Increasing science outreach and promoting community voice in Abaco Island, Bahamas

Increasing science outreach and promoting community voice in Abaco Island, Bahamas

Author: Olivia Patterson - Biography

I felt very connected to my environment while growing up. Spending time together as a family meant spending time outdoors - fishing, swimming, and boating. Being in nature was not just a pastime, but a necessary part of growing up in The Bahamas. I learned important life skills, and also how to be a good citizen. Gaining a respect for the environment translates into so many aspects of our society. To me, this enforces the importance of streamlining environmentalism into our everyday lives; support for the environment has direct links to our health and success (Maller, Townsend, Pryor, Brown & St Leger, 2006).

I have been lucky to have been influenced by many different people and experiences throughout my life. Early on in primary school my teacher helped us become part of the environmental movement on my island. I eventually became a volunteer with our local environmental group, Friends of the Environment (FRIENDS). I applied to FRIENDS for a job after college and I have been focusing my efforts there ever since.

I was grateful to have a well-rounded university education. However, the one thing that my Bachelor's degree didn't prepare me for was the human element of conservation. Community participation in conservation is key to sustainability of the natural resources that people use and for sustainability of conservation projects. Because of this, I have sought to use my time in the Global Field Program (GFP) to help improve my skills in conservation program management and outreach to better serve the community. In essence, the GFP has been able to function as a sort of self-motivated job training for me. My portfolio focuses on how I have sought to incorporate that human element into my work and how I have attempted to gain new skills in research, program design, implementation, and evaluation to benefit the programs of FRIENDS and the development of the Frank Kenyon Centre.

Friends of the Environment. (2015). About Us. Retrieved from: (Accessed on: 21 Oct. 2015)

Friends of the Environment. (2015). Kenyon Research Centre. Retrieved from: (Accessed on: 21 Oct. 2015)

Maller, C., Townsend, M., Pryor, A., Brown, P., & St Leger, L. (2006). Healthy nature healthy people:‘contact with nature' as an upstream health promotion intervention for populations. Health promotion international, 21(1), 45-54.

My community

My love for Abaco is one of the reasons I pursued a Bachelor's degree in Marine Biology and a career in conservation. Abaco is an archipelago in the northeastern Bahamas that is home to over 17,000 people (Bahamas Department of Statistics, 2013a and b). Each community has slightly different origins, cultural traditions, and motivations. The island has a number of ecosystems including coral reefs, mangroves, sandy beaches, hardwood coppice forest, pine forest, and dry caves and blue holes (Friends of the Environment, 2015). I have learned that many residents are not familiar with these habitats, despite their availability. I feel that helping people make connections with nature is key to environmental sustainability (Brewer, 2006; Louv, 2005), and thus is critical for the continued health of Abaco's environment and people.

Bahamas Department of Statistics. (2013a). North Abaco Population By Settlements and Occupied Dwellings: Census 2010. Retrieved October 25, 2015 from

Bahamas Department of Statistics. (2013b). South Abaco Population By Settlements and Occupied Dwellings: Census 2010. Retrieved October 25, 2015 from:

Brewer, C. (2006). Translating Data into Meaning: Education in Conservation Biology. Conservation Biology, 20(3), 689–691.

Fish4Fun. (2013). Florida & Bahamas Maps. Retrieved from (also attached)

Friends of the Environment. (2015). About Abaco. Retrieved November 11, 2015 from

Louv, R. (2005). Last child in the woods: Saving our children from nature-deficit disorder. Algonquin Books.


About Friends of the Environment

FRIENDS was established in 1988 to preserve and protect marine and terrestrial resources in order to achieve sustainable living for the wildlife and people of Abaco, Bahamas (2015). The non-profit organization operates under a strategic plan with four focal areas: habitat conservation, litter prevention and awareness, invasive species removal and awareness, and reducing human impacts to the marine environment. FRIENDS' main approach to conservation is through environmental education. Since 2006, FRIENDS has been able to provide approximately 12,000 environmental education experiences for local students. In April of 2015, FRIENDS opened the Frank Kenyon Centre for Research, Education, and Conservation; this facility will provide opportunities to extend education programs to high school and university level students, involving them in current research projects and promoting scholarship in science.

