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E n viron men t TO BA GO n ewsl etter

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nvironment TOBAGO (ET) is a nongovernment, non-profit, volunteer organisation , not subsidized by any one group, corporation or government body. Founded in 1995, ET is a proactive advocacy group that campaigns against negative environmental activities throughout Tobago. We achieve this through a variety of community and environmental outreach programmes. Environment TOBAGO is funded mainly through grants and membership fees. These funds go back into implementing our projects. We are grateful to all our sponsors over the years and thank them for their continued support

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hat’s inside

ET News

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Articles

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Ecology Notes

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Book Review

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Community Announcements

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Upcoming conferences and workshops

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What’s Happening @ ET

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Notes to contributors

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Environment TOBAGO

March 2014

Marine Turtles- Environmentally Sensitive Species Environment TOBAGO On the 18th February the EMA (Environmental Management Authority) Biodiversity Council was reconstituted, to which Environment TOBAGO is a member. The first order was to declare environmentally sensitive species for Tobago (and Trinidad) which included five marine turtles and White-Tailed Sabre Winged Hummingbird which is endemic to Tobago. This article focuses of these sensitive marine species. Planet Earth has been occupied by ancient creatures, long before man (homo sapiens) made their appearance. Marine turtles, air breathing reptiles, have been around for over 150 million years. These amazing creatures make sea journeys of 1000 to 1400 miles every 2 years- traversing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, before returning to their natal (beach of birth) beaches to nest; laying eggs 5 to 7 times during a 4 month period. In Trinidad & Tobago, we have become known as the place where the 3rd largest populations of nesting sea turtles in the world visit every year. Certain beaches on both islands have become known as Natal or index beaches- beaches that have the most concentrated amounts of visiting turtles per year. In Trinidad some of the main index beaches are- Grand Riviere, Fishing Pond Manzanilla, Toco, Sans Souci and Matura. In Tobago- Great Courland Bay, Stonehaven Bay/Grafton, Back Bay/Mt. Irvine. Man-o-war Bay, Cambelton, Hermitage, Lans Fourmi and Starwood. Trinidad and Tobago has 5 species of marine turtles that make their homes here or visit. The Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) with its leathery flexible skin and feeds generally on jellyfish. Then the hard shell turtles- Green turtle (Chelonia mydal) which is a herbivore, eating seagrasses; the Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) also a herbivore; the Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) which feeds on sponges and soft bodied reef organisms and finally the Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) which is carnivorous-feeding on shell fish, crabs, lobsters and jellyfish. Marine sea turtles have been exposed to a multitude of negative environmental issues worldwide-Trinidad &Tobago is no exception-accidental capture by gillnet (used by our fishermen), nesting habitat loss due to coastal development and beach degradation, diseases from human (anthropogenic sources) pollution, plastics ingestion and excessive hunting. So much so that, international bodies-The UN and IUCN (World Conservation Union) declared all of these turtles “endangered” or “ critically endangered” and facing extinction. Having survived since the dawn of time –they are facing annihilation in this generation. These animals are fully protected under the laws of Trinidad & Tobago, yet we have witnessed contraventions to the law on many occasions. Poaching is still rampant. Persons visiting the nesting beaches without guides have been photographed sitting/ riding on the backs of leatherback turtles-ignorant to the fact that these turtles have a


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March 2014 Editor: Jo-Anne Nina Sewlal Assistant Editor: Christopher K. Starr Design & Layout: Jo-Anne Nina Sewlal Technical Support: Jerome Ramsoondar Enid Nobbee Contributors: Bertrand Bhikarry Jo-Anne Nina Sewlal Christopher K. Starr Photographs: Environment TOBAGO

Board of Directors 2012-2014 President:: Patricia Turpin Vice-President: Bertrand Bhikkary Secretary: Wendy Austin Treasurer: Shirley McKenna Other Directors: William Trim Kai Trim Rupert McKenna Fitzherbert Phillips Renee Gift Geoffrey Lewis Darren Daly Allan Sandy

