Hurricane Dorian and its serious effect on the Bahamas has given many of our scientists and staff cause to reflect on our island neighbors. Not only is our state closely related by geography, history and culture, Florida Museum and Bahamian scientists also have shared a great deal of research.
On Abaco and Grand Bahama, the decades-long relationships between the Florida Museum and Bahamian colleagues, students, teachers, volunteers and communities have been and continue to be the foundation of an ongoing, shared commitment to the exploration, documentation and conservation of the rich natural history, cultural heritage and biