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Institute of Tropical Ecology and Conservation.

In the Fall of 2018, I received a call from a representative of the sailing yacht, Acadia. The inquiry was centered on whether or not it would be possible for our organization, the Institute for Tropical Ecology and Conservation (ITEC), to present a special two-week coral reef ecology course for the owner, Mark Rohr, and crew of the Acadia. The course was to take place at ITEC’s field station on Isla Colon, Bocas del Toro, Panama. Dr. Lonnie Kaczmarsky of St. John’s College, agreed to present the course and it was scheduled for March, 2019.



Mark and his crew, Captain Guy Dodwell and First Mate Roseanna Asher-Relf, anchored the Acadia in the small embayment outside ITEC during the two-week field course. The course focused on coral ecology, diseases, conservation and restoration, and included formal classroom lectures, dives at various local reefs, lab work, and a night dive.


As a sailing enthusiast who learned to sail on an 80-foot wooden schooner, I personally was very excited to have the Acadia parked in our backyard. My excitement moved toward admiration when I finally had a chance to meet Mark and realized that we shared not only the love of sea and sail, but our natural environment as well. Apparently, Mark saw that aspect in me too, and a friendship was formed.


While passing back through the Bocas del Toro Archipelago from the Galapagos, the Acadia made another stop at the ITEC field station and this time, with the intention of helping our small organization. It was now that Mark and Rachel Rohr learned of ITEC’s plan to commit to a forest restoration project on a 50-acre tract of land owned by ITEC called Finca Maribella. In addition to their many efforts to conserve ocean ecosystems, Mark and Rachel wished to offset the Acadia’s carbon debt created while sailing the globe. They wanted the Acadia to be carbon neutral.



Here again our interests overlapped. ITEC’s main goal was to bring back the natural biodiversity of the land while Mark and Rachel’s primary purpose was to sequester enough carbon to mitigate the carbon footprint of the Acadia. A perfect partnership was formed in re-establishing the original forest at Finca Maribella which will accomplish both goals. With financial help in the form of a grant from The Ocean Foundation, a plan and schedule were created for the forest restoration project. Currently, there are about 3000 tree seedlings growing in our shade house representing 30+ species that will be planted on the first 10 acres of the project. The various trees include native emergent, canopy and subcanopy species representative of our regional lowland rainforests and each having important ecological functions.


Establishing forests on all 50 acres will more than offset the annual and accumulated carbon debt of the Acadia, and accomplish our part in helping to slow global warming. This in turn, will benefit coral reefs and all marine ecosystems worldwide.


by Peter N. Lahanas

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