Island(er)s at the Helm: Co-creating sustainable and inclusive solutions for social adaptation to climate challenges in the (Dutch) Caribbean

Driven by the increasing public awareness of the impact of hurricanes and the devastation of coastal areas, Island(er)s at the Helm will contribute to equipping (Dutch) Caribbean societies with proficient tools for confronting these challenging climatic phenomena.


Such adverse events have significant ecological, social, and cultural implications, affecting the basic living conditions (water, food, shelter-nexus/WFS-nexus) and heritage of the island inhabitants. This research builds on the principle that local-specific practices and ontologies of Caribbean societies are crucial for promoting sustainable WFS-nexus solutions. The project brings together researchers and societal partners to employ a mixture of technical, traditional, and contemporary knowledge practices for studying climate change adaptation through a long-term perspective.

Transdisciplinary research design

Five inter-related work packages studying the WFS-nexus of the island(er)s will adopt a transdisciplinary research design including: archaeology, paleoecology, (paleo)ethnobotany, social-cultural anthropology, visual arts, performance arts, political science, urban design, urban planning, governance and policy sciences, legal studies, architecture, and civil engineering.

Trans-Atlantic Academic Platform

A trans-Atlantic academic platform will be developed fostering research-based education on climate challenges for the six islands. Moreover, a regional expertise center on climate challenges, where the Dutch Caribbean researchers can find employ, is one of the end objectives of this program. This center will work towards this integration by offering joint courses in cooperation with institutes in the region and the wider Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Island(er)s at the Helm is funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) Caribbean Research programme. The host institute for this project is the Royal Netherlands Institute for Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies (KITLV/KNAW), in collaboration with the University of St. Martin and the University of the Virgin Islands. 

Project proposal

Download the full project proposal for Island(er)s at the Helm here.

Dr. Francio Guadeloupe (Chair & Principal Investigator WP2)
Francio Guadeloupe (UvA/KITLV) is a senior researcher and staff member of the KITLV. A Social & Cultural Anthropologist by training, Dr. Guadeloupe has worked at all the major universities in the Netherlands. He served for four years as the President of the University of St. Martin (USM), until hurricane Irma led to the temporary closure of the institution on the bi-national island of Sint Maarten and Saint Martin. Read More.

Prof. dr. Corinne L. Hofman (co-Chair & Principal Investigator WP1)
Corinne L. Hofman (LU/KITLV) is PI of the CaribTRAILS project at the KITLV, which receives funding from the NWO Spinoza prize awarded to her in 2014. She is also Professor of Caribbean Archaeology at the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University. From 2013 to 2019, Hofman was the CPI of the ERC-Synergy project NEXUS1492. Read More.

Dr. Antonio Carmona Báez (co-Applicant & Principal Investigator WP4)
Antonio Carmona Báez (USM) is a Puerto Rican political scientist specialised in International Relations and the Political Economy of Development. In 1994, he received a BA from Middlebury College, Vermont, USA where he studied International Politics and Spanish and Latin American Literature. Thereafter, he pursued his graduate degree (MA) in International Relations at the University of Amsterdam. In 2002, he earned his doctorate degree from the same university in International Relations, upon having written his dissertation Global Trends and the Remnants of Socialism: Socio-economic and Political Restructuring in Cuba. Read More.

Sharelly Emanuelson (PhD candidate)
Sharelly Emanuelson is a filmmaker, visual artist, researcher, and founder of Uniarte (art platform). She carries a BA in audiovisual media and MA in artistic research. For her films and installations between 2010 and 2021 she has been widely recognized with screenings, prizes and grants in local, regional, and international festivals and institutes. As a part of Islander(s) at the Helm, Sharelly Emanuelson will conduct ethnographic research from a visual-anthropological perspective, focused on leisure. This research departs from the fact that in the Dutch Caribbean there is a longer trajectory where people are not only faced with natural disasters, but also economic and social repression (the coloniality of disaster) and those circumstances have led to an importance of leisure time as moments of freedom. Emanuelson will conduct multi-sited fieldwork in spaces and places of leisure on four the six Dutch Caribbean islands.


