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Saba Spotlight: Dr. Jennifer Rahn

jenniferrahnBy Frans van Drunen

This time, we have Dr. Jennifer Rahn in the spotlight.

Who is Jennifer Rahn? She is an associate professor of geography at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama. Born in New Jersey, she loved the Jersey Shore and was a college and high school track athlete for many years. Rahn came to the island of Saba for the first time exactly 25 years ago to learn how to dive. At that time, she fell in love with diving, the island and a guy.

When she came to Saba, she had had no idea what to expect. She'd gotten a recommendation from a friend and that was it. Her first impressions were very positive as she loved the green scenery, friendly people and the quietness. "It was very different compared to where I'm from in the States," Rahn said. After staying a week on Saba, she returned to the States to continue with her Master's study in Cartography.

Four months after graduating from Temple University in Philadelphia, she immediately went back to Saba. At this time in the summer of 1990, she started working at Sea Saba Dive Centre, helping out on the boat and meanwhile becoming a dive master. The current owners of Sea Saba, John Magor and Lynn Costenaro, had just arrived on the island at that time and they became good friends. "Just a couple of weeks ago, we found some old slides from 25 years ago and held a slideshow with our old friends; that brought back some great moments," Rahn said.

Rahn stayed on the island for two years until 1992 and knew she needed a new challenge. Thanks to her experiences on Saba, she went back to the States to get her Ph.D. in Coastal Geomorphology (research on coastal changes).

Recently, at the beginning of January, a group of Samford University students came to Saba with Dr. Rahn and completed their Open and Advanced Open Water dive courses with Sea Saba Dive Center. After this, they conducted the Eco Immersion Programme, which Rahn, together with the Sea Saba team, developed over the years. One facet of the program included the students helping with Rahn's coastal research at Tent Bay cobble beach and Wells Bay beach underwater. The students measured the slope of this beach with diving and found that it had lost four metres of sand from 100 metres to 200 metres offshore in 2012, and that four meters have never returned.

This has affected how often Wells Bay Beach appears on Saba (it is usually only there in the summer and disappears in the winter). This project based adventure programme is now a specialised PADI course and is an introduction to scientific diving research and conservation.

"This is the same way I started on Saba, I got my introduction here as well all these years ago," Rahn mentioned. Apart from the underwater research, the students went on several hikes and learned about geology, geography and eco systems on land. They also volunteered for a day to help the Saba Conservation Foundation clean up the Bottom Mountain Trail.

A week ago, the students did a final presentation at the Brigadoon restaurant on their Eco Immersion research and shared all their experiences of the past two weeks. This is the fifth Eco Immersion Programme held on Saba. Anyone, such as families and dive groups, can participate in this programme. Dr. Rahn is very proud of Sea Saba as they are able to make excellent divers of anyone within a couple of weeks. Currently, Rahn is on a sabbatical and will remain on Saba for six months. She will do research for a new series of academic books of landscapes and landforms of the world. She will also help the Marine Park with education at the local schools. Her future plans for Saba are to continue with the Eco Immersion Programme and continue research at Tent Bay and Wells Bay.

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