When biologists Natalia Collier and Adam Brown visited family in the Caribbean as college students in the late 1990s, they didn’t imagine that they would devote their lives to protecting the natural heritage of the region. But that’s exactly what they did when they started the non-profit organization called Environmental Protection in the Caribbean, or EPIC. Today, EPIC has been around for 20+ years, thanks to the hard work and dedication of hundreds of partners across the world, including those in the Grenadines.
In 1999, the two recognized the dramatic difference between environmental research and protection in the Caribbean and the United States. Natalia noticed and was bothered by negative impacts to the natural places she grew up visiting. As they traveled, they found Caribbean residents were also alarmed about water pollution, litter, and unsustainable development in the places they knew and loved. Sometimes there was a lack of scientific knowledge, funding, or people-power to make significant improvements.
Frustrated by the lack of solutions, Adam and Natalia took the initiative and implemented environmental projects. Eventually in 2000, they registered EPIC as a U.S. Florida-based non-profit with the mission of protecting the Caribbean environment through research and community-based actions. Adam and Natalia attribute EPIC’s success to a grassroots approach, which includes empowering local communities. The ongoing knowledge-base and agility necessary to remain effective comes through the recruiting of local leaders who run and manage EPIC’s programs. In addition, there is a focus and commitment to combining the tools of scientific research, education, advocacy, and community support to affect change.
“At the intersection of people and nature is where you will see EPIC programs making a difference” is a quote from EPIC’s 2020 annual report. Much of EPIC’s work focuses on the blue-green economy including a sustainable farming project in Haiti and ecotour guide training in Sint Maarten. This grassroots approach has enabled people of all backgrounds to protect their natural heritage.
What started as a two-person operation has grown to a team of hardworking staff and volunteers, hailing from local and international communities and much of the work is in partnership with on-island non-profit organizations. EPIC’s work in the Grenadines included seabird research for the publication of the Seabird Breeding Atlas of the Lesser Antilles that revealed globally and regionally important colonies. This led to the creation of the Grenadines Seabird Guardians, a citizen-science group that currently conducts research, education, and clean-ups of offshore islands. A Conservation Management Plan for Seabirds of the Transboundary Grenadines was also created and is being implemented by diverse stakeholders. Education, training, and a recent Waste-to-Art contest has also been successful, reaching thousands of participants.
Now, EPIC has entered a new era. Last week, the organization celebrated two big changes: the creation of a new logo and a new website at www.epicislands.org.
“As EPIC has grown, we have learned more about the organization’s personality, much as you learn about a person as they grow. Our revised logo and website better represent the vibrancy and dynamism of the organization,” says Natalia Collier, co-founder of EPIC.
The website project came together over the course of the last year and it quickly become a storehouse for all the prior work that had been done. This effort was inspired by EPIC’s Executive Director, Tabitha Stadler who has cultivated an EPIC vision of the Caribbean region as a global focal point for conservation in the way that we think of the Amazon rainforest or Florida’s Everglades.
“I hope the EPIC story, website, and logo will serve as a catalyst for transforming environmental concern into action and bring global attention to the needs of the Caribbean. Being a part of EPIC means being part of something greater; a community of people who also share a common cause and are ready to make a difference” says EPIC’s Executive Director Tabitha Stadler.