Saturday, October 21, 2017

BirdSleuth Caribbean Lessons 7 & 8

Birds Caribbean sent me materials written in French to lead a BirdSleuth Caribbean class for teachers in Haiti.  Before having a workshop for teachers, I am trying out the material on kids in area elementary schools.  The first lesson was a 1.5 hr Saturday morning program in two different rural villages with kids aged 2 to 15 years old.  I began with the poster of bird silhouettes to identify birds and discuss different groups. (I didn't follow all the  dialogue of the lesson or take kids out with binoculars).  From the first group I learned that the kids didn't know what a silhouette is (even though they speak French), so explained it to the second group as a shadow, and better explained that we don't need binoculars to identify birds, but can use their shape.  They understood this as the hummingbird has a long beak, the woodpecker is on the side of a tree, etc.  The kids didn't know the wading bird silhouette, and I have never seen any in this area.  We called it the kolye, the name for plover and killdeer. They also mentioned crow several times, but it is not on the poster.  They gave me the Haitian Creole names of the birds.  Then volunteers come up front and faced away from the poster to try to name all 10 types of birds on the poster.

Next we used the bird body part poster of Lesson 8.  Students gave me the Creole names of the parts, then I had volunteers come up front in pairs and the 'scientist' showed us the parts on their 'bird.'  We looked at the bird illustrations in the Haiti bird guide, and I asked the kids questions like what color is the eye stripe, or which bird has a black throat.

We then went into the surrounding and used the beginner side of the scavenger hunt cards (after emphasizing that they only use the dry erase markers on the cards).  They had played this came last year using the English language version and searching for only the illustrated items, so I thought with the French version at least the older kids would look for more items since some are described only with text.  But in both groups all the kids stuck to looking for only the illustrated items.  So when I have lessons with only the older kids I will emphasize the written items.  Stay posted for the results of future lessons.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Many Hands for Haiti ecology seminar

Thank you Many Hands for Haiti for inviting Louiders and me to your campus to give an ecology lesson to the agronomy students!  We hope the students better appreciate how protecting Haiti's ecology protects the lives of people and livestock.

Our 2-hour lesson focused on watersheds - how what we do impacts those who live downstream of us.  If we plant more trees and protect the rivers and lakes, we will have more fish and cleaner water.  Washing people and vehicles and watering animals away from the river helps everyone.  We finished with a lesson on microbes in water and everyone received a kit to test for E. coli in their drinking water.  If you find E. coli in your water it is a sign of fecal contamination!  Which means diseases such as cholera could be present.  After we finished someone showed up with two bouanma fish (carp) from the Bouyara River!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Well Survey – Bohoc Haiti

Protected Lejene well.
On 17 Jan. 2017 I performed a brief survey of 4 pump wells in the Bohoc area (8 miles east of Pignon), three along National Route 3 and one in the village of Caiman.  I collected water samples to measure nitrate with a LaMotte® Water TesTab® Kit which measures nitrate-NO3 in discrete categories (0, 5, 20, 40 mg/l) determined by color change.  I used 3M petrifilm to determine presence of fecal coliform (blue colonies are E. coli, red colonies with gas are other coliform).  Coordinates were taken with a handheld GPS.

Two of the wells were in protected blue and white buildings that are kept locked and managed by a well committee.  At both wells people drink the water without treating it, and also use it for washing and cooking.  One committee said they treat the well once a month with chlorine, and that people must take off their shoes before entering the building.  People at the Caiman well said they do not drink the water, but use it for cooking and washing.  At a second unprotected well, someone said that some people drink the well water but shouldn’t. 

Caiman well.
Surprisingly none of the wells showed E. coli, nor even other types of coliform, indicating that here is no contamination from fecal material.  Of concern is nitrate levels.  High nitrate in drinking water can cause methemoglobinemia (blue baby syndrome) in babies less than 6 months old as the nitrate depletes oxygen in the blood.  The USEPA maximum standard for nitrate-N in drinking water is 10 mg/l.  The WHO maximum standard for nitrate-NO3 in drinking water is 50 mg/l (or 11.3 mg/l nitrate-N).  Nitrate-NO3 values were multiplied by 0.2259 to convert to nitrate-N.  The two protected wells were below the nitrate limits, however the two unprotected wells had at least 9.04 mg/l nitrate-N (40 mg/l nitrate NO3), the maximum value that the LaMotte kit can report.  Therefore water from the two unprotected wells should not be given to babies < 6 months old until further tests can determine actual nitrate levels.

The results of this study were shared with the well committee and users, with cautions to those at the unprotected wells to avoid giving this water to babies.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bird Sleuth

I teach ecology programs in a rural village in central Haiti, and at an elementary school.  This week we used the BirdSleuth scavenger hunt and Bird Spy Bingo produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  The games are printed on slick cards on which dry erase markers can be erased.  I only have the English version of the games since I am waiting for the French to be reprinted.  The scavenger hunt has basic and more advanced levels of finding objects in natures such as a spider web, rock, leaf, etc., and is mostly text, so I had the kids find the objects that were pictured on the cards.  Bird bingo has birds doing various things, such as sitting on a branch or singing, and the kids were able to follow the illustrations.  The 6th graders were able to read some of the English descriptions of the birds.  There aren’t many trees in the village and the kids are noisy, but a kestrel did pose on a tree for us, and the kids found a feather and bird droppings.  We saw a few more birds near the elementary school.  Binoculars aren’t needed for the scavenger hunt, but make the bingo more fun.  Both games draw attention to animals and objects found in nature.  My assistant Louiders wants me to thank everyone who donates binoculars and funds for this!  He says you are helping Haiti!

