On the 18th of November 2013, King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands opened the newly built Carmabi Science Center, located on Curaçao. King Willem-Alexander was crowned King of the Netherlands and his wife Princess Maxima, was crowned Queen in April 2013. Carmabi, which is short for Caribbean Research and Management of Biodiversity is located at Piscadera Bay, located just north of the main city of Willemstad. The opening of the science center became official after the unveiling of a special plaque, marking the occasion. The event was applauded by the Carmabi board, staff, and over 100 guests invited for the official opening.
Curaçao, located just north of the Venezuelan coast, is part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. With growing local and international interest in Carmabi and the important scientific works being done since Carmabi’s origins in the 1950’s, it was decided that a new science center was needed to improve the capabilities of steadfast research. Thus, the construction of the new building began in 2011 and was finished November of this year, 2013.
The recent opening of Carmabi by King Willem-Alexander follows a royal tradition stretching back to when the first stone of the Carmabi building was laid in 1955 by the late Prince Bernhard, grandfather of the present King Willem-Alexander. The second wing of the building was opened by Queen Juliana, grandmother of the current king in 1965. The mother of the King, former queen Beatrix, visited Carmabi in 1958.
On the 18th of November, the long awaited day finally arrived, and once again the royal tradition was upheld. Many public spectators dressed in orange gathered in front of the Carmabi building. The King and Queen and their entourage arrived by bus and police escort and were greeted by the President of the Carmabi Board, Peter Bongers, and Carmabi Director Paul Stokkermans. After unveiling the plaque, the King and Queen toured the building. In the library a photo exhibition was dedicated to the royal history of Carmabi. In the laboratory, Carmabi students provided information about coral larvae research and the King and Queen were invited to view different stages of coral larvae development through various microscopes. Along with the Carmabi opening, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima toured the other Caribbean islands of the Kingdom including St. Maarten, Saba, St. Eustatius, Curaçao, Bonaire and Aruba for the first time as King and Queen.
Carmabi is a foundation that was established in 1955 and is an IUCN Member since 1977. At present Carmabi is responsible for research, management of the island’s national parks, and environmental and nature education. Carmabi also has a consultancy department to advise the government and the private sector on ways to best maintain the island’s ecological health as we move through the 21st century. Most research conducted at the research station focuses on marine life, particularly that of coral reefs. Leading researchers such as Dr. Mark Vermeij and Dr. Kristen Marhaver work at Carmabi and numerous other visiting researches and graduate students from around the world are found there. Although not the main focus, terrestrial research is also an important direction of Carmabi, and essential for the better understanding of Curacao’s terrestrial habitats. Currently, research mapping the movement and importance of bats on the island’s plant ecology is taking place in cooperation with scientists on Bonaire, Aruba and Venezuela. On a yearly basis, Carmabi is visited by 200 students (masters and PhD) and scientists from universities abroad to do research. Most students come from universities in the United States followed by universities from Europe and Australia. Visiting students and scientists usually stay for one to six months. Courses usually last a few weeks.
The newly opened four story Science Center holds a brand new state of the art laboratory, a library, multiple working spaces, and has accommodation for up to 30 guests. Kitchen and laundry facilities as well as numerous patios and balconies allow visitors to also enjoy the tropical sea side location during their visit. The ground floor contains an open space auditorium, allowing for information to flow freely between visitors and scientists in the form of meetings and presentations. Although Carmabi has provided laboratory and accommodation facilities since 1955, the new building greatly increases Carmabi’s capacity towards public outreach and supporting existing scientific investigations.
Before leaving the new research center, the King and Queen were given presents by three children of Carmabi’s staff intended for their daughters, the princesses. As time passes and tropical research on Curacao continues to grow, perhaps one day the princesses will also visit to unveil the future of tropical research at the Carmabi Science Center.
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