An historic cross-border collaboration is underway on Hispaniola. Focused on birds, which know no political boundaries, VCE is mediating an effort to build ornithological capacity in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic (DR). Thanks to a grant from the Bicknell’s Thrush Habitat Protection Fund to VCE’s Haitian partner NGO Fondation Seguin, conservationist Françoise Benjamin recently began an “immersion” training in the DR. Her first stop: the Museo Natural de Historia Natural de Santo Domingo, where she is teaming with VCE’s longtime Dominican associate Hodali Almonte, the museum’s ornithological curator. Here Françoise is learning all manner of curatorial techniques, from preparing specimens to conducting collection-based research.
Fondation Seguin’s project, “Building Capacity for the Conservation of Bicknell’s Thrush on Hispaniola”, takes a long (and ambitious) view on preserving the species’ vulnerable Hispaniolan forest habitats. Ultimately, lasting conservation rests in the hands of local practitioners − people like Françoise and Hodali − who must have the proper skills and resources to do the work, and who must collaborate across the island. This binational project will not only build Françoise’s technical and project management skillset, but it will forge a vital network between the Haitian and Dominican bird conservation community.
Following her museum stint, which includes public outreach activities, Françoise will learn the indispensable art of grant proposal writing with VCE partner Grupo Jaragua. Then it’s on to the Cordillera Septentrional, where Françoise will help Hodali conduct field surveys for Bicknell’s Thrush and other species at La Salcedoa Scientific Reserve. The training venue then shifts to Haiti, where Françoise and Hodali will assist Jim Goetz with ongoing avian and habitat monitoring in Parc National La Visite.
VCE is pleased to have a role in this unfolding collaboration, and we thank our Caribbean Bird Conservation Coordinator, staff biologist Juan Carlos Martinez-Sanchez, for his role in catalyzing it. There is no more important work to be done for conservation on Hispaniola.
Read more (in Spanish) on the Museo’s web site.