Finding and Re-Finding Yourself

Interview with Senator the Honourable Robert Tonge, Minister of Tourism and Urban Renewal for the Commonwealth of Dominica

For my project, I wanted to meet with the government ministers and get a pulse for what they feel is needed in order to create more jobs on the island and reduce poverty. Tourism seems to be one of the biggest ways to make that happen. What are your thoughts on tourism as an avenue for employment generation?

As you rightfully know, here in the Caribbean our choices are somewhat limited in terms of bringing economic activity to the country. The tradition here has been agriculture, but when Dominica and some of the other Caribbean islands lost preferential treatment in agricultural trade, we really couldn’t compete on the same scale as the larger nations. We can still sell our produce to other island nations, but it obviously does not generate the income as exporting to Europe once did. So now, many are turning to tourism as an economic driver. For example, countries are using a citizenship by investment program to create income. For families who have the means and interest in purchasing land or traveling, this is sometimes of interest for them.

Tourism is one of the major drivers for Dominica now because we see it as a way to create more jobs for our people. Entering the tourism market however is not without its challenges. One of the major challenges we’ve faced is how to promote the country. The average person does not know about Dominica. More than likely, they know of the Dominican Republic and so when they hear about Dominica they assume the Dominican Republic. But if they were to see our island and compared us to the Dominican Republic, there would be no mix up.

IMG_2438We have to be very clear with our marketing for the country. Spending is limited, so we cannot just cast out a wide net; we have to be very pointed with marketing. If we place our advertisements in front of people who are more interested in a white sand beach and drinking a tequila, as opposed to someone who is into nature and sustainability then we are marketing to the wrong crowd. But if can place our advertising in front of people who appreciate what we have to offer, then we we believe that we can provide the kind of experience that they are looking for. So the idea is to be very pointed with are marketing. We try to use technology and analytics that allow us to place our advertising in front of people who are interested in nature, healthy food, hiking and diving. Using analytics helps us to connect with the right people in a much shorter period of time and at a time of decision when they are actively in the market for a tropical destination like ours. We want Dominica to be a country where it is all about finding and re-finding yourself. Dominica is a place to come enjoy nature, taste wonderful food, meet friendly people and find yourself again.

Sustainability is also very important for us here in Dominica. We want our hotels to provide the type of experience that shows sensitivity to the environment. When you hear that Dominica is the “Nature Island” of the Caribbean and the world, you expect to see certain things when you come here. Something that we are concerned about right now is keeping our country clean. It all starts with us. I always use the phrase: “Garbage has no legs, no feet and no hands; garbage cannot walk or crawl. We are the ones that determine where garbage ends up.” We have the ability to reduce our impact upon the environment. We want visitors to see that our island is clean. One of the efforts I have embarked on is the cleanliness of the gutters in Roseau. We have guys that wake up at 5:00 AM in the morning to go out and clean the streets of the capital city. Rather than campaigning first, let us begin to clean first and set the example. Let us start the trend and then say, “Hey, I am Dominica and I do not litter.” A city that is cleaner, a city that doesn’t smell, a city that is not overrun with rats and cockroaches will be more pleasant for residents and more attractive to visitors. We are passing legislation that require restaurants to have grease and food traps so that waste is not running off into gutters and polluting our waters.

IMG_2303We also want to make Dominica more accessible. Sometimes booking travel to Dominica can be very difficult. Many travel agents do not know who we are, so we are joining different travel associations that will make more people of aware of who we are. We are trying to put our name in the Global Distribution System (GDS) so that more travel agents will have visibility of Dominica and so that when you go on those different search engines, Dominica will pop up more. Someone trying to book a flight to Dominica should have more information and options on how to get here. We can potentially lose around 20% of our business if someone goes to a travel agent wanting to book for Dominica, but not enough data is available quickly. After spending 15 to 20 minutes searching, the agent may suggest someplace else.

We want to increase our budget for marketing so that we can get more people to come to Dominica. If we can fix the awareness, we know that people will come here and have a fantastic experience. From the time a guest hits the ground, we want our customs and port officers to welcome them with a smile. We want our receptionists to be welcoming. We want our bus drivers to exemplify courtesy and safety. We want our hotel staff and bartenders to practice hospitality. We know that we will need to improve in all of these areas to make our tourism experience better and so that what a guest experiences matches what has been advertised. The government is making an effort to encourage this mindset and invest in developing these kinds of accommodations. We are looking for ways to promote our unique hotels, describe their various amenities and facilitate hotel bookings through a hotel booking system that can be utilized by guests to make and pay for a reservation online.