Friends of the Environment. (2015). About Us. Retrieved November 8, 2015 from

Community challenges and solutions

As conservationists, I feel that it's very important to recognize the resources that are available to us, including local knowledge and published research. When I was investigating biodiversity issues in Abaco, I decided to address habitat fragmentation because it is a ubiquitous threat with many different causes. Unplanned development and several boom and bust industries have taken their toll on our island. By researching each of these threats and learning more about global issues with habitat fragmentation, I was able to gain a more holistic picture of the influence of habitat fragmentation in Abaco. While doing this research I also came across a number of nationally generated resources that could be very valuable to conservation planning in Abaco, but I was not previously familiar with them. It made me realize that our efforts truly have an impact when we share what we learn with others. The more I could learn and pass on about Abaco's ecology, and people, the better.

The importance of community in conservation

One of my first big volunteering experiences after college was helping to develop a national park proposal for a coral reef site a few miles from my hometown. I was anxious to use my bachelor of science degree, but I would come to find out that this volunteering position would be one of the biggest learning experiences of my career. I assisted with presenting the proposal idea at a community meeting and being naive and excited for the project I presented the material as is, without opening the floor for discussion. I am grateful to that community for making their concerns known, no matter how uncomfortable it was at the time. This is one of the experiences that led me to investigate the element of community in several of my projects throughout this program.

Recognizing the importance of community identity

The Bahamas is a nation of many islands, each established at different times and by different people. Growing up here has given me a great appreciation for the variation in our communities. Many Bahamians can tell which island you are from based on your last name, or your accent. However, our island communities also differ due to our goals, local industries, and other unique facets of our communities. I live and work on Abaco Island, which has approximately 29 communities, each with slightly different needs and challenges. When presented with the opportunity to investigate community based conservation further through a synthesis paper for my Earth Expedition to Baja, California, I decided to investigate the importance of understanding differences between and within communities when designing community conservation projects. By definition, community based conservation involves the participation of stakeholders, the resource users. It takes effort to ensure that people are truly involved, not just informed (Arnstein, 1969). Involving people can make all the difference for conservation success (Adetoro, Lawal, & Jenyo-Oni, 2011; Bajracharya, Furley, & Newton, 2005).

As previously mentioned, Bahamian communities are very diverse. Conservation programs should be designed to facilitate participation from the greatest number of people across communities in Abaco and to give those people an opportunity to share their knowledge and experiences (Patterson, 2013a). Word of mouth is very important for awareness in Abaco. For example, 39% of teachers surveyed found out about FRIENDS through word of mouth and another 18% through programs held at their school (Patterson, 2013b). If FRIENDS can make strong connections with our stakeholders it is likely that those people will help spread the word and bring others into our network.

Adetoro, A. O., Lawal, M. S., & Jenyo-Oni, A. (2011). Biodiversity conservation and community participation in Kainji Lake National Park, Nigeria. Advances in Applied Science Research, 2, 218–226.

Arnstein, S. R. (1969). A ladder of citizen participation. JAIP, 35(4), 216–224.

Patterson, O. (2013a). Recognizing Community Heterogeneity When Designing Community Conservation Projects. June 17, 2013. Baja IV.

Patterson, O. (2013b). Investigating barriers to help seeking on Abaco Island, Bahamas: connecting teachers with environmental education resources. November 9, 2013. Baja IV.

Bajracharya, S. B., Furley, P. A., & Newton, A. C. (2005). Effectiveness of community involvement in delivering conservation benefits to the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal. Environmental Conservation, 32(03), 239–247.

