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IDB Partners with UB on Gerace Research Institute Digitization Project

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) is helping to fund a digitization project that aims to centralize data collected over the last 50 years from the rich and diverse ecosystem that surrounds the Gerace Research Institute (GRI) in San Salvador. GRI is part of the University of The Bahamas (UB) system.

Over the last five decades, national and international researchers have uncovered treasure troves of information. However, accessing the research has presented a challenge. Although some of this work has been published in either peer-reviewed journals or conference proceedings, much of it has yet to be properly disseminated. 

As part of an ongoing IDB initiative which commenced in 2016, Support to Climate-Resilient Tourism Development in San Salvador, the IDB is providing $35,000 to support the digitization project which UB is undertaking in five phases. 

“This is going to help propel the research capabilities at Gerace,” said UB President Dr. Rodney D. Smith. 

The GRI has been in operation as a scientific field station since 1971. Thousands of professors, researchers, and students have conducted research there to examine the natural world and the unique environment of the island of San Salvador. During that time, a wealth of information has been recorded in the fields of archaeology, climatology, geology, marine biology, natural history, and other areas. 

“While I was there, I remember being told that there was information that was housed on floppy disks and an assortment of media that had no way of being processed and we knew that we wanted to be a part of this,” noted Mr. Michael Nelson, COO at the IDB, who was pleased that the bank is able to support such an undertaking. 

The IDB Country Strategy for The Bahamas 2018-2022 cites timely data collection and dissemination as a challenge. Successful implementation of the Gerace Research Institute project could serve as a pilot for systematic and regular scientific data collection on climate change and environmental indicators that could be replicated by other organizations in The Bahamas. 

Data for tropical marine environments dating back to the early 1970’s is available in the archives of the GRI. Given the changing climatic systems and ecological disturbances that the world is currently experiencing, having access to pre-disturbance, or baseline data, is vital to measure the intensity of current impacts against their previous historical state. 

Having this data publicly available will provide a unique glimpse into the climate, environment, and biodiversity of a Caribbean island before global changes severely modified those conditions. This, in turn, will advance and promote current studies in climate change, overfishing, water resources, coral survivability, and other issues and inform mitigation strategies. 

The project will also have a capacity building component with other organizations having the opportunity to participate in a training workshop in San Salvador to share the methods being used to digitize the data at GRI and share them through an online platform.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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