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Local teacher studies island ecosystem

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Tommie Girard, a Double Oak resident and seventh grade science teacher in the Dallas ISD, spent two weeks over the summer studying the ecology of the Bahamas. 

Girard joined eight other Earthwatch teacher volunteers from the U.S. in July for an 11-day expedition on the island of Great Inagua to help scientist understand the requirements for sustainable development and resource use on the islands.  The expedition was funded by a grant from Northrop Grumman.

“I came home from my Earthwatch expedition with a very different perspective of what island life is like and what sustainable development may mean to the local population who are experiencing first hand dwindling natural resources,” said Girard.

“Inagua is not a tourist destination.  It has a large commercial salt work at one end of the island, a national park with awesome flamingo flocks and a small settlement, Matthew Town, with a population of approximately 800.  I will take my experiences back to my classroom with a renewed enthusiasm and different approach to teaching environment science and stewardship of our natural resources,” said Girard. 

Girard said that she and the Earthwatch volunteers, led by Dr. Kathleen Sullivan Sealey of the University of Miami, measured the shape of the shoreline using GPS technology, surveyed the animals and identified native plants.

The group also partnered with the National Trust to put up twenty parrot nesting boxes on the island to replace trees lost in 2008 during Hurricane Ike.

“This was such a unique experience for a classroom teacher to work side by side with a dedicated scientist.  I experienced the desert tropical ecosystem of Inagua, and kept thinking about how similar it is to areas in Texas.  The local community embraced us and allowed us to be part of their wonderful culture and made us feel right at home.  I can’t wait to integrate it all into my science classes and see how my students respond!  I also want to share my experiences with other teachers with the hope they will apply for a fellowship next year.”

Girard teaches science at the Learning Alternative Center for Empowering Youth Middle School in Dallas.

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