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Meet our Fall 2014 BESS Scholars

The Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholars (BESS) program is a unique opportunity for graduating students in The Bahamas ages 15-18 who have a keen interest in the environment and want to learn more as they transition from high school to university studies. Successful applicants will participate in a 14-week academic semester at The Island School in South Eleuthera and a four-month paid internship at an environmental conservation-related organization. Upon completion of high school, students can use BESS as a gap year experience before pursuing further studies. The BESS Program is administered in collaboration with BREEF. This semester The Island School is excited to welcome BESS Scholars Kerwin Mullings and Deneé Rankine. Fall 2014 BESS Scholar Kerwin Mullings.

Originally from Nassau, Kerwin Mullings comes to The Island School as a graduate of C.V. Bethel Senior High School.  Garnering a strong interest in the environment and marine sciences, Kerwin saw The Island School as an opportunity to not only pursue his passions but also gain experience in a field he hopes to work in professionally. An explorer at heart, Kerwin hopes to one day travel the world working as an environmental scientist.

Kerwin, Ellie and Peter K. take a moment to pose for a photo before heading out on their kayak trip.

Having just returned from his 8-day kayak trip, Kerwin is excited to be back and dive right into life on campus again.  Discussing his trip, Kerwin says, "Kayak was great. What I liked the most about it was solo".  Looking ahead, Kerwin is excited for parents weekend and being able to share everything he has accomplished so far with his family, particularly the work he has done in research class. Reflecting on his experience thus far Kerwin says that The Island School has broadened his perception of the world, creating a "watershed that gets wider and more detailed with every step".


Fall 2014 BESS Scholar Deneé Rankine.

Deneé Rankine comes to The Island School from a bit closer. Hailing from Savannah Sound located 60 km north of campus, Deneé enters Fall 2014 as a graduate of Central Eleuthera High School. Always making those around her laugh, Deneé is interested in marine biology and hopes to continue her studies pursuing an undergraduate degree in the States after her time here. 

Deneé prior to departing on  her kayak trip.

Having also  just returned from her 8-day kayak trip, Deneé is excited to reconnect with academics and friends on campus. Discussing her experience, Deneé says that her favorite aspect of the trip by far was the close bonds she developed with peers as a result of 8 days spent kayaking in a small group.  Over the next half of the semester, Deneé is most looking forward to the Research Symposium in November and is excited to see her family over parents weekend.

We would like to thank our supporters of the BESS program over the years: The Moore Bahamas Foundation, AML Foods Limited, Bahamas Waste Limited, Frank & Cha Boyce, BREEF, The Brown Foundation, Cans for Kids, Cape Eleuthera Resort and Marina, Carey Construction, Cates Family, Colina Imperial, Cotton Bay Foundation, John and Tanya Crone, Frank Crothers, Sean & Sarah Farrington, Friends of the Environment, Amanda Graham, Lawrence Griffin, Bobbie Hallig, Lynn Holowesko, Stephen & Alessandra Holowesko, Horation Alexander Catering & Events, Nancy Kelly, Mark & Dawn Knowles , LaBoiteaux Family Foundation, Lori & Jimmy Lowe, Lyford Cay Foundation, Lyford Cay School, Mactaggart Third Fund, Will & Lisa Mathis, Chris & Pam Maxey, Mark Maynard, Ross & Nancy McDonald, Chuck & Reva Murphy, James and Kylie Nottage, Lady Eugenie Nuttall, Hap & Cecilia Perry, Stuart & Robin Ray, Save The Bays, Scotia Bank, Brian & Laurel Smith, Brent & Robin Symonette, Craig & Michelle Symonette, TK Foundation, Donald & Debbie Tomlinson, Peter and Pippa Vlasov and Beatrice von der Schulenberg.


TK Foundation Visits Campus

On Wednesday, February 19, we were pleased to host Mr. Arthur Croady and Mrs. Esther Blair from the TK Foundation on campus. The TK Foundation is our largest Bahamian supporter and helps makes the great work we do at DCMS and with the BESS program possible. Their day-long visit featured tours of campus sustainable systems, class visits to DCMS and discussions with researchers and educators about their experiences and future outreach programs.




AML Foods Presents Check to BESS Program

[slideshow] To mark their continued relationship of support, AML Foods, through their Solomon’s Fresh Market Brand presented the Bahamas Environmental Steward Scholar program (BESS) with a $5,000 donation. Renea Knowles, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for AML Foods, presented the check to a grateful group of scholarship award recipients and partners, which included Franchesca Bethell and Cristina Roberts 2012 BESS students Trueranda Cox, (BESS alumnae 2010), Garneisha Pinder (BESS alumnae 2010), Charlene Carey, Environmental Educator at BREEF, and Kalin Griffin, Chief of Staff at The Island School.

Solomon’s Fresh Market demonstrates its dedication to fostering environmentally friendly practices and community service through its second year of charitable support of the BESS program. Donations that support BESS scholarship opportunities connect conservation organizations throughout The Bahamas by bridging education and service of young Bahamians in support of a national conservation movement.

“At Solomon’s Fresh Market our mission is to support healthy living and contribute to the community that we live in, while helping to preserve our environment for future generations. The Island School has a similar pledge and we are proud to be able to once again partner with them and assist the school in their efforts of educating our youth in this most important field” said Renea Knowles.