Another step for us would be to improve our human resources by ensuring that more people are properly trained and certified. We will utilize a strategy to train trainers in different areas of hospitality. This will not only improve our services, but it will help our workers feel more confident and content in their roles. A certified worker will be more marketable in the industry and more trained workers will raise the standards of excellence island-wide. We have to improve on our hotel stock and we have to ensure that the sites that our guests go to are more people friendly. We are more or less soft-adventure, but we are going to have people who come here who cannot walk to the waterfall. So at some point we are going to have to build a track that will make it possible for anyone to be able to see and enjoy beautiful waterfalls.

So the idea is that, if we can put all of these things in place: marketing, awareness, sustainability, accessibility, technology, hospitality and training; then more people will come to Dominica, more jobs will be required in the tourism industry and many others will be indirectly employed as a result of the influx of people. From the perspective of the Ministry of Tourism, we can make our stakeholders happier by attracting more people to our shores. We are guided by principles in our tourism master plan and we have tourism initiatives taking place around the island, but when all is said and done it is about creating as many jobs as possible.

What about tourism niches like agri-tourism where guests are taken out to visit farms or pesca-tourism where people are taken out on fishing excursions that support local fisherman and at the same time helps to mitigate the exploitation of fish populations?

As a tourism destination, Dominica is unique in that we are all about the experience as opposed to just spending your entire vacation just relaxing on one beach. What is offered at hotels on most of the other Caribbean islands is all-inclusive and they are more profitable by making it so that you never leave their hotel. Dominica is different because we want you to go out and explore. Passengers of a cruise ship in port can take an agri-tourism excursion to an organic farm, survey the island landscapes, learn about local practices, sample some of the produce and make a donation. One farmer said that the tips he made on the tour were more than he could make by selling the produce in the market. Tropical Storm Erica has damaged some of the roads that lead to those farms and the cruise ships are only here for a season, but these are still areas that we feel can benefit tourism in the local communities. We want to advise our hotel owners, stakeholders and potential entrepreneurs with some ideas that have been successful on other islands to see if they might be interested in capitalizing on some of those same tourism and ecotourism opportunities here.

How do you encourage communities to develop their own special tourism niches?

We have also been supporting Community Based Tourism so that individual communities can benefit from tourism. The reality is, if the communities do not benefit from tourism then they really do not care to uphold the standards that we would like to reflect. One of our better projects is the village of Mero, where the entire community has realized that the beach is a major asset. So now they make sure that the beach is clean and they ensure that the area is safe for people to come. Even among the locals, on a Sunday the number of Dominicans that visit Mero beach is amazing compared to what it was before. This is all a result of the tourism and cleanup efforts that have been put in place there.

There are other areas around the island where we are trying to encourage community-based tourism projects. In the North of the island, for example, we have the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services, (PAYS), which provides nightly security in the harbor, island tours, hikes, dives and other services for people and their boats that are anchored in Prince Rupert Bay. This has been so successful that we are looking at the possibility of providing moorings for boats in other coastal areas of the island so that they too can offer similar services in those communities and introduce more customers to their shops who might purchase fresh produce, water, food and other items.

Another idea we have been thinking about is developing an App like Uber or Lift that not only provides transportation but also puts tour guides on board. So if you are visiting the island you can open up the App and find a tour guide in your area. There is a company out of Jamaica that does this. This app will give better visibility and improve the chances of persons in those respective areas of generating business as a result of this technical tool. Community tourism really makes a difference because it can decrease unemployment in specific areas and give people a sense of responsibility to care for and protect those areas.

If university students were to come to Dominica to complete their internship projects in the areas of tourism or entrepreneurship, what particular projects would you suggest?

I think that for short projects one of the best things that a university student could offer is training. That could be training in the areas of tourism or concepts in entrepreneurship and also some motivational speaking. Also, as previously mentioned we could certainly benefit from assistance with marketing and creating awareness about our Nature Island.  In the area of technology, we could use some assistance in App development from computer programmers. Students could also assist in other areas like water and sewerage management.


It was really great for Senator Tonge to take the time to meet with me. We had a great conversation and the focus of his work was so fresh on his mind that he answered many of my questions even before I could ask them.  Dominica offers so much in regard to ecotourism, adventure tourism, beautiful landscapes, healthy food and undisturbed natural environments.  Though it’s tourism industry is relatively young, that is what makes it a great opportunity for entrepreneurship.