Investigating community needs

While working in conservation I have learned a lot of buzz words, acronyms, and other related terms that either help explain the work or make it better. One of these is “SMART goals”. SMART goals are those which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-focused, and Time-bound (Cothran & Wysocki, 2005). Even though community projects can tend to be personal (in regards to the participants), it helps to have guidelines to standardize the progression of a project and ensure project success. Throughout my journey with Project Dragonfly, I have tried to find the balance between structured and methodical project design and the human element of conservation. I have learned the value of surveys and interviews in collecting feedback from the community to inform conservation projects. Each of the projects I have done in this program provided me with a new perspective and new skills to add to my portfolio.

Cothran, H.M. and Wysocki, A.F. (2005). Developing SMART Goals for Your Organization. Food and Resource Economics Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. FE577. Retrieved from


No matter where you are, some of the most important partners in environmental education are teachers, no less so for FRIENDS. Since working for FRIENDS I have noticed how important it is to have a connection with teachers who are enthusiastic about environmental education and willing to go the extra mile to ensure their students can participate. In an effort to help make things easier on teachers in Abaco, I surveyed them to get a better idea of how they normally obtain information for lesson plans and what barriers might be preventing their participation in environmental education. Based on their responses, I learned that the internet was an important source of information for teachers; 71.4% of teachers surveyed (n=28) use the internet quite often or very often. Additionally, there was an indirect correlation between ease of access to the FRIENDS centre and likelihood of visiting (p=0.010, df=12, n=26), meaning that teachers in remote communities were unlikely to visit. This was a perfect marriage of solutions, so I created a page on FRIENDS' website offering resources specifically for teachers such as powerpoint presentations, field guides, and lesson plans (Friends of the Environment, 2015). Whenever teachers ask us for help I am now able to refer them to this page for easy access to downloadable resources. I have even found myself using the page as a reference when I can't remember where I saved my files! This web page also makes it easy for FRIENDS to share completed projects with our funders. I realized belatedly that our web statistics program only reports the most popular pages, so I have been unable to get a number of visits for this page to date, because it is fairly new compared to the rest of our website. I have recently added a visitor counter to this web page, so I will be able to monitor future traffic to the site. A link for the teachers resource page was shared on the FRIENDS Facebook page and it has reached 466 people as of November 17, 2015.

Teachers utilized the open response portion of the survey to share additional needs, including access to scientific lab equipment and projectors, field trip offerings, and contacts with scientists. My role as program coordinator has allowed me to help FRIENDS satisfy those needs through various programs in collaboration with other FRIENDS staff and Board members. For example, projectors and lab equipment have been given as science fair prizes in 2014 and 2015, and the lab at the Frank Kenyon Centre is now open for Abaco schools to use for free. Teachers and students will be able to interact with scientists at the upcoming Abaco Science Alliance Conference in January 2016. The Frank Kenyon Centre also provides opportunities for students to work with scientists; to date ten student field courses have been held in partnership with researchers. FRIENDS also sends out emails at the start of each term to our teacher database with a list of the available field trips and classroom presentations. It has been very rewarding to know that we are filling gaps for schools and teachers. However, to apply true principles of participatory education to FRIENDS' programs I was compelled to also investigate the needs of students (Freire, 1970).

Freire, P. (1970). Chapter 2. In Pedagogy of the oppressed (pp. 52-67). New York City, NY: Continuum

Friends of the Environment. 2015. Teacher Resources. Retrieved November 8, 2015 from