Harold Kelly (PhD candidate)
Harold Kelly graduated with a masters at the Leiden University in 2003. Since then, he has been working as an archaeologist at the National Archaeological Museum Aruba and has also served as a deputy director of the museum between 2007 and 2013. In context of Island(er)s at the Helm, Kelly will be looking at long-term evidence for social adaptations to habitation and climatic challenges in Aruba, Bonaire, and Sint Maarten, from an archaeological perspective. The islands will serve as case studies to examine how islanders coped with challenges that negatively impacted their water and food resources and influenced their settlement location and house structures. Coping mechanisms identified within the archaeological record will contribute to the development of innovative sustainable solutions within the Islanders at the Helm project to mitigate climatic challenges faced today.


Lysanne Charles (PhD candidate)
Lysanne Charles is an artist, educator and activist whose work has centered on empowerment of marginalized groups across issues using tools in education, the arts and activism. She is a native of the Dutch Caribbean islands of Saba and St. Maarten, with family ties to St. Eustatius, Bonaire, Curacao, Aruba. Lysanne has bachelor’s degrees in Political Science and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina Pembroke and masters degrees in Sociology and Cultural Anthropology from the University of Amsterdam Graduate Schools of Science. In the past she worked as an Instructor of Caribbean Studies, Caribbean History and Social Studies and was employed as a civil servant for the Government of Sint Maarten in the areas of policy development and implementation. As a part of Islander(s) at the Helm, Lysanne Charles will utilize a transdisciplinary approach to analyze and bring together stakeholders from government and the community in order to co-create a viable and sustainable policies and strategies roadmap in order to mitigate the impacts of climate change on the SSS islands. Charles’ research project is entitled, “Community Engagement in Sustainable Governance: The Co-creation of Climate Policy on St. Martin, Saba and St. Eustatius” and she will be based at the University of St. Martin.

Emma de Mooij (Project Manager)
Emma de Mooij (RMA) studied Caribbean Archaeology at Leiden University. Alongside managing the Island(er)s a the Helm project, she is also coordinator for the CaribTRAILS project, also at KITLV.

Tibisay Sankatsing Nava (Science Communication & Community Engagement Coordinator)
Tibisay Sankatsing Nava is community engagement coordinator for the Island(er)s at the Helm project. She is also a PhD candidate; her research focuses on the co-creation of heritage research with Caribbean island communities.

Dr. Jaime R. Pagán-Jiménez (researcher in paleoethnobotany)

During the past 18 years, Jaime Pagán-Jiménez has sought to create and strengthen public, scientific, and governmental awareness of the Puerto Rican and Caribbean archaeological heritage. He has devoted much of his recent time in designing a new disciplinary approach (“paleoethnoecology”) that seeks to link the knowledge gained about ancient agroecological systems in the Caribbean to the development of modern agroecological strategies and solutions in order to address fundamental food security problems that historically have affected the region. Pagán-Jiménez has been recently appointed as Researcher in paleoethnobotany by Island(er)s at the Helm project. In this project, Pagán-Jiménez has started to put in practice the aforementioned disciplinary approach

Dr. Charissa Granger (researcher in musicology)

Charissa Granger is a musicologist and lecturer in cultural studies at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine (Trinidad and Tobago) whose teaching and research focuses on Afro-Caribbean and diasporic music-making and performance as decolonising practices. Attending to the residue of chattel-slavery and the legacy of colonialism, Charissa is interested in decolonial aesthetics, love, and erotic knowledge in musics such as steelband and tambú. After completing a bachelor’s in visual and performing arts at Northern Illinois University (USA) with a focus on cultural studies and steelpan performance, and a master’s in cultural musicology at The University of Amsterdam (the Netherlands), Charissa focused on world music performance practice, attending to how otherness is framed at world music festivals as a doctoral research project at the University of Göttingen (Germany). Charissa was awarded the Marie Skłodowska-Curie LEaDing Fellowship at Erasmus University Rotterdam in 2018-2020

Dr. Kees Nooren (researcher in Paleoecology and Climatology)

Kees Nooren has recently been appointed as Researcher in Paleoecology and Climatology by Island(er)s at the Helm project, an ambitious interdisciplinary research program financed by NWO in the Dutch Caribbean.