Making Myself Useful

I’ve spent the last several weeks attempting to synthesize data from nearly 400 surveys. My survey questions run the gamut of demographics, opinions about transportation, considerations, effectiveness of incentives and disincentives, accommodation location, number of visits, etc. The task of sifting through and sorting such an abundance of data has been both arduous and exciting. Attempting to find any and all significant findings by way of filtering reports and cross-tabulating felt, at times, like rolling the dice. But in the end, there were almost too many significant findings to keep straight.

Some of the data may prove useful to inform marketing to certain target groups based on where they are from or what options they indicated that they’d be willing to consider. For example, 56% of personal vehicle drivers arrived from southern Florida, but only around half of those said they would consider driving next trip. Meanwhile, 39% of them said they would consider the ferry and 29% of them said they would consider the Key West International Airport. Effective marketing could help make those considerations a reality, which in turn would likely reduce car arrivals to the island. Of those arriving via those two arrival methods, 67% of Key West Airport arrivals and 78% Key West Express arrivals reported that they did not use a car at all during their visit.

Other data may prove useful for the city planning department in their future development of public transportation systems. For example, tourists most highly rated concerns (of around 8 common concerns) with public transportation were having to wait around and coordinating different schedules. Knowing that these were rated as the most significant barriers to public transit use, the city could develop transportation that would assuage these concerns. For example, the city could focus on creating systems with frequent pickups and easy to remember schedules.

All and all, I am finding the experience of doing something that might actually prove useful to be as satisfying as I expected it would be. With graduation in just a few weeks, I’m trying to keep optimistic about having a big kid job that will both: allow me to make a positive difference in the world and pay the bills 🙂

I could not have done this work without the guidance of Dr. Amy Lester, from USF’s Center for Urban Transportation Research. From the earliest formation of research questions to the arduous task of data analysis, she was an excellent mentor and patient teacher.

I would like to thank the City of Key West planning department for their gracious welcome and enthusiasm throughout this process. In particular, I would like to thank two people: Alison Higgins, whose determination and authoritative presence make her an exceptional advisor and friend, and Chris Hamilton, whose insights were invaluable to our team. Without their encouragement and insistence on the importance of this research, the research simply would not exist.

(Myself, Alison, and Chris are pictured above, in front of KW Planning Department)

Ecotourism Meets Cultural Heritage

For some travelers, sun and fun on a popular beach surrounded by creature comforts, modern amenities, and easy accessibility to restaurants and shops is their idea of vacation. More and more people, however, are hoping to truly experience something unique in a place that is hard to get to, that is surrounded by sites and sounds entirely different than the familiarity of home and that involves a certain degree of adventure.  Ecotourism is a way for people to really capture the pulse of a place and to discover the spectacular wonders of the natural environment.  When I am in Dominica, I am always amazed at the sounds of birds at dawn and at dusk, I find peace in the quiet solitude of a mountain overlooking the sea, I feel the exhilaration of jumping into a crystal clear river and I tap into my sense of adventure with a hike through the cinematic rainforest.  Exposure to these kinds of special experiences is the real magnetism behind ecotourism.  Additional value comes in the preservation of the environment, the economic benefit to indigenous people and the introduction of guests to the cultural heritage.

Dominica is perhaps the greatest location for ecotourism in the entire Caribbean.  It’s biodiversity is still intact and the cities have not been overdeveloped like other places of tourism.  For that reason Dominica is often a destination for reality TV shows that showcase adventure travel, secluded resorts or extreme competitions.  I have literally hiked a jungle trail, swam up a river gorge to a waterfall, and relaxed on a black sand beach all in the same day.  You can easily experience a whole lot with a vehicle and a roadmap, but if you hire a local guide for the day you get the backstory to everything that you are witnessing.  For example, you can travel to the village of Belles and hike the trails carved out by the maroons who had escaped into these forests during the days of slavery.  An African chief name Jacko was the pioneer and leader of an entire encampment in the rainforest.  Large steps, some three feet high, gave them an advantage over the French and English soldiers who had battled over this island for years.  Ruins of military fortifications still exist in places like Cabrits National Park near the village of Portsmouth.