Because FRIENDS focuses on environmental education, our primary audience is students between the ages of five and eighteen. As program coordinator, it has become my responsibility to find links between our programs and investigate program success. FRIENDS has made an effort over the last couple years to increase our education with high school students as we had noticed that most of our efforts were directed at primary schools. Last year, FRIENDS was looking to engage high school students in a new program so I decided to investigate the influence of our existing outreach types (on-campus outreach such as presentations and assemblies and off-campus outreach including field trips and science fairs) on the likelihood of students participating in extracurricular activities with us. In terms of one on one interactions, I feel like our off-campus outreach is more engaging for individuals, so I expected that students who participated in off-campus outreach would be more likely to join a FRIENDS extracurricular activity. However, outreach type had no measurable influence on student likelihood to participate in FRIENDS activities. Results indicated that most students have either heard of FRIENDS and/or are interested in participating in a FRIENDS-led activity. Students currently participate primarily in pro-social (community service and church) and sport-related activities and showed a preference for internships and service clubs. Students indicated they are most available after school, as compared to summer. Open responses from students provided further guidance for future development of student programs and community outreach. While this survey was not able to make any connections between outreach type and student participation in extracurricular activities, it did reveal that FRIENDS has done a good job with outreach as 88% of students (n=117) were familiar with FRIENDS prior to the survey and 69.2% had participated in a FRIENDS activity (Patterson, 2014). Additionally, 96.4% of teachers surveyed (n=28) were familiar with FRIENDS (Patterson, 2013).

In summer 2014, FRIENDS hosted an inquiry-based summer camp for teens called Nature Detectives. Encouraged by the success of that camp and the results of this survey, FRIENDS decided to start an after-school inquiry club called Island Investigators. FRIENDS currently doesn't have the capacity to host many interns at a time, so this club gives us the opportunity to share science with local students and build connections with them that may lead to future internships. Island Investigators began in January 2015, starting with a project to investigate queen conch. The topic for fall 2015 is coral reefs; the theme was inspired by a partnership that I formed with a coral reef scientist who was planning a project in Abaco for the fall. I created the draft outline of activities for the club and then I incorporated feedback from the scientist and FRIENDS' education officer. The education officer has since adjusted activities to accommodate weather and to place greater focus on the club presenting at the Abaco Science Alliance Conference. I have also been able to tie the club activities into my student leadership project, which encourages students to publish their science. Thanks to this partnership, seven Island Investigators club members were able to participate in a coral restoration at a very popular local reef site called Mermaid Reef. Hundreds of visitors to Abaco will be able to view their work, as well as the groups of students that FRIENDS takes there for snorkeling field trips. Now that the coral has been “planted”, club members will return to monitor the coral and investigate other aspects of reef health. Club members are currently preparing an abstract to present their project at the 2016 Abaco Science Alliance Conference.

Patterson, O. (2013). Investigating barriers to help seeking on Abaco Island, Bahamas: connecting teachers with environmental education resources. November 9, 2013. Baja IV.

Community voice

A community's voice is its identity. Its opinions. Its needs and desires. Its history. Community voice is what puts the ‘participation' in community based conservation. A tradition of community voice can be observed through traditional ecological knowledge (TEK). Berkes (1993) defines TEK as knowledge “representing experience acquired over thousands of years of human contact with the environment” (p.1). Having this connection with nature seems to put indigenous communities in touch with the importance of their environment and their role in sustainability. While The Bahamas is not populated by indigenous people, they have lived here long enough to learn from the land and to gather information valuable to conservation. It was interesting that traveling away from my hometown gave me a better and renewed perspective of how my community works. I have a better appreciation for the value of local knowledge. I could see how TEK and a strong sense of place for the people of Surama made a difference in their survival and contributed to their quality of life. I realized that similar qualities are also strong in my own community of Hope Town.

TEK can be harnessed in multiple ways. Many indigenous communities have their own indicators for healthy environments, often using them to help ensure agricultural success (Patterson, 2015). Citizen science is also a great way to put local knowledge to use while collecting new data. Citizen science projects are those that rely on non-specialists to participate in data collection, submission, and analysis (Bonney et al., 2009). Coordinating citizen science programs is also a useful way for conservation organizations to engage their communities (Patterson, 2015). FRIENDS has found that programs such as International Coastal Cleanup (Ocean Conservancy, 2015) appeal to the needs of many communities, but also require local knowledge to determine which areas should be cleaned up.

