SMALL CARIBBEAN ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIZATION MAKES A BIG IMPACT
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SMALL CARIBBEAN ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANIZATION MAKES A BIG IMPACT

SINT MAARTEN (PHILLIPSBURG) - Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) made its debut more than 20 years ago with the non-profit mission of protecting the Caribbean through research and community-based actions.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of hundreds of partners across the world, EPIC has been able to accomplish remarkable and significant work. Efforts included numerous research projects resulting in more than 100 publications, restored habitats, designation of Important Bird Areas, eco-friendly legislation, and education reaching more than 25,000 residents in the region. 

This week, EPIC has launched its new website and logo. “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. 

Every island where EPIC has worked, including Sint Maarten, is featured on the new website. In Sint Maarten, EPIC started its first affiliate organization, the Sint Maarten Foundation, a locally registered non-profit begun in 2007. EPIC established the longest running dataset of wading birds and waterbirds at that time (2003-2014) in the Caribbean. EPIC research on the island’s seabirds was included in the Seabird Breeding Atlas of the Lesser Antilles.

Data from this diverse research was used to establish internationally recognized Important Bird Areas. EPIC conducted near-annual coastal clean-ups, ongoing education for youth including numerous internships, and was the national operator for the international eco-labels Blue Flag and Green Key certifications for marinas, hotels, and beaches.

In addition, EPIC operated Slurpy, a boat sewage pump-out service, planted hundreds of red mangrove trees, restored native plants to hillsides, cleared and marked eight trails, offered free guided hikes, and conducted an island-wide plant survey as well as advocating for environmental legislation. 

“EPIC is a very dedicated organization that has always strived for a better, greener tomorrow. Having a new website improves our capacity in bringing about our message and ensuring more people are able to find a way to get involved.” says Fleur Hermanides, President, EPIC Sint Maarten Foundation 

The new website and logo can be found at www.epicislands.org.

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 for short. 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 Sint Maarten.

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.

“Where nature and people interconnect is where EPIC teams work to improve outcomes,” 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. In Sint Maarten, EPIC started its first affiliate organization, the Sint Maarten Foundation, a locally registered non-profit begun in 2007.

EPIC established the longest running dataset of wading birds and waterbirds at that time (2003-2014) in the Caribbean. EPIC research on the island’s seabirds was included in the Seabird Breeding Atlas of the Lesser Antilles. Data from this diverse research was used to establish internationally recognized Important Bird Areas.

EPIC conducted near-annual coastal clean-ups, ongoing education for youth including numerous internships, and was the national operator for the international eco-labels Blue Flag and Green Key certifications for marinas, hotels, and beaches. In addition, EPIC operated Slurpy, a boat sewage pump-out service, planted hundreds of red mangrove trees, restored native plants to hillsides, cleared and marked eight trails, offered free guided hikes, and conducted an island-wide plant survey as well as advocating for environmental legislation.

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.

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