Category: News

Amuseum Naturalis Brings DEAD to Life with Smell Station

Amuseum Naturalis curators harvested the aromas of decomposition from Amuseum specimens.

There’s a brand new way to explore nature at Amuseum Naturalis, and it’s a truly “scentsational” experience. St. Martin’s only natural history museum launched its new Smell Station exhibit as part of the international celebration of Decomposition Education and Awareness Day (DEAD).

“Decomposition is an often overlooked part of the cycle of life,” explained Amuseum curator Mark Yokoyama. “The Smell Station seemed like the perfect way to smell-ebrate this es-scent-ial natural process.”

The Smell Station was inspired by the success of the Amuseum’s interactive audio exhibit featuring the sounds of nocturnal animals. Based on pre-launch testing, the exhibit has a powerful impact. Visitors reported being overwhelmed by the Smell Station.

The new Smell Station at Amuseum Naturalis delivers a unique and powerful experience.

“One of our goals for the Amuseum is to redefine the museum experience,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “We in-stink-tively feel that smell-driven interactive installations are an area ripe for exploration.”

Expert smell-ologists from Amuseum Naturalis harvested the scents from specimens in the museum. They used groundbreaking odoractive technology to isolate and refine the smells for discharge at the exhibit. The Smell Station features the natural decay aromas of mammals, reptiles and fish, including both native and introduced species.

Decomposition Education and Awareness Day is celebrated with dozens of events around the world on April 1st each year. Amuseum Naturalis is free of charge and open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-8pm.

Amuseum Naturalis Celebrates 5,000 Visitors with Free Ebook

The ebook Caribbean Curiosities: Island of Change is now available for free download.

It’s only been two months since Amuseum Naturalis officially launched its 2017 season in January, but the free natural history museum has already had over 5,000 visitors this year. To celebrate, Amuseum Naturalis creators Les Fruits de Mer are sharing a free ebook, Caribbean Curiosities: Island of Change.

This ebook is the second volume in a series highlighting the plants and animals featured in the museum. Both volumes are available for free from the resources section of the association’s website. This volume highlights some of the many species that were introduced to the island by humans, and how they are changing St. Martin’s local ecology.

“The Caribbean Curiosities ebooks are a chance to build on the stories we are sharing at the Amuseum,” explained Amuseum curator Mark Yokoyama. “They’re also a chance to share some of the magic of the Amuseum with people who haven’t had a chance to visit yet.”

Amuseum Naturalis is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-8pm and admission is free. Group visits—for school classes, youth groups, or any kind of group—can be scheduled during March and April by email at info@lesfruitsdemer.org or on the Amuseum’s website.

“We’re surprised and excited to have welcomed 5,000 visitors in just two months,” commented Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “It’s so fun to share the island’s natural history with a diverse group of locals and tourists each week. We also hope to host more school classes and other group visits, so please get in touch!”

Amuseum Naturalis is a free, public pop-up museum of the natural history of St. Martin and the Caribbean, created by Les Fruits de Mer and made possible by the generous sponsorship of Delta Petroleum and the support of the Friends of the Amuseum. Amuseum Naturalis is located at 96 Boulevard de Grand Case in Grand Case and on the web at http://amuseumnaturalis.com.

Caribbean Curiosities: Land of the Blind

St. Martin was once home to a rather beautiful snake, the Leeward Island Racer. It was given the scientific name Alsophis rijgersmaei in honor of St. Martin’s 19th century physician and naturalist Dr. Hendrik Elingsz van Rijgersma. If you’re lucky, you might still see it on Anguilla or St. Barts. On this island, it seems the mongoose has hunted it to extinction. But that doesn’t mean that there are no snakes on St. Martin…

A scale covers the blind snake’s eye.

The one snake that is definitely living on St. Martin is odd, but it’s not surprising to find it here. It is known by many names: Brahminy Blind Snake because it is though to come from India, Flowerpot Blind Snake because it often travels in potted plants, and Island Blind Snake because it has been so successful in colonizing islands.

As you may have guessed, this snake is blind. It has eyes, but they are feeble and covered in scales. They can sense light and dark, but probably not much more than that. This is not a problem for them because they live underground, eating ants in all their life stages: eggs, larvae, pupae and adults.

If you’ve never seen one, that’s probably because they’re rarely out and about. They’re also very small—just a few inches long and thinner than a chopstick. There’s no need to fear the blind snake because their mouth is far too small to bite you.

A soil-dwelling snake.

How did this strange snake get here? Probably in potted plants or trees, the same way it has hitchhiked its way around the globe. This species is also parthenogenetic. They are all female and can reproduce entirely on their own, giving birth to genetically identical offspring. This is a serious advantage when colonizing an island, and surely a big part of their success in establishing themselves around the world.

Could there be more to St. Martin than a tale of two snakes? It is possible. Native blind snakes are now known from many nearby islands. If there’s one on St. Martin, it could have gone unnoticed. Today, it could be mistaken for the introduced Brahminy Blind Snake. If one is found—and several have been found in the Caribbean in recent years—it would likely be a species new to science.

You can learn more about the Brahminy Blind Snake and other invasive species at Amuseum Naturalis, located at 96 Boulevard de Grand Case. The museum is free and open 4-8pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Get more info at http://amuseumnaturalis.com.

