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Developing research and higher education on animal biodiversity and wildlife conservation in the Caribbean

Portrait of Nicole Atherley, second year master student in Saint Kitts

Thu 21 Dec, 2017

I have been a microbiology laboratory technician at the University of the West Indies since 2006. In 2018, through Professor Marc Lavoie, I met Professor Cezilly and worked with him and his students for a few years during their major project on the Zenaida dove, Zenaida aurita.

This project included observations of behavior and monogomy and this experience sparked my interest in the field of animal behavior and conservation. The present collaboration between the Caribaea Initiative and RUSVM has presented me with the opportunity to learn new scientific skills and to meet researchers and students from all over the world. It has definitely been a rewarding experience thus far. My MSc project is entitled “The biology, ecology and diseases of the Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus”This lobster is important in the Caribbean since it has generated revenue through tourism and export. It is listed on the IUCN Red List as being fully or over-exploited. This status highlights the need for management of the species through fisheries regulation on a local and regional level. Such regulations are in place in Saint Kitts, but this project seeks to take a closer look at the legal size specification.

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We propose to do this by reliably ageing our lobsters and making comparisons to the size in light of environmental changes. We are also working to determine whether there are any lobster diseases present which may affect fisheries of the species. I believe the findings of this project will have a direct benefit for fishers in Saint Kitts and help with fisheries management in this country.

My long-term goal is to keep true to my microbiology background and use microbiology as a means to study conservation and diseases, including zoonoses in the wild. My other aim is to contribute to the strengthening of regional collaborations in the field of wildlife conservation and management. I believe the success of Caribbean conservation hinges on the ability of Caribbean territories and agencies to work together. I would encourage any person interested in conducting research to have an open mind! Your endeavours may lead you away from the country or region you presently call home, but the sacrifices you make will pay off. Your resulting qualifications can end up changing the face of and improve the quality of research in your country and indeed in your region.

Nicole Atherley

Master Student

Ross University School of Veterinary Medecine (RUSVM)

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