Thursday, 17 November 2016

A Rocha's Marine and Coastal Conservation Programme

Faith and conservation was a focus at the recent IUCN World Conservation Congress with high level dialogue, round table discussions, workshops, talks, and posters. But what does it look like in practice for a faith-based organisation to work in conservation?

You can download a copy of A Rocha Internationals most recent news bulletin which focuses on our Marine and Coastal Conservation Programme. I hope you will enjoy reading about our holistic projects, focusing on the transformation of both people and places.

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like more information, and feel free to pass this on to others whom you think might benefit.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Links to my work

My Grove booklet entitled Hope for the Ocean.

My article in the American Scientific Affiliation's magazine God and Nature.

Learn about A Rocha. I am helping them develop their global Marine and Coastal Conservation Programme.

I continue to work with the A Rocha Kenya to develop their marine research.

Faith and Marine Conservation resources that can help you integrate your faith and love of the ocean.

Blogs from A Rocha Kenya marine researchers and volunteers here.

Google scholar profile profile -  where you can download many of my science papers.

Researchgate  - you can also download science papers here

Linked In

I would heartily recommend my friend Ruth Bancewicz's blog Science and Belief, not just because she published a three part interview with me some months ago. I find her work focusing on creativity and beauty in science very thought provoking - see what you think. Her new book also features some of my work and the book website includes these videos.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Book Review – Waves of God’s Embrace: Sacred Perspectives from the Ocean

I recently came across this book, ironically in the bibliography of a chapter I was co-authoring. How had I missed it for the past five years? I’ve been searching out Christian literature focused on the sea and missed the most obvious geographical source: Oceania. Waves of God’s Embrace is written by Winston Halapua Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Polynesia. A Tongan by birth, he has worked throughout Oceania. I love the ocean and have spent significant time trying to understand it. There is a certain undefinable feeling I have about the ocean. I wouldn’t be able to describe it, but I felt that Biship Halapua knows that feeling too. It permeates his book.

Waves of God’s embrace uses the ocean as a metaphor and teacher on subjects as diverse as generosity, imagination, diversity, justice, peace, and unity. He also weaves Oceanic culture throughout, showing how particular concepts and customs relate both to the ocean and to our Christian faith. If you are new to the Christian environmental movement or haven’t lived in another culture, it is probably not the book to start with as there is significant contextualization in his writing that needs interpretation and application for those more used to monocultural thinking. For me, though, it hit the spot. I hope one day to meet Bishop Halapua and perhaps don a mask together and enjoy the Creator’s delights in the ocean.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Bobby writes about the sea

One of the highlights of staying at the A Rocha’s Mwamba Field Study Centre is, of course, the ocean! One of the highlights of the ocean is the coral reefs. Truly incredible and I’m also looking forward to driving the A Rocha boat out there! As you drive out, you see the speckled ocean floor, and imagine what is going on down there. Boat stops, anchor down; mask on, ready to go! Impatiently, you wait for the clouds of white bubbles to clear, and look down to see…sand! Then you search for the coral. Suddenly it looms out of the misty water, much bigger than expected. Huge coral heads with dark silhouettes moving about them. Take a big breath and dive down, everything is thrown into detail. Stunning butterflyfish, striking damsel fish, and monumental sweet lips and wrasse under the ledges. There are usually only one or two things that really make an impression in the 2-3 hours of swimming. For me it was when my dad showed me a Meyer’s butterflyfish, my favourite kind.

Thank you all so much for helping us get here, and praying for us all the way. You’re appreciated!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

This past week in Kenya

Matthew looking for creatures with Whale Island in the distance.

We’re gathered under the ceiling fan in one of our two rooms at the Arocha guest centre. The day is still warming up, and a brief downpour just after sunrise gave the early morning a sleepy, cooler feel. We’ve got the beds pushed together right under the fan, so that at night, we can keep as cool as possible. Even the locals feel hot during this season of the year, and we are grateful for the ocean to cool off in, though we try to keep ourselves indoors or in the shade during the most intensively sunny mid-day time.