Amuseum Naturalis Launches THE 5TH DREAM Art Exhibition Feb. 14th

“La Rêveuse” will be on display at Sélénia Sanner’s THE 5TH DREAM exhibition, launching February 14th at Amuseum Naturalis.

Amuseum Naturalis invites the public to the free gala opening of the museum’s first fine art exhibition, THE 5TH DREAM, from 4-8pm on Tuesday, February 14th. THE 5TH DREAM is a new series of paintings by Sélénia Sanner, inspired by the infinite ocean and the profound connection between humans and nature. The theme is explored through imagery of whales, with magical portrayals on large and small scale canvases that illuminate a dreamy alternate universe where these seemingly weightless giants can be seen swimming through boundless starry skies, or as epic shadows beneath tiny boats.

“This is the season when whales are especially visible in the Caribbean,” explains Amuseum Naturalis co-curator and island wildlife expert Mark Yokoyama, “so this exhibition really connects with what’s going on in nature right now.”

“We’re so excited for people to experience this breathtaking painting series and think about these majestic leviathans of the deep,” adds Jenn Yerkes, President of Les Fruits de Mer, the association behind Amuseum Naturalis. “We hope everyone will come out to celebrate the exhibition launch, meet the artist, and enjoy wine and cheese at the opening reception!”

“Crise Arctique” will be on display at Sélénia Sanner’s THE 5TH DREAM exhibition, launching February 14th at Amuseum Naturalis.

The launch of the exhibition also serves as the official launch of the unique painted wooden panels which were created by Sanner to accompany displays in the main exhibit hall of Amuseum Naturalis. The large-scale panels, each featuring nature scenes which bring its related exhibit to life, are mounted at the eye level of toddlers and children in strollers–giving even the smallest a special way to discover St. Martin’s natural heritage.

The free opening reception and the exhibition will be held in the Special Exhibition Room at Amuseum Naturalis. The exhibition will run February 14th to March 16th, and can be visited during the museum’s regular opening hours.

Amuseum Naturalis is a free pop-up museum that highlights the natural history of St. Martin and the Caribbean. The museum is open to the public on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-8pm. It is also open for school and other group visits during the day by appointment, which can be made via email at info@lesfruitsdemer.com or on the web at www.amuseumnaturalis.com. Amuseum Naturalis is located at 96 Boulevard de Grand Case in Grand Case. It is made possible by the generous support of Delta Petroleum and over a dozen businesses and individual donors who have become Friends of the Amuseum. For more information, visit amuseumnaturalis.com.

The Brown Pelican

Here’s another article I wrote for Destination magazine. This one is all about Dutch Sint Maarten’s national bird, the Brown Pelican. Grab the magazine, or check it out below.

Only on St. Martin…

The new Destination magazine is out for St. Martin and it features a couple articles I wrote about local wildlife. This one covers a topic that is especially dear to me: the animals that are found only on this island or only in this region. Grab the actual magazine or check it out below!

St. Martin Timelapse

Looking at St. Martin from 1984 to the present with the updated Google Earth timelapse feature is pretty fascinating. It’s certainly not perfect, I think the data is pretty infrequent in the early years and part of what we can see is the improvement in the quality of satellite imagery. Still, we can also see major changes pretty clearly: a huge increase in the size of Pond Island an the ring road sandfill, the airport expansion and the development of Orient Bay, to name a few.

On Expedition Ringtones

img_5892

If you’re enjoying On Expedition with Les Fruits de Mer by Marc AuMarc, you’ll probably want to have the Les Fruits de Mer theme song as a ringtone on your phone. Luckily, we’ve created ringtones with three versions from the album and you can download them right here. Hear the call of expedition and adventure every time someone calls you on your phone!

Les Fruits de Mer Theme Ringtone: MP3, M4R for iPhone
Promenade Ringtone: MP3, M4R for iPhone
Sous-marin Ringtone: MP3, M4R for iPhone

New Album “On Expedition” Captures the Spirit of Les Fruits de Mer

On Expedition with Les Fruits de Mer is available for free download.
On Expedition with Les Fruits de Mer is available for free download.

The sound of excitement and adventure comes alive in the new album On Expedition with Les Fruits de Mer. Composed and recorded by Marc AuMarc over the past year on St. Martin and on location elsewhere in the Caribbean, the twelve-track album explores and deconstructs the Les Fruits de Mer association’s iconic theme song across a variety of musical styles. It is now available for free download and online streaming at marcaumarc.com.

“The concept of a Les Fruits de Mer theme song dates back many years, and the first notes of the melody were composed in 2012, although the theme itself was not completed until several years later,” recounted Mark Yokoyama, who composed the theme under the nom de plume Marc AuMarc. “Once the original theme was completed, it took on a life of its own, inspiring many unique variations.”

The album begins with the original Les Fruits de Mer theme presented in an orchestral arrangement, before sending the listener on an eclectic voyage through electronica, soft rock, disco, dub reggae and more. While melodic lines from the original theme form the basis of each track, a diversity of styles ensures that the album is constantly in motion, echoing the experience of being on a scientific expedition.

