Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

National Geographic features University of Miami's work on Bahamas 'blue holes'

27.08.2010
Expedition led by UM scientist sheds light on evolution, archaeology and climate change

The cover story of the most recent issue of National Geographic Magazine (August 2010) features a University of Miami (UM) led expedition to the underwater caves of the Bahamas, known as 'blue holes.'

These unique environments are one of the least understood ecosystems on the planet, largely due to the challenges involved in studying these extreme environments, which include complete darkness, dramatic reversing currents, extreme depths, poisonous gasses, and silty, tight squeezes. The expedition made significant findings related to the past history of the earth, including human occupation, previously undiscovered microbial life, and abrupt climatic changes.

The expedition was conceived of and led by National Geographic Emerging Explorer Kenny Broad, Director of UM's Leonard and Jayne Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, and Associate Professor at UM's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. Funded by The National Geographic Society, the National Museum of the Bahamas, and the National Science Foundation, this work included more than 150 dives and involved unique collaboration between cave divers, scientists from several different fields, and a specialized film team led by the late Wes Skiles, a renowned filmmaker, conservationist and cave explorer. The expedition also was featured in a one-hour NOVA PBS special entitled "Extreme Cave Diving."

"What may look like an insignificant little muddy hole in the woods is actually a window into a world we know little about, a time capsule of evolutionary history that not only provides us with information about where we came from, but what surprises the climate may have in store for us," said Broad. "In addition to the scientific value of these caves, underground aquifers are critical reservoirs of fresh water on a global scale. Like many out of sight -out of mind situations, they are largely ignored, and are threatened by overuse, pollution and increasingly, sea-level rise."

Broad worked closely with UM colleagues and students, including geochemist and professor Peter Swart, whose focus was dating and isotopic analysis of stalagmites to reconstruct past climate changes back nearly 500,000 years and Amy Clement, associate professor of meteorology and physical oceanography, who was analyzing this data in the context of current theories on abrupt climate change. Several UM students were also involved in the expedition, including Monica Arienzo, a marine geology and geophysics Ph.D. student analyzing geological samples that include Saharan dust found deep underwater, Bahamian native Nikita Shiel-Rolle, a marine science undergraduate and cave diver who worked on the unique microbiology in these holes, and Colton Hoover Chase, an aspiring filmmaker, who assisted the National Geographic film team.

"The isolated nature of the Bahamas, free of any input from rivers, makes it an ideal place to study the flux of atmospheric-derived dust," said Swart. "As the stalagmites can be dated very accurately, we can examine for the first time the relationship between dust and abrupt climate change in the sub-tropics, and whether the sub-topics may be the actual driver of climate change."

Other key team members included Dive Safety Office and explorer, Brian Kakuk, and Project Coordinator Nancy Albury from the National Museum of the Bahamas, led by Dr. Keith Tinker. University members included astrobiologist Jenn Macalady from Pennsylvania State University, who studied water chemistry and microbes found in the different blue holes, biologist and cave explorer Tom Ilffe of Texas A&M University, who studies extremophile living creatures that live in the submerged caves, David Steadman, professor and curator of ornithology at the Florida Museum of Natural History and a world leader in studying extinct species, and archeologist and cave diver Michael Pateman from the National Museum of the Bahamas, who was excavating and studying the remains of Lucayan indians found in this deep, anoxic environment, which is ideal for the preservation of organic materials.

About the National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is one of the world's largest nonprofit scientific and educational organizations. Founded in 1888 to "increase and diffuse geographic knowledge," the Society works to inspire people to care about the planet. It reaches more than 300 million people worldwide each month through its official journal, National Geographic, and other magazines; National Geographic Channel; television documentaries; music; radio; films; books; DVDs; maps; school publishing programs; interactive media; and merchandise. National Geographic has funded more than 9,000 scientific research, conservation and exploration projects and supports an education program combating geographic illiteracy. For more information, visit www.nationalgeographic.com

About the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School

The University of Miami is the largest private research institution in the southeastern United States. The University's mission is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment for University initiatives. Founded in the 1940's, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world's premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, please visit www.rsmas.miami.edu.

About the University of Miami The University of Miami's mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of our diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world. www.miami.edu

Marie Guma-Diaz | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.umiami.edu
http://www.rsmas.miami.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht More than 100 years of flooding and erosion in 1 event
28.03.2017 | Geological Society of America

nachricht Satellites reveal bird habitat loss in California
28.03.2017 | Duke University

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A Challenging European Research Project to Develop New Tiny Microscopes

The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.

To demonstrate the usefulness of this new scientific tool, at the end of the project the developed chip-sized microscope will be used to observe in real-time...

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Transport of molecular motors into cilia

28.03.2017 | Life Sciences

A novel hybrid UAV that may change the way people operate drones

28.03.2017 | Information Technology

NASA spacecraft investigate clues in radiation belts

28.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>