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Helping to Sustain a Way of Life in the Bahamas

Meet the R/Js team

By Catherine | 1 August 2013 | No Comments
Published in Ragged Island/Jumento Cays 2013, Uncategorized

In addition to the usual Community Conch team, we were joined by four volunteers this year. And we really couldn’t have chosen a better crew, because these folks were truly up for the challenge. In this post we’ll feature Erin Cash, a native of Nassau. Erin was great to have on board because not only was her master’s thesis focus on the queen conch (experience!), having just finished her thesis she was not afraid of data entry (bonus skill!), and was all around a fun person to have around (people person!). Despite a few bouts of sea sickness, Erin was also really excited to be towed behind a boat (or maybe not so much, but she did it anyway!). And she really loves conch, as you will see in her post…

Erin was especially skilled in measuring the length and lip thickness of conch shells in the smelly old conch middens we came across.

Erin was especially skilled in measuring the length and lip thickness of conch shells in the smelly old conch middens we came across.

When the opportunity was first presented to me to help on the conch project I couldn’t be more excited. As a recent graduate whose thesis revolved around this hopping strombid, I leapt at the chance to work with it again. After two and a half weeks, a couple of peaceful run-ins with a few toothy friends and a new perspective on the necessity of sunblock, I felt that all hope was not lost; though I am “missing” a couple of unwanted pounds.
Every day that we went out something new was waiting to be discovered. Some information was scientifically minded- like the densities we found- and some of it was on the human level. When you’re at sea for weeks at a time it can get a little lonely. You worry that you may run out of conversations. I remember warning another volunteer in the airport about catching up too quickly; I was worried we’d run out of things to say. However, we were able to interact with new people who were old to the area at almost every stop. Learning their perspectives and at times having a dialog as to what can and should be done about environmental issues. As the resident city slicker, being from Nassau, I was able to learn new things about my own country that I never would have known. Evidently there is at least one flamingo in the Jumentos!

Erin smiling about the number of conch she just counted on her tow.

Erin smiling about the number of conch she just counted on her tow.

The best thing I learned was that it was not all for naught. While we have a way to go it was refreshing to see relatively healthy populations. It was enlightening to survey middens that weren’t pervaded with the shells of juveniles. It was humbling to see the beauty my country presents both with its self-contained cays and staggering painted sea. It was a little dicey being pulled on a tow rope behind a boat in some of those seas, but hey- we do it for science. We do it for the conch. We do it because really, who else will? We have to see. We have to learn. We have to have that information. We have to move forward. I did it because I had to. I’m glad that I did. I’m still thrown about that flamingo though…

erinc3

Erin works on getting the data into a spreadsheet…she did it for the conch.

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DID YOU KNOW?

fuzzy conch

The Queen Conch is a large edible sea snail, a type of marine mollusk. As herbivores, they eat algae and other tiny marine plants.

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