Environment TOBAGO newsletter

soft shell- any weight on their backs will compress the lungs and likely kill the turtle. Please be respectful of them. In the fishing industry, gillnets are a major contributor to the drowning of the visiting turtles. This year, 2014, up to 40 leatherbacks have been drowned on the north coast of Trinidad. The fishing industry must begin to use turtle excluder devices that can be added to the nets allowing trapped turtles to escape. The use of gillnets should be abandoned. Turtle friendly lighting in our coastal areas is another issue that needs addressing. Bright lights disorient the turtle and often distracts them from the process of nesting. Excessive noise on the beaches – in the case of beach fetes and “limes” in Trinidad & Tobago poses a huge problem- noise and the trampling of nesting beach areas by humans and vehicles is common and absolutely unnecessary. Signage indicating nesting turtles must be paid attention to. But all is not lost- to counter the negative effects of human interaction with these creatures, the Government of Trinidad & Tobago in September 2011- amended the Fisheries Act 67.51- Section 4- with a total ban on the hunting of turtles and turtle eggs. This has had an amazing effect on the protection and management of Marine turtle populations. Co-management and policing of nesting beaches in Trinidad and Tobago has come a long way. In Trinidad, Game wardens and turtle Conservation groups, such as Nature Seekers, Grande Riviere Trust and Fishing Pond Group; and in Tobago, game wardens, SOS-save our sea turtles and NEST-North East Sea Turtles have ensured a greater degree of onsite protection to nesting turtles during the nesting season. The Environmental Management Authority (EMA) has embarked on the second round of added protection. On April 28th 2014, the 5 Marine Turtles that inhabit our waters as stated above were declared ESS’s (Environmentally Sensitive Species) under Section 26(e) and 41: chapter 35.05 of the Environmental Management Act 2000 and The ESS rules of 2001. This will enhance the management of marine turtle species of significance. Hopefully, it will reduce the “endangered” designation in Trinidad & Tobago. It is an exciting time for the conservation and protection of these amazing animals throughout the world – impacting on our responsibility towards their continued arrival on our shores. Turtle watching is a big tourism drawing card- enable us to continue to share this fabulous asset now and into the future, in safety and respect.

Top row (left to right): Loggerhead; Hawksbill and Olive Ridley Bottom row (left to right): Leatherback and Green turtles


Environment TOBAGO newsletter

Environment TOBAGO newsletter editor as national icon in Science and Technology Dr Jo-Anne Sewlal the editor of the Environment TOBAGO was included in the third volume of Trinidad and Tobago Icons in Science and Technology published by NIHERST (National Institute for Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology) which was launched on Wednesday 19th March at the Hyatt Regency in Trinidad. This series of publications aims to highlight the achievements of Caribbean scientists who have been outstanding in their fields, working either in the region or internationally. The third volume includes biographical profiles of 17 scientists from Trinidad and Tobago who were honoured at the 2012 Awards for Excellence in Science and Technology for their outstanding achievements, during which Dr. Sewlal was awarded the first Frank Rampersad Young Scientist Award. With 12 years of experience in her field of Caribbean arachnology, Dr Sewlal has made a significant contribution to the knowledge of the spider fauna of the region which is the first in this Dr Sewlal and a copy of taxa on many islands. She is also the author of 43 scientific publica- the Trinidad and tions and over 440 general publications in the areas of biodiversity, Tobaogo Icons of ecology and the environment. She has also collaborated with scien- Science Vol 3 tists from Russia, Bulgaria, Finland, UK, USA, Canada and Colombia. Dr. Sewlal is also the first recipient of the Greenhall Trust Award. She is also one of the first international recipients of the Darwin Scholarship Programme and the only recipient of three consecutive Vincent Roth awards from the American Arachnological Society, a first for the Society. Other notable grants include a Percy Sladen Memorial Grant (Linnean Society of London). She was the first female and youngest recipient of the CASTWAS Young Scientist Award in 2010.

ET signs MOU with Chamber of Commerce-Tobago for recycling initiative in February with the Chamber of Commerce to facilitate corporate funding for environmental projects related to business. First project on the agenda- a recycling unit- registered as a company to be set up in Tobago.

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Environment TOBAGO newsletter

ET consultancy this quarter 1.

