As a non-profit organisation with an interest in preserving natural environments, we require high levels of expertise in every area of the environment if we are to succeed. As a small community, we are often limited in our pool of talent resources, a factor that is further compounded by our limited labour and financial resources. These are the primary reasons our Visiting Scientist’s Programme is vital to the continued success of our efforts in matters of the local environment.
Fortunately, it often happens that our need for scientific research coincides with the interests of university academics, museum curators or other specialists based outside of the Cayman Islands. The most frequent arrangement involves a researcher with their own grant funding who wishes to travel to the Cayman Islands to conduct studies of some aspect within our natural environment.
On our end, we can suggest appropriate field sites suitable for the research needs and provide contact details of local experts who may assist. We will also advise of any scientific work – past or present – which may be relevant. Researchers also benefit from access to our Herbarium and Insectarium. Logistically, we can assist with recommending accommodations and providing the necessary information regarding work permits and local regulations.
In return, researchers agree to fully share information gathered and, if they are collecting reference specimens, then duplicates are lodged in our collections. They may also be asked to participate in local media interviews and/or lead a public lecture about their work. In this way, information on major areas of Cayman’s natural history has become locally available at no financial cost to the Trust, while the visiting scientists find they are able to work much more productively by collaborating with local experts.
Visiting scientists may assist with specific Trust programmes or projects where a need for expertise has been identified. Using funding available from project grants, we can contact potentially interested researchers and seek to develop a joint study. In these cases, the travel and accommodation costs of the visiting scientists are often covered by the grant. Since the nature of such academic collaboration typically excludes salaries and consultancy fees, costs remain very low.
The Visiting Scientists Programme benefits frequently from low cost accommodation provided by the Department of Environment and often by the generosity of local businesses involved in accommodations and transportation.