He has a background in Biology (Msc) and obtained his PhD in Physical Geography. He worked and lived in Brazil, Aruba, and Mexico, and  is very  interested in human environmental interactions and human adaptation strategies to past climate change, especially for Mesoamerican and Caribbean societies. He is a specialist in palaeoenvironmental and palaeoclimate reconstructions, and is familiar with the application of multiple proxies, including pollen and diatoms.

Andrea Richards (affiliated PhD researcher)

Andrea is a Caribbean archaeologist presently working on various initiatives on disaster resilience in the Caribbean’s culture sector, with a focus on post-disaster needs and vulnerability assessments and the safeguarding of living heritage in emergencies.

Andrea’s interests are wide in the heritage field; however, she has special interest in the impact of climate change on cultural and natural heritage, the sustainable use of heritage, the application of international heritage treaties in the Caribbean and the movement of the region’s cultural property. She is an associate fellow at the KITLV/Royal Netherlands Institute of SE Asian and Caribbean Studies (CaribTRAILS Project) and is presently undertaking doctoral research on climate change adaptation and heritage, with a focus on cultural heritage pathways in mitigation, adaptation and building resilience in the Anglo-phone Caribbean with linkages to the Dutch Caribbean. She has also conducted research for publications focussing on cultural resource management in the Caribbean, the impact of natural hazards and climate change on the pre-Columbian archaeological record, and resilient Caribbean communities and climate change.

Jan 2022 – Island(er)s at the Helm digital kick-off meeting

In January 2022, Island(er)s at the Helm welcomed several new researchers to the team. In the week of 10 January, Island(er)s researchers got together to share research ideas and progress, to discuss plans across work packages and get to know each other. Unfortunately, due to the ongoing COVID19 pandemic, this meeting was organized online, instead of in St. Maarten as originally planned.

Jan 2022 – 32 children in Aruba participate in Island(er)s at the Helm school activity

Students of ages eight to twelve years old from the Montessori school in Aruba gathered at Ayo to visit the pictograph site with archaeologist and PhD candidate Harold Kelly (National Archaeological Museum Aruba). Together, they explored the Ayo Rock formation, got a tour of the pictographs and participated in an engaging discussion about heritage and climate change and how climate challenges affect their daily lives. Read more.

Nov 2021 – Prome dialogo publico relaciona cu investigacion di doctorado di e Isleñonan na Timon.

Harold Kelly ta investiga e efecto di cambio di clima riba bida diario desde antaño te awendia y con e ser humano a adapta na e cambio aki. Comunidad ta un fuente importante pa haya sa mas di e relacion entre cambio di clima y forma di biba. Pa esaki Harold Kelly hunto cu MANA ta organisa encuentronan cu partidonan interesa/stakeholders. Diahuebs 28 di october ultimo a tuma luga e prome sesion. Lesa mas.

SEPT 2021 – Twenty organizations participate in Island(er)s at the Helm’s first stakeholder meeting

On 14 September 2021, the Island(er)s at the Helm program hosted its first Kingdom-wide event with societal partners and other stakeholders. This meeting is the start of a five-year collaboration that brings together researchers and societal partners to use technical, traditional, and contemporary knowledge practices to study climate change adaptation. Working closely together, the Island(er)s at the Helm program will co-create sustainable and inclusive solutions for social adaptation to climate challenges in the (Dutch) Caribbean. Read more.

JULY 2021 – Three Dutch Caribbean PhD candidates in the NWO Island(er)s at the Helm project.

True to the name and their promise, the Island(er)s at the Helm project, funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO) programme Caribbean Research: A Multidisciplinary Approach, is employing CAS and BES islands researchers. Harold Kelly (Aruba), Lysanne Charles (Saba/St. Maarten), and Sharelly Emanuelson (Curaçao/Aruba) will be appointed from the 1st of September 2021 to work for four years on their PhD projects in relation to preparing the six Dutch Antillean islands for impending climate challenges. Read more.

