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Happy International Women's Day! 

This year, the United Nation's theme for International Women's Day is “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow." Across the Caribbean, the impacts of the climate crisis are already here; from heat waves and coral bleaching, to ocean acidification, sea level rise and increasingly relentless and unforgiving hurricanes. Yet more and more research suggests climate change will disproportionately burden women compared to men. For example, women are more likely to live in poverty than men, have less access to basic human rights like the ability to freely move and own land, and face systematic violence that can escalate during periods of instability.

Without a doubt, one of the greatest challenges we face in The Bahamas, the Caribbean and globally is advancing gender equality in the context of the climate crisis and disaster risk reduction. But one thing is for certain; when it comes to issues like climate change and sustainability, it's on all of us to call out gender bias, stereotyping and discrimination. It's on all of us to amplify the voices of women and girls and invite them to the decision-making tables. It's on all of us to imagine and create a gender equal world, where differences are valued and celebrated. And it's on all of us to stand up and #BreakTheBias.

At the Perry Institute, we're marking this International Women's Day by celebrating our ocean SHEROES, our fearless women warriors who are fighting every day to protect our blue planet. We invite you to dive in and celebrate with us by learning a bit more about our women staff and leaders conducting groundbreaking conservation work in The Bahamas and throughout the Caribbean.

Hailing from the US Virgin Islands, Karlisa Callwood (she/her) is both a marine scientist and an educator. She has trailblazed the community conservation program at the Perry Institute, bridging the gap between researchers, policymakers, and the public through interdisciplinary approaches. Karlisa boasts a doctorate degree in ecosystem science and policy and more than a decade of experience creating and managing informal science education programming. These days, her research focuses on evaluating local fisheries and conservation behavior change strategies, as well as working with local communities and schools to foster a new generation of ocean stewards locally in The Bahamas and regionally across the Caribbean!

Krista (she/her) is a senior scientist at the Perry Institute, spearheading our non-profit’s fisheries research and conservation program! Hailing from New Providence and renowned for being the first Bahamian woman to receive her doctorate degree in marine biology, Krista’s inspirational journey has paved the way for young women to pursue fulfilling careers in ocean science across the country. With more than a decade of fisheries and coral reef research under her belt, Krista’s work was critical to the development of the first Nassau Grouper Conservation Management Plan for The Bahamas.

Dr. Valeria Pizarro (she/her) leads the coral reef team at the Perry Institute. She started studying coral reefs in her native Colombia at the island in San Andrés while doing her masters, where she focused on brain coral population dynamics. After that, Dr. Pizarro worked on the design and implementation of the Seaflower Marine Protected Area System (Western Caribbean) and started her doctorate studies at Newcastle University (UK) on Caribbean coral connectivity. Dr. Pizarro was a professor at the Jorge Tadeo University (Colombia) for seven years, teaching undergraduates and graduate students. At PIMS, Valeria directs a suite of research projects based on coral reproduction, population dynamics, connectivity and coral restoration.

An ocean-lover at heart, Lily (she/her) is a marine biologist, graphic designer and environmental journalist from Canada who visits The Bahamas many times a year for her work. A specialist in coral reef restoration and innovation, she worked as a research associate at the Cape Eleuthera Institute for nearly two years while she completed her Master of Science degree. As a PADI Divemaster and scientific diver, Lily’s technical experience conducting underwater science paired with her journalism background gives her a particularly unique skill set as Communications Director at the Perry Institute. Above all, she is passionate about saving the world’s reefs - one coral polyp at a time.

Hayley-Jo Carr (she/her) is a marine conservationist and PADI Course Director who has been the driving force behind many projects involving sharks, sea turtles, marine debris & coral restoration across the globe. As the Reef Rescue Network Coordinator, Hayley manages more than 40 coral restoration projects throughout the Caribbean and works with hundreds of volunteers, NGOs, businesses and dive shops to organize coral restoration events, training and education sessions. She is a PADI Course Director, and strives to build capacity in The Bahamas by training new scuba diver instructors with an emphasis on marine conservation.