Some of On Expedition’s songs were recorded on expedition.
Some of On Expedition’s songs were recorded on expedition.

“You may recognize some of these songs from the wildlife documentary films we have been producing,” explained Les Fruits de Mer president Jenn Yerkes. “These songs have been an integral part of our work in film, and we felt it was time to showcase them on their own. Their energy, spirit and diversity exemplify the spirit of Les Fruits de Mer.”

Although this is the first album released under the name Marc AuMarc, Mark Yokoyama has been writing and recording music for over 25 years in a variety of genres, from country and folk to indie rock and electronic music.

The full album is available for download and streaming from marcaumarc.com. The album is free. Fans wishing to make a contribution are encouraged to donate to the non-profit Les Fruits de Mer association to support their wildlife education activities and their free natural history museum, Amuseum Naturalis.

Archaeology + Biology

dsc_0093

Today there was an open house at a pre-Colombian archaeological dig site near our apartment. In Grand Case, these sites have some pottery, stone tools and bones, but the majority of the artifacts are shells, primarily conch and whelk. Scattered around the dig site, I noticed a few shells from the Giant African Land Snail, a recent arrival that definitely wasn’t around 1,000 years ago. I asked one of the archaeologists and he explained that during digs like this hermit crabs will walk out onto the dig site and exchange their shells for ancient ones, walking off with some of the artifacts! Apparently, this is not a huge problem, since some of these digs generate literally tons of shells.

Free Pond Life Ebook Released for 2016 Migratory Bird Festival

pond-life-cover-web

In preparation for their upcoming Migratory Bird Festival, Les Fruits de Mer have released a free ebook, Pond Life. With vivid photography and fascinating facts, the book showcases seven bird species that are found on St. Martin’s ponds. Pond Life is available for free download on the association’s website.

“St. Martin’s ponds are perhaps the best place on the island to observe birds and other wildlife, especially during the peak of the migration season in early fall,” commented Pond Life author Mark Yokoyama. “When our resident wetland species are joined by seasonal migrants, our ponds are incredibly vibrant with a mix of birds that can change daily.”

Ponds are ideal for birdwatching because they offer unobstructed views, and several dozen species live and forage there. On St. Martin, birdwatching is not only a fun hobby, but also a potential tourism market. A recent study in the United States found that $17 billion was spent annually on travel for bird and wildlife watching. St. Martin is well-positioned to benefit from this market because its best birding locations—like the Great Salt Pond, where the Migratory Bird Festival will be held—are so easily accessible.

“The annual migration of birds from North America to the Caribbean is one of the most incredible and inspiring stories about nature in St. Martin, and the Pond Life ebook is a great way to learn about it,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “The Migratory Bird Festival is another, and we’re putting together a fantastic program this year.”

The ebook Pond Life and the details about this year’s Migratory Bird Festival are available at http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com. The festival will be held from 9am to noon on Sunday, October 16th at University of St. Martin on Pond Island in Philipsburg. The festival, now in its fourth year, is free to the public and all are invited.

Help Bring Local Bird Education Program to the French Caribbean

BSC-LogoEN-borderless

The nonprofit association Les Fruits de Mer is looking for help making the Caribbean’s most exciting new science curriculum available in French. Their goal is to leverage the power of crowdsourcing to complete the translation of the BirdSleuth Caribbean program from English into French. Anyone interested in joining the effort is encouraged to contact the association.

BirdSleuth Caribbean is a set of fun lessons and activities that uses birds to teach youth about nature and science. Based on a highly-successful international program, BirdSleuth Caribbean has been specially adapted for the region—kids learn about the birds and habitats that they can actually see around them, a refreshing change from educational materials created for Europe or North America. Designed for students 9-13 years old, the BirdSleuth Caribbean program contains lessons, activities and learning games designed for the classroom and outdoors.

“The mission of our association is to promote wildlife education, so the opportunity to take a bird education program designed for the Caribbean and make it more widely accessible in the region is a natural fit,” explained Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “It’s also a chance for us to connect with volunteers locally who want to be part of something positive. Living on a diverse, multilingual island we have an opportunity, and perhaps an obligation, to tackle regionally-important projects like this.”

Les Fruits de Mer is leading the translation of the BirdSleuth Caribbean materials from English into French so they can be used throughout the French Caribbean. Once completed, Les Fruits de Mer and other organizations on French-speaking islands will conduct training workshops for teachers and youth leaders. Kits of BirdSleuth Caribbean materials will also be available to teachers who wish to use the program.

To participate in the translation project, email info@lesfruitsdemer.org or use the contact form. The association is seeking volunteers who can translate a portion of the text from English to French and who can review the French translation. Teachers are especially encouraged to participate in this effort, and knowledge of birds is not required for those who want to help translate.

Any teachers, youth group leaders, or other educators who are interested in the upcoming free training workshops to learn the curriculum are also encouraged to contact Les Fruits de Mer. BirdSleuth International was developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and adapted for the Caribbean by BirdsCaribbean. The BirdSleuth Caribbean materials are currently available in English and Spanish.