Dominica also offers the opportunity to connect with the living history of the Kalinagos, who are the largest remaining colony of Carib Indians in the world.  Travel to their territory, taste the cassava-coconut bread, watch them make wooden boats by hand, purchase some of their intricately woven baskets and if your timing is right you can experience some of their cultural celebrations that reveal ancient dances and traditions.  Their everyday lifestyle already reflects principles of sustainability and their new developments are considerate of these same values.  Their cultural center, for example, is running on electricity generated by solar panels.  I had the opportunity to meet the Kalinago chief and he said he would welcome the opportunity for university interns to come and help them develop new strategies that generate employment for their mountain community.

These days, information about cultures, cuisines and customs can be found on the internet and television, but it is so much better to encounter the people for yourself and enjoy a great big world beyond the screens that are always in our faces.  I encourage you to discover Dominica at least once in your lifetime.







Click it! Graph it!

For all of the surveys, I used Qualtrics – a digital surveying program that has the huge advantage of saving me the time of typing hundreds of responses into the computer or sorting the data by hand. I’m sure many of you are thinking, “Who in their right mind would sort through 400 surveys by hand?”

I wanted to make a note, for those of you thinking something along those lines, that dozens of people who I surveyed reminded me of their pre-twenty-first century hardships when doing their own graduate research. I even had one professor say, in jest, “I kind of want to smash this tablet on the ground just so you have to do the pen and paper analysis”. So I thought I would include this as a friendly reminder that we live in an age of convenience, and the cross tabulations that literally take me seconds to do digitally used to take hours. Hours of sorting through a stack of paper data. Hours of math. Hours.

Now that we have all taken a moment to appreciate the convenience of our lives, here are my preliminary findings:

50% of respondents answered that their “primary form of transportation while visiting Key West” was – WALKING!

Aside from creating incentives and disincentives to driving, a good part of this research is aimed at how to market “car-free” to tourists. Knowing that half of people primarily walk around the island may be useful in marketing to tourists. “Car-free is carefree” or “walk in the park” sort of marketing angles may prove useful. Related to this is the finding that:

32% of visitors used a car zero times throughout their visit

Regardless of the number of days they visited, nearly a third of visitors never used a car. Can you remember the last time you went 1, or 5, or 8 days without using a car? Perhaps it was during your last visit to the Keys??

Finally, the most exciting findings of my early analysis: Going into this, the sustainability director for Key West, and one of my advisors for this research, had anecdotal evidence to suggest that first time visitors were more likely to arrive with a vehicle than repeat visitors.

Going into this, the sustainability director for Key West, and one of my advisors for this research had anecdotal evidence to suggest that first time visitors were more likely to arrive with a vehicle than repeat visitors.

  Rented a car for their visit Drove Personal Vehicle
First time visitors 42% 31%
Second time visitors 21% 16%
Visited 3-5 times 18% 28%
Visited 5 or more times 9% 25%

As you can see, her anecdotal evidence was confirmed by my research! For both rental and personal vehicle cases, around half as many second time visitors arrived with cars when compared to first time visitors. This jumps back to the question from my first post – How can we convey the knowledge of repeat visitors to first-time visitors?

Also from the graph you can see that while renters continue to drop over the number of visits, personal vehicle drivers, well, don’t. But the good news is, as I continue with my analysis, I should be able to dig deeper into these numbers. Perhaps personal vehicle drivers are mainly from Florida? So driving may actually be cheaper and easier than other options? We’ll see.

Beep. Bop. Boop.

Until next time….


Journey to the Sea – Leatherback Hatchlings at Rosalie Bay

Journey to the Sea – My Experience with Leatherback Hatchlings at Rosalie Bay, Dominica. (Be sure not to miss the video posted lower down in this blog)


Through the rainforest on winding mountain roads we set out for Rosalie Bay. We had left the tranquility of the Western coast of Dominica and the Caribbean Sea for the unique opportunity to witness sea turtle hatchlings on the Southeast, wilder Atlantic coast.  Between March and July of each year leatherback turtles weighing up to a thousand pounds complete their migratory journey to Iceland and right back to the place of their birth, here in Dominica. The views along the jungle roads were spectacular, the air was cooler at the higher altitudes and for a time it felt like we were someplace else. Our 4WD vehicle was driven by my internship supervisor, Mr. Renneth Alexis, who shared his thoughts on entrepreneurship and tourism along the way. Traveling with us was my friend Pastor Eddie George and his daughter Charissa.

