Despite Cuba’s importance as a biodiversity hotspot, long-term political complexities with the U.S. and other nations stymied collaborative international research. Now is a critical moment to get involved in scientific research in Cuba to help conserve its unique species.
The mountainous forests of Lomas de Banao Ecological Reserve and the fresh wetlands of Tunas de Zaza Wildlife Refuge are home to species only found in the Caribbean—including the vulnerable Cuban Parakeet and the near threatened Cuban Amazon Parrot. This is a critical moment in history for this island nation, with the potential for significant economic development around the corner. As international relations continue to improve, researchers are now able to recruit citizen scientists to help them take stock of the wildlife that inhabit these beautiful protected lands, information that is crucial to informing management and conservation plans.
Volunteers will work with a team of scientists from Cuba and Argentina to document the many endemic and migratory bird species that inhabit the reserves through sightings and audio recordings, survey the flowers and trees, and monitor amphibian species for the presence of the chytrid fungus (which leads to an infectious disease that has decimated amphibian populations worldwide). The data collected will help to paint a more complete picture of these protected areas and how increased development could impact biodiversity in the future.
Volunteers on this project will also have a special opportunity to participate in a cultural exchange with local community members. Teams will join in on weekly discussions about the importance of protecting nearby forests and rivers and the value of monitoring local bird species and amphibians to track climate and water quality. Through these conversations, researchers also hope to gain a better understanding on their expectations and views regarding how best to connect the communities with the conservation programs in the reserve.
By studying birds, trees, and amphibians—species that are indicators of habitat quality—scientists hope to gain a better understanding of the overall ecosystem during a pivotal moment for Cuba.