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On nature’s side

Nicholas Mohammed, Committee Member of the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club writes on the club’s varied activities.

On July 10, 2021, the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club (TTFNC) celebrated its 130th anniversary. This prestigious event was commemorated the Thursday prior, during the club’s annual Members Evening, where members met virtually for camaraderie and festivities.

The TTFNC is one the oldest clubs in Trinidad and Tobago, founded in 1891. The club, like other naturalists’ societies across the globe, focuses on the study, appreciation, and conservation of natural history.

It’s a non-profit organisation that is entirely volunteer-based. Membership is open to all persons, from all walks of life, whether you are an avid nature scientist or someone whose closest interaction with nature is seeing the grass alongside the streets on your way to work.

Over the years, the TTFNC has been involved in numerous projects and activities, such as the turtle tagging project in the 70s which led the way for protection of our sea turtles; mapping projects of the Aripo and Cumaca Caves; research on the West Indian Manatee; the Blue River Action Committee which fought for protection of the Caroni Swamp in 1973, among many others.

Members of the TTFNC share their interest and knowledge of topics including but not limited to birding, botany, zoology, photography, geography, scientific research and publication, and environmental conservation.

This sharing of information and collective interest in natural science is reflected in the club’s monthly meeting wherein a speaker, be it a member or invited guest, disseminates their research, findings, or observations with the club.

Monthly meetings are usually held in St Mary’s College on the second Thursday each month. However, due to the current Covid  restrictions, these meetings have continued virtually.

The club has numerous outreach and public awareness programmes. Prior to the current pandemic and the related restrictions, you could have found representatives of the club, such as the charismatic and knowledgeable Dan Jaggernauth, at fairs and events with many displays.

The club has produced numerous publications. These include simple to follow guides for quick visual identification of common wildflowers and birds of Trinidad and Tobago.

For the amateur and veteran arborists, the club has the Native Trees of Trinidad and Tobago to offer. Additionally, a trail guide which details well and lesser-known hiking and nature trails was also published by the club.

The most recent book produced by the TTFNC is the acclaimed Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of Trinidad and Tobago. These are all available for purchase at bookstores or the club.

The club has an annual open-access journal, Living World, which presents research, studies, and observations by members of the club, as well as a quarterly bulletin, The Field Naturalist, featuring highlights and accounts of recent club trips, both of which can be accessed on the club’s website, www.ttfnc.org

Some might have actually seen the most famous outreach programme affiliated with the club: the Trinidad & Tobago Bioblitz. This is an annual event where citizen scientists identify and catalogue the biodiversity of an area around a base camp over a 24-hour period, usually in the latter part of the year.

Groups are formed to search for specific classes of organisms such as plants, mammals, reptiles, and insects. Avid naturalists spend Saturday afternoon into Sunday morning hiking, diving, and surveying in a sort of unspoken competition among groups.

On the Sunday, the public is invited to the basecamp to learn about the species seen, and be a part of the final count where the total number of species found by each group is reported and the overall total is tallied.

Last year’s pandemic restrictions did not hinder this event, as the club instead opted to invite the entire nation to take part in the first ‘Backyard Bioblitz’ by recording species in their backyard and nearby environment amassing over 1,300 species from 6,500 observations!

Another recent outreach activity launched by the TTFNC was its Junior Naturalists’ Nature Walk. Introduced in February 2020, this project sought to have students of the nation’s secondary schools be treated to a free guided walk in nature with the TTFNC to gain an appreciation for nature, facilitate out of classroom learning of Biology and Environmental Sciences, and foster a sense of national pride by experiencing the unique biodiversity and niches of our nation. Unfortunately, with the arrival of the pandemic to our shores, only two walks could have been carried out with Marabella North Secondary School and Presentation College, San Fernando. However, the club hopes to continue this project with any and all interested schools of the nation once it is safe to do so.

 

Follow TTFNC on various social media channels and if you’d like to be part of the TTFNC or wish to get further information, the club can be contacted at admin@ttfnc.org. Their Facebook page is facebook.com/ttfieldnaturalistsclub

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