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Silia Woodside and Franchesca Palomino receive Alf Thompson Memorial Scholarship

  • Silia Woodside.

  • Franchesca Palomino.

Published: Aug 14, 2017

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Grand Bahamian Silia Woodside and Nassuvian Franchesca Palomino have been selected to receive the 2017 Alf Thompson Memorial Scholarship (ATMS). The duo will spend four weeks at the Bimini Biological Field Station, known as the “Shark Lab”, studying, working and living with other interns, graduate students and shark and marine biology research scientists from around the world.

The internship takes place from August 15 to September 15.

Woodside, 25, recently earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Brunswick, Canada, and is currently pursuing graduate studies. She has been scuba diving since her formative years, and was encouraged to pursue studies in marine biology and ecology.

“I am a Bahamian who is highly motivated to help preserve and protect our oceans. Our beloved conch, lobster and grouper are being overfished, and I believe that we should take steps now to ensure that we have healthy populations of these species for years to come.”

Through her university studies, she said, she learned about the marine environment, conservation methods as well as current issues in the world of marine science.

“Through this internship I expect to gain experience with shark-handling techniques — methods used to study them in the lab and in the field — and also the opportunity to work with grad students living and working in this field.”

Woodside said she would like to return home to apply the knowledge she received to researching more about coral reefs and the species that inhabit them. She hopes to further apply the knowledge to implementing conservation strategies that would help sustain marine life populations as well as improve the health of coral reefs.

Palomino, 20, is entering her senior year at the University of The Bahamas, where she is in the small island sustainability program, majoring in marine science.

“Ever since I was young, I have loved and been fascinated by the ocean and the world it holds. After learning about how interconnected and integrated the environment is to human life, and how much we can be affected by the slightest change in ecological activity, I have been interested in conservation and sustainability due to their major importance.”

Palomino was overjoyed to be given the opportunity, which she said would allow her to continue to learn and grow as an advocate for the environment and marine life.

Palomino hopes to one day work with an environmental agency upon graduation, whether it be BREEF, the Bahamas National Trust, the BEST Commission, Cape Eleuthera Institute or another organization that serves to bring awareness to the Bahamian people about the importance of the environment and protecting it.

“I hope to work here in The Bahamas, because we have such an amazing amount of biodiversity and amazing ecosystems. These play such a vital role to human life, their importance needs to be recognized, appreciated and protected, not just for their own intrinsic value, but for future generations to come,” she said.

The ATMS is open to motivated Bahamians ages 20 to 26. The scholarship covers expenses for travel, food and lodging during the four weeks.

The intern program is made possible by the ATMS offered through Bahamas Marine EcoCentre and the Bimini Biological Field Station Foundation, both non-profit organizations promoting awareness, conservation and respect for the Bahamian environment.

The ATMS was initiated in 2011 to honor the passing of Alf Thompson, a Bahamian trained in engineering and the sciences. The first award enabled a Bahamian student from Barraterre, Exuma to participate in an eight-week summer internship at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. The following year, two Bahamian students from New Providence were awarded the scholarship at the Kennedy Space Center. In 2013, two students interned for eight weeks at the Bimini Biological Field Station. This will be the fifth year that Bahamian students will be given the opportunity to intern at the facility. Initial funding for the award came from donations to Bahamas Marine EcoCentre, formerly The Danguillecourt Project, in memory of Alf Thompson.

The intent of the ATMS program is to provide Bahamians with the opportunity to experience hands-on research at the Bimini Biological Station in marine science. This will include learning about various research techniques in the disciplines of population demographics and dynamics, molecular and behavioral ecology, bioenergetics, sensory biology and physiology. The expectation is that the internship experience will motivate students to further their studies and ultimately pursue careers in those fields.


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