Jun 26, 2016 News
By Sharmain Grainger
“I hope before I leave this earth, we in Guyana will be able to reach across the political and ethnic divide that separates us, so that together as Guyanese we can build a country that is prosperous, a country that is at peace, a country that is pragmatic; a country that all of us as Guyanese can be proud of.”
Guyana has everything it requires to become a kind of pearl in the Caribbean. At least this is the conviction of one of our esteemed Scientists, Dr. Ulric Trotz.
Although Dr. Trotz currently resides in Belize, he had long set the pace for the evolution of science here and, according to him, he is still willing to continue to lend his support if asked.
During a recent interview, Dr. Trotz shared his belief that Guyana not only has the natural resources, but also has access to the necessary qualified people to significantly advance science.
“Even though we complain some times, and rightly so, about the deterioration in some of our educational standards, our students still continue to shine, and as you go around the world there are Guyanese who have excelled in their fields of endeavour,” Dr. Trotz asserted.
Some of these persons who have excelled were in fact students of Dr. Trotz back in the day. He confided too that “the many young people who I have taught and mentored over the years are now well established professionals at home and in the Diaspora”.
The scientist, with many years of experience under his belt, is therefore absolutely confident that Guyana has the potential of utilising the talents of many of its nationals that have excelled.
Dr. Trotz’s dedication to things rooted in science over the years that have considerably helped the developmental process, not only in Guyana, but in the Caribbean, has essentially catapulted him into the realm of an exceptional ‘Special Person’.
And according to our ‘Special Person’, “what we need is an environment, basically, that would allow a full expression of the sort of talent and aspiration of our people. We need to have an enabling environment for people to contribute to our development”.
But there are challenges to consequential development that Dr. Trotz emphasises, he wishes to see overcome before his days expire.
“I hope before I leave this earth, we in Guyana will be able to reach across the political and ethnic divide that separates us, so that together as Guyanese, we can build a country that is prosperous, a country that is at peace, a country that is pragmatic; a country that all of us as Guyanese can be proud of.”
POISED FOR SUCCESS
Born on February 21, 1937 to Donald Cole and Classie Trotz, Dr. Trotz revealed that he grew up in a number of areas including Bartica, Beterverwagting, Bagotville, Leonora and Georgetown. Fondly called “Neville”, he recalled that his mother raised him single-handedly, and according to him, she was a wonderful woman.
He was an only child, and his upbringing was as simple as it was complex, to some extent. He attended Bartica Anglican Primary School, Beterverwagting Government School, as well as Enterprise High School and Queen’s College.
He later pursued undergraduate studies at Edinburgh University before moving on to his postgraduate studies at the University of Toronto in Canada, where he attained his Doctorate in Organic Chemistry.
Although his working experience and achievements are wide and varied, and spans decades, Dr. Trotz remembers all too well that his first working experience was as a Laboratory Assistant – in the Chemistry Laboratory – at Queen’s College.
He reflected that as a young boy, his passion was to study Medicine. However, those dreams were shattered as his mother did not have the financial resources to pay for medical school.
Chemistry was the natural next option.
“I liked Chemistry as a subject, and was awarded what in those days was a Government conditional scholarship to pursue studies in Chemistry,” Dr. Trotz said.
Although it wasn’t his original choice, he nevertheless was unwavering in dedicating himself to his studies. He gained inspiration to strive to be the best from his uncle, Lionel Trotz, a headmaster who performed the role of “father” in his life. Among his motivators, too, were his principal at Enterprise High School, Robert B.O. Hart and the “magnificent” teachers at Queen’s College including Cecil E.”Bup” Barker and Malcolm Boland in Chemistry, and Clarence “Puck” Drayton, in Physics.
He excelled in his academic pursuits and was eventually furnished with the wherewithal to establish a number of institutions that are still thriving. Among these are the Chemistry Department at the University of Guyana (UG) and the Institute of Applied Science and Technology (IAST). He also served for many years as a handwriting and ballistics expert.
MAKING AN IMPACT
Dr. Trotz currently holds the position of Deputy Director and Science Adviser at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belize. The centre was officially opened in August 2005 as the key institute for information on climate change issues, and on the Region’s response to managing and adapting to climate change in the Caribbean.
“It has the mandate to coordinate and implement actions in the Region in response to climate change impacts that we anticipate,” Dr. Trotz explained, as he pointed out that “it happens to be the only regional Centre of its kind, and has been recognised by the international community as a “Centre of Excellence” in the climate change arena”. Last year the Centre celebrated its 10th Anniversary.
