Blue Hole Surprise

With our lab moving to North Carolina State in the fall, it is an exciting time with
lots of new graduate students coming on board.  The video above was taken by
Stephanie Buhler, a new Ph.D. student, on one of her first Abaco experiences (some
detail after the jump).  Much more to come from her this summer, and we will soon
learn more about blue holes and surrounding plant/animal communities from Betsy
Stoner.  By the way, I believe this marine blue hole would fall in the proposed 
conservation area.

This past week I have been exploring shorelines along Great Abaco as part of my preliminary field season for my Ph. D with Dr. Craig Layman. Looking for potential project sites, a few days ago I went kayaking with Tricia Callahan, Dr. Layman’s research assistant, to explore some red mangrove flats near Crossing Rocks. As we weaved through the flats, we noticed a particular spot of mangroves that were at least three times taller than the surrounding area. Paddling towards these “monster” mangroves, we noticed the sandy bottom was now completely covered with an array of algae, seagrass, sponges, and corals. Soon enough we saw a small opening through the mangroves that had a strong current and we both knew we had found one Abaco’s magnificent blue holes. At this particular one, we were greeted at the opening by a nest of baby herons (picture below).

Once my head was underwater, I was surrounded by a school of grunt on my left and snapper on my right. The change in biodiversity and species richness was absolutely incredible to observe. In just a 10 minute snorkel, one can see how these magnificent blue holes surrounding the Abacos must be a vital oasis (source of nutrients) for numerous species, including many commercially important species such as Spiny lobster (Panulirus argus), snapper (Lutjanidae), and grouper (Serranidae).

Baby Herons

About the Author:

Craig Layman
My lab’s interdisciplinary pursuits provide for a multi-faceted understanding of environmental change in the coastal realm. We are ecologists, asking questions that span population, community, ecosystem and evolutionary sub-disciplines. We often use a food web based perspective, exploring top-down (e.g., predation) and bottom-up (e.g., nutrient excretion) mechanisms by which animals affect ecosystem processes. All of our efforts are framed within a broader outreach framework, directly integrating science and education, using approaches such as this website.

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