We came to a break in the canopy that opened up to a village community along the Rosalie River.  We crossed over on a bridge that literally had no railings and you could see where it emptied out into the Atlantic Ocean.  Up the mountain was the village of Grand Fond, and in the valley below, just beyond a field of bananas and plantains was the Rosalie Bay Resort.  Once a site of grand plantation, it is a perfectly situated flat piece of land with a river on one side and a mountain on the other.  As a private resort it is really the tropical escape that many people are looking for; but beyond the pool, spa, fitness center, restaurant, garden and first class lodging, is an environment meticulously created with green principles including renewable energy through a 225 kW wind turbine, really clean spring water that is sand filtered and treated with UV light, eco-friendly sewage disposal, organic produce, responsible seafood, locally sourced building materials and marine habitat protection. Rosalie Bay resort owners Beverly Deikel and Patris Oscar are true visionaries with green initiatives, excellent hospitality procedures, and generators of local employment.

Activities director, Judy Joyce took us on a resort and garden tour where we learned about all kinds of native plants, the production of bay oil with bay leaves, varieties of tropical fruit and nuts, herbal remedies and flowers.  She picked a flower and said, “Smell this flower. This is Elang Elang and they make Chanel No. 5 out of this stuff.  Here, smell this leaf!  What does that smell like to you?”  “It smells like Cinnamon.” I responded.  Enthusiastically she sounded: “Exactly!  Here now; take some in your pocket and when you get home tonight, boil it in some water to make your cinnamon tea.  You are going to love it.”  And you know what?  I did.  It really was delicious.

Back to the story.  Judy led us on a trek all the way up to the humongous wind turbine, which she said has the potential to generate enough energy for the resort and surrounding villages.  After returning to the valley, we had a delicious fish lunch and set out for the beach to look for turtles.  Judy introduced us to the president of Rosalie’s Nature Enhancement Team (NET), Simon George who spends a whole lot of his time on that beautiful black sand beach.

IMG_2676“Welcome to my humble maternity ward.” Simon announced.  “Three species of sea turtles come to nest here at Rosalie Bay: the Green Sea Turtle, the Hawksbill and the Leatherback.  The Green Turtle mothers which can weigh between 500 and 800 pounds, will most often crawl up high onto the beach to lay their eggs.  Hawksbills will climb up even higher into the vegetation above the beach.  But the leatherback mothers can weigh between 800 and a 1,000 pounds and it takes them around two and a half hours to leave the ocean, come ashore, select a spot, prepare it, dig the chamber, enter into a trance while laying their eggs, bury the eggs in the sand and camouflage the site. And, that is if everything goes right.”

Simon went on to explain that because of their size, it is more difficult for leatherbacks to come up far enough on the beach to lay their eggs in a safe location.  Often times the tide rises and the water table drowns the nests.  Sometimes the ocean erodes the sand, scattering the eggs all over the place and washing them into the water.  After the mother returns to the sea, the eggs are on their own without any protection.  Turtle eggs are vulnerable to poachers and young hatchlings are vulnerable to predators.  For this reason, the Nature Enhancement Team (NET) at Rosalie Bay has developed a plan to improve the chances of survival for the leatherback turtles.  Volunteers scan the beach everyday looking for mother turtles, hatchlings and nests.  Simon identifies new nests that are in poor locations, digs up the leatherback eggs and relocates them to the turtle hatchery. Each nest in the hatchery is placed in a grid system, 90cm apart from each other and organized by the the date when it was placed in the grid.  Knowing the time frame that it takes for turtles to hatch, they can expect turtles to start crawling out after about 60 to 70 days. Here in Dominica, they’ve noticed that it takes around 65 days.

When a leatherback turtle lays her eggs about 80 out of 100 will be fertile eggs.  She lays those eggs first, followed by yolkless eggs which create space and cushion for the fertilized eggs below them.  The yolkless eggs vary in size from golf ball to marble.  The turtles have an egg tooth which allows them to break through the eggs and follow each other up through the yolkless eggs and sand.  Those who lag behind do not have the advantage of several turtles pressing to the surface simultaneously.

When young turtles begin to leave the nest, Simon ensures that they are counted and protected from predators.  On the average, the leatherbacks lay around 100 eggs, but not all of the turtles make it out of the nests successfully.  Some never develop, some never mature and some turtles never dig their way out of the sand.  For that reason, Simon will dig out the remaining shells and contents from the nest.  He does this for three reasons.

  1. To rescue the remaining hatchlings that were straggling behind whether because they were weak, deformed, trapped or just having a hard time digging out.
  2. To collect data on the nests
  3. To get rid of all of the residue in the nests, so that they do not attract predators like dogs and frigate birds.

