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‘We hope it inspires them to become environmental stewards of the future’

Royal Gazette

Maybe some of them will pursue a career in conservation and become the next David Wingate or Jeremy Madeiros.

Or they might decide to take up environmental causes like Stuart Hayward of Bermuda Environmental Sustainability Taskforce.

Either way, 13 high school students will become more environmentally aware from having participated in the weeklong annual Nonsuch Island Camp that gives students between the ages of 14 and 17 a better understanding of the unique biodiversity, fragility and wonder of Bermuda’s natural environment, possibly developing a lifelong interest and desire to protect.

The camp has run virtually every year since 1971 and is a collaborative effort by the Bermuda Audubon Society and Bermuda Zoological Society, with the support of the Department of Conservation Services which allows Nonsuch Island to be used as its camp base. The camp is funded by Catlin Insurance, PartnerRe and Rubis Bermuda.

Students from the Berkeley Institute, Warwick Academy, Bermuda High School, Saltus, CedarBridge Academy, Mount Saint Agnes, Petra Academy and Trinity School in New York, have been kept busy during 18-hour days learning about the Island’s natural environment during field trips and lectures.

Around 400 of Bermuda’s students have taken part in the camp over the years, some of whom have gone on to work in the environmental science field and many of whom have continued their support for Bermuda’s environment in various ways.

“We hope it fosters an active and lifelong interest in Bermuda’s natural history,” said Camilla Stringer, this year’s camp director.

“It provides students with an opportunity to experience advanced-level fieldwork, plus access to Bermuda’s top scientists. We hope it inspires all of them to become environmental stewards of the future.”

The camp finishes tomorrow, by which time the students will have been on several field trips to nature reserves around the Island, including Paget Marsh, Spittal Pond and Walsingham Nature Reserve, studied the environmental impact to our South Shore beaches, snorkelled at North Rock and undertaken a conservation project on Nonsuch Island with conservation officer Jeremy Madeiros. Evenings have been reserved for lab projects and lectures on everything from Bermuda’s geology and hurricane ecology to bird life, marine ponds and man’s impact on fragile habitats.

One treat for the students was seeing Cahow chicks on Nonsuch Island.

“Normally the Cahows have fledged and left by this point but there were two chicks left so Jeremy Madeiros offered to show them to us,” explained the camp director. The group travelled to Nonsuch Island yesterday for a two-day stay.

“They are a fantastic group, very enthusiastic, no complaints.

“Bermuda is a small place but it has so many ecosystems and so much to offer and it is very important to get an appreciation of those and an understanding of them before they disappear.”

One of the students is 17-year-old Anna Dobson. Her father Andrew Dobson spoke to the students in his capacity as president of Bermuda Audubon Society.

“I like birds and I know birds but I don’t go out at seven o’clock in the morning on weekends to birdwatch,” she admitted. “I’m not quite as keen as my father.”

The camp has been an enjoyable experience for all of the participants.

Students are tested each night on what they learned that day and sit an examination at the end of the week when a trophy is presented to the best performing students and the student who displays the best ‘camp spirit’.

Participants include Berkeley students Dominique Hill and Keni Maybury; Trinity School student Sarah Barkley and Warwick Academy students Aaron Crichlow and Anna Dobson. Also participating are BHS students Krystal Moniz, Jamie Gauk and Sierra Botkin and Saltus students Zindziswa Swan and Michaela Ratteray. CedarBridge Academy student Naimah Frith, Petra Academy student Khalil Burch and Maiia White of Mount Saint Agnes also participated.

What they said ...

Krystal Moniz, 16, BHS: “I really am enjoying the camp, I’m learning the botanical names of plants and the ecosystem. Originally I was interested in doing marine biology but now I’m leaning more towards sports management but it is still great because biology is a passion of mine. What we have done so far, like snorkelling at North Rock, was a new experience for me and there is more to come. We are learning by observing things around us.”

Anna Dobson, 17, Warwick Academy: “I have really enjoyed it, particularly the caving that we did, because it was something I have never done before. It was awesome. We went into a hole, which was a lot cooler than outside. We had to hold a rope and lean back and walk down backwards. We were in a part of Bermuda that probably not a lot of people know about and it was away from man’s impact, besides the rope. I have often gone snorkelling but this trip has allowed me to get to know more precisely and accurately what it is you are looking at and observing. You are learning to get more respect for how these organisms grow and how they impact your environment.”

Sarah Barkley, 15, Trinity School, NYC: “Living in New York City I appreciate all the wildlife, fauna and flora, and everything we have seen in this camp because I’m not used to it. It’s a very different experience than I’m used to because New York City is apartment buildings and one Central Park but it is not anything like this. So it is definitely a new experience. I was worried because I didn’t know anyone but I have fitted right in and everyone is great.”

Jamie Gauk, 16, BHS: “I like experiencing everything, so today when we were trekking through the mangroves, waist-high in mud and carrying the bags on top of our heads that was really great. Next week I’m going to another camp in Toronto, a physics camp, so I’m trying everything out. I really like outdoor stuff, all sciences are good for me. I’m from Canada so I always do trips with my dad up into the mountains. This is different from mountain exploring but still great, too.”

Sierra Botkin, 16, BHS: “I choose to come to Nonsuch Camp just because my father, Eugene Dean, is very involved with Greenrock and the environment and even when I was young, just like Jamie, I used to love the whole mangrove thing. I thought it would be great to come here for a week and dive right in. In terms of a career I want to study business in college, however, I do definitely have a passion for the environment and I definitely do like charity, social and environmental work. Even if I don’t pursue an environmental career there is always the awareness element that can help you make smarter choices.”

Khalil Burch, 17, Saltus: “It’s been challenging and rewarding, I’ve enjoyed the experience.”

Dominique Hill, 15, Berkeley Institute: “So far it’s been good, I’m having a lot of fun. The only thing I don’t like is waking up at 6.30, it makes me feel like I’m back in school. Other than that good food and good people. I love going camping, I go just about every year. I came to Nonsuch camp because I’m doing a biology course next year at Berkeley and thought this would help me.”

Aaron Crichlow, 16, Warwick Academy: “It’s fun, different and I’m enjoying mostly everything. I like the snorkelling and seeing all the different types of animals we have in Bermuda. I want to be an oceanographer so I thought it would be good to try something like this.”