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Follow Raina Fan's (BITS student 2015) blog and share in her Barbados experience!


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Sargassum Business Potential, Barbados Business Authority, October 26, 2015

InterdisciplinaryTropical Studies, Chill News, Issue 16, December 2014

Branches McGill Undergraduate Environment Journal Volume 4 - Fall 2014: A Tale of a McGillian in Barbados by Vijayeta Patel (page 30).

West Indian Medical Journal:  The impact of the healthcare system in Barbados (Provision of health insurance and the Benefit Service Scheme) on the use of herbal remedies by Christian churchgoers (co-authors: Lallement, A., & Willis-O'Connor, S. BITS 2012)

Notes from the field: Teaming up to take down the Giant African Snail, McGill Reporter July 12, 2012.

UWI Notebook: Barbados Interdisciplinary Tropical Studies (BITS) Summer Programme is Underway! 
By Professor Danielle Donnelly,  June 30, 2011 Bits News.pdf

Midweek Nation July 1, 2009  [.pdf]

University of the West Indies Notebook July 2, 2009 [.pdf]

Quebec Farmers' Advocate 2009  [.pdf]


Life after BITS

Luisa Sarmiento (BITS 2016)

Sustainability is one of the most crucial challenges that we are facing in this century, but there is still a gap between science and policy, and that hinders the development of sustainable practices worldwide. Research in science offers very precious knowledge to develop better practices. The Barbados Interdisciplinary Tropical Field Studies (BITS) is an entry to that world. It allowed me to get multiple opportunities in different fields of science.

In 2016, I participated in BITS, which allowed me to learn about agriculture and resources in the tropics. For my research project, I worked with the Sustainable Barbados Recycling Center (SBRC) to develop solutions for the poor soils that prevent Barbadians from growing varied agricultural products. My research worked towards developing a soilless mixture that would support crops using the most plentiful resource on the island: coconut left-overs, which are extremely rich in nutrients.

After this field semester, I took part in a student initiative to reduce packaging waste at McGill University. We received the Applied Student Research (ASR) grant for sustainable projects, and then created the prototype of a container that could be folded and easily stored in backpacks. I also decide to do an Honours research project as part of my degree with Dr. Lauren Chapman. I examined the potential impacts of climate change on two commercially-harvested tropical freshwater fish, Nile perch and Nile Tilapia; these species are extremely important for food security and economic stability in the Lake Victoria area where the study was conducted. I took part in other projects and paid jobs, which I would be please to share by email.

Now, my career goals are to provide scientific evidence to improve environmental policies, and to develop practical solutions for sustainable development in developing countries, which I intend to learn in Germany in a master program next fall 2018. I am currently traveling around my home country, Colombia, and trying to solve environmental problems in vulnerable communities through education and practical solutions.


Jackie De Santis (BITS 2013)

Participating in the BITS program was a perfect way to finish my undergraduate degree. Undertaking hands-on, collaborative coursework and research in one of the most beautiful and relaxing settings was an amazing experience.

During the BITS program, I investigated alternative feeds for Barbados Blackbelly sheep, to explore ways to reduce the dependency of local farmers on imported feedstuffs and alleviate the economic burden of production.

Following my graduation from McGill, I worked as a research assistant for Dr. Christian Abizaid of the Department of Geography at the University of Toronto. In the position I analyzed community-level spatial data collected by Dr. Abizaid’s field team in the Peruvian Amazon. I generated maps displaying the spatial configuration of four different networks (trade, soccer, cooperative labour and seed-sharing) to analyze the social connectivity of communities across the region. Contributing to an exciting research program fuelled my interest in Geographic Information Systems (GIS), prompting me to enrol in a certificate program in Applied Digital Geography and GIS at Ryerson, to enhance my skillset.

Currently, I work as a report analyst at Environmental Risk Information Services (ERIS), a company that provides environmental information to organizations conducting phase one environmental site assessments across North America.


Joelle Dahm (BITS 2014)

The BITS program was my first contact with horticulture and field research. Our group looked at different propagation methods for Ficus alii for the Landscape Division at the National Conservation Commission, Barbados. We also became intimately familiar with the island and its tourism industry through weekly excursion with our wonderful mentor, Mr. James Sealey.

After BITS, I continued as an editor for The McGill Daily and finished my B.A. in Environmental Studies at McGill. As an aspiring environmental writer, I did my M.Sc. in Journalism at Columbia University, where my thesis was an investigation into the Canadian mining industry.

The practical research and courses during BITS had provided me with great guidelines on analyzing data and writing research papers. I could then apply these skills to other fields as well. I started working at a science publication called Nautilus Magazine in New York, and later at Forbes Magazine. Yet, BITS did not only provide me with academic and professional skills, but also with sustainable life skills. After learning about horticulture, composting and local food systems, I started gardening and got engaged in local food cooperatives.

Currently, I am working on a M.Sc. in Environment and Development at the University of Edinburgh. The experiences and courses in Barbados furthered my interest in the affects of climate change and colonial relationships on food security. I hope to specialize in that area and help people through non-profit work and writing. [Joelle started her M.Sc. at U. Edinburg Sept., 2017].


Sariné Willis-O’Connor (BITS 2009)

In BITS, I examined the social reasons for taking herbal remedies among the Barbadian population. I primarily looked at the role of ancestry, level of education, and socioeconomic status on herbal remedy intake. This was the first research project I had done in my undergraduate career.

After BITS, I got more involved with community outreach and research. I continued my work with Greenpeace McGill, a club that I co-founded. I have since been awarded as one of the "Top 25 Under 25 Environmentalists" for The Starfish environmental blog (NOTE: recipients have not yet been published on the blog). As well, I worked on an independent project with Dr. Talwar and Dr. Onishi on lie-telling behavior in children.  Now that I have graduated with a B.A in Psychology from McGill, I am working in Kingston, Ontario. I am now involved with numerous community organizations, as a member of the Board of Directors of the Dawn House women's shelter, as a crisis-line counselor for the Sexual Assault Centre Kingston (SAC Kingston), and as a Youth Mentor for Kingston Community Health Centre. I hope to do research and go to graduate school in counseling psychology.

Although I am not continuing with the research I did in Barbados, the skills I have learned these were invaluable to my present ability to write research articles and to think critically. I would love to communicate that to others interested in participating in BITS! I may be contacted at: 613-532-7209 or sarine.willis-oconnor [at] mail.mcgill.ca