Bhp Billiton- Readiness for emergency response to oil spill, wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. 2. EMA- Requirements/legislation -EIA for seismic activities in Trinidad & Tobago

Issues affecting Tobago 1.Solid waste disposal at the Bon Accord Wetlands, and along the road in the area. There was more garbage along the road, but at the time I was there, there was a road crew, who had come to cut the grass on the roadside, standing in some more trash along the road. These photos were taken on Monday, March 24th, around 7:30 AM.

“ To many p eopl e t hes e tall pea ks make fo r a c hallen ging b ut s cenic hike. B u t t hey a re not jus t a no the r t all m oun tain to climb . �

2. Solid waste outside Tourism resorts-Turtle Beach.


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3. Sewage pollution leaking from ponds at Plantations Lowlands on Monday, March 24th, it was in area of the 3 sewage ponds behind the Plantations/Magdalena maintenance building. On the right side of the ponds, in between pond #1 & #2, there is raw sewage leaking out onto the ground. It does not look like anything deliberate, but some kind of malfunction and as though someone has been working to fix it. As you can see in the photos, the sewage is pooling in the open grassy area, and also pooling in the woods, around trees and shrubs. It does not appear to be leaking outside the general area, which is a sewage treatment area. It is hoped that they can fix this problem soon.

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Environment TOBAGO newsletter

ARTICLES Seeking ways to stop seismic bombing in the fisheries zone Bertrand Bhikarry

“fishermen have not traditionally been the best stewards of the environment. “

Over 2007 and the first quarter of 2008, a small group of environmentalists spent long weekends traipsing across Trinidad’s industrial landscape attempting to master the intricacies behind an environmental impact statement. The schedule was exhaustive, the subject matter equally so, and it probably came as no surprise to the sponsor – BP - that the organisers never found another group hard-headed enough to want insight into the Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) process. Luckily for you dear reader, this commentary will not delve into the boring details of environmental impact. What it hopes to do is assist Tobago fishermen in their recently declared war against the oil companies using collective insight gained from those Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) review exercises. Right off our seamen need to understand the battle they’ve joined is not actually the fight for what’s right or what’s not, rather it’s a duel that shall be settled in court, the outcome merely deciding who gets more and who gets less. The lines are already drawn. The fishermen have joined forces with their compatriots over in Trinidad hoping to bolster support for a national anti-seismic campaign – or for a workaround to deploy oil/gas exploration techniques that will not beggar fisherfolk. Right away the members of the fishing community seem disadvantaged. They can’t say or prove conclusively just how much they contribute to the local economy although that’s nobody’s fault but theirs: Fishermen can’t be bothered to fill out the tally book - a document once provided by the Fisheries Department but now discontinued due to its lack of adoption. Nor do they take time to tell Fisheries officers the exact list of species and the poundage caught on any given day. Oil companies on the other hand show expenses, tax payouts past and projected. At any point they can say what their contribution to the economy was and shall be – should they be allowed to pursue activities. Also, fishermen have not traditionally been the best stewards of the environment. They may kick and scream now about loss of livelihood, but when the shrimping community were dragging nets all over the Gulf of Paria, scraping the sea bottom with scant regard for the fisheries habitat, not a thought came from them about saving the marine resource. This even though boat owners were receiving (long-running) government subsidies for fuel and tax-breaks on gear. Had T&T fishermen in general taken on board some of the conservation strategies they were exposed to in the late 80’s, they’d have had the drilling companies on defence now as the latter group scours the T&T’s Exclusive Economic Zone for petrochemicals to extract. Fishermen, especially those who are Tobago-based, will therefore do well to take stock of their legal currency before jumping into court. As with all battles, knowledge is the imperative, and the conflict over mining grounds putatively called Blocks TTDAA 28, TTDAA 29, TTDAA14, 23(A) and 23(B) will resolve itself by each group speaking to what’s there and how it benefits others. This is grey language obviously, the oil companies of the ‘blocks’ are already past the post – they even have a name for the area, fishermen don’t. The strategy for Tobago fisherfolk, and they seem to understand that, is to lobby the Central Government about their loss of income and indeed the very threat to their way of life. No point in fighting with the company who