High School graduates, awarded BESS scholarships, spend a GAP year attending the Cape Eleuthera Island School’s semester program. Island School students engage in academic and personal growth while learning critical concepts of environmental research, leadership, community service and global citizenship. BESS students spend the other half of their year in the field serving one of a partnership of Bahamian conservation organizations including the Bahamas Reef Environmental Education Foundation (BREEF), the Bahamas National Trust, The Nature Conservancy, and Friends of the Environment.

"BESS has provided tremendous opportunities for Bahamian students to engage in real life conservation work. Many of our BESS students are engaged in field studies and research of national significance with the Department of Marine Resources, Cape Eleuthera Institute and The Bahamas National Trust which will help us achieve our national conservation goals,” said Charlene Carey, Environmental Educator at BREEF.

Building Bridges Abroad: Bradley and Garneisha Return From Training in China

[slideshow] The Island School and The Embassy for the People’s Republic of China celebrated a growing partnership this summer as the Embassy welcomed Bahamian Environmental Steward Scholar alumni (BESS) and Island School alumni Garneisha Pinder (F'10) and Bradley Watson (F'08). Pinder a rising sophomore at The College of The Bahamas and Watson a rising senior at College of Charleston, attended the Training Course on Bio-gas Technology for Developing Countries on May 15th - July 9th. You can hear more about their experiences on our previous blogs about biodigestion, genetic engineering, and making biogas from straw.

The focus of the training was how to effectively create and utilize bio-gas—a process which takes organic wastes like sewage and agricultural runoff and converts them into methane gas, a clean-burning fuel with many applications, such as cooking and heating. This end product is a renewable energy source for both urban and rural areas of China and can be applied anywhere else in the world.

The partnership between the The Embassy for the People’s Republic of China and The the Island School has continued to grow since a visit to campus by the His Excellency Hu Shan last April. During the visit, His Excellency Hu Shan helped open the Cape Eleuthera Institute's Hallig House and toured the school's pilot first-in-The-Bahamas biodigester and biodiesel facilities. The school plans to use both human and pig waste to generate enough energy for cooking food and heating biodiesel. Seeing the work being done at the Island School prompted the Ambassador to offer scholarships to two Bahamian students for the 56-day training course.

The students' aim of the program is to share and implement the renewable energy technologies that they they learned in China in their local communities and throughout The Bahamas. Both Pinder and Watson were exceedingly grateful for the opportunity and experience. "We learned so much about sustainable energy production, with applications for right here in The Bahamas, and I'm excited to put it into practise,  Development in industry, and agriculture should not compromise the environment and I can see biodigestion technology playing a part in reducing the negative impact such development can have on countries like the Bahamas." said Watson.

Update from Bradley Watson and Garneisha Pinder in China: Genetic Engineering

Many of us “Greenies” have heard of Monsanto and their Genetically Modified crops that can withstand their herbicides and John Deer’s seed dispersal machinery and some of us cringe at the thought of Genetic Modification or Engineering. I did too until I spoke with a gentleman from Tanzania who shared some of the ways he would use Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). He began by talking about soy bean plants which happen to be a popular crop in Africa as well as elsewhere. The soy bean belongs to the legume family, a group of plants that are capable of taking nitrogen from the atmosphere and “fixing” it in the soil with the help of fungi that lives in their roots while most other plants rely on fertilizers and other nitrogen sources to keep them green and healthy. So a soy bean field is very fertile. This fertility encourages weed growth and many soy bean varieties are engineered to withstand high doses of pesticides to combat these weeds that compete with them for light, nutrients and water in agricultural systems. Now I don’t like the idea of using any more pesticides than are absolutely necessary because I don’t want to eat them nor do I want them on the water table etc.

Well my friend from Tanzania’s proposition is that we engineer soy bean plants to grow under lower light conditions or alter them in some other way so that they can compete with other plants grown in the same system. He wants to use the fertile soil created by these legumes to grow wheat at the same time for example. We don’t have the time to selectively breed a new variety of soy bean and/or wheat to provide the amounts of food we need these days but GMOs could help us achieve these goals sooner. I had never thought of them this way.

Today’s lecture was on the bacteria and archaea that produce the methane gas in a biodigester and the speaker, Dr. Lei Cheng, showed a graph of methane production against time for naturally occurring microbes and GMOs. The GMOs far out did the naturally occurring strains in gas produced per unit time, no surprise there. These GMOs could help us turn wood chips, newspaper, and straw into biogas much faster than we can now. They could make biogas production more economically feasible and push these projects beyond government subsidization. How could I avoid GMOs now?

The last and most compelling use for GMOs came from Mr. Tanzania again (he is a patriot). He mentioned the possible use of genetically modified microbes that feed on the components that make up landmines. These organisms would be modified to glow under UV light. If you seed a minefield with these guys and come back a week later with a UV light you should be able to find the spots where colonies have formed on their food source, land mines. So many countries and people suffer from these death fields left behind after conflicts. Some much money goes into training dogs and even rodents to search for mines. Useful farmland goes to waste and young, innocent children loose limbs to these hidden weapons years after the political side of the conflict has been put to rest.

If these are the possible uses for GMOs I say go for it, and quickly. The thing is, we need all the biodiversity we can save to use for our modifications.