But one of his most passionate involvements, however, has been the establishment of the Iwokrama International Centre for International for Rainforest and Conservation Development.
Iwokrama was established in 1996 to manage the forest area, following signature the year before of an international agreement between the Guyana Government and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
It is Dr. Trotz’s hope, however, that “a marriage possibly between the University of Guyana and Iwokrama would breathe new life into it (Iwokrama) and get it to realise its full potential.”
“I am still so excited about Iwokrama. I think that it could really be a global ‘Centre of Excellence” when it comes to issues of managing forests…it’s 252,000 hectares you know,” Dr. Trotz asserted.
According to him, Iwokrama has remained very close to his professional heart. As such, he noted, “I really want it to continue to succeed”. He divulged too that an aspect of Iwokrama that he would especially like to see reach new heights is that of eco-tourism.
Eco-tourism today is regarded as high-end tourism with tremendous potential. Dr. Trotz therefore highlighted that at Iwokrama there are many attractions suitable for eco-tourists. “What we need to do there, I think, is to put in place a world class eco-tourism facility and use it as a revenue-generating centre for Iwokrama, and not only that, use it to train people that we would need for eco-tourism not only in the Iwokrama area, but throughout the length and breadth of Guyana.”
ADVANCING THE SCIENCES
Dr. Trotz has a keen interest in advancing the sciences in the school system. He has, moreover, stressed the importance of taking advantage of natural resources in this endeavour. In doing the basic sciences, he noted, “we need to take advantage of our natural resources…we can infuse some of these issues into the agenda,” said Dr. Trotz, as he asked “how many of our children in the school system attend Summer camps or have an opportunity to go into the Rupununi Savannah or even into the Iwokrama Forest? They don’t know anything about the natural estate in Guyana…They might hear about it in school.”
For this reason, he underscored that “We need to look at how we infuse a lot of these things into the curriculum, so that at the end of the day, you have somebody coming out of the school system who is fully aware of the potential of what we have, and more importantly, how we can use that for the benefit of our country.”
Once this approach is embraced, Dr. Trotz envisages a society where people are genuinely excited about a common goal, which essentially is to help develop the country.
But Guyana is not the only country lacking in terms of the need to considerably advance its science curriculum.
“In the Caribbean they have the tourism industry, and they depend so much on the marine environment, but how many of the schools basically teach about marine environment? So we all need to revisit our curriculum to make sure that it is grounded in the realities of our local scene,” Dr. Trotz advised.
With the advancement of science, he is convinced that a number of developmental challenges that fall under the climate change umbrella, such as food security and water issues, can be readily addressed. With science, he stressed, tackling issues from flood to drought could essentially be achievable, as long as the right measures are in place.
But according to Dr. Trotz, the problem in realising the intended goal has always been limited capacity. As such, he emphasised the need for planning and necessary funding in order to implement strategic projects.
Countries throughout the Caribbean have been similarly challenged and the result, according to Dr. Trotz, has been that the whole ethic of using science and technology for development has not been duly maximized.
“It hasn’t been allowed to exercise its full potential,” the scientist stressed as he confidently assured that there is hope for Guyana.
He referenced IAST, which he headed for a number of years, as a means to advance Guyana’s developmental status.
“I think it is still a critical institution as we move ahead with development.”
In this regard, according to him, things are poised to be fast-tracked with support from UG, since “at UG there seems to be new energy with the new Vice Chancellor.
A SOFTER SIDE
But Dr. Trotz’s existence is not only driven by his passion for science. Many people know of him being a loving husband, and a very dedicated father to his four offspring – two girls (Maya and Alissa) and two boys (Garth and Johann). Sadly, Garth recently passed away. But he has many fond memories with all of his children that he will forever cherish.
His advice to his children over the years has been rather simple – strive for excellence. He has offered similar counsel to youths in whose lives he has played a role.
In fact, he urges all youths desirous of embracing the sciences “go for it and aim for excellence. Strive to achieve the highest standards in whatever you do, and give your imagination and creativity free reign. Aim for the sky but with your feet firmly on the ground”.
But he also enjoys quality personal time. According to Dr. Trotz, among his favourite pastimes is listening to music. And he could perhaps be deemed a sports fanatic, especially when it comes to football and cricket. He particularly revels in victories claimed by the West Indies team, and has been pleased with their recent successes.
A champion admiring champions; you can expect no less!
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