Researcher to discuss Cuban turtles, marine biodiversity at Luna Star Cafe

Fernando Bretos, a research associate at The Ocean Foundation (TOF), will present “Cuba: The Accidental Eden” Tuesday, Feb. 28 at the Luna Star Café in North Miami.

The event is part of the “Eat, Think, and Be Merry Science Café” series sponsored by the School of Environment, Arts and Society. Its title originates from an acclaimed PBS nature series focusing on Cuba’s biodiversity that aired in 2010 and 2011.

“Cuba is one of the few undeveloped islands in the Caribbean,” Bretos said. “With the revolution in the 1950s, the island didn’t move forward with industrialization and the landscape has stayed almost intact. It’s an eden.”

Bretos directs the Cuba Marine Research and Conservation Program, a collaboration between TOF and the Miami Science Museum, one of the few scientific partnerships between Cuba and the United States.

“There’s so much the Cuban scientific community can accomplish, but they have limited resources,” Bretos said. “The embargo makes it difficult to collaborate to our fullest potential. When you get past the politics, the type of work we can do is amazing.”

Green sea turtle from the Caribbean

Bretos will give insight to the audience on the program’s work with the University of Havana on marine expeditions, coral reef health assessments, and sea turtle protection initiatives since 1998.

“Our strongest connection with Cuba is biological,” Bretos said. “There’s countless turtles, birds and wildlife that migrate between the two. My work focuses mostly on sea turtles. They are of trophic importance to our ecosystems and beneficial to Florida tourism.”

In addition to the Cuba marine program, Bretos also directs The Reclamation Project at the Miami Science Museum, an eco-art project that empowers the local community to restore urban costal ecosystems, including mangroves. It was started in 2006 by Xavier Cortada, founding director of the Office of Engaged Creativity in the College of Architecture + The Arts.

“The Reclamation Project is currently a partner with FIU in mangrove restoration at the Biscayne Bay Campus,” Bretos said. “There are great opportunities to restore our ecosystems. We want students and the community to get involved in these restoration projects, and we’ll share how they can do that at the science café.”

The “Eat, Think, and Be Merry Science Café” series gives students and the community chances to discuss timely and relevant scientific issues with researchers in a relaxed, conversational setting.

“Cuba: The Accidental Eden” is scheduled for 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.