Unsung Stories of Caribbean Naturalists Come Alive at Book Fair Presentation

Making-Natural-History

Discover the fascinating, largely unknown stories of the incredible women and men who helped to build the scientific heritage of the Caribbean at a special multimedia presentation at the 2016 St. Martin Book Fair. Women, People of Color, and the Making of Natural History in the Caribbean, is free and open to the public and will take place from 11am to 12:30pm on Saturday, June 4th at the University of St. Martin.

The presentation was created as part of an ongoing research, writing and outreach project to shine a light on the lost or unsung work of the women and people of color in the study of Caribbean natural history, from the late 1400s to the early 1900s.

“Their historical contributions to science were often hidden, suppressed, or simply not as well publicized as those of their white male contemporaries,” explains presenter Jenn Yerkes, President of Les Fruits de Mer and co-curator of Amuseum Naturalis. “Many of these trailblazers had to fight slavery, racism, and sexism, and risk perilous journeys, pirates, disease, and dangerous wildernesses to do what they loved; their real lives were more epic, adventurous, heartbreaking, and inspiring than any Hollywood movie.”

Anyone are unable to attend the Book Fair presentation can learn more about some of these amazing individuals in the special exhibit currently on display at Amuseum Naturalis in Grand Case. The museum is open to the public from 4-8pm each Thursday and Sunday throughout the month of June.

Learn Bird Photography with Free Ebook

Bird-Shots-web

Bird photography is the subject of a new free ebook, Bird Shots, produced by the Les Fruits de Mer association. The book is a guide designed to help readers improve their bird photography and get more enjoyment from the hobby.

“Bird photography has its own specific challenges, and getting the best results requires a certain understanding of both birds and photography,” commented author Mark Yokoyama. “As a hobby, it is a fantastic way to develop a deeper connection with nature and appreciation for the craft of photography.”

The book was written for birders interested in improving their photography, photographers interested in capturing birds and even those who are new to both birding and photography. Topics include basic techniques to use in the field, composition and visual storytelling, and how to work with the photos you have taken.

This new ebook arrives just in time to inspire local photographers to capture some bird photos for the 2016 Heritage Photo Contest. The theme of this year’s contest is The Spirit of St. Martin.
The contest is free and open to every age, and everyone is welcome to enter as many times as they like.

All qualifying entries will go on display in the online Heritage Gallery, and selected entries will be featured in the Heritage Photo Exhibition, which will be held this summer. Awards will be given for the winning entries in three categories: Adult, Under 18 and People’s Choice.

The ebook Bird Shots is available for free download. Information about how to enter the 2016 Heritage Photo Contest and this year’s online Heritage Gallery are also found on the site.

Iguana Day Video

We did a short video of the Anguilla Iguana Day festivities, including a walk around Cove Pond where we saw some invasive Green Iguanas as well a lot of native wetland wildlife, including Black-necked Stilts and their nests. In the afternoon, there were games and art activities. Check it out:

Anguilla Iguana Day

On Saturday, Les Fruits de Mer had the chance to engage in some inter-island wildlife education cross-pollination at the first annual Anguilla Iguana Day, hosted by the Anguilla National Trust. Including a wetland walk to see some invasive Green Iguanas and an afternoon full of games and crafts, it was a wonderful chance to learn about Anguilla’s native Lesser Antillean Iguana and its invasive cousin the Green Iguana. Here are a few photos taken by Jenn Yerkes.

Eye on Endemics: Caribbean Originals

Eye-on-Endemics

In preparation for the upcoming 2016 Endemic Animal Festival, Les Fruits de Mer has released a free eBook—Eye on Endemics: Caribbean Originals— featuring full-color photos and fascinating info about some of the captivating lizards, birds, and insects found only on this island or only in our region. The book is available for free download on the association’s website, http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com. The Festival itself will take place on Sunday, April 24th from 9am to noon at the St. Maarten Zoo in Madame Estate.

The free eBook is a companion piece to the association’s third annual Endemic Animal Festival, and was designed to be downloaded not just onto computers and laptops, but also onto smartphones and tablets to identify endemic species on the go, explains Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “The Festival is a chance to get up close with the animals that are unique to our island and area, while the eBook gives people a more in-depth look at some specific endemics, including local names. You can use it as a mobile tool–it even tells you where to look for the different species we spotlighted!”

Many of these species will be featured at this year’s Endemic Animal Festival, which will include an Endemic Animal Discovery Station, native animal activity books, guided wildlife walks, and art activities related to endemic animals. This year the Festival will be held at the St. Maarten Zoo to showcase the new series of native animal panels created by Les Fruits de Mer, funded by SXM DOET and Be the Change SXM, and installed by a team of volunteers from Les Fruits de Mer, SXM DOET and St. Maarten Zoo.

“The 2016 Festival is the perfect way to officially launch this project to weave the story of St. Martin’s natural heritage into the landscape of the zoo,” says Les Fruits de Mer co-founder Mark Yokoyama, “We’d like to invite everyone to come out to enjoy the zoo, see the new panels, and have a great time at the Festival!”

The April 24th Festival is free and open to the public, and is made possible by the generosity of event sponsors Buccaneer Beach Bar, Calmos Cafe, Delta Petroleum, Hotel L’Esplanade, Lagoonies Bistro and Bar, Loterie Farm and Tri-Sport. For more information about the event, or to download the free Eye on Endemics: Caribbean Originals eBook, visit http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com or find Les Fruits de Mer on Facebook.