Lashanti Jupp (she/her) is a marine conservationist and science communicator who believes in reconnecting people with their environment. Growing up in The Bahamas was key for sparking Lashanti’s interest in the marine environment and over the last 10 years, Lashanti has been involved in educating young Bahamians and local communities about marine conservation through creative outreach and community meetings. She believes the first step in conservation is breaking the myth that humans are separate from nature; humans play a key role in every ecosystem. She aspires to reconnect people with nature by saving the world, one ocean at a time, with one conversation at a time.

 Silia (she/her) is one of our research technicians based on the beautiful island of Eleuthera, The Bahamas. In collaboration with the Nature Conservancy and the Cape Eleuthera Institute, Silia – who is originally from Grand Bahama – strives to innovate coral restoration technology; that is, to make our coral restoration impact faster and scalable. With more than ten years of diving under her belt, a typical research day for Silia involves tinkering in both ocean and land-based coral nurseries, as well as educating interns and school groups on the importance of healthy coral reefs.

Natalia Hurtado is a marine biologist who grew up in Bogotá (Colombia), but home for her has always been tied to the sea. A technical diver and PADI IDC Staff Instructor, Natalia has been involved with coral reef ecology and coral restoration projects for more than ten years. Now living on the beautiful island of Eleuthera, Natalia is a research associate at the Perry Institute, working in collaboration the Cape Eleuthera Institute and the Nature Conservancy to lead the Bahamas Coral Innovation Hub. There, she harnesses and discovers new technologies to rehabilitate Bahamian coral reefs!

Growing up in The Bahamas, Meghyn (she/her) has always felt captivated by the ocean and its myriad of wonders. Today on the Perry Institute staff, Meghyn’s research focuses on the devastating Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease that’s been plaguing our waters since 2019. She's doing everything inform the public, stop its spread and save our coral reefs, the lifeblood of the nation’s blue economy. Before joining PIMS as an intern last year, she worked at Dolphin Encounters as well as Coral Vita.

From Wisconsin and making regular science trips to The Bahamas each year like other US-based PIMS staff, Maya (she/her) is a Research Assistant at the Perry Institute for Marine Science. Her work focuses on data collection and analysis in order to better understand and monitor coral reefs. This information helps to inform conservation efforts as coral reefs face threats of disease, climate change, and other anthropogenic stressors. At PIMS, Maya has been very involved with the development and trial of novel photogrammetry technology that allows for the completion of ex situ surveys of coral reefs.

Zoe (she/her) is an intern based in Eleuthera investigating the link between subsistence fisheries and resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Zoe is interested in utilising conservation, restoration, and nature-based solutions to create a resilient future for the Bahamas. She has a passion for both the terrestrial and marine world, and at the Cape Eleuthera Institute, she works to educate others on the value of Bahamian plant biodiversity, while also actively restoring degraded coastal ecosystems..

As a PADI Instructor Development Course Staff Instructor, Alex has dedicated her career to diver training ranging from introductory diving to professional level divers with a focus on marine conservation. A coral restoration specialist and expert in coral nursery establishment, Alex works closely with the Reef Rescue Network to build capacity in The Bahamas and the Caribbean at large. To date, she has trained hundreds of recreational divers in Dive Against Debris, Coral Nursery Restoration, Sea Turtle Awareness, Fish Identification and Shark Conservation specialties.

Kandize McPhee (she/her) is an intern at the Perry Institute from New Providence, The Bahamas. For as long as she can remember, Kandize has always wanted to assist the Bahamian blue economy and innovate sustainable conservation solutions. Now, she's eager to examine how subsistence fisheries can impact island communities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ashwanté (she/her) is one of the Perry Institute’s newest interns and one of the driving forces behind the non-profit’s up-and-coming sustainable seafood campaign. Based in New Providence, she works closely with our community conservation team, where she strives to conduct research that will not just aid in the stability of our fishery sector, but people’s overall attitudes towards it. After she graduates from the University of The Bahamas, Ashawnté hopes to empower Bahamian restaurants, fishers and consumers to make decisions with the health of our oceans top of mind.