Environment TOBAGO newsletter

‘owns’ the Blocks, since it came by it legitimately – through Corporation Sole - the relevant State Ministry. Garnering a bit of sympathy from the public wouldn’t hurt either, although that may be hard to come by, given their loutish behaviour when fish is in high demand. Indeed Tobago fisherfolk can’t really get help from the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) directly, especially those who operate in the deep water where the seismic activities will be perpetrated. The Fisheries Division of the THA only has responsibility for – albeit with very limited authority- a small swathe just about six miles from shore and that jurisdiction does not include rights to minerals anyway. Politically of course, this makes potential bedfellows of the THA and the fishermen in that if Tobago can extend its reach – constitutionally that is - to the outer reaches of the Exclusive Economic Zone northeast of Tobago, local anglers’ needs shall be served by their own representatives in government. The timing to effect any of that of course will not help the current crop of fishermen – which understandably finds them knocking on the oil company’s doors these days seeking compensation for loss of their grounds. It’s been an admirable demonstration of good corporate social responsibility being shown by the owners of the Deepwater Blocks in the way they’ve not flaunted their right, and possibly presents us with the tightrope walk of the century. Big oil needs to know if there’s petroleum in 23A and 23B, so they do have to explore the substrates – bad for the fishing. They may not want to extract gas if it’s found - deepwater technology costs and world prices not helping at this time - which means no money for the local treasury soon. The only possibility for this conflict to de-escalate is for fisherfolk to be able to fish, block owners able to survey and drill – both achieving whatever ends they may. Which means seismic blitzkrieg off Tobago over for most of 2014? Not necessarily. There is new technology that does not require compressed airguns. A Scottish company has developed technology which can find underground minerals and energy resources using electromagnetic beams to penetrate rock, seawater and earth in order to survey for natural resources. Its product (patented) offers companies the ability to search for oil, gas and minerals without the damaging effects of exploratory drilling. For Tobago, since Trinidad obviously doesn’t care what happens to its natural environment, this is big news. Already the non-harmful not noisy technique has been grasped by the people in Prince Edward Island where fisheries and oil are both big businesses. But just wishing this cheaper, cleaner and more efficient method will be used to prove the fields of Block TTDAA 28, TTDAA 29, TTDAA14, 23(A) and 23(B) will not necessarily make it happen.

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“when the shrimping community were dragging nets all over the Gulf of Paria, scraping the sea bottom with scant regard for the fisheries habitat, not a thought came from them about saving the marine resource. “


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Environment TOBAGO newsletter

Talking about simple helpful interesting things By Bertrand Bhikarry

“the latrine pit experience is not fun.”

“ To many p eopl e t hes e tall pea ks make fo r a c hallen ging b ut s cenic hike. B u t t hey a re not jus t a no the r t all m oun tain to climb . ”

According to the rumour, one day soon, The Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA) will install a new sewerage system in the South. Apparently more than fifteen years ago, they got the go-ahead and now several years later they have the money. Nice! But even though this piece of gossip is long in the tooth, it would be difficult to find one person in Tobago who wouldn’t want the upgrade, and understandably so - the latrine pit experience is not fun. Older heads may smile remembering, but for modern kids more than likely that first encounter was by grandparents or the home of some distant poorer relatives. Yup, those were downright terrifying times. Nowadays of course, it’s only possible to see outhouses when visiting less developed areas, everyone preferring those unsightly extensions of our bodily functions should stay disappeared. In that sense the WASA has an easy job in getting the public’s approval to roll out their planned installation. Forget for a moment the fact that it has taken this long, are we even thinking about managing that disruption the new plant and its miles of catchment pipelines shall have on our lives much less the natural environment? Do we think it will function as planned? Those are big considerations as plant maintenance is always a bugbear for state-run apparatus, especially WASA who always manage to never get it right. There’s more. Will WASA be able to install and maintain a system in an area of Tobago where the environment is far more sensitive than meets the eye? Assuming the money to build it is actually enough – factoring in the inevitable allowances for a new millionaire or two from the fund, will there be allocations in the sewer budget to cover running costs? Unavailability of money after installation is the most likely reason the sewerage plant will eventually damage the environment (and stink up the parish). Some experts, on examining global data, predict WASA’s proposed plant may need a complete refurbishment of pipeline and machinery after just fifteen years of operations. Keeping costs low is therefore, an imperative if we are to keep our sweet-smelling bathrooms. Among the first of the savings WASA should target, is the electricity bill. Similar sized plants as the one proposed for Tobago spend about one percent of their overall annual expenditure on power. While reducing the wattage of light bulbs in the treatment plant might work to an extent, more meaningful savings can be effected by harnessing methane gas generated by the mass of sewage to help TTEC produce current. This is one truly viable and sustainable energy producing power solution and WASA should entertain it in planning for this project. Imagine being able to say you produced one megawatt last month. Adds a shocking dimension to poop that does. There is also a need to raise the public’s awareness about future expenses. Some people might think it’s all free but costs attending the new sewerage facility might not come down only to pure economics – evidenced by a new monthly bill. There’s the damage that can happen to the Bon Accord Lagoon. The place is not far from Pigeon Point, should a really mobile piece of crap decide to drift downwind. And before you shoot me with … think, it’s happened before. Three years ago, a crap specialist opened a bleed valve in order to make repairs up-line in the area back of Bon Accord adjacent the Lagoon. Job done, he merrily took off and spent his cheque. The gentleman had forgotten however, to close the valve at line’s end, so when the pumping began, effluent took a swim down Heritage Park if you get my drift. It took three months before a citizen of the area blessed with more sensitive nostrils than his neighbours made the report. Nah, a good sewerage plan this time around has to have better systems in place to monitor wayward machinery and forgetful men.


