Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 26th 2016 Contents SHEREEN ALI
Pygmy owls, sharp-eyed hawks, an explo-
sion of bats, gentle manatees, raccoons, mys-
terious mushrooms, fishes and frogs are just
a small fraction of the biodiverse life in T&T,
which is home to some 3,330 different plant
species, 100 mammal species, and 474 bird
Many people who live here may often take
our rich variety of plant and animal life for
granted, but some northern visitors can easily
tell you how hard it is to find just a few species
of unique animals or plants where they live,
let alone the abundance of life here---all in
such a small land area.
Celebrating Trinidad s biodiversity this year
is one of the country s oldest clubs---the T&T
Field Naturalist s Club (TTFNC), a volunteer,
non-profit group founded in July 1891 to help
people interested in our natural environment
to learn, develop their passion for nature and
meet other like-minded people.
"That is perhaps our most important
achievement---to serve as an incubator and
help to support these activities," said the club
to the T&T Guardian in an email interview,
noting that many of the country s environ-
mental educators, activists and organisations
have links to the club.
Today the club has about 300 financial
members and many others who are naturalists
at heart. The club now has an active YouTube
channel, a revamped website and a Facebook
page, as well as a popular newspaper column
on T&T s natural history. The club is also digi-
tising its archives to make all of the club s sci-
entific material accessible online to all and
searchable via Google Scholar---which is the
main route researchers use to access well-
regarded scientific knowledge.
To mark its 125th birthday this year, the
club launched an exhibition on May 20 at the
National Museum, which includes film clips
of club activities, fascinating natural history
exhibits including a turtle skull and a pickled
white bat, and an interesting infographic time-
line of the club s milestones along one wall.
Club member and Niherst science icon Dr
Elisha Tikasingh, who is a biologist and award-
winning parasitologist---known for his research
in yellow fever and his pioneering technique
for identifying arboviruses (insect-borne dis-
eases) in mic---spoke at the launch about his
A keen birdwatcher with a love of photog-
raphy, Tikasingh edited the club s Living World
Journal and has been a club member for 49
"I went on many field trips with the
club...One stood out. It was a trip to Fishing
Pond. It was the early days of turtle watching.
We knew nothing about the Leatherback turtles
nesting on our beaches. We only knew that
they were being slaughtered at Matura when
they came to nest. The Club decided to take
this up as a project and Dr Peter Bacon took
charge of the turtle project," said Dr Tikasingh.
"The purpose was to collect information
on the breeding season and nesting behaviour
of these turtles. We had already patrolled the
Matura Beach, but we did not know how far
south they nested along that beach. This par-
ticular time the club, led by its president, Mr
Laforest, decided to get to the beach via Fishing
Pond and the rice fields in the area. That day
there was heavy rainfall and the tide was high
so there was a lot of ground water. I had some
misgivings of going through that water, but
Mr Laforest decided to go anyway. We followed
him and as we entered the rice fields the water
reached our ankles, then our knees and then
almost to our waists. I swore I was going to
drown that night."
They all survived, and went on to collect
useful data on the turtles for several years,
data that helped the club make recommen-
dations to government which it accepted.
Most trips of the different interest groups
in the club today are not at all this dangerous.
Whether it s treks with the reptile and marine
group, the bird group, the insect aficionados,
the plant buffs or the art group, club field
trips are often relaxing, fun, and gentle intro-
ductions to our natural world.
Some of the club s earliest members in
1891---such as Henry Caracciolo, W Broadway,
R Mole, F Urich, P Guppy, and T Potter---
made important contributions to natural his-
tory. Caracciolo, the club s first president, dis-
covered a new bat, the Great Stripe-faced Bat
(vampyrodes caraccioli), named after him;
Broadway discovered hitherto unknown tropical
plants; and Mole discovered that only four of
Trinidad s snakes were poisonous.
Meanwhile, TTFNC founding member
Plantegenet "Planty" Guppy s father, Robert
John Lechmere Guppy, lent his name to the
popular small fish. Planty s father was an avid
naturalist, and in 1866 he sent samples of little
fish from the St Ann s River to the British
Museum in London where the species was
initially named after him---Girardinus guppii.
The name was later changed to Poecilia retic-
ulata, but the "guppy" part stuck.
More recently, club member Dr Elisha Tikas-
ingh discovered a nematode worm (Spironoura
tikasinghi) in the guts of a Gayap turtle in the
1970s. And in 2014, club member Mike Ruther-
ford, who runs the UWI Zoology Museum,
discovered the Odd-legged Millipede
(Pandirodesmus rutherfordi) in Tobago.
• Continues on Page B3
• Twitter: @GuardianTT • Web: guardian.co.tt
Microsoft has u-turned over
changes it made to a pop-up encour-
aging users to upgrade to Windows
10.Users were angry that clicking the
cross to dismiss the box meant that
they had agreed to the upgrade.
Based on "customer feedback",
Microsoft said it would add another
notification that provided customers
with "an additional opportunity for
cancelling the upgrade."
The pop-up design had been de-
scribed as a "nasty trick."
Microsoft told the BBC it had
modified the pop-up as a result of
criticism: "We ve added another no-
tification that confirms the time of
the scheduled upgrade and provides
the customer an additional opportu-
nity for cancelling or rescheduling
"If the customer wishes to con-
tinue with their upgrade at the desig-
nated time, they can click OK or
close the notifications with no fur-
ther action needed." (BBC)
Microsoft U-turn on 'nasty trick' pop-up
...Naturalists celebrate 125 years of learning
T&T Field Naturalist
Club members enjoy
a nature excursion.
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