Les Fruits de Mer Launches Rhum Biologique

DSC_0074

It started with a chance discovery and a quirk of Caribbean biological research. During the development of their free pop-up natural history museum, Amuseum Naturalis, members of Les Fruits de Mer found a cache of antique biological specimens in the attic of the building and a product was born: Rhum Biologique.

“Strong rum was the fluid of choice for early naturalists to preserve their plant and animal specimens before rubbing alcohol and formaldehyde were readily available in the Caribbean,” explained museum curator Mark Yokoyama. “We realized these specimens were over 100 years old—and so was the rum. No matter what’s floating in it, you don’t skip the chance to taste a rum that old.”

The Amuseum team found the century-old specimen-infused rum surprisingly palatable, and it quickly became the inspiration for Amusuem Naturalis Rhum Biologique. The team immediately started using high-proof white rums to preserve their own specimens on display at the museum, which have served a dual purpose as Rhum Biologique test flavors.

DSC_0056“Flavored rums are a Caribbean cultural tradition, and we’re excited to literally infuse that with a touch of natural history,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “It took some experimentation to come up with the best flavor and aroma profiles, but what we developed is both delicious and captures the spirit of St. Martin. You can really taste the natural heritage!”

Amuseum Naturalis Rhum Biologique is infused by an artisanal, small-batch process, and is currently available in three flavors: Arthropoda, Reptilia, and Poecilia. All three recipes are based on invasive animal species—harvesting for production is not only sustainable, but benefits native species. Reptilia is primarily flavored with Green Iguana, and Poecilia is Guppy-based. Arthropoda infuses a proprietary mix of eleven bugs and spiders.

The official launch party for Rhum Biologique is open to the public and will be held at Amuseum Naturalis on Tuesday, April 5th from 6-10pm. More information can be found at http://rhumbiologique.com.

DSC_0004

Native Animal Signage at the St. Maarten Zoo

Yesterday we took part in a fantastic project to add native animal signage to the St. Maarten Zoo. The Zoo is a favorite spot for local and visiting kids and families. It’s also a space where many of our native animal species can be seen, including some that are only found in our region. We think it is a wonderful place to showcase education about native species, where it has the potential to impact both residents and tourists and make a visit to the zoo more engaging and rewarding.

We had lots of help with this project, from the Zoo, from Be the Change SXM, which funded the sign printing and from SXM DOET and all the volunteers that participated in the installation. If you’re interested in supporting or participating in projects like this, feel free to contact us. More importantly, consider joining Be the Change SXM to support other great projects on this island and sign up to volunteer in next year’s SXM DOET.

Sharing St. Martin Wildlife

We are working on a very cool project to improve the zoo by creating signage telling the story of St. Martin’s native animals. It’s a story we want to tell to the local kids who visit the school and also a chance to share something unique and authentic about St. Martin with the tourists that visit. We encourage folks to make a donation this month—or even better—make a recurring monthly donation. It’s the easiest way to help a variety of non-profits create positive change on St. Martin. Visit Be the Change SXM to find out more and to contribute.

We are also excited to work with SXM DOET to install the signage at the Zoo. DOET is an awesome volunteer initiative done throughout the Kingdom of the Netherlands and you can learn more about our project here.

Amuseum Naturalis Exhibit on Women and People of Color to Open Tuesday, Feb. 9th

This duck species was named by 19th century Jamaican naturalist Richard Hill.
This duck species was named by 19th century Jamaican naturalist Richard Hill.

Island residents and tourists of all ages are invited to the free grand opening of the exhibit Women, People of Color, and the Making of Natural History in the Caribbean, on Tuesday, February 9 from 6-10pm at Amuseum Naturalis in Grand Case.

The exhibit is a special series at Amuseum Naturalis, created to shine a light on the contributions of women and people of color in the study of natural history in the Caribbean, from the 1600s to the early 1900s. The exhibit brings their discoveries, explorations and stories to life with vivid biographical snapshots and reproductions of beautiful historical zoological and botanical illustrations, engravings, portraits and maps.

“The historical contributions of women and people of color to science have often been hidden, suppressed, or simply not as well publicized as those of their white male contemporaries, and this is just as true in the Caribbean as elsewhere,” explains Jenn Yerkes, Amuseum Naturalis co-curator and Les Fruits de Mer President. “We wanted to create an opportunity for people to discover the fascinating stories of these incredible women and men who helped to build the scientific heritage of the Caribbean.”

The exhibit's launch will include the 19th century mixed-race Jamaican naturalist and abolitionist Richard Hill.
The exhibit’s launch will include the 19th century mixed-race Jamaican naturalist and abolitionist Richard Hill.
The free, public exhibit will launch Tuesday night with the first installation of the series, which will include captivating figures such as naturalist and scientific artist Maria Sibylla Merian (1647 – 1717), known for her expedition to Suriname to document Caribbean insects, reptiles, birds, and plants; Graman Quassi (ca. 1690 – ca. 1780), a renowned Surinamese healer and botanist of African descent; Richard Hill (1795-1872), a trailblazing mixed-race naturalist and anti-slavery activist from Jamaica; and Felipe Poey (1799-1891), a Cuban zoologist known for his pioneering study of Caribbean marine life. The upcoming installations will be added throughout the run of the exhibit, so there will be new additions for visitors to enjoy every week. The exhibit will coincide with Black History Month and run through International Women’s Day, March 8, 2016.