Environment TOBAGO newsletter

An oversight we can see easily happening is WASA neglecting to talk to the very people who will be served by the new system is intended to serve. The Bon Accord – Canaan area still has fairly large set of houses with – well, outhouses. Those folks are going to be connected soon (one hopes) to spanking brand new faecal facilities, but they could well and inadvertently put the wrong stuff in the bowl. Let me hasten to elaborate. World Bank research reveals the greatest cost factor to owning/running sewer systems is when people put toxic chemicals down the toilet. Since most treatment plants nowadays use biological breakdown to purify human waste (so it can be assimilated into the surroundings), microbes are viewed as good things to have hanging in the system. Problem is, bleach for example is what the average traditional homeowner uses to maintain a clean privy. Since old habits die hard, it’s not inconceivable that bleach substitutes like black disinfectant or washing soap powder will be used to clean a toilet bowl or two in these newly hooked-up neighbourhoods. If say, just fifty of the new connections clean their bowls once a week – more on holidays, the WASA’s Bon Accord treatment plan will be spending oodles of its dough to counteract something a small awareness campaign might have offset. In that sense the delay WASA is presently facing getting their plant going may be a good thing. The more people who know what bad sewerage etiquette means the more dollars the sewerage authority will save. This is no small thing, the bill always come down to the end user. Imagine if you go to use the toilet and a voice in there murmurs “your credit is low, please top up your account”. I know – you’ll be glad then if there was still a little shack out back.

Tobago Bird sightings Matt Kelly Environment TOBAGO

Top row (left to right): Black Hawk, Blue Heron and Caribbean Martin Bottom row (left to right): Kingfisher (male and female)

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“most treatment plants nowadays use biological breakdown to purify human waste .”


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Environment TOBAGO newsletter

Tobago Bird Sightings (cont’d)

“ To many p eopl e t hes e tall pea ks make fo r a c hallen ging b ut s cenic hike. B u t t hey a re not jus t a no the r t all m oun tain to climb . ”

Row 1 (left to right): Glossy Ibis, Great Black Hawk and a juvenile Red Crowned Woodpecker Row 2 (left to right): Lesser Black Baced Gull, Little Egret and Cocoi Heron Row 3 (left to right): Mangrove Cookoo, Perigrene Falcon and Semi Palmated Plover Row 4 (left to right): Tagged Frigate Bird, Unnamedblue Winged Teal and Wilsons Snipe


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Environment TOBAGO newsletter