When it is time for the leatherback turtle nest to be excavated, members of the Nature Enhancement Team document the remaining contents in the nest and complete a “Dominica Sea Turtle Nest Excavation Form.”  This form requires time, date, name of principal observer, beach name, location, turtle species, tag numbers associated with the mother turtle and the nest, evidence of an existing nest (tracks, hatchlings, depression), hatch results and number of turtles released. Hatchling Release information must also include date, time, number to turtles, and number of guests witnessing the release.

The hatch results are differentiated by the following descriptions:  Live/dead hatchlings out of nest; live/dead hatchlings in the nest; hatched shells; rotten eggs; undeveloped but not rotten eggs; pipped (partially hatched) live/dead turtles; full-term live/dead embryo; early-term (premature) embryo; yolkless; deformed embryo (twins, albino, undeveloped flippers).

All the collected information is submitted to a database managed by the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network out of Duke University (WideCast).  This is the parent body that gives guidance to Sea Turtle Conservation to 40 countries in the Caribbean.  There are seven species of sea turtles in the world and six of them frequent the Caribbean waters.  The Nature Enhancement Team is a member of the Dominica Sea Turtle Conservation Organization (DomSetCo).


Leatherbacks come to Dominica between March and July and during that period each mother lays eggs around four or five times.  They do this in nine day intervals.  At the end of this time period, the leatherback turtles head north to Iceland, feeding on jellyfish along the way.  DomSetCo and the Nature Enhancement Team puts transmitters on some turtles so that they can monitor their travel routes.  They have watched mother turtles swim out thirty miles and then come back to the beach after nine days to lay more eggs.  The mother leatherbacks do not come back every year because they have to build up fat and calcium.  It takes between two and five years for them to return.  Adult male leatherbacks have no reason to come ashore and primarily stay out at sea.

This has been a great year for sea turtles at Rosalie with hatchlings being released almost every evening.  In the two days that I visited Rosalie Bay Resort, which were a couple of weeks apart, 34 turtles were released on the first day and 60 the next.  They do not place the turtles into the ocean but rather give them a stretch of beach to crawl so that the location of their birth and their journey to the sea will be imprinted upon their memory and then around 25 years later those who have survived will return.  One in a thousand will live to become adult sea turtles.

I watched a Simon stretched the entire length of his arm into a nest to remove the egg remains and rescue any trapped turtles.  He said with a smile, “Did you know that when young turtles are hatched it is unknown whether they are male or female.  Because turtles are reptiles, it is believed that the temperature of the sand can determine the gender of the turtles, hotter sand revealing more females and cooler sand revealing more males.  Look, here is a lively one!  Hopefully this one will return back to Dominica and we will learn if it was a male or female.”

We watched as these baby turtles took their journey to the sea.  It was a remarkable thing to see them take their first steps down the beach and their first flipper strokes into the ocean.  Even more remarkable to consider is that somehow these turtles will remember this experience.  I know that for me, I will never forget the turtles and the people of Rosalie Bay.  I keep thinking to myself that somehow I am now part of a greater story and that one day, 25 years from now, some of these same turtles will return and someone else will be looking out from this black sand beach, watching as giant sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs on the beach where they were born.  This is the stuff that produces the stories of legend and fantasy.  Come and experience Dominica for yourself.


NET grew out of the original “Rosalie Sea Turtle Initiative” (RoSTI), which was founded by Rosalie Bay resort owners Beverly Deikel and Patris Oscar.  Judy shared that several universities have come out to study the leatherback turtles at Rosalie Bay.  Students from the University of South Florida interested in studying or interning here can prepare by viewing Rosalie Bay’s website, Facebook page and reading their project reports and history online at  Students can also coordinate with Beverly and Oscar or Jerry John Comellas to organize a trip.  Simon said that BBC TV was recently out at Rosalie Bay filming a documentary for children called “Our Ocean, Our Future.”

Rosalie Bay Resort was the first to launch a sea turtle conservation program in Dominica and their example has encouraged other turtle protection programs around the island.  In 2012, Travel+Leisure Magazine awarded Rosalie Bay with the “Global Vision Award for Conservation.”  The resort makes turtle conservation a part of the sustainable tourism experience for all of their guests and even provides wake up calls for those who want to be notified when turtles come ashore at night.   (Rosalie Bay, 2015)


Works Cited

Rosalie Bay. (2015). Sea turtle nesting and hatching at Rosalie Bay. (Website and marketing by Madigan Pratt & Associates.) Retrieved 2016, from




Blog 3: Halfway Through

Some flags on display at the UN Secretariat

After attending several meetings on the upcoming High-Level Political Forum and the longer-term position of the UN Development System, I have a better understanding on the purpose of these forums and discussions. When the Panel and Member States are exchanging recommendations, questions, and concerns, I can follow along and understand the basis of what is being said.

