Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Art Opening at 7-7 Gallery

Sophie prepares for her first 'official' art opening at the Seven Minus Seven Gallery on Friday April 29th at 7 pm.

Her Biosketch for the show: Sophia Barimo is a resident of St. Thomas whose interests in the natural sciences is often expressed through her art.
Sophia has enjoyed extensive travel across North and Central America as a facet of her homeschooling experiences. During these travels, she has observed a wide variety of bird species which are captured in her current series. Sophia is an 11-year-old native of Miami, FL and often contemplates a profession in ornithology.

VI Sea Turtles

Sophie Barimo

Sea Turtles are fascinating reptiles. They glide through the water so gracefully and have a super ability of being able to stay underwater long lengths time. Just imagine what it would be like if were a you are a mature six foot long, 1300 lb. Leatherback Turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) cruising through the blue oceans. You are the largest living species of sea turtle. You see some jelly fish and open your large delicate, scissor like jaws designed for eating these soft bodied cnidarians. As you swallow the jelly fish, the papillae (spines pointed backward in your throat) help to force the soft slippery food down.

You are a world traveler and can be found throughout the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, from Labrador and Alaska to the Cape of Good Hope. Your species is found further north than any other reptile, and you can handle the cold because you are a gigantotherme. What does that mean? It means big heat, it means you are so large you can keep a warm core temperature and still be cold blooded.

You migrate long distances as much as 3,000 miles from your nesting beaches. You then will have to travel back to your nesting beach by using your excellent homing mechanisms. This homing device is made from a bit of crystal magnetite in your brain. It makes you sensitive to the earths magnetic poles and gives you a kind of turtle GPS. You have to get back because success in reproducing is very important, there are only estimated to be only around 50,000 female leatherbacks worldwide.

I thought it would be fun to talk to someone who studies sea turtles professionally. Luckily I found Dr. Paul Jobsis at the University of the Virgin Islands. Dr. Paul Jobsis is a professor of biology at UVI and is tracking the movement and population size of sea turtles in Brewers Bay on St. Thomas. Dr Jobsis did give us some good news about Leatherbacks. He said through extreme beach protection measures on Sandy Point in St.Croix, they went from 9 nesting sea turtles in 1981 to 300 in 2010. We used to have a nesting beach on St Thomas for Loggerheads, Caret Bay. It is named for Caretta caretta the scientific name for Loggerhead, not Dutch for carrot.

There are four other types of sea turtles that visit the Virgin islands. Green (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and an occasional Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) or Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea). Dr Jobsis surveyed Brewers Bay in 2007 and estimates there were between 40-60 Greens and 10-15 Hawksbills. He said turtles are hard to count and identify. I guess they just won’t do roll call and you have to swim to get close and look at their details to identify them. He said the best way to ID them is by where they hang out. Hawksbills eat sponges, so they are likely to be on the reef, and Greens eat sea grass and algae so they are likely to be in the sea grass beds.

Now imagine you are a Green Turtle living in Brewers Bay, St. Thomas.
You would cruise the sea grass beds eating sea grass and algae with finely serrated jaws (yum). You could grow up to be 40 inches long and weigh around 300-350 pounds. You could rest underwater for up five hours by slowing your heart rate down to conserve oxygen and nine minutes may elapse between heartbeats. You would only come on land if you were a female and can nest through out the year but mostly in the summer.

Now if you were a Hawksbill Sea Turtle you would be swimming the reefs looking for sponges, tunicates, shrimps, and squids. You would have a narrow head with jaws meeting at an acute angle, which would help you get at food in the crevices on the reef. Your jaws are tough, made for grinding and crushing. You are a smaller than the Green Turtles and only reach lengths of 31-36 inches and 100-200 lbs. You must not like being counted because there is little data on your populations.

I hope you enjoyed learning about sea turtles by imagining to be one. If you want to help turtle populations to grow here are a few things you can do.
- Remember to help your parents bring their own re-usable bag to the grocery store. Turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, and can choke to death.
- Turtles lay their eggs on the beach in the sand, so don’t drive on the beach it could pack down the sand and the babies can’t dig out, also be careful where you have fires you could cook the eggs.
- Encourage people not to point lights at the beach, turtles go towards the lights and could go the wrong way.
- Best of all support turtle conservation efforts in your community.
Sources-Sea Turtles- A Sea World Publication 2005

4H Homeschooling Newsletter Spring 2011

With Thanks to the Parrotfish

By Sophie Barimo

Have you ever wondered where all those nice tropical and sub-tropical beaches we love to play on come from? Other than rock erosion from storms and some sea plants like Halimeda algae, a good majority comes from Parrotfish . What did you just say? Parrotfish make sand?!