ECOLOGY NOTES What are Brownfields? Jo-Anne Nina Sewlal Dept of Life Sciences, University of the West Indies All the need for space and resources demanded by our growing global population I am sure that many people have wondered why certain properties such as old abandoned factories are not being reused. It may be that they are considered brownfields. This short article will look what brownfields are and the why we should pay any attention to them when it comes to the environment. Brownfields can be defined as “a real property, the expansion, redevelopments or reuse of which may be complicated by the presence, or potential pressure of a hazardous substance pollutant or contaminant.” Real property means not only land but the buildings on it. Examples of brownfields include dry-cleaning shops, gas stations, warehouses and factories. Brownfields are ideal for development as much of the infrastructure is already in place in brownfield such as water and sewer lines, electricity poles and wires. There are also roads and since many brownfields originally catered for a lot of human traffic either as customers or as workers so they are already conveniently located close to public transport routes, therefore persons can get there to cleans it up and to use it afterwards. There are many advantages to re-opening and reusing brownfields for instance, the clean-up of these properties, if they are contaminated will stop a source of pollution to our environment. Brownfields hamper development and if restored can allow the growth of suburbs. This may not be a good thing to some people but developers are not able to develop these already “used lands” such as, green spaces or agricultural land. This will result in habitat loss and eventually a loss of our biodiversity. The clean-up effort as well as the restored property will provide more jobs for persons in the community. However, persons are reluctant to invest in brownfields because they are suspected of being contaminated but if contamination is confirmed then they have to pay the expenses to clean it up which includes the land and all the buildings on it. Brownfields also hurt the community’s economy as they also decrease the property value of the area because initially they are viewed as a health hazard. Often brownfields are located in areas where there are either no other developable land or that the surrounding are unattractive, for example factories. So that although the brownfield is cleaned up there is little chance that it will be sustainable. Sustainable in the sense that it can attract people to stay, either to work, live in or as a recreational area. But there have been some success stories of brownfield rehabilitation in Dallas, Texas where such areas where cleaned up around the city. Started by a brownfields program by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) in the United States of America, triggered private and public funding. This has resulted in residents getting more housing, shopping area, environmental training and technology centre and recreational centre as well as the creation of 1,000 jobs.

“persons are reluctant to invest in brownfields because they are suspected of being contaminated .”


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Environment TOBAGO newsletter

HOME IS WHERE THE WASPS ARE Howard Ensign Evans 1963. Wasp Farm. Garden City, NY: Natural History Press 178 pp. [Thirty-fifth in a series on "naturalist-in" books; see www.ckstarr.net/ reviews_of_naturalist.htm ] Christopher K. Starr Dept of Life Sciences, University of the West Indies ckstarr@gmail.com

“ To many p eopl e t hes e tall pea ks make fo r a c hallen ging b ut s cenic hike. B u t t hey a re not jus t a no the r t all m oun tain to climb . ”

“They set about making the area hospitable to a diversity of wasps“

Solitary wasps are abundant and diverse throughout the inhabitable world. In a typical nesting cycle, a mated female digs or builds a nest cell, repeatedly hunts for prey and stings each of them into paralysis and takes it back to nest, where she finally lays an egg in the cell and seals it. The prey -- kept fresh because they are still alive -- serve as food for the larva that in the end breaks out of the cell as an adult to begin the cycle anew. Within this general cycle lies a wealth of differences that have occupied the attention of some very smart naturalists through the decades. Two main parameters -- nest structure and prey array -- show the pattern of this diversity especially well. For example, 40 species of the genus Trypoxylon are known from Trinidad (Starr & Hook 2003). We predict with confidence that all use mud in building their nests, because every studied species of Trypoxylon in the world builds with mud. Similarly, while some other wasps characteristically hunt crickets or flies, we predict that our Trypoxylon hunt only spiders, because that is what all studied species everywhere hunt. We are not dogmatic about this, and if we ever turned up a soil-burrowing or fly-hunting Trypoxylon here or anywhere, that would embrace this surprise. On the other hand, it would surprise us to find that any of our three known Oxybelus species do not burrow in the soil or hunt flies. Of course, within Trypoxylon there is a great deal of diversity in how those mud nests are formed and which spiders are stashed in them. We are now in possession of an impressive mass of comparative knowledge of solitary wasps throughout the world, summarized a generation ago by Iwata (1976). The American entomologist Howard E. Evans (1919-2002) was the single most important contributor to this edifice. Although he was far from a gregarious man, he had a wonderful way with the written word and did much to bring nature and a biologist's outlook to the wider public. Perhaps his best-known book is Life on a Little Known Planet (Evans 1968), the core thesis of which is that there is a whole other world here on Earth -- the world of little creatures -- that is all but unknown to most people. I am delighted to see my favourite chapter, on "The Emotional and Intellectual Life of the Cockroach", included in a volume of his selected writings (Evans 2005). In 1954 the newlywed Howard & Mary Alice Evans bought a house on eight acres of mostly rocky land in New York state. The former chicken farm was covered with bushes and brambles, forested in one corner, with sand pits. They probably got it cheap, as it was away from any residential or commercial district, and what can you do with a place like that? The answer is seen in the book's title. They set about making the area hospitable to a diversity of wasps by providing or preserving nesting places and encouraging the


