Telephone: 1 (868) 708-5407
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 4710 Arima, Trinidad and Tobago
Reflection by Ray Mendez (Hon. Board Member) on behalf of the Board of Management
We have lost a friend and great mentor to the organisation. I am sad to report that our fellow Board Member and supporter Bill Conway passed on October 21, 2021. Bill told me he credited a great deal of his conservation thinking to time spent with William Beebe at Simla in the Arima Valley, Trinidad. He later was instrumental in having the research station donated by the New York Zoological Society to the Asa Wright Nature Centre, along with a maintenance endowment. His sage advice and leading edge thinking will be missed by all who knew him. He was one of the premier voices in getting zoos to step into the fray for preserving species and landscapes in order to promote a saner world. He was always a friend to those who fight and have fought to protect our natural world. His work went far afield with a seminal exhibit philosophy that included his design essay How To Exhibit A Bullfrog (A Bed-time Story for Zoo Men). He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. For a full review of his extraordinary life please go to: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/05/nyregion/william-conway-dead.html or https://www.legacy.com/us/obituaries/nytimes/name/william-conway-obituary?id=31144580.
Edgar Julian Duncan is a Professor Emeritus in Plant Science, of the St. Augustine campus (Trinidad) of The University of the West Indies from which he retired 15 years ago. He obtained his undergraduate degree (majoring in Botany and Zoology) in 1960, from the then University College of the West Indies (external college of London University) in Jamaica, and proceeded to the University of St. Andrews (Scotland) where he obtained his doctorate in Fungal cytology and genetics in 1963. He was appointed a lecturer in Botany at the St. Augustine campus in 1963 and rose through the ranks to the position of Professor.
In 1975 he attended the Freie Universitat in Berlin Germany on a Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst Dienst (DAAD) Fellowship, where he developed an expertise in Plant Tissue Culture, which became his special field for the remainder of his University career, and for which he was given a Lifetime Achievement Award, by the National Institute of Higher Education (Science, research and Technology ) NIHERST in 2002.
He sat on the Board of the Asa Wright Nature Centre for a number of years and was Chair of their Education Programme for some time. Subsequent to his retirement from the Board, he was named an Honorary Life Member.
Dr. James is a biologist and policy specialist of international renown with thirty-nine years of professional experience in several Caribbean, African and Pacific countries. She headed for ten years, Trinidad and Tobago’s Wildlife Section of the Forestry Division and subsequently had the signal honor of being selected by the United Nations Development Programme to work as the world’s first, of forty-one, Global Sustainable Development Advisors agreed at the 1992 Rio Conference on Environment and Development. Her work in this capacity covered the Caribbean region for eight years. She is a married mother of five successful university graduates, and a grandmother of eleven. Dr. James is currently Chairman of the Guardian Life Wildlife Trust (GLWT), Life Member of the Board of the Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC) which she chaired between 2003-2009 and Board Member of the Bishop Anstey High School /Trinity College East (BATCE).
Early retirement from formal work at age 51, in October 2001, enabled Dr. James to continue pursuing more directly, her passion for assisting people and communities in pursuing their individual and collective forms of development. Her efforts focused mainly on continuing the work she initiated during the late 1980s in east and north coast beaches of Trinidad on sustainable turtle conservation, using nest viewing as a basis for eco-tourism, while enhancing other forms of rural development. These included expanding community linkages in the work of the AWNC and facilitating the building of rural capacity for saving the unique Trinidad Piping Guan or Pawi through the GLWT. Some rural communities in north and east Trinidad have become self-sustaining and therefore economically viable, as a result of seminal efforts to stimulate ecotourism and other entrepreneurial activities initiated by Carol and her teams of colleagues more than two decades ago.
Dr. James was honored in 2011 by the University of Trinidad and Tobago (UTT) as one of its Honorary Distinguished Fellows and also by the University of the West Indies (UWI) in 2011, as one of its 50 Distinguished Alumni, both for her contributions towards people-centered environmental management and sustainable development in Trinidad and Tobago.
