The second largest employer in San Salvador, the Gerace Research Centre (GRC), is more than a thriving facility where new knowledge is produced by students and faculty from colleges and universities around the world. It has become a mainstay of social and economic vigor on the island, with its impact clearly extending beyond the boundaries of the former Bahamian Field Station.
Members of the College Council visited the Gerace Research Centre on September 12 to hold their monthly meeting.
It also provided the opportunity for Council members to have direct contact with one of The College’s centres for research in the areas of Archaeology, Biology, Geology, and Marine Science and see its far-reaching influence.
College Council Chairman Alfred Sears recognised the centre’s legacy of research and collaborations with international universities. However, he envisions more synergy with The College’s constituents in the future, especially as the institution is preparing to become a university.
“Going forward we ought to integrate the facility into the mainstream of COB. That is, it can offer COB the opportunity to have more clinical learning experiences in science classes and other classes. It can also provide more collaboration with COB’s faculty and the faculty of the participating universities. In fact, both at the faculty and student level there can be shared research,” he said.
The Gerace Research Centre, formerly the Bahamian Field Station, is located on the shore of Graham’s Harbour on the north coast of San Salvador. The centre, which comprises 15 buildings on an 8-acre parcel of land, has been in operation since 1971 and offers facilities for students, professors, and researchers from around the world to study in a tropical environment.
Dave Trydahl, Physical Plant Manager at Gerace, led the Council and senior College of The Bahamas administrators on a tour of the facility. He was eager to show not only the field-station’s physical plant but also its newest boarders – four iguanas being rescued from the brink of extinction under a special collaborative initiative involving Loma Linda University, CIBC and other partners.
“This project was started by Dr. Bill Hayes from Loma Linda University who was the driving force behind getting this project going. What Gerace has really done to support the programme is the labour. We’ve built the pens and we feed them daily and see to any health issues they might have. We will be collecting the young ones when they hatch and we’ll move them into small wire cages until they’re yearlings,” Mr. Trydahl explained.
The San Salvador Rock Iguana is listed as critically endangered and the programme at Gerace is designed to help stabilise the iguana population and stimulate its growth. This is just one way that the centre is integrated into the island’s sustainability and the wider community.
“We provide drinking water to the community. We host the ‘potcake’ clinics where ‘potcakes’ are spayed and neutered. People come in and need welding and they stop so we can put air in their tyres because there is no other place on the island to do that,” Mr. Trydahl added.
Gerace is also a hurricane shelter and through the faculty and student research groups that are regularly hosted at the field station it – and by extension The College of The Bahamas – provides a steady injection of tourism dollars into the economy of San Salvador. Mr. Sears wants the community to be even better served by the centre – through the steady generation of research available to the local residents.
He added, “The centre is an important component as we transition (to university) through consultation, because it is a mechanism to accelerate the process of advancing the research agenda of COB. COB has established an excellent tradition in teaching and we wish for an equal emphasis to be placed on research; research which is geared towards examining all aspects of Bahamian life and informing our understanding of this environment and our own history.”
While on San Salvador, the Council also met with Donald Gerace and his wife who shared additional details about the centre’s history, research operations and available scholarships. Chief Councillor Mr. Clifford Fernander also took the group on a tour of San Salvador.
The College Council is visiting all of The College’s campuses and centres around the country to insect their operations and connect with the surrounding communities. Council members have already held meetings in Grand Bahama, location of the Northern Bahamas Campus (NBC), and Andros, where the Bahamas Environmental Research Centre (BERC) is located.