Environment TOBAGO newsletter

wasps' food. As Evans puts it, "Attracting wasps is not difficult; in fact, it is easier than not attracting them. One merely needs to be lazy." In addition to ensuring plenty of unkempt vegetation, they put out artificial nest sites, like putting out nest boxes for certain kinds of birds. After an introduction to Wasp Farm, Evans devotes 14 illustrated chapters to particular groups of wasps that he found there. Chapters have lovely titles, such as "Of Spring and Spider Wasps", "Stinkbugs for Dinner" and "Thirteen Ways to Carry a Dead Fly", the latter obviously suggested by Wallace Stevens's celebrated poem "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird". Like many naturalist-in authors, Evans likes a snappy opening, and many of his chapters start with sentences like "We tend to take August pretty much for granted" and "Have you ever eaten a stinkbug?" and "Life is full of frustrations, large and small; and small ones repeated continually are as bad as large ones." The chapter on "The Secret Lives of Sand Wasps" begins "There is scarcely a place on the face of the earth more sterile and uninviting than the central part of an active sand dune." Even so, in the hottest part of the day during the hottest time of year, a sand dune may be teeming with a particular wasp. Bembix pruinosa, the chapter's main character, and its parasites are found in almost every North-American dune east of the Rocky Mountains. The wasp is busy hunting and storing flies in its cells, the parasites are busy trying to despoil the cells, and hardly any other animal is to be seen in this forbidding environment. Each chapter ends with a glossary of the wasps treated and references for further reading, his way of encouraging the reader to become a wasp watcher and make original findings. While he does not give a list of the solitary wasps on the farm, more than 100 species appeared to nest there regularly. There are a great many narratives of particular wasps and their hunting, as well as how they solve problems of getting prey to the nest. Many species are set in the context of congeneric species studied elsewhere. The book is also enriched by narrative accounts of how Evans and others came to learn particular things about certain wasps. As an example, Iwata (1976) recorded 12 ways that wasps transport prey. Evans added one more -- Clypeadon carries ants in a special clasping device at the tip of the abdomen -- and relates its discovery. He has an attractive way of telling how a chance observation gave rise to a problem and then saying how it was solved (sometimes years later through another chance observation). And, in discussing this or that wasp, he makes occasional asides on individual entomologists who contributed to what we now know. In doing so, Evans conveys a very important lesson to the general public, that science is above all an activity, and a very human one at that. On Wasp Farm, as everywhere in the cold temperate zone, seasonality was a central factor in all of life, and Evans has a fine sense of it. He looks forward to the seasonal appearance of some common wasps each year. A key drawback to rearing brood in a fixed nest is the horde of natural enemies that beset it, as any treatise on the nesting of birds will emphasize. Solitary wasps are likewise under constant pressure from nest parasites, an important theme of this book. Evans compares three species of Philanthus (bee-wolves) on Three species of Philanthus (females) seen head on. They Wasp Farm. They overlap in nest are: gibbosus (upper left), politus (upper right), and solivagus sites and season, yet differ in body (below).

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“on the farm, more than 100 species appeared to nest there regularly“


