Side by side we stand

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Trinidad… since our arrival in Port of Spain on this neotropical island we’ve been fortunate to have been afforded pleasant weather, exceptional colleagues, fertile verdure, and Caribbean color at every turn.

It is a grand pleasure to undertake this joint expedition between Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden and Montgomery Botanical Center (MBC) in close collaboration with our long-term collaborators and colleagues from the University of the West Indies (UWI) National Herbarium.  The National Herbarium of Trinidad & Tobago is home to true experts in the regional flora, and is well-regarded by the Caribbean botanical community as an impressive center for botanical studies and authoritative information on the flora of Trinidad and Tobago. 

Barely three days have passed since we took our first steps into Trinidad’s natural areas, and yet our plant press and field notebooks already hold interesting specimens and notes.  The core team, consisting of myself and Mr. Juan Rivera of Fairchild and Dr. Larry Noblick of MBC, met with success mere hours into the trip.  Dr. Noblick, a renowned expert on palm biology based at MBC, successfully found good specimens of a Bactris palm that both of our institutions were keen to locate.  Juan and I identified several charismatic Rubiaceae species at two different localities.  Staff from UWI not only expertly identified indigenous Trinidadian plant taxa, but made us feel right at home every step of the way.  (This morning before fieldwork, they even indulged us with an introduction to some local gastronomic delights called “doubles” – the chick pea and habanero spice of the “doubles” really got us energized!) 

Spending time together during the expedition, one is reminded of the importance of collaborations such as this is.  Not only are such occasions truly productive and supportive of the respective missions of all of our institutions, but the synergistic results really do outweigh the sum of the parts.

And so, I end with words borrowed from the Trinidadian national anthem: side by side we stand.  Indeed, the thought of working side by side in Trinidad’s rugged and diverse northern range- our planned field locale for tomorrow- brings me great anticipation and excitement for what is to come.

- text and photos by Melissa E. Abdo