Thursday, April 02, 2015

Upcoming Lunar Eclipse Will Be Slightly Visible from Bonaire

Only the speediest of skywatchers will have a chance to see the total lunar eclipse rising Saturday: NASA predicts that the total phase of the lunar eclipse will only last about 5 minutes, making it the shortest lunar eclipse of the century.

Early-rising observers on Bonaire should be able to see at least the partial phases of the April 4 lunar eclipse just before the sun rises, if weather permits.  NASA this week unveiled a video detailing the total lunar eclipse, and dubbed the event the shortest lunar eclipse of the century in an announcement on March 30.

This lunar eclipse will be the third of four eclipses in a lunar eclipse tetrad. The first occurred in April 2014, with the second rising in September 2014. The final lunar eclipse in the tetrad will happen on Sept. 28, according to NASA, and will be totally visible on Bonaire.  Lunar eclipses occur when the moon dips into Earth’s shadow, casting an occasionally spooky glow on the natural satellite. A partial phase of an eclipse happens when the moon passes through the outer part of Earth’s shadow, but total lunar eclipses happen only when the darkest part of the planet’s shadow falls across the lunar surface. 

“During the eclipse, the moon often looks reddish because sunlight has passed through Earth’s atmosphere, which filters out most of its blue light,” NASA officials said in a statement. “This eerie, harmless effect has earned the tongue-in-cheek nickname ‘blood moon.’”

For those on Bonaire, the eclipse will begin at 6:16 AM on April 4th and end at 10:59 AM, with totality at 8:01 AM.  Unfortunately, the moon will set at 6:29 AM, giving 13 minutes of the eclipse to Bonaire skywatchers.  (Source:  Mother Nature Network, Blood Moon image by Susan Davis)

Posted by Susan Davis on April 02, 2015 at 11:03am AST


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Help Bonaire’s Parrots by Voting for Funding

Twice a year, The European Outdoor Conservation Association receives applications from conservation organizations with projects which can use funding assistance. Following a rigorous selection procedure, the EOCA has now published their shortlist and they are asking everyone to help in choosing three projects to receive funding.  Bonaire’s Echo Foundation is one of these, and everyone can help Bonaire’s loras (parrots) by voting online.

Your vote could make the Echo Foundation’s wishes come true.  Their plan is to have rare native trees be propagated and planted out in fenced herbivore-exclusion areas. This short-term strategy will jump start reforestation, while government-led projects start to control feral herbivores. To ensure the sustainability of habitat restoration, the perceived value of the dry forest will be increased among local people and “the outdoors” will be made easily accessible by developing a network of enjoyable trails for different abilities. Specifically the project seeks funding to restore Bonaire’s dry-forest through the planting 20,000 trees in 11 one hectare herbivore exclusion areas and private gardens, create 17km of marked trails through the remaining areas of forest and through the restoration areas, build a trail-head meeting point and picnic area, stimulate trail use and maintenance by the outdoor community, and support the training of local nature guides.

It’s easy and free to vote.  Simply click here, and then scroll down until you find Bonaire’s Echo Foundation.  Click the button to choose this option, and then click “cast your vote.” It’s that easy.  But the deadline is March 30th, so please vote today! (Source:  Echo Foundation)

Posted by Susan Davis on March 25, 2015 at 12:27pm AST


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