Berkes, F. (1993). Traditional ecological knowledge in perspective. In Traditional ecological knowledge: Concepts and cases (pp. 1-9). Ottawa, Canada: International Development Research Centre.

Bonney, R., Cooper, C. B., Dickinson, J., Kelling, S., Phillips, T., Rosenberg, K. V., & Shirk, J. (2009). Citizen science: a developing tool for expanding science knowledge and scientific literacy. BioScience, 59(11), 977–984.

Ocean Conservancy. (2015). International Coastal Cleanup. Retrieved November 18, 2015 from

Patterson, O. (2015). The role of scientific and grassroots indicators in conservation of neotropical rainforests. (EE Guyana 2015)

Patterson, O. (2014). The potential value of citizen science as an outreach tool for non-profit conservation organizations. July 2014. EE Costa Rica II

Harnessing Community Knowledge

To me, an important part of community based conservation is finding the connection between people and their environment. The community engagement lab activity in Conservation Science and Community broadened my perspective on global issues in conservation science. The class also gave me the opportunity to investigate new ways to approach community participation in conservation science in my home town. I have a personal connection to queen conch, because harvesting and preparing it for meals has been an important part of my upbringing. That was the inspiration for my project to investigate the use of local knowledge for mapping queen conch harvesting areas. I interviewed community members about their harvesting practices, but what I didn't expect were the extra stories and smiles reflecting the importance of conch to my interviewees. Only one person that I approached actually refused an interview, and most of the men I did interview seemed visibly engaged in the experience offering anecdotes and sharing their experiences harvesting conch. The commercial fishermen I interviewed were the most hesitant to share the location of their fishing grounds. I think this also reflects the importance of conch to them and their livelihood.

FRIENDS is now one of the country partners in a National campaign called “Conchservation”. We support Conchservation by continuing education about queen conch and contributing to discussions about the direction of the campaign. I have also participated in developing a phone survey to collect data on community knowledge and attitudes about conch as well as a small focus group with local fishermen. I am currently helping to facilitate a meeting for all Conservation partners to be held at the Abaco Science Alliance Conference to discuss campaign progress.

Moving from consultation to participation

The large expanse of marine environment in Abaco and remote location of many communities contributes to challenges with enforcing environmental protection. By empowering residents to become involved in environmental monitoring it is possible to increase their buy-in for conservation programs and participation in environmentally supportive activities (Cooper, 2007). I wanted to try different ways of facilitating community participation by providing tools that they can use to collect information about the environment and inform behaviour change. Waste management is one of the biggest conservation issues in Abaco currently, so the first project I started was to address illegal dumping. Through my research I found out that illegal dumping is a global issue, even in first world countries (Tunnell, 2008). It would be nearly impossible for a single group to feasibly quantify the impact of illegal dumping in Abaco, mainly due to large expanses of undeveloped land and pervasiveness of the problem. In my mind, the best solution in this case was crowdsourcing; in this case, gathering information from large groups of people online (Estellés-Arolas and González-Ladrón-de-Guevara, 2012). I created a webpage using the site Crowdmap to collect reports of illegal dumping ( Having a website gives the community a way to respond to the issue and it also can provide valuable data to inform waste management decisions. My challenge when I tested the website was that locations that were submitted were not represented on the map correctly. This is a flaw that I am hoping to fix with the assistance of

My third IAP (Fall 2015) incorporates knowledge and action - promoting participation in coastal cleanups, while surveying participants about their attitudes and behaviour regarding litter. I will be updating this section of my portfolio once I have completed data analysis for the project.

Cooper, C. B., Dickinson, J., Phillips, T., & Bonney, R. (2007). Citizen science as a tool for conservation in residential ecosystems. Ecology and Society, 12(2), 11.

