Day 7 - Last Day of Meetings Blog Entry


Today is hopefully my last day of planning meetings so that we can actually focus on work and research.

There is a lot of planning and logistics involved in field expeditions, especially when you are starting from scratch in a place where only a few scientists have been and their research is far and between. Joel and I traced the route that would take us out of Port-au-Prince through Route National #1 and in to Route Haiti 8 east towards the Dominican Republic and then up the eastern pass over Massif de la Selle through Route Departmental 102 which is dirt road fit for the best off-road rally. But first, we must clear our research permits with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of the Environment.

Luckily, we had a chance to meet with the Director of the Division des Parcs et Sols, Mr. Pierre-Louis Oge, and Adjunct Director, Mr. Jean Serge Antoine, during our Summit on the Conservation Strategy of Haitian Frog they both work for the Ministry of Agriculture and were both aware of our field expedition, we now had to clear our permit with the Ministry of the Environment. Mr. Oge’ office manages the Foret des Pines Reserve, which lies east of La Visite National Park. Both areas are part of the highlands of Massif de la Selle, and are the main sites of our field research. Foret des Pines means pine forest and it is the largest forest of Hispaniola pine in Haiti. This tree is endemic to the island and forms a unique monoculture forest in the highest parts of Hispaniola in the Cordillera Central, Sierra de Neiba and Baoruco in the Dominican Republic, as well as in the higher parts of Massif de la Selle and Massif de la Hotte in Haiti. These forests are found nowhere else in the world and the vast majority of its life forms are endemic to each forest.

We finished our meeting smoothly and had time to prepare for Wednesday’s field trip and also for tomorrow’s meeting, which brings us to what will truly be our last one before I can head out in to the forest! This, however, is a different kind of meeting that is needed for a different aspect of our project and that is public awareness and outreach. As part of our collaboration with CEPF, Societé Audubon Haiti and with the Ministry of the Environment, I will collaborate with images and texts, which will be used in a national exhibit this December. The exhibit, called ‘Exposition sur la biodiversité d'Haïti’, will bring the people of Haiti in contact with its little known and rich biodiversity. The exhibit presents a unique opportunity to show Haitians about the fragile ecosystem and what they can do to help protect it.

Mural Tree
A mural of the coat of arms of Haiti painted on the walls of the Ministry of the Environment. The coat reads L’Union Fait La Force, which translate roughly to Simón Bolivar’s phrase ‘there is strength in unity’. Ironic, since Haiti is a country that has been mainly isolated since its violent independence from France. Things however, are changing as seen by the large number of government and non-government agencies that have worked together this week to unite strengths for the conservation of Haiti’s fragile biodiversity. The higüero tree (Crescentia cujete) or calabash in English, is one of the first plants to be cultivated as a tool. The dried gourd has been used by many cultures as a water jug, a soup bowl, a musical instrument and a storage box. The pulp of the fruit is not edible.