Could snakes be the answer to Grand Cayman’s challenge with invasive green iguanas?
That was the hypothesis of one of the students who presented a project at this year’s Dr. Bill Hrudey Rotary Science Fair held at Camana Bay’s Arts & Recreation Centre in April. The annual science fair, which is presented by Rotary Central Cayman Islands, featured 84 projects and 125 students from classrooms all across Grand Cayman.
The projects ran the gamut of science topics, with two prominent themes emerging: projects featuring live animals and projects that are uniquely Caymanian. One example was Lucas Tatum’s “Snakes of Grand Cayman.” The project offered both ecological significance, investigating Grand Cayman’s indigenous snake species, and the skillful use of wildlife photography.
For Lucas, snakes are a passion. However, he struggles with the negative attitudes people have of snakes, and his project endeavoured to demonstrate the benefits of snakes to the Cayman Islands’ ecosystem. “Areas of Grand Cayman with healthy snake populations are free of invasive green iguanas,” said Lucas. Snakes, he suggested, offer an “environmentally viable solution” to managing the population of green iguanas.
Anna Taylor-Payne is another animal lover who sought to demonstrate the psychological benefits dogs can have on humans with her project “The Effects of Dog Therapy on Anxious Executives Lower Heart Rates and Stress Levels.” Having recently qualified her dog to work as a therapy dog for the local charity Healing Paws, she wanted to scientifically demonstrate the benefits therapy dogs can have on human stress levels.
“I hope that my research can spread awareness of the excellent work of Healing Paws, as well as demonstrate the benefits of dog therapy on human health and well-being,” said Anna. Jonathan Bodden’s curiosity and interest in animals inspired his project “Cross Breeding Chickens.”
Noticing that different breeds of chickens produce varying quantities of eggs, he wondered if he could improve egg production through cross-breeding. The hybrid chicks he hatched have genetic attributes of two breeds known for being highly productive egg layers. By further observing the number of eggs produced by the new hybrid chickens, Jonathan’s goal is to help farmers produce more eggs with fewer chickens.
The diversity of projects on display also marks an achievement for the event organisers. Founded 12 years ago by the late Dr. Bill Hrudey, the Rotary Science Fair has evolved to become the largest youth science competition in the Cayman Islands. Dr. Hrudey was a champion of science education and the annual science fair now bears his name as a tribute to his memory.
Glenda McTaggart, Dart’s education programmes manager, believes that Dr. Hrudey’s impact is immeasurable.
“He created the opportunity to study science,” she said. “He not only inspired students to learn, but he also built telescopes to study astronomy, he founded science conferences and organisations and always with a purpose to sharing his passion with others.”