Searching for birds along the village path.
Bird Bingo in the village.

Louiders helping the 6th graders.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Stream Survey – Bohoc Haiti

Tilapia pond in UCCC gardens
On 14 Nov. 2016 we performed a brief survey of two rivers and a spring in Bohoc Haiti, near the market along National Route 3.  Bohoc is 8 miles east of Pignon.  We collected water samples to measure nitrate, phosphate, DO, and pH with LaMotte® Water TesTab® Kits and determine fecal coliform counts with 3M petrifilm.  We also used a 500 micron D net to sweep the substrate and overhanging vegetation for macroinvertebrates that we identified to lowest taxon possible in the field.  In the Université de la Communauté Chrétienne de Caïman (UCCC) gardens to the south of Rt. 3 we sampled two hand-dug tilapia ponds, the Bohoc River which is downhill of the ponds and gardens, and an irrigation canal that flows through the gardens and feeds the tilapia pond.  We also sampled the Sous Chaude (hot spring) and receiving river located downhill behind the Bohoc Market, to the north of Rt. 3.  We returned to the spring 17 Nov. to measure water temperature.  All sites were high in phosphate (4 mg/l), and fecal coliform (>7 colonies) except for the Sous Chaude which had no coliform bacteria and had lower phosphate (1 -2 mg/l).  At all sites dissolved oxygen was <4 mg/l, nitrate-N was 1.03 mg/l (5 mg/l nitrate-NO3), and pH was 7 to 8.

The Lamotte kits measure water chemistry parameters in discrete categories determined by color change.  All coordinates were taken with handheld GPS except for sites 2 and 6 which were estimated from Google Earth.

Bohoc River downhill from UCCC tilapia pond, looking up from Site 3 pool

Bohoc River downhill from UCCC tilapia pond, Site 3 pool

Chara? from site 4 irrigation canal in UCCC garden.

Site 4 irrigation canal in UCCC garden.

Bohoc River fall in site 5 (upstream of path that crosses)

Crab found on fall at site 5 Bohoc River

Site 6 Sous Chaude behind Bohoc Market

Site 7 Sous Chaude outflow on left, site 8 river upstream on right.

3M petrifilm plates, with E. coli colonies in blue.

Haitian Studies Association Conference – Cap Haitien

Dr. Huggins and I presented our 2015 lake study (KBS Report181) at the 28th Annual Haitian Studies Association Conference (10 – 12 Nov. 2016) in Cap Haitien on the north coast of Haiti.  The theme of this year’s conference was Haiti’s Ecosystems: Focus on Environmental Realities and Hopes.  A plenary session was about water quality and a related book of aquatic research was provided.  Other topics ranged from the portrayal of the environment in Haitian literature, to citizen perception of environmental issues, to caves and archeology.  The conference began Thursday with an emerging scholars session at Université Publique du Nord au Cap Haitien south of Cap.  Most of the presentations and activities were at the hotel Auberge Villa Cana on National Rt. 1.  Saturday’s talks were presented at the Campus Henri Christophe de l'UEH a Limonade, about 40 minutes east of Cap.  Cap was flooded from a heavy rain that fell four days before the conference, and every evening it rained, flooding parts of Rt. 1.  We stayed in the Hotel Imperial which sat far enough back from the road to avoid flooding. Two of my ecology students from UCCC joined us.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Lake Péligre

Lake Péligre, Haiti’s 2nd largest lake, is formed by a dam on the Artibonite River.  The dam was built for hydroelectric power.  The lake can be seen on National Route 3 between Hinche and Mirebalais.  You can compare lake heights in the photos below which I take every time I go past the lake.  Information on the internet suggests the lake is filling in with silt, and the turbines are not functioning at top efficiency.  As someone who receives electricity from this dam, I can tell you we have electricity a couple hours in the morning and a couple in the evening.

Peligre Lak, 2yèm pi gwo lak Ayiti a, ki te fòme pa yon baraj sou larivyè Lefrat la Latibonit. te baraj la bati pou pouvwa idwolik. ka Lak la ka wè sou Nasyonal Route 3 ant Hinche ak Mibalè. Ou ka konpare wotè lak nan foto yo anba a ki mwen pran chak fwa mwen ale sot pase lak la. Enfòmasyon sou entènèt la sijere lak la se ranpli nan ak limon, ak turbin yo pa fonksyone nan efikasite tèt. Kòm yon moun ki resevwa elektrisite sa a soti nan baraj, mwen ka di ou nou gen elektrisite yon èdtan koup nan maten an ak yon koup nan aswè an.
View 1 Oct. 2014

View 1 Dec. 2015 after a dry fall.
View 1 Oct. 2016
View 2 Oct. 2014

View 2 Dec. 2015 - note the exposed silt upstream between the hills.
View 2 Oct. 2016 the valley is full again, but shore line is still exposed.