Women, People of Color, and the Making of Natural History in the Caribbean will be on display in the special exhibit hall of Amuseum Naturalis, Les Fruits de Mer’s free pop-up museum of natural history located at 96 Boulevard de Grand Case. Amuseum Naturalis is open to the public on Tuesdays during the Mardis de Grand Case street fair, and is sponsored by Delta Petroleum.

Zoological images like this hummingbird, named by 19th century mixed-race naturalist Richard Hill, will be on display at the exhibit.
Zoological images like this hummingbird, named by 19th century mixed-race naturalist Richard Hill, will be on display at the exhibit.

Thank You, Seagrape Tours!

Seagrape Tours

We want to send out a special thank you this morning to Seagrape Tours, a local company doing nature tours on St. Martin. They set aside $2 from every guest to support local non-profits working with nature and conservation, including Les Fruits de Mer and Nature Foundation St. Maarten. They came by Amuseum Naturalis on Tuesday to drop off a donation of $150!

Obviously, this is great for our association, which depends primarily on donations and sponsorships to create wildlife education experiences like our festivals, museum and free publications. It also shows how three basic elements can strengthen and reinforce each other in the interest of preserving our natural heritage. Les Fruits de Mer is focused on education, with the aim of stimulating interest in and passion for nature. Nature Foundation St. Maarten works to protect the local environment and manage protected areas. Seagrape Tours is creating an economic incentive to preserve nature and use it in a sustainable way. We believe all three components are complementary and necessary parts of the conservation process and crucial to the future of the island.

Pond Life in Destination St. Martin Magazine

I just wanted to thank Destination St. Martin/St. Maarten Magazine for giving us the chance to tell the story of the island’s fascinating wetland birds in the 2016 issue. Wildlife—at least of the animal sort—may not be the first thing on people’s minds when they think of St. Martin, but the nature of the island is a fascinating and unique part of what the island has to offer and we love to share our passion for it.

Destination-PondLife1-web

DestinationPondLife2-web

Bugs in Paradise

Bugs-in-Paradise-web

For our coming festival
We thought it would be nice
To make an ebook just for kids
Called Bugs in Paradise.
With photos to astound the eye
Of creatures where they dwell
The text is written all in verse
And will delight as well.

We are called Les Fruits de Mer
Our event is Birds & Bugs.
All kinds of things will happen there
That you are sure to love.
A place for learning, fun and free
All ages we invite
To the farm called Loterie
For all manner of delights.

See the creepy, crawly things
So wondrous, every one.
Observe the banding of song birds
And how science is done.
Come take a guided birding walk
Along the forest stream,
And art activities for kids
Will have a nature theme.

It happens on December 6th
From 9am to noon.
Tell your family, tell your friends,
It will be coming soon.
Learn more on our web site,
Or Facebook if you dare,
Anything we couldn’t rhyme
We will list over there.

In the meantime, get the book,
Download it to your device,
Read it with your family
At least just once or twice.
This window on a hidden world
To make you laugh and think,
Is available already,
Just go right to this link:
http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com/resources/books/

Discover Stories of Statia’s Wildlife in Free Wild Statia Ebook

Wild-Statia

Anyone with an interest in Statia and its wildlife is in for a real treat: a free ebook—Wild Statia—was just released by naturalists Hannah Madden and Mark Yokoyama. The 55-page book is illustrated with captivating photos taken by the authors.

The book’s fifteen chapters each take a closer look at a unique aspect of Statia’s wildlife, from majestic tropicbirds to extraordinary nocturnal insects, and all the lizards in between. Readers will also discover more about the habitats that support wildlife and the work being done to understand and protect natural heritage. The format of the book emphasizes the fascinating stories that are often left unexplored by scientific publications.

Madden and Yokoyama will be in the field this week doing research for their upcoming guide to the wildlife of Statia, which will be the first book of its type for the island. The authors aim to complete the wildlife guide in 2016. This project is managed by the non-profit association Les Fruits de Mer, with support from the St. Eustatius Tourism Development Foundation and funding from NuStar Terminals, N.V..

In addition to documenting the animals themselves, the authors are excited to learn about wildlife from the people of Statia. According to Yokoyama, “One thing that you will notice in Wild Statia is a passion for connecting natural history with human culture—the names given to animals, the stories told about them and the ways that we have impacted nature over time. If you have any information about wildlife on Statia, we’d love to hear it.” Stories, info and names for Statian wildlife can be shared by sending them to info@lesfruitsdemer.com.

Many of the chapters are adapted from articles in Yokoyama’s ongoing Wild Statia series in the Weekender section of The Daily Herald. The ebook can be downloaded right here at lesfruitsdemer.com.