Life at the centre is welcoming and friendly, with many interesting guests coming and going. The staff graciously helps us take a stab at some Swahili greetings and phrases, though they are all quite fluent in English. The kids are eager to share that the Kenyan pancakes are amazing. We are all enjoying the food. The monkeys who jump around noisily on the roofs and peer at us as we eat have helped us understand the possible origins of the English phrase “cheeky monkeys,” as they even make the occasional opportunist dash into the dining room, attempting to snatch something tasty. Cindy was outside reading under a shady tree the other day, with monkeys above jumping about and chucking down the husks of tiny fruits on which they were breakfasting.

As a family, we have been focusing this last week on identifying marine creatures in the nearby tide pools as part of serving in the centre’s ongoing outreach to local school children. We are writing a tide pooling guide, and preparing a power point presentation and other materials to help people enjoy God’s ocean creation. One of the immediate goals is to help staff and a couple classes (maybe 50-plus kids each) of local primary school children experience some rock pooling over the next few weeks, hopefully putting things in place for local staff, teachers, and other volunteers to continue to help children (and other Arocha guests) have a positive experience of God’s beauty in the ocean for years to come. - Cindy writing

Bobby the creative photographer. He picked up a handful of sand and shot the photo from underwater.

Bob's research outfit

A tidepool photo. Coral in the left hand corner with green algae and a brittle star moving towards the upper right. The brittle stars wave their arms on the surface of the tidepool to collect food.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Arrival in Kenya

Just a quick post to let you know that we arrived safely in Kenya and have gotten to work at the A Rocha Kenya centre in Watamu. We spent two nights in Nairobi and then were driven down to the coast. Ten hours later, we arrived hot and sweaty and ready for a swim. It has been great to renew old friendships and make new ones. Bob has been working with the Research and Monitoring team planning for the new year. One of the projects the family is working on relates to environmental education and research in the rockpools and sandy beach in front of the centre. We are preparing an activity for a local school that will include a presentation which Sarah is taking the lead on, a laminated guide to the main rockpool creatures, which Bobby is taking the lead on, and a guidebook for the area. A Rocha will be able to use this for local schools, churches, and guests. Some pictures below with more to follow.
My lovely research assistants

A local boat

Any guesses on what is making this track? I'll take guesses for a few days and then show you a picture of the animal that made it - and I'm not talking about my footprints.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Grouper redux

I was recently listening in on the plenary presentations at the 12th International Coral Reef Syposium ( Professor Geoffrey Jones of James Cook University gave a talk on larval fish connectivity which caught my eye. This is a huge issue for coral reef fish. Most fish release their eggs into the water and they may spend days or up to several months floating around in the water with increasing ability to swim. Where do they go? Take groupers as an example. If they spawn in a particular area, do the larval fish settle into that same area? Do they go long distances and repopulate other areas? One of the arguments in favour of marine protected areas (MPAs), those areas where fishing is prohibited, is that the fish inside the reserve are larger and more abundant, producing eggs and larvae that repopulate the surrounding areas that can be fished. Thus while MPAs decrease the fishable area they are theorised to export larvae to the surrounding fished areas, making up for the decrease in fishable area. Prof. Jones and colleauges used a number of techniques for trying to solve this dilemma, including genetically identifying parents and juveniles.

They studied a coral trout species in Australia. In this area there are green zones (MPAs) and blue zones (areas where you can fish). Coral trout were more abundant in the MPAs than outside. They identified the offspring of coral trout found in the MPA and found that 83% of these were in fishable areas. Looking at the data another way, they found that though the MPA was only 28% of the local area, 57% of juveniles they sampled could be traced back to parents that resided in the MPA. 

So these MPAs were indeed supplying fish to the surrounding area. In another blog post I commented on grouper in Watamu Marine National Park. There are also implications of the above study for this same park. Even though this area is closed to fishing, it is very likely that this is a major source of fish larvae to other parts of Watamu and beyond. In fact, some grouper larvae are known to be found 10s, if not a 100, kilometres from the parent population. The abundance in Watamu Marine Park is being exported to local communities through the currents, providing a source of nutrition for families along the coast.That is good news.