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October 2015 e-Newsletter
In This Issue: Seacology Prize AwardedMomentum In Sri LankaIguanas Weather JoaquinTravel: NicaraguaTravel: ArgentinaNew Field RepresentativeBecome An Island Steward

Seacology Prize Awarded

In her acceptance speech last Thursday, Seacology Prize winner Lakshmi Moorthy compared her own path to that of fellow Rameshwaram Island native Abdul Kalam, India's former president.

"From such humble beginnings he managed to travel the world," Lakshmi explained, addressing a packed auditorium of Seacology supporters, staff, and Board members. "He showed us that the sky was the limit for anyone who would dream."

Lakshimi's story is a similarly inspiring one. Born into a poor village and with no formal education, Lakshimi learned early in life to make ends meet as a seaweed collector, a traditional vocation for women on Rameshwaram. As that resource dwindled and the national government banned harvesting it, Lakshimi was thrust into a position of leadership. She organized hundreds of women into a federation and struck a compromise with the government. Under the agreement she spearheaded, the women restricted the harvest to twelve days a month, which allowed the seaweed to replenish itself, and ensured stability in both the natural resource and the women's income.

With their newfound political influence, the women's organization has achieved other victories for their community, including the founding of the village's first primary school. Lakshimi hopes it will set a precedent and afford future generations a chance she didn't have growing up.

"I feel that we should have good schools in our coastal villages so that children from fisher families get more opportunities and not need to concentrate on fishing — they can have alternative employment and we can reduce the pressure on the sea to provide our living," she said.

Lakshmi told us that as the rise of the seaweed harvesters' union was a collective victory, the money awarded with the Seacology Prize belongs to that community. She says she will defer to her colleagues on how it should be used. After spending much of last week with this inspiring conservation and community leader, we at Seacology are confident she will continue to do great things with it.

If you missed the gathering, you can watch our video profile of Lakshmi here and her moving acceptance speech, translated by Field Representative Vineeta Hoon, here. On our Facebook page, you can find many photos from the prize ceremony and Lakshmi's visit to California. Thank you so much to Ken Murdock for underwriting the prize, and everyone else who made this special evening possible!

Exceptional Donation Builds Momentum in Sri Lanka

Seacology’s first-ever nationwide conservation project, which will protect all the mangroves in the island nation of Sri Lanka, received an enormous boost this month: a $1 million gift from a long-time Seacology donor who wishes to remain anonymous.

Other Seacology supporters, led by committed board members and Seacology Fellows, have already contributed $1.5 million toward the project, which has a five-year budget of $3.4 million. That means this latest donation brings us within $900,000 of the project's fundraising goal.

As large as it is, the $1 million earmarked for Sri Lanka’s nationwide mangrove project is only part of the new gift from this very generous supporter. Over the next few years, Seacology will receive an additional $2.5 million. This will allow us to fund an endowment, which will help ensure that we will be well-equipped to protect threatened island ecosystems and cultures long into the future.
With the Seacology mangrove project, Sri Lanka has become the first nation in the world to protect all of its mangroves. Just five months after launch, progress is already impressive. All three planned mangrove nurseries, where seedlings are being raised to reforest the nation's coastline, are up and running. Construction of the facility in Chilaw, which will serve as both a museum on the importance of mangrove habitats and an education center for those working to restore them, is underway. And the job training and microloans we're providing through our partners at Sudeesa have begun in earnest. You can read some of the media coverage of the project here.

We are confident that this first-of-its-kind plan to replant and protect Sri Lanka’s critically important mangrove forests—while helping village women earn a sustainable livelihood—will not only succeed locally but cause ripples around the globe. It's already being looked at as a model in other nations with degraded mangroves. With your continuing support, we can ensure that mangroves will flourish in Sri Lanka and beyond.

Iguanas Weather Joaquin

The Bahamas were particularly hard-hit by Hurricane Joaquin, which this month tore across the eastern Caribbean, knocking out electrical grids, causing widespread flooding, and leading to the tragic loss of the crew of the SS El Faro.

As those affected by the devastating storm take stock of the damage and begin to rebuild, we're glad to report at least one piece of good news in the hurricane's aftermath. Our iguana headstarting facility on the Bahamas' San Salvador Island remained intact and all of its reptilian residents are accounted for and unharmed. We funded this project to allow the endemic San Salvador Rock Iguanas to grow to adult size before release into the wild, helping them survive the threats presented by introduced predators and storms. Joaquin was a particularly trying test case of the latter, and the facility's resilience is a testament to the expertise of our partners at the Gerace Research Centre, who you can follow on Facebook for updates on the recovery effort.

We've yet to hear a report on the storm's impact on the critically endangered lizards' population in the wild, but we're proud that at least those protected by our investment in the headstarting facility are alive and well.

Seacology Travel: Nicaragua

January 8-16, 2016
Seacology has just announced our first-ever expedition to Nicaragua! We will visit a Seacology project on one of the largest and most beautiful freshwater lake islands in the world, Isla Ometepe. We will also visit a turtle reserve on the Pacific coast and stay in some of the finest eco-resorts in Nicaragua, which is becoming a popular tourist destination. Read more details about the trip and learn how to book your spot here. At this time, we have two rooms remaining.

Seacology Travel: Argentina

February 14-25, 2016
Join us for Seacology's first trip to Argentina! We will traverse the country, from Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian border to the southern tip at Tierra del Fuego, where guests will visit a Seacology project site that helps protect migratory bird habitat. There is only one room remaining, so reserve it while you can! More details and a complete trip itinerary can be found in our brochure.
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New Field Representative For Vanuatu

Albert Williams has been an advocate for good environmental management for many years, while working in Vanuatu’s private sector, as a public official, and with nonprofit organizations. He has held several government posts, including Acting Director General of the Ministry of Climate Change and Director of the Department of Environmental Protection and Conservation. Albert has worked on biodiversity rapid assessments to identify significant biological resources, and has helped formulate environmental legislation and regulations. He holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental health from the University of the South Pacific in Fiji, and postgraduate diplomas in applied epidemiology and health research. He has a special interest in agribusiness and animal husbandry.

Become an Island Steward

Seacology invites you to join Island Stewards, our new monthly donor program. For as little as $10 a month, your ongoing contributions can help sustain our important conservation work year-round. Island Stewards will also receive special recognition in future annual reports and a locally made gift from one of our project sites for each year of membership. To learn more and to sign up, visit seacology.org/islandstewards.
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