Free “Shadow of a Drought” eBook Released for Migratory Bird Festival

Shadow-of-a-Drought-web

In preparation for the upcoming 2015 Migratory Bird Festival, the Les Fruits de Mer association has released a free eBook, Shadow of a Drought, a stunning and poignant photo essay of how drought on St. Martin affects the island’s wildlife and important habitats. The book is available for free download in English and French on the association’s website, http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com. The Festival itself will be held on Saturday, October 17th from 9am to 1pm at University of St. Martin in Philipsburg.

Shadow of a Drought, the latest work from wildlife photographer and naturalist Mark Yokoyama, captures dramatic stories of struggle and survival, and starkly illuminates the ravages of climate change and pollution here on the island. “Drought’s impact is visually striking and thought-provoking, but also temporary. I wanted to explore that in a way that will still be engaging after a couple months of rain. Our collective memory provides context for both extreme events and long-term changes. It helps us understand the present and prepare for the future,” says Yokoyama, author of The Incomplete Guide to the Wildlife of Saint Martin and Eye on Endemics.

“This eBook is really a one-of-a-kind documentation of the effects of drought on this island, and it heavily features the wetland habitats that are crucial to migratory birds,” explains Jenn Yerkes, President of Les Fruits de Mer. “These ecosystems are already vulnerable, and they’re a precious part of St. Martin’s natural heritage. They’re why this island is so important for so many migratory birds. Every year, these species journey across the globe to St. Martin because we have something that many other islands don’t–the wetland habitats where these birds can find the foods they need as well as the right spots to nest, rest, and mate.”

Selected photography from the eBook will be on display at the Shadow of a Drought Exhibition at the October 17th Migratory Bird Festival. The free, public Festival will also feature guided birdwatching tours, migratory bird presentations, a “Portable Pond” Observation Station for aquatic invertebrates, art activities, a free giveaway of heritage Gaïac seedlings, and a special Heritage Salt Walk led by archeologist Jay Haviser at 9:30am. The 2015 Migratory Bird Festival is presented by Les Fruits de Mer and University of St. Martin, and is made possible by the hard work of many volunteers and the generosity of event sponsors Hotel L’Esplanade, Calmos Cafe, Delta Petroleum and Aqua Mania Adventures.

For more information about the event, or to download the free Shadow of a Drought eBook, visit http://www.lesfruitsdemer.com or find Les Fruits de Mer on Facebook.

MBF 2015 Partner Spotlight: University of St. Martin

We are very excited to have the Migratory Bird Festival at University of St. Martin for the second year in a row. It’s a fantastic place to celebrate our migratory birds, located right on the Great Salt Pond. We are grateful to the staff of the University for their help in putting on this event and look forward to seeing you there! Interested in learning more about USM? Check the out on Facebook.

USM-Logo

University of St. Martin
The University of St. Martin is committed to offering quality career and academic education that will provide students with a solid foundation to enter the field of their chosen career or to pursue further academic studies. The University of St. Martin was founded on the principle that education can improve the quality of life for people on St. Martin and in the region, and continues to be steadfast in its commitment to the community. For over two decades, USM has been offering students the opportunity to discover their potential and helping them realize their academic and professional goals.
http://usmonline.net

International Migratory Bird Festival Focuses on Habitat Restoration in St. Martin

The third annual Migratory Bird Festival will be held on Saturday, October 17th from 9am to 1pm at University of St. Martin in Philipsburg.
The third annual Migratory Bird Festival will be held on Saturday, October 17th from 9am to 1pm at University of St. Martin in Philipsburg.
In a region that seems blessed with eternal summer, one of the most noticeable signs of autumn is the arrival of countless migratory birds. Leaving their summer breeding grounds in North America, they transform Caribbean wetlands and forests with their colors and songs. Events celebrating these birds and their miraculous migrations are also arriving this month with International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD).

IMBD is coordinated across the Western Hemisphere by Environment for the Americas (EFTA), and events are held in over 700 locations from Canada to Argentina. BirdsCaribbean is the regional coordinator for events throughout the Caribbean, which begin in October.

Two Caribbean IMDB events have been announced for St. Martin. The third annual Migratory Bird Festival will be held on Saturday, October 17th from 9am to 1pm at the University of St. Martin in Philipsburg. Organized by the non-profit association Les Fruits de Mer, the event will include guided bird walks on the Great Salt Pond, a Portable Pond Discovery Station where visitors can see the tiny animals that many of these birds eat, presentations about migratory birds, art activities for children and more. The event is free and kid-friendly.

International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated throughout the Caribbean starting in the month of October.
International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated throughout the Caribbean starting in the month of October.
Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) will be hosting a guided bird walk at Little Bay Pond on Sunday, October 4th. Learn more and sign up on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/epicislands.

The theme of IMBD this year is “Restore Habitat, Restore Birds.” This theme is particularly relevant in the Caribbean, where natural habitats share limited island real estate with dense human populations and intensive development. The migratory pathways and overwintering grounds of the Caribbean are an indispensable part of the life cycle of about 350 bird species, from egrets and ducks to hawks and songbirds.