Following a long and distinguished volunteer career as the Secretary of the Trinidad & Tobago Field Naturalist Club, Ian Lambie was nominated and subsequently elected to membership of the Board of Management of the Asa Wright Nature Centre by one of the Centre’s founders, Dr. Joseph Copeland.
Ian served as the Secretary to the Board in 1976 and at the Annual General Meeting of 1977 he was unanimously elected to the post of President on the nomination of the out-going President, Dr.Copeland. His nomination was then seconded by the famous wildlife artist and another founder of the Centre, Don Eckleberry.
Over the course of his leadership at the Centre, Ian brought great value to the Centre in transforming it into one of the most desireable destinations for naturalists and birdwatchers from throughout the world. In the October 1999 Issue of Audubon magazine the Asa Wright Nature Centre was identified as one of the finest Eco-Lodges in the world. The Asa Wright Nature Centre was also selected as the model for a UNDP funded case study on “Eco-tourism as a Strategy for Sustainable Development.”
In January 1989, Ian was appointed Executive President and later, in November 1998, he left the board to be appointed to the newly created post of President/CEO of the organization, a post that he held until his retirement in 2001.
Ian has been the recipient of many awards including, in 1995, a National Award of Trinidad and Tobago, “The Hummingbird Medal – Gold “ in recognition of his work in Environmental Conservation.
Raymond A. Mendez II was born in 1947 and raised on the East Side of New York City. He founded his firm Work As Play (WAP) in 1980 after spending 14 years at the American Museum of Natural History as a taxonomist in the department of Entomology and then senior principal artist in Exhibits. His work includes participation in the Ocean Life Hall, Plains Indian Hall, Man in Africa Hall, Invertebrate Hall, Reptile Hall, Peoples of Asia Hall as well as innumerable temporary exhibits. One of his fondest memories is of his first visit to Trinidad where he spent three weeks living at Simla, exploring the jungle and learning techniques for the capture and transportation of a full size army ant nest. Thus began his love affair with Trinidad, its wildlife and people. He designed and collected the first colony of army ants to be shown live in the US at the AMNH. The colony was exhibited in honor of that year’s Nobel Prize award for the study of animal behavior.
When he first established WAP, Ray focused his attention on the photography and publication of wildlife stories, motivating Natural History magazine to publish four articles that promoted the wildlife of Trinidad and as a result the AWNC. His other work projects were heavily weighted towards the communication industries. Having created the special effects or wrangled (he coined the term “insect wrangler”) critters in over 200 television commercials and hundreds of still ads, including the creation of such iconic images as the Ronald McDonald happy meals toys that later became know as the Hamburgler and Ronald McDonald, the egg for the movie poster Alien (he coined the term “In Space No One Can Hear You Scream”) and the Absolute vodka fish campaign. Many TT residents should remember this ad as it was prominent for several years at the entrance to main lounge at the Piarco airport. His skills also lead him to be hired as project principal in movies such as Silence of the Lambs, Joe’s Apartment and Creepshow.
Ray was asked to return to museum design work by the director of the Museum of the Hudson Highlands. That project, incorporating traditional museum quality design, advertising message delivery systems and movie storytelling techniques, was such a hit that he was asked to design the first two garbage museums in the US. This was quiet a challenge as he had to encourage guests to be excited over things they had just put in the trash. Totally by accident, his love of mole-rats (he had done several magazine articles on them) propelled him to work in zoos. His interest in conservation mixed into storytelling has led him to work on dozens of significant projects including Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida (where he continues to serve as an adviser to the company), Trail of the Elephants at the Melbourne Zoo in Australia and the Kid’s Zone at the Tacoma Zoo in the state of Washington
Ray’s philosophy at Work As Play focuses on creating teaching environments unique to the institutions he serves. His teams perform their work within a framework of designers, architects, artists, and educators who work closely with an institution’s staff and other consultants to create exhibits that not only serve the public, but also are fun, visually exciting, informative, and easy to maintain. His forte is in creating environments that teach in a casual, friendly atmosphere. As he feels the ultimate client is the always the visitor, his goal is to design exhibits that motivate people to ask questions, to change their own behavior and attitudes and to help prepare them to understand areas of future concern. He has, during his entire tenure on the board of the AWNC, tried to bring these ideas and ways of working to the forefront of the decision making process.
