The mountainous forests of Lomas de Banao Ecological Reserve are home to species only found in the Caribbean—including the vulnerable Cuban Parakeet and the near threatened Cuban Amazon Parrot. Despite this unique biodiversity, long-term political complexities with the U.S. and other nations stymied collaborative international research. But now international relations are improving, making this a critical moment for the island nation's wildlife. As Cuba becomes more open to the world, many predict new economic opportunities and the development that comes along with it.
Researchers are now able to recruit citizen scientists to help them take stock of the wildlife that inhabit these beautiful protected lands, information that will be crucial to informing management and conservation plans as the island becomes increasingly developed. In its initial years, this project helped produce the first-ever baseline assessments of biodiversity in Banao—including data on birds, reptiles, amphibians, and plant-life. In analyzing these data, scientists determined that researching and conserving primary pollinators and seed dispersers, including birds and bats, is essential to maintaining and improving the integrity of habitats within the forest. In the second phase of this project, volunteers will support this pollinator research by working with a team of scientists from Cuba and Argentina to document the many endemic and migratory bird species that inhabit the reserves. You’ll document bird sightings, record bird songs, monitor bat populations, and survey forest trees—particularly royal palms, which provide habitat for cavity-nesting birds. The data collected will help to paint a more complete picture of these protected areas and how increased development could impact biodiversity in the future.