Caribbean Naturalist Paper Published!

Caribbean Naturalist Tyto alba Hellshire HillsAfter a year of waiting, the paper that I wrote with Justin and John is finally published! This is a journal article that arose from an accidental encounter with a juvenile Barn Owl in a small cave that I noticed on the side of a trail we were on while exploring the Hellshire Hills. This southern region of Jamaica is not one in which we expected to see the Golden Swallow, but we wanted to check anyway, as well as look out for some of the rare tropical dry scrub species we might find in the area, like the Jamaican Iguana, previously thought extinct.

I briefly hinted at this paper in an old post after our return from Jamaica, but didn’t mention it after that since I knew a published article would tell the story more fully, albeit more technically and with science instead of storytelling as a priority. In the cover photo above I’ve included a link to the PDF version of Caribbean Naturalist journal issue 37, which contains our article, but I also want to summarize our findings in lay terms for those less familiar with the biological jargon.

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Snorkeling with Whale Sharks in La Paz

Last week, Jocelyn and I took the three-hour drive from Villa del Faro to La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur. After about seventy minutes on the dirt coastal road that runs along the East Cape, one reaches the asphalt road near La Ribera, which connects to Mexico’s Route 1, a well-paved highway that runs from San José del Cabo all the way north to Tijuana (1,654km away). Before heading anywhere near that far, however, we turned off at the La Paz exit, to explore the port city home to over 200,000 people.

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If you look at a map of the geography surrounding La Paz, you can see that it is quite sheltered from the ocean, with a chunk of land protecting it on the east side, a thin strip closing in from the west, and a long bay running to the north, all this in the relatively calmer Gulf of California. In 1535 the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés tried to start a colony in the area, but it wasn’t fully settled till over sixty years later.

Today, the main tourist attractions to La Paz are marine in nature, Continue reading

National Park of the Week: Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

Photo via cairngorms.co.uk

Photo via cairngorms.co.uk

Comprising most of the United Kingdom’s high-altitude terrain, Cairngorms National Park in northern Scotland is the largest park in the British Isles, and an example of successful sustainable development and conservation working together. Home to several endangered or rare animal and plant species, many types of ecosystem, and 18,000 human residents, a lot of careful management has to take place for business and the natural environment to both thrive.

Unlike some of the other parks featured in this weekly post, Cairngorms (4528 sq km) is what you might call a “mixed use” park, where agriculture and other natural resource extraction such as logging, fishing, and hunting all take place. While in many national parks around the world, people are not allowed to live within park boundaries, here that is not the case, and in fact, according to the Cairngorms official website, 75% of land ownership is private, 15% belongs to charities, and 10% public bodies. All of which makes the park an impressive display of cooperation among community members to make the area successful in its multi-faceted mission.

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