My name is Peter Shaun Taaffe-O’Connor, but I just use O’Connor as my surname. Born 15 March 1938, in Vessigny, South Trinidad, citizen of Trinidad & Tobago. Married, grown children.
University of Houston, Texas, Bachelor of Business Administration, 1967.
Career history: Petroleum Industry Trinidad 1956-1963. Sabbatical for University 1964-1967. Construction Industry, Trinidad 1968-2003. Football (soccer) Administration, Trinidad 2003-2006. Asa Wright Nature Centre 2008-present, as Projects Advisor.
Interests: Writing (columnist for Sunday Newsday, Trinidad), Camping/ Hiking Trinidad’s forests, Activism, especially Environmental issues, Sports fan.
Joined Asa Wright Nature Centre on November 1st 2008, to supervise the construction of proposed Jonnie Fisk Conference Facility. Project stalled on world economic collapse, so was re-assigned to other areas, including coordinating Sustainability initiatives. Represented AWNC Team in trying to improve quarrying practices in Arima Valley, land identification issues, re-forestation at Aripo, coffee and cocoa rehabilitation, and general maintenance. While departing the Board, Peter has continued to be a key player in all of the issue areas noted above and remains an exceptionally valuable asset to the Centre!
Christine Toppin-Allahar is an Attorney-at-Law, specialising in environmental, planning and land law, with qualifications and experience in legislative drafting. Prior to qualifying as a lawyer, she held a degree in Geography and Economics, with postgraduate qualifications in Geography and Planning, as well as a Certificate in Integrated Surveys for Natural Resources Development. She has over 35 years experience in the field of planning and environmental management in the public and private sectors, and over 20 years experience as a practicing attorney and international consultant on environmental, planning and land law, policy and institutional arrangements.
In the field of planning, she spent ten years in the public service, with the Town & Country Planning Division of the Ministry of Planning and Development in Trinidad & Tobago, and with the Ministry of Housing, Lands and the Environment in Barbados. In the private sector she has worked in Trinidad & Tobago with Trintoplan Consultants Ltd., Alpha Engineering and Design Ltd., and Rapid Environmental Assessments Ltd. She is a professional member of the Trinidad & Tobago Society of Planners (TTSP) and an affiliate member of the Association of Professional Engineers of Trinidad & Tobago (APETT).
As a lawyer, Christine has worked in the Attorney General’s Department, Trinidad and Tobago, and in private practice. She is a member of the IUCN Commission on Environmental Law and has served as a consultant on planning, environmental management, institutional strengthening and legislative drafting to various international organizations, including the World Bank, IADB, CDB, UNDP, UNCHS, UNECLAC, PAHO/WHO, FAO, OAS, DFID and the EU and has worked in every Commonwealth Caribbean country, as well as several non-English speaking countries in the region, as well as outside of the Caribbean. She has also engaged in voluntary work as a member of various environmental NGOs. In this capacity she has served as an executive member of Caribbean Conservation Association (CCA), and is an Honorary Life Member of the Board of Directors of the Asa Wright Nature Centre (AWNC) in Trinidad & Tobago.
She has participated in many international seminars and conferences on planning and environmental law and has several published works on planning, environmental and land law.
During the academic year 2010-2011 she served as Course Coordinator and Lecturer in International and Caribbean Environmental Law at the Faculty of Law, UWI Cave Hill Campus, Barbados. Previously, she served for several years as a part-time lecturer in planning, land and environmental law in the post-graduate programmes in Planning & Development, Land Administration and Environmental Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus, and also lectured in Environmental Law and Policy in the Masters Programme in Environmental Science & Management at the University of Trinidad & Tobago. She has also served as an External Examiner for the Masters Programme in Legislative Drafting at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus and a guest lecturer for McGill University and Santa Clara University.