I also attended the Humanitarian Affairs Segment, which discusses economic, humanitarian, and disaster relief assistance. This really interested me and is also pertinent to the future of tourism in developing regions of the world.

Humanitarian Affairs Segment playing a video on displaced peoples 

These forums, meetings, and discussions are all related to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda and will require a cohesive and integrated approach to make the world a better place.

The four main principles of the SDGs are as follows:

  1. The SDGs are universal
  2. The SDGs are indivisible
  3. Ensuring no one is left behind
  4. Linking together the main themes of all SDGs
  5. Work in partnerships

I am basically half way through my internship and about a month away from going home and turning in my final paper. I have started to add to and edit my internship proposal based on my internship experiences and further research I have done on the SDGs and tourism. Some of the objectives and research objectives in my paper have been removed, however my main topic is still the same and will still encompass the applicability of the SDGs to the tourism industry.

Update: The World Tourism Organization officially moved to a new office building that is closer to the UN Secretariat Building.

New building for the UNWTO

Going Out With A Whisper

So yesterday started my last full week of interning here.  It is drawing to a close two very long and hard months of working to get this program from a faint idea I had in my head into a finished product I could hand off to the counselors.  I have to admit that it is kind of bittersweet.  In one way I am moving on to the next stage and readying to graduate.  In another way, it is a program I designed from start to finish and hard to leave it to others to carry on.  I am still going to stop here a few times a week in the evening to upkeep the gardens.  However, after Wednesday, my control of the camp will be officially handed off.

Thankfully, there are lasting images as proof of what I have started here.

It makes me feel good to know that I have at least made some small impact on the leaders of tomorrow.  All told, about 1,800 of the younger campers will go through my smaller program and bring home their own summer squash.  This will give them a small introduction to making small differences in their own lives.  The older kids will have around 30 campers who went through the full program from start to finish.  This number is much smaller, but the targeted audience is one that already wants to make a difference for animals.  This gave me the chance to focus their goals and give them an example of how things can be run better at zoos and animal sanctuaries.  Hopefully they will take their experience here and use it for change.

In the end, I proved that there is a way to communicate the goals of sustainability to a younger generation in a way that is both fun and educational.  I provided them with hands on activities while educating them at the same time.  I was able to shape the message to my target audiences.  I used my citizen scientist approach to gather useful information to prove a hypothesis and complete a Sustainable Return on Investment.  I hope that my program continues next year and beyond.  I would love to see another intern next year grow on what I have started here (pun intended).

I know I didn’t go somewhere as cool as most of the interns.  However, my goal has always been local sustainability.  I want to bring change to an area that I am connected to.  Yes I could go to a small developing country and do these programs.  However, the largest polluters are here in the US.  I want to make a bigger dent in the overall output to the atmosphere.  Hopefully this will be a small trend that gets bigger.

A Seafood Now Bulletin! (Board)

Last week was technically my first full week working at the Florida Aquarium, and the added time definitely made it my most productive week yet. Early on, I was assigned a fun and easy task, update the sustainable seafood bulletin board that resides back of house in a hallway. The boards along this hallway are use for employee education, and the sustainability board had not been updated in about six years! It had been so long that much of the information was outdated, including the suggestions listed as sustainable seafood best choices. Embracing the opportunity to put my arts and crafts skills to the test I quickly jumped on this project! Designing the board was a bit more challenging than I had anticipated, and took about two days to complete. The difficulties I encountered revolved around clearly conveying the importance of sustainable seafood to an audience who may not have heard of these options before, perfect practice for many of the components I will be generating for the outreach initiatives of my project.

Later in the week my supervisor and I were able to meet with the Social Media Manager and Marketing Director to get a better idea of how to implement my project’s outreach initiatives. Throughout these meetings I quickly realized that the aquarium’s image is very carefully is crafted and maintained, and due to the necessity of maintaining a certain image, several pieces of my project proposal are really just not feasible. For instance, I intended to create new social media profiles for the Seafood Now program rather than using the aquarium’s existing accounts, but instead all social media content must be carefully crafted and cleared through the social media manager, and posted to the aquarium’s one profile. We also established the need for a Facts and Questions sheet about sustainable seafood so that the social media manager has reference material to address any questions or comments made by users. The FAQ’s sheet will also be a useful tool to include on Seafood Now’s website, and on the intended postcards and menu inserts that are still in development.

