The long lost forest

Dr. Nigel Noriega speaksBy Hadley Montgomery

Staff Writer

Photo by Kimberly Williams

Dr. Nigel Noriega has the objective to bring the value of forests to the surface. A native of Trinidad, he received his undergraduate degree at the University of Florida. While observing Atrazine herbicide and the development problems created within frogs, he acquired his PhD at UC Berkeley. Noriega’s main goal is to bring science into people’s everyday lives. He created a non-profit organization called Sustainable Innovation Initiatives to enable ecologically sustainable economies to thrive in tropical forest regions. It aims to reduce the disparities in biological information available to people from varied backgrounds and technologies. With this non-profit, Noriega has found that the best way to achieve this is through documentary products so people can relate to the information in a visual way.

The first of many videos is called “Home of the Guppy.” The goal of this film is to use “a small fish to bridge large gaps in generations and cultures.” The video is about how a tiny fish in Trinidad’s streams can change the way we view biology. The northern part of the country is a mountain range that connects to the southern part to create streams in the middle of the country. These streams, many almost identical, have been isolated for thousands of years and have created a natural laboratory. Throughout fifteen generations of populations, many evolutionary concepts have originated from these streams. Noriega believes we are missing an emotional connection and knowledge of our place and culture, which hinders our personal investment in the natural tendencies of our society. These guppies are surprisingly similar to humans, and can answer many questions about our collective behavior and tendencies. The most fascinating part of this is the ability to test theories of evolution in real time. It is changing the way many people think of evolution and can explain why this phenomenon occurs. In Trinidad, Noriega and many others can present this information about evolution and the natural habitat through documentaries at a faster rate than textbooks.