Yes, these beautiful fish use their parrot-like beaks to chomp and graze upon red algae, coral polyps and old coral skeletons called limestone. In this limestone, although we can’t see it, is a protein-rich algae living in the pores. They chew this algae up and ingest it to extract the nutrients, and this they poop out as our beautiful white sand.

Did you know that the parrotfish play an important role in the health of the coral reefs?
When they eat away the algae, they leave a place for crustos coroline algae to settle. Coral in turn needs this hard red alga to settle. In other words, the parrotfish create new real estate for coral to live and grow on.

St Thomas Hummingbirds

By Sophie Barimo

We all know hummingbirds as thrumming, humming, nectar-sucking birds.
Have you ever wondered about the different kinds of species here on St Thomas? With these descriptions, you can look out for these hummers and know who’s who.

The Antillean Crested Hummingbird
The Antillean Crested hummer is the most common hummingbird on the island.
They are also the smallest-sized hummers at around 3.25-3.75 inches long.
The male has an iridescent green, flat crest of feathers that starts at the base of its bill, goes up between the eyes and sticks out the back of his head. His back is iridescent green but the rest of him is a dark brownish grey.
The females have no crest, but still have the iridescent green backside and have a beige- grey underside. The females have distinct white patches at the ends of their tail feathers.

Green Throated Carib Hummingbird
This flashy hummer is a bit larger than the Antillean hummer at 4.5-4.75 inches long.
Males and females look a lot alike. They have beautiful iridescent green throats with a little fringe of tindal blue feathers like a necklace just at the bottom of their throats.
The rest of their chest is black, ending at a beautiful indigo and green tail.
Their bills are long and slightly curved, and their heads and back are iridescent green.

The Antillean Mango Hummingbird
The Antillean Mango hummer is the largest of the three hummingbirds, at 4.5-5 inches long.
They resemble the Carib with their green heads and throats, the difference being that they do not have the fringe of blue feathers and their black chest gives way to a beautiful iridescent violet under tail.
The female has a green back and head, and her front is whitish. She also has white patches on the underside of her tail tips.
The juveniles go through a distinct phase during which they have a black stripe down their whitish heads and chest .

These island Hummingbirds are very territorial. They will chase away intruders twice their size to defend their floral dominions. I recently observed an Antillean hummer buzz bomb a Bannaquit while defending it’s flowering Noni tree. The Bananaquit quickly left the hummers territory.

I hope these descriptions help you identify these beautiful jewel colored birds, and that you enjoy watching them as much as I do.

News of the Absurd

By Sophie Barimo

News Flash
Scientist’s are debating whether the 50 lb hermit crab sited near the WAPA (West Antilles Power Association) plant, is a new species, a sub species, or just a scary mutation. The hermit crab was described as wearing an upside-down barnacle encrusted marine toilet. It was last seen eating from a overturned garbage can at around 2:30 this Friday near the school lunch program building.

Oddly, yesterday, in the vicinity of WAPA ,in Crum Bay. A zodiac dinghy owned by a Mr. Bart Sidebottom was reported shredded and his toy poodle was missing. Police are investigating and have issued a warning to the boat community and WAPA employees. There has also been a traffic advisory issued because of the tourist safaris stopping to look.

Crum Bay fisherman and life time island resident, Liston Gumb, while net fishing for sprat this afternoon said, he heard a tremendous snapping and loud rustling in the tam tams. He said he spotted the creature and commented dryly, “Dat be a mighty big soldier crab.”

One WAPA employee who asked to remain anonymous, gave a frightful account of his run in with the beast. “Last night I was out inspecting some severed power cords for suspected vandalism, when I saw some sparking. I pointed my flashlight , and there was the beast. It had glowing googley eyes and was chewing on a power cord. Before I ran I noticed it was wearing a toilet and was being ridden by a toy poodle.

Police are patrolling the area. If you see this creature, don’t approach it, call 911.