As the weeks quickly pass, I am now afraid that I will not be able to complete the intended month long implementation and monitoring for each initiative. My data samples will unfortunately be short sighted compared to what could have been captured over a four week or longer period of data collection. This experience has already begun to show me the many roadblocks and obstacles that can crop up during project development and implementation. It has also reinforced the validity of a concept we covered several times throughout my sustainability course work, an efficient system is fully connected and works together. While the aquarium’s staff seem very happy with their place of employment, the actual daily operations seem fragmented, chaotic and disjointed. Bringing a little systems thinking style organization to how this place runs could really streamline efficiency, but that’s a whole different project…

Successful Camp

The first group completed my camp today.  The good news is it went pretty darn good.  The two campers gave me very positive feedback.  I hope this video works as well because I am not too sure how to add a video.

So this post is going to be very heavy on the visual because it has to do with KANGAROOS!!!! So those of you who know me know that I love KANGAROOS!!!!  So let’s begin at…well…the beginning…I think that should work best.  So today we finally got to try out my entire program.  We had two very brave campers who agreed to be the very first in what will hopefully be a great and long running program.

So the campers came out and planted two plants in the experimental browse garden.  We used Florida native soil that we went ahead and dug two deep holes.  We then lined the wholes with our great animal created compost.  We then filled in the wholes and raked the soil around the two plants.  They came out looking great.

We then moved over to the browse garden that is fully developed.  We trimmed from two trees.  The biggest being the willow tree.  We trimmed 17 branches from one and 15 from the other.  We made sure to trim only the bottom branches to assist with growth.  We then counted the amount of branches on the trees so we could calculate the biomass.  Unfortunately a few of our measuring devices had not arrived yet so we could not do more.



Since we had extra time, we dropped off some of the browse at the sloth and bunny area.  They were unfortunately leaving for another area so we could not feed the sloths.  Instead we went down to the kangaroo section to drop off the rest.  We were lucky because we were able to go behind the scenes and feed the kangaroos the browse.  They were not a fan of having to do the work, so I found that stripping the leaves and hand feeding was their favorite.  We got to spend about 30 minutes with them and found out they love to have their belly scratched.  After we left, I was able to get feedback from the two campers and they spoke very highly of the program I created and said they would love to be a part of it again.


Perks of Interning…


SO…. I have to admit I was starting to get really down at the fact that I have been surrounded by animals and creating a program to feed them better and I had yet to really get any one on one time with any of them.  I mean let’s face it, a large part of me picked up this second internship because I am an avid animal lover.  I have been accused on many occasions of caring about animals more than humans… May or not be the case.

It was very hot out today and I sweat out about 5 gallons while I was working in the browse garden.  The campers are about to arrive tomorrow and I had about 50 things left on my list to complete.  I admit I may have threatened to go on strike yesterday if I didn’t get to see some animals.  It was made worse by the fact that the safari leaders were showing off pictures of the baby hyena and their visit with him.  This was more than I could take.  I mean come on… A BABY HYENA!! Who wouldn’t be jealous of that.  I have been angling for some behind the scenes time with the kangaroos for a while now because I have a slight obsession with them.  I am sure they fear I will attempt to take one home with me.

Well today was the day I finally won them over.  After all the hard work, I was finally able to go see an animal.  This is not just an ordinary animal.  This is a world famous animal ambassador who has met both Jay Leno and David Letterman ( for those of you born after 1995, they were the late night hosts back when comedy was funny).  I had the awesome pleasure of saying hi to him and spending some quality time feeding him and getting to know him.  I must say he is so gentle.  He is also very old for a sloth.  This means he is even slower than a normal sloth.  I call it Super Sloth speed.

So let me tell you a little bit about my new friend.  He enjoys hanging out (in his tree), sleeping, and eating healthy.  I fed him some papaya, carrots, mango, and some green beans.  He and I are alike in that we don’t really feel for green beans very often.  His hair is soft and at one point he held my hand.  He takes a while to eat because he has lost most of his teeth due to old age.  However, he is still awesome.  He likes to stare right into your eyes while you talk to him or feed him.  Pretty much the coolest thing I have done since getting there a month and a half ago.  I was assured when things with camp settle down that I can have some more encounters.  I am mostly done with setting up my program and hope the kids enjoy it.IMG_20160610_163334