Environment TOBAGO newsletter

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size and their usual prey. Their niche separation, Evans concludes, arise out of behavioural differences in nesting related to avoiding parasites. Like the first great observer of solitary wasps, Jean-Henri Fabre (1823-1915), Howard Evans believed in getting up close and personal with his bugs. If getting a good look at Left: Nest profile of Philanthus gibbosus (above) and their behaviour required him to lie Philanthus politus (below) on the ground with his face pressed Right: Nest profile of Philanthus solivagus to a burrow, then that was the thing to do. It is this intimate involvement in their lives that makes Wasp Farm, perhaps, the most engaging of his many writings. References Evans, H.E. 1968. Life on a Little Known Planet. New York: Dutton 318 pp. Evans, H.E. 2005. The Man Who Loved Wasps. Boulder: Johnson 208 pp. Iwata, K. 1976. Evolution of Instinct. New Delhi: Amerind 535 pp. Starr, C.K. & A.W. Hook 2003. The aculeate Hymenoptera of Trinidad, West Indies. Occasional Papers of the Department of Life Sciences, University of the West Indies (12):1-31. [http://ckstarr.net/aculeates.pdf] “ To many p eopl e t hes e tall pea ks make fo r a c hallen ging b ut s cenic hike. B u t t hey a re not jus t a no the r t all m oun tain to climb . �

Community Announcements

"The UTC Tobago CSC is in your neighborhood Call us now to share with your group a Seminar on Financial Planning" Manager: Contact :

Florence Forbes 635 2115 Ext. 6201

Business Development Officer : Desiree Hackett Murray Contact : 635 2115 Ext 6239; 688 3862


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The Caribbean Academy of Sciences (CAS) 19th General Meeting and Biennial Conference

ALL ARE WELCOME!!!

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Environment TOBAGO newsletter

WHAT’S HAPPENING @ ET Environment TOBAGO Environmental and Services Map of Tobago

ET is now on Facebook and Twitter We invite everyone on Facebook to join. Here we will post upcoming events, links, photos and videos on ET matters and other environmental issues.

They are excellent and will be published every two years. Published in January 2008. Requests for these maps can be made to ET office.

ET group link: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/ group.php?gid=53362888661&ref=ts

Volunteers needed!

And keep up to date on what we are up to by following us on Twitter: https://twitter.com/environ_tobago

Persons who are interested in helping with cataloguing and filing of ET’s educational, research and operational material and archiving.

New Members

ET has a membership of 427 worldwide, ET welcomes the following members: No new members joined this quarter

Literature Available

The Tropical Rainforest of Tobago — The Main Ridge Graham Wellfare and Hema Singh Published by Environment TOBAGO pp 37 Price: TT120.


Environment TOBAGO newsletter

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Environment TOBAGO t-shirts and caps now available

Type: Polos Size: Small, Medium & Large Price: TT$150.00 Colours: Kelly green, royal blue, red, gold and ash grey Description: ET logo embroidered on left breast, sponsor’s logo printed on the back.

Type: Regular tees Size: Small, Medium & Large Price: TT$100.00 Colours: Kelly green, red, black, navy blue, ash, purple, royal blue and black forest Description: ET logo printed on front and sponsor logos on sleeves at the back centre

Type: Lady’s tees Size: Small & Medium Price: TT$100.00 Colours: Lime green, red and black Description: ET logo printed on front and sponsor logo at the back centre

Price: TT$120.00

Orders can be made through the office.

Products featuring artwork from Rainforest Education & Awareness Programme

Tote bags-TT$120

Burlap bags -TT$120

Postcards TT$15 per card or TT$100 for a pack of Drawstring bags-TT$130


Environment TOBAGO newsletter

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READERS’ FORUM Dear ET Newsletter Readers, Office:

Mailing address:

11 Cuyler Street Scarborough, Tobago, W.I. P.O. Box 503, Scarborough, Tobago, W.I.

Phone: 1-868-660-7462 Fax: 1-868-660-7467 E-mail: envirtob@tstt.net.tt

We want to hear from YOU! Comments may be edited for length and clarity. Send your comments to: joannesewlal@gmail.com or envirtob@tstt.net.tt

GUIDELINES TO CONTRIBUTORS Articles on the natural history and environment are welcome especially those on Trinidad and Tobago. Articles should not exceed approximately 1200 words (2 pages) and the editors reserve the right to edit the length. Images should be submitted as separate files. Submit material to any of the following: 1) joannesewlal@gmail.com 2) envirtob@tstt.net.tt

We are on the web http://www.Environmenttobago.net

Deadline for submission of material for the 2nd Quarter 2014 issue of the Bulletin is June 10th, 2014.

Environment TOBAGO Newsletter - March 2014  

Quarterly newsletter of local NGO Environment TOBAGO

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