Five years have passed in a blink for Kirstyn Werner since she arrived in Cayman.
The naturalist is now manager at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman’s Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment after first joining “for nine months” with a friend.
“I felt I hadn’t really lived here yet and I fell in love with the Blue Iguanas and the ocean. Cayman is unique and there are many treasures here. The way life happens you won’t find anywhere else. There is just so much to learn, explore and do that I feel I just started yesterday,” she said.
While her new role is necessarily more office-based, Ms Werner still finds time to get out and interact with the children and adults who come to the Ambassadors programmes, which cover a range of activities based around the natural treasures both in the water and on land. These programmes are open, she said, to locals and visitors alike.
“We are not a ‘kids club’,” she stressed.
“Our role is of environmental educators. All the naturalists here have degrees in the subject, science or education. Our main goal is ‘protect what you love’. We take people out into the environment to fall in love with it. Often kids who come here to visit they have never actually interacted with wild life. They’ve only seen it at zoos, museums or on TV but the first time a kid actually holds a hermit crab in their hands is simply awesome.”
The job does not come without its interesting moments as youngsters add to their awareness of the environment which surrounds them, added Ms. Werner.
“I remember one particular VIP came in upset and demanding what I’d taught their daughter because at a restaurant this person had ordered crab, and the youngster had said she would never speak to her mom again if she ate it.
“I explained that on that day we had been speaking about the importance of hermit crabs as decomposers in the environment. Of course, this person understood it was all for the good. It is really rewarding interacting with people who may not have had that experience. We make it entertaining enough that people forget they are learning and we see people come back year after year to learn more which is amazing to me,” she noted.
Ms Werner previously worked at a private zoo and spent six months on a research project in Belize in the fields of anthropology and biology, meeting some rather noisy howler monkeys along the way. As for Cayman, she sees some positive times ahead.
“We have been pushing hard for recycling. It is obvious that the community is ready. Locals come up and say that it is really just getting back to where we were – that growing up, the elder generation never wasted anything. It is only recently that this has happened. Dart’s glass crusher is a major move forward, as is allowing solar panel energy into the grid. My biggest goal is to get the Ritz-Carlton to really be a leader in recycling.
“If you take Cayman Become as an example it’s clear that wherever you are from or whoever you represent, all of us have a common goal. That is inspiring.”