Saturday, December 7, 2013

Chardonnières school

Today we taught 36 students at a school in Chardonnières.  We talked about the importance of birds in Haiti, and careers the students could have working with birds (art, education, conservation, and ecotourism).  Thanks to Wislaire and the teacher for making arrangements, Jackson for translating and teaching, and Sonny for driving!  And thanks to everyone who has donated binoculars and other supplies over the years.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Teaching about birds and bats

This month Audubon Center has taught in two schools, Communaute Baptiste in Simon and Institution Classique Moderne des Cayes.  James, Jackson, and Ducsonn are doing a great job in teaching about the importance of birds and bats in Haiti.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Fall semester at AUC

This fall we are training a new batch of students at the American University of the Caribbean.  The students learn how to use binoculars, the key features for identifying birds, and then we go birding around our wooded campus.  Students must attend three birding sessions to earn a certificate.  At our weekly meetings we have begun practicing what we will be teaching in the schools - the importance of birds and bats.  We will start visiting schools in November (schools got a late start this fall in Haiti).
Birding on campus.

Learning about baby bats - which do NOT come from mice!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Dry Etang Lachaux

We reported in May that colleagues and I visited Etang Lachaux near Camp Perrin to take measurements and check the lake’s suitability for stocking fish.  I visited the lake a couple days ago on 04 Sept 2013 and the lake is completely dry except for two shallow pools and some springs.  Tropical Storm Gabrielle looked promising for rain, but seems to have dissipated.  Seems the people who took a chance and planted right up to the then drying lake edge in May will get in crops.  New land is being plowed even closer to the lake bed.  Cattle, sheep, and goats are grazing right in the lake bed, and at least one died from getting stuck in the remaining mud.  When the lake refills, will decomposition of all the vegetation deplete the oxygen levels of the water?


Dung beetles.

Looking toward north end of lake.

Planting newly plowed land.

Cows with mud up to knees.

Our little guide standing by a spring.
Where I took a soil sample.

Football (soccer) field in lake bed!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Audubon at Gelee Beach Festival

This week the Audubon Center had a tent at the annual Gelee Beach Festival in Les Cayes.  We were in the Agro-Artisanale section organized by American University of the Caribbean graduates Willina and Edline.  They did a great job of bringing together Haitian arts and food products, and several agriculture and natural resource officials from Port au Prince were present.  Many people stopped by the Audubon tent, where AUC students Jephte, Reuben, and John Kelly introduced them to the importance of Haiti’s bats and birds.  We were also interviewed by several television stations, and were asked to appear on a local education program!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Etang Lachaux Lake Study

North end of lake.  A good birding spot!
“This was perhaps the best single locality I found below 1,000 ft. for ground collecting.” said PJ Darlington Jr in 1934 of the lake Etang Lachaux, back when the population of Haiti was 2,550,000 (250 per square mile).  PJ Darlington was there to collect ground beetles (see Psyche Dec. 1935, Vol. XLII, No. 4, West Indian Carabidae II: Itineraryof 1934).  When my team from the University of Kansas and I were there this month to collect water quality data, Haiti’s population stood around 10 million, or 930 people per square mile.  And the land around this lake was cropped, even on the rocky hillsides.  One hillside was rocky with a new highway perched along the edge.  

Sampling locations and path walked around lake.
Etang Lachaux is near Camp Perrin on the southern peninsula, near Les Cayes.  My team did a baseline study there on 4 May 2013 to collect basic water quality data and to map the lake.  There are several springs with almost quicksand like substrate along
the north shore of the lake, which our 14 year-old tag-along Bobby helped us to navigate.  The Minister of the Environment said the lakevolume decreases every year during the dry season (which is supposed to end in May), but 2013 and 2012 have been unusually low, which doesn’t bode well for the carp and tilapia he stocked.  A full report is forth coming.  Email me (Debbie Baker, debbieauc at if you would like more information.  Please post comments if you know anything about this lake!

Sampling a spring at the northeast corner of the lake.

South end of the lake.  Farmers plant crops to the edge hoping they will get a crop before the rainy season.

New highway overlooking the eastern edge of the lake.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Water quality workshop in Camp Perrin

Dr. Huggins demonstrating the secchi disk.
A recent outreach event of the Audubon Center was coordinating a water quality workshop presented by environmental scientists from the University of Kansas.  The Ministry of the Environment for the South Department hosted the event at their office in Camp Perrin.  Twenty workers from the Ministry, ORE, and other groups attended the workshop.  Using the local lake Etang Lachaux watershed as an example, Dr. Donald Huggins, Dr. Gary Welker, and Debbie Baker discussed with the group the various human activities that impact the watershed and how to mitigate these.  They donated a secchi disk to the bureau, a simple water quality measurement device that people can make themselves.  We ended the day with a tour of
the NGO Organization for the Rehabilitation of the Environment (ORE).