April 2011

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Weeks of planning and preparation by lecturer Mrs. Charmaine O’Brien-Delpesh of the Centre for Coastal Engineering and Management at The UWI resulted in a very educational and fulfilling expedition to the island of Grenada from March 22-26, 2011.

It was an eager bunch of 20 Coastal Zone Metrics students, comprising 19 Trinidadians and one Barbadian, who landed in Grenada on Tuesday afternoon, along with the academic staff of Professor Andrew Chadwick, Mrs. O’Brien-Delpesh, and research assistant Ms. Nadia Mathura. The drive to the accommodation was short, however it was evident that we were tourists as we looked at the surroundings, took photos and asked our drivers and conductors numerous questions. For many of us it was our first time in Grenada, and it was the beginning of an unforgettable experience.

The class of 20 was organised into four groups, with each group having students of various backgrounds such as engineering, surveying, geology and environmental and physical sciences. This allowed the groups to be better equipped at handling the various tasks required for the course, as well as it helped the students to develop mutual respect for each other’s skill set and foster teamwork.

After getting settled in our accommodations, the entire team met for dinner and a briefing, which was followed by the respective groups beginning preparatory work for the busy times ahead. Inter-group consultation and constructive conversation was also part of the preparation that helped to determine the agenda for the upcoming days.

A long but productive Wednesday followed. It began with a ten-minute drive to the capital St. George’s, which took us past hotels, businesses and houses as well as other office buildings and the harbour, until we arrived at the Ministry of Finance. Officials from the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of the Environment, and the Coastal Zone Unit housed our expedition team in a conference room, and made presentations on the various sites for investigation and facilitated our bombardment of questions.

That afternoon we took a long, scenic drive along the east coast of Grenada to take in some of the sites of interest. Apart from making observations and collecting data from the study sites, the expedition team was shown various attractions and historical sites, as well as the one and only nutmeg tree that we actually saw along the route. Listening to Trini soca music, eating Grenadian roast corn and chatting on the long drive helped to pass the time before we all got back “home” to continue work.

A focused approach on a particular aspect of coastal zone metrics was beach profiling, and a field exercise was conducted on the beautiful Grand Anse beach in Grenada on Thursday. This exercise was done in the blistering sun, but it was a good team building exercise as the staff and students interacted and worked together to get the job done. Some of us were fortunate to enjoy a bit of relaxation on the beach after the exercise, but this was short-lived because there was always more work to be done. The thoughts of the presentation that the groups had to make to the Government officials the following afternoon loomed. Meetings with staff and students assisted in preparing us for the task at hand.

The Friday involved visits to more Government departments, where additional information concerning the study sites and various policies in Grenada was given to us. The afternoon session involved the final presentations which were done by the various groups, and these were very informative and were much appreciated according to the Government officials.

This marked the end of a period of very hard work and it was now time to enjoy the remainder of the trip! To celebrate our diligence, the entire team of staff and students went out together to have dinner, which was followed by the group of Trinis and the Bajan going out to sample the Friday nightlife in Grenada.

The last day of the trip was our free day, so some people went into St. George’s to do some sightseeing and shopping and others went to Grand Anse beach and on a boat tour to see the famous underwater sculpture park.

Coastal issues affect all the islands of the Caribbean and the expedition was a mutually beneficial endeavour for both the students of the coastal zone metrics class, as well as for the Government of Grenada.

The group was involved in a preliminary assessment of beach loss which was occurring in three Bays along the East coast of Grenada - these three bays being, Petit Bacaye, Telescope Bay and Bathway. Problems caused by sand mining and beach erosion were also part of the focus.

It was such that it allows for further interaction and collaboration between The UWI and the Government of Grenada on a variety of issues. Also, because of the close interactions amongst the staff as well as the students that were present for the expedition, bonds were formed, and the entire team is now like a small family. All in all, it was successful trip with good food, great colleagues, and with experiences that will be indelibly etched in our memories.

-Donnell Nurse is a second year Postgraduate student pursuing his MSc. in Geoinformatics, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, UWI