Bahamian Women leading charge on Environmental Efforts

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A Senior Forest Officer, part-time mermaid and author are leading the charge on environmental protection, education and advancement in The Bahamas. In their respective terrestrial and marine fields, Ingeria Miller, Jonisha Cartwright and Kristal Ambrose are contributing leaders and changemakers to a more sustainable future for not only the country, but the world.

CIBC FirstCaribbean extended their celebration of this year’s International Women’s Day theme, ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’, by recognizing the work of the trio on Earth Day. Ingeria Miller is a Senior Forest Officer with responsibilities spanning fieldwork and administrative duties. Her introduction to the environmental sector began over 13 years ago when she participated in a United States-funded research project focused on endangered birds on Eleuthera upon recommendation by her then professor, Mrs. Joyanne Thompson.

“Seven million snakes, mosquitoes and sand flies later, it was the most rewarding experience of my life. The project grew me up. I learned to love and appreciate nature and the outdoors became a living classroom for me,” said Ingeria.

Following a switch from pre-med to a major in Natural Resources, Ecology and Policy Analysis from Cornell University, and later completing a Master’s in Public Administration in Environmental Science from Columbia University, Ingeria has given her expertise to The Bahamas while at the now Department of Environmental Planning and Protection (DEPP) and the Forestry Unit. Her most recent environmental leadership role was during Forestry Awareness Week. She started the initiative in 2015 as well as introduced the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resource’s only environmental summer camp.

Jonisha Cartwright, a part-time mermaid, took a twist on her environmental studies by connecting it to sociology, and is now a recent graduate equipped with a Bachelor of Science in Sociology with Sustainability from Arizona State University. Her journey in environmental work began in 2014 as a volunteer and later as an intern at the Bahamas Reef Environmental Educational Foundation (BREEF), a non-profit conservation organization focused on youth education, advocacy and public outreach.

As an environmental educator at the Bahamas National Trust (BNT), Jonisha said, “It gives me hope and joy to see kids excited about the environmental field or to see fishermen not only adhering to fisheries laws but being stellar environmental stewards and advocating for their peers to adhere as well.”

Jonisha joined the BNT in March 2020, three days before the country went into its first emergency lockdown due to COVID-19. Since her start, Jonisha has spearheaded the creation of the animated series, Adventures of Xuma, and plays an important role in Ecosystems of The Bahamas with the BNT, a live-action, video series aimed toward high school students and adults. Geared toward children of various ages, Kristal Ambrose, who recently moved to Sweden to begin her PhD studies focused on Marine Debris Threats and Solutions for the Caribbean region, released a children’s book titled Kai and Gaia Discover the Gyre, with illustrations by Bahamian artist Stevie Burrows.

Prior to this milestone, Kristal founded Bahamas Plastic Movement and has engaged youth through many programs in order to inspire and empower them. She designed an upcycle program to motivate them to come up with original ideas about how to repurpose plastic waste and a Junior Plastic Warriors environmental education program which includes music, dance and art was later created.

Kristal’s connection with the ocean started at a young age when her father convinced her to join him on his daily swims. Being in the ocean made her feel more connected and inspired her mission―to save the ocean from plastic pollution. She envisions a sustainable future as “a transition towards a circular economy complete with social and environmental justice, equity and access for all communities, especially those of colour.

“It also looks like a divine and intentional reconnection between humanity and the earth systems that support us,” Kristal added. Ingeria, Jonisha and Kristal have each taken on environmental leadership in different ways in various spaces. The most common trait between the trio is their passion and commitment to not only the environment but their country. CIBC FirstCaribbean highlighted the trio earlier this year in celebration of International Women’s Day as the bank continues to support women making waves in the environmental sector. Recent CIBC FirstCaribbean donations have also directly benefited organizations and causes the women are a part of. The bank partnered with the Forestry Unit to plant trees on the Bahamas Girl Guides campsite and, in light of the national plastic ban, partnered with Fresh Market to provide hundreds of free reusable grocery bags to customers. CIBC FirstCaribbean also recently donated to the Bahamas National Trust and BREEF.