Estellés-Arolas, E., & González-Ladrón-de-Guevara, F. (2012). Towards an integrated crowdsourcing definition. Journal of Information science, 38(2), 189-200.

Tunnell, K. D. (2008). Illegal dumping: Large and small scale littering in rural Kentucky. Southern Rural Sociology, 23(2), 29–42.

Tools for sharing: Outreach and community voice

This journey through the Global Field Program has helped me truly understand the importance of reaching out, and of ensuring that the community is well represented in all issues. A consistent challenge during my career has been to find ways to reach the community; especially when my island community is so diverse. I realized that with each project, I have pushed my boundaries and found a variety of ways to connect with people.


I have to do a lot of writing for my job: press releases, grant reports, posts on social media. Despite this, I am still learning how to craft my writing for my audience. The GFP has helped me better comprehend the importance of understanding my community/audience, and I have realized the value of writing and publication as a tool for conservation. For my Professional Media Workshop I was determined to push myself beyond my normal boundaries of newspapers and local magazines by submitting a paper to a peer-reviewed journal. I wanted to take on the extra challenge and I also wanted to (hopefully) get some extra press for FRIENDS by publishing. I refined a synthesis paper on the value of citizen science for non-profit outreach from a previous course and submitted it to the journal of my choosing. The paper was not accepted because it did not contribute new research, but I feel confident that I can still find an appropriate venue to share my viewpoint.

In addition to pushing my boundaries, I wanted to encourage students and teachers in Abaco to push their own boundaries by taking their science projects an extra step to share the results with others. I feel this is important, especially for students wishing to pursue scientific careers, and is a gap in the local science curriculum. I was inspired by publications like Dragonfly Magazine and Frontiers for Young Minds, which provide an outlet for student research and also promote it alongside adult research. My leadership challenge for Leadership in Science Inquiry was to create a project plan for a student's eJournal. Adding a new program to an already full calendar at FRIENDS is a challenge, as well as finding the resources to make it happen. However, consulting project stakeholders helped me realize the true value of an eJournal. One teacher said, “Young people in the Bahamas see science as something they study, not something they do. They research it but don't understand that they can be a part of it, and then communicate what they have learned. That final, important step seems to be missing. Our youth need first the understanding that they can communicate what they learn about the world around them, and then they need a venue to do this. Most of them are proficient in social media, and that may be the best avenue for such communication.”

I selected an electronic journal versus a hardcopy version due to the potential cost savings as well as the ease of sharing with a wide audience spread across the islands of The Bahamas, and elsewhere. Also, 50% of stakeholders that I interviewed for this project (n=9) suggested social media as a way to engage students. I have found that the eJournal dovetails suitably with existing FRIENDS programs such as the Island Investigators Club, Abaco Science Fair, and Abaco Science Alliance Conference. I have submitted a grant application to get the journal started and have been discussing its outreach value with conservation partners. I am looking forward to launching the journal at the Abaco Science Alliance Conference in January 2016!

Visuals: Maps and Infographics

I am not a trained educator, but I have had some experience with informal environmental education. One of the hard lessons I learned in the process is that not everyone has the same skills or understanding of the English language, or at least the skills you expect. However, pictures can mean a lot.

I was especially inspired when I learned about the benefits of mapping for community based conservation. I decided to include maps in my IAPs to help describe the communities I studied. I was able to take that a step further during my Community Engagement Lab for Conservation Science and Community. I incorporated mapping into my data collection process when I interviewed recreational queen conch fishermen about their harvesting locations. In that case, I was able to use maps for both data collection and information sharing. Having blank maps available for the fishermen to draw on meant that they could lead the way during the interview. I also learned how important it is to have maps that are accurate and locally relevant during a community interview on my Earth Expeditions trip to Guyana. My classmates and I interviewed locals from Surama Village about recent jaguar predation on their hunting dogs. According to the man I interviewed, the map that we were using to collect data did not accurately represent local landmarks. This distracted him somewhat, but also meant that we spent some time trying to fix the map. Time was not wasted though, because we were able to record his experiences with jaguar predation during the interview (and fix the map!).

