To walk Bonaire’s mondi with Marlene Robinson is to take a journey through its rich botanical wealth. She is a self-taught botanist and, since moving to the island in 2005, can now identify most plants encountered on her frequent sunset walks. “When I first started traveling to the Caribbean I thought, ‘This place is incredible and I can choose to live here if I want to.’ I wanted to be some place much warmer than the cold and gray Pacific Northwest where I lived in the U.S. So my partner, Bruce, and I made the move.” The couple has not looked back since.
In their first year, they joined Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire (STCB) and soon went from field work assistants to board members. “For me, belonging to a community involves volunteer work,” says Robinson. “The opportunity to give back is essential for me.”
But before becoming an environmental activist, Marlene filled many roles. As a young woman, she left her native Canada to pursue studies in ceramics at the University of Wisconsin, USA. She became an accomplished potter, moved to Oregon and had a severe auto accident ending her ceramics career due to a back injury. She rebounded by becoming director of an annual arts festival coordinating promotion, advertising and a staff of 500 event volunteers.
A move to the state of Washington led to jobs in public relations and administration for the City of Bellingham. She also worked for community organisation that, similar to DCNA, funded NGOs in the community. “I see joining DCNA as a great opportunity to learn advocacy and apply it to STCB,” explains Robinson. “It’s incredibly important for NGOs because we aren’t merely protecting species, we’re protecting ecosystems and to do that you have to work with people and governments.”