“We use birds as an inspiration to restore forests and wetlands,” explains BirdsCaribbean President Leo Douglas. “The underlying truth is that supporting habitat restoration is always a wise focus. Healthy local habitats are essential for human health, our agricultural base and the natural beauty that drives tourism.” Douglas further notes that the mangroves that protect us from storm surges and form critical fish nurseries are simultaneously important habitat for birds. Similarly, island forests, which shelter a rich diversity of bird life, are critical for preventing erosion and devastating land-slippages and mud slides.

St. Martin’s Migratory Bird Festival will highlight habitat restoration with a giveaway of Lignum Vitae seedlings, also known as Gaïac. Les Fruits de Mer’s heritage tree project—Club Gaïac—aims to restore this endangered native tree to both minds and gardens. The Festival team will share an interactive map of Lignum Vitae trees on St. Martin, tips on how to cultivate seedlings and information about the history and ecology of this tree. Hundreds of seedlings have been distributed since the Club Gaïac project began earlier this year.

The free ebook Heritage Plants is a guide for backyard beautification and habitat restoration using native Caribbean plants and trees.
The free ebook Heritage Plants is a guide for backyard beautification and habitat restoration using native Caribbean plants and trees.
As part of this year’s festivities, BirdsCaribbean has produced a free ebook about native trees: Heritage Plants. This illustrated book explains the importance of native trees to birds and other animals, includes a guide featuring dozens of native trees of particular value, and serves as a resource to foster habitat restoration within local communities.

“Planting a native tree is a fantastic way to beautify your backyard or neighborhood,” notes BirdsCaribbean’s Executive Director Lisa Sorenson. “Along with birds, native trees are some of the most iconic features of the Caribbean landscape, and their roots are deeply intertwined with both the wildlife and the cultures of the region.”

The ebook Heritage Plants is available for free download on the Resources page of birdscaribbean.org. For additional IMBD resources, visit www.migratorybirdday.org. For more information about the Migratory Bird Festival and Club Gaïac, visit www.lesfruitsdemer.com. The 2015 Migratory Bird Festival is hosted by Les Fruits de Mer and University of St. Martin, and funded by sponsorships from Hotel L’Esplanade, Calmos Cafe, Delta Petroleum and Aqua Mania Adventures.

MBF 2015 Sponsor Spotlight: Aqua Mania Adventures

Aqua Mania Adventures is another repeat sponsor for Les Fruits de Mer, and we are grateful for their continued support in sharing wildlife education on St. Martin.

They also have lots of great ideas for getting the most out of the island experience: “Take an adventurous day trip to Saba for hiking or diving, or a lavish day in exquisite St. Barts for shopping, French cuisine and beach time; our high speed ferry Edge is the way to go. Hop on our beautiful catamarans Tango and Lambada for day sails to Anguilla and Prickly Pear with crystal clear waters and powdery white beaches as far as the eye can see. Sail into the sunset on our evening cruises, along St Maarten’s golden coastline, with cocktails in hand and a chance to spy the green flash. To explore St. Maarten’s underwater beauty, choose Sand Dollar for half day snorkel trips to Creole Rock or enjoy Scuba Diving with our friendly dive instructors at Dive Adventures.”

Aqua Mania Adventures
Aqua Mania Adventures is a one-stop vacation shop that offers departures to Saba, St. Barths, Anguilla and Prickly Pear, as well as sunset cruises around St. Maarten. Lovers of marine life can book half-day snorkel trips to Creole Rock or scuba diving with Dive Adventures. Strategically located at the Simpson Bay Resort marina, the “Leisure Technicians” at Aqua Mania Adventures will help you plan an unforgettable vacation.
https://www.stmaarten-activities.comAqua Mania Adventures on Facebook

AquaManiaWeb

Heritage Plants Ebook: Free Download!

As part of this year’s International Migratory Bird Day festivities, BirdsCaribbean has released a free ebook—Heritage Plants—with information about some fantastic, bird-friendly native plants and trees that you can add to your backyard or neighborhood. It is available for free download now from the BirdsCaribbean website. The theme of this year’s IMBD, including St. Martin’s Migratory Bird Festival is Restore Habitats, Restore Birds. We will be sharing information about habitat restoration and giving away Lignum Vitae/Gaïac seedlings at the event, so be sure to put it on your calendar and invite your friends!

Heritage-Plants-Ebook-small

MBF 2015 Sponsor Spotlight: Hotel L’Esplanade

Hotel L’Esplanade are more than just sponsors of the Migratory Bird Festival, owners Kristin & Marc Petrelluzzi have been members of the association from the beginning and have helped us out as volunteers at almost every event we’ve ever done. And not just the easy stuff—they led a beach clean-up in Cul-de-Sac at the very first Migratory Bird Festival. Les Fruits de Mer wouldn’t be where we are today without them.

Hotel L’Esplanade
This hotel has established a cult following from guests that enjoy an authentic, luxurious, unpretentious and un-touristy Caribbean experience with a homey feel. Acknowledged by TripAdvisor as one of the Caribbean’s “Best Hidden Gems”, and more recently named #19 of the top 25 hotels in all of the Caribbean. Hotel L’Esplanade has been a benefactor member since 2013 and has sponsored many Les Fruits de Mer events.
http://www.lesplanade.comHotel L’Esplanade on Facebook

Esplanade-Logo-horizontal