I was challenged during the course Issues in Evolution to select a topic that addressed an evolutionary concept and that was ecologically relevant to Abaco. I eventually chose to research the impact of fishing pressure on the evolution of queen conch. I knew that overharvesting was an issue for queen conch in The Bahamas, but did not have a solid understanding of how evolution played a role in overall population health. If I didn't understand, then maybe there were other people out there who also didn't understand. I was able to use an infographic to illustrate how fishing pressure can decrease the probability of conchs mating.

Patterson, O. (2013). Using Local Knowledge and Mapping to Illustrate the Use of Queen Conch Harvesting Areas in The Sea of Abaco, Bahamas. GFP, Conservation Science and Community 2013.

Online Interaction

I can remember when emails were not a common method of communication. When people started using them to replace phone calls or face-to-face meetings there was, and still is, a challenge to getting your point across clearly. I think that working in the web-based learning classroom (WBLC) of Project Dragonfly has helped us all strengthen our communication skills in a medium that is critical to today's society. I agree that meeting in person is very valuable, though there is no denying the usefulness of the internet - especially to funding restricted sectors like education and conservation.

The WBLC is a community in itself, and in some ways has served as a living example of how we can all function in our local communities. Personally, the WBLC has helped me improve my skills in communication and networking which are important for my job. I feel it has provided opportunities for me to be supportive to other students, and to receive support.

Another great function of the WBLC that aided my progress was the flexibility in how material was presented and submitted. I am a visual learner, so I really appreciated when lessons in the WBLC included visual learning and presentation tools like Prezi ( and Text 2 Mind Map ( I have been able to share these tools with my colleagues and they are being used to support the education program at FRIENDS. I also encouraged the use of visual learning and presentation tools during my time as a student leader for Biology in the Age of Technology (BAT). Technology moves so quickly that new resources had become available in the year between my taking the class and student leading it, so I learned even more the second time around! One of the messages that I wanted to get across to my BAT class was that they were able to make a large and wide reaching impact with their individual outreach projects. I created a Prezi to compile their outreach projects. It was amazing to learn about all of the various conservation issues that were being addressed with technology (

Though not something I had planned on, student leading was an important part of my journey through the GFP. It really forced me to take a step back and think critically about my participation. Guiding students to come to their own conclusions can be really challenging! However, the experience has helped me better understand my role in community conservation and how I can best facilitate future community outreach with programs at FRIENDS. I was happy to note that I received a 4.4 / 5 rating on my student leader evaluation, and six of the thirteen students who answered the evaluation took the time to leave feedback about my participation (all positive)! One student said “Olivia was great at reaching out and letting us know she was there for support if we needed any help. She did a great job in her role as student leader”. This is something that I will perpetually endeavour to continue - making sure that I am available to support my community.


At the beginning of this semester I thought that putting together this portfolio was a way to summarize my efforts in the GFP. While true, what I have also realized is that the process of writing this portfolio is a significant part of the program. Taking the time to reflect on my journey through the GFP has truly helped me see the connections in my work and renewed my enthusiasm for past projects. I feel confident that I am moving forward with a tool box of knowledge that I can continue to use to learn, grow, and build connections in my community.


Even though I'm the one that registered for this program, it wouldn't have been possible to complete without a strong support network.

Thank you to:

My husband (who gave me the push I needed to join the GFP), family, and friends, for your unwavering support and love.

My amazing work colleagues for your encouragement and advice (and for putting up with me when my brain started to malfunction near the end).

My course instructors, classmates, and GFP cohort members. Your shared experiences and support have truly made this program an enriching experience!

The Abaco community for participating in my research projects and sharing your valuable knowledge to help inform conservation and sustainability of Abaco's environment!