JANUARY 2021 – ‘Island(er)s at the Helm’ awarded with funding from the NWO Caribbean Research programme

On January 7th Minister van Engelshoven of Education, Culture and Science of The Netherlands announced that the project Island(er)s at the Helm: Co-creating sustainable and inclusive solutions for social adaptation to climate challenges in the (Dutch) Caribbean is one of two projects awarded with funding from the NWO Caribbean Research programmeRead more.

APRIL 2020 – Island(er)s at the Helm Public Outreach Seminars

In preparation of a proposal for the Dutch Research Council’s (NWO) call for Caribbean multi-disciplinary research, Corinne Hofman (LU/KITLV) and Francio Guadeloupe (UvA/KITLV) visited the six Dutch Caribbean islands together with a team of researchers and societal partners to discuss their proposal on social adaptation to climate change challenges in the (Dutch) Caribbean with local stakeholders. Read more.

Island(er)s at the Helm in the media

Entrevista di Dia Hits100 FM na Aruba. Harold Kelly (archeologo), Dr. Francio Guadeloupe (antropologo) y Tibisay SN (science communication y community engagement coordinator) tokante “Island(er)s at the Helm”. 27 Jan 2022. Link Hits FM.

NWO Onderzoeksmagazine, rubriek Opgemerkt door Carel Stolker, ‘Klimaatadaptatie in de (voormalige) Nederlandse Cariben‘, 15 April 2021

Universiteit Leiden, ‘Embedding scientific research in the Caribbean with funding from NWO‘, 17 February 2021

Visit Aruba News, ‘Island(er)s at the Helm awarded funding from NWO‘, 10 February 2021

The Daily Herald, ‘Island(er)s at the Helm awarded funding from NWO‘, 10 February 2021

Curacao Chronicle, ‘Island(er)s at the Helm awarded funding from NWO‘, 10 February 2021

The Daily Herald, ‘Guadeloupe to co-chair research into climate resiliency at USM‘, 11 January 2021

Sint Maarten Agriculture, ‘Caribbean Research Program Chair assigned to Francio Guadeloupe‘, 9 January 2021

Saint Martin News Network, ‘Caribbean Research Programme chair assigned to Francio Guadeloupe‘, 9 January 2021

Paradise FM, ‘7 miljoen euro voor Caribische projecten‘, 7 January 2021

Universiteit van Amsterdam, ‘Grote impuls voor Uva-onderzoek in Cariben‘, 7 January 2021

Project Newsletter, “Island(er)s at the Helm Public Outreach Seminars“, 31 March 2020

Xiomara Balentina, “The Western University in ‘Exotic Spaces’“, March 2020

Radiostation Nos Mainta interviews Francio Guadeloupe, Corinne Hofman, and Harold Kelly, March 2020 (01:06:38)

The Daily Herald, ‘Post-coloniality and decoloniality central at academic symposium‘, 29 February 2020

Academic partners

Other academic partners include: Instituto Pedagogico Arubano, Inter-Continental University of the Caribbean (Curaçao), Leiden University, University of Amsterdam, TU Delft and Universiteit Utrecht. Island(er)s at the Helm is funded by the Dutch Research Council’s (NWO) Caribbean Research program.

The project also works closely together with a wide range of societal partners including non-governmental organizations, government and industry representatives from the Dutch Caribbean islands and the Netherlands.

Francio Guadeloupe about Islanders at the Helm

Island(er)s at the Helm at UNESCO event on Community Participation for Local Climate Adaptation

Project updates

Twenty organizations participate in Island(er)s at the Helm’s first stakeholder meeting. Read more

Three Dutch Caribbean PhD candidates in the NWO Island(er)s at the Helm project. Read more

Programa “Isleñonan na Timon” a haya fondo di e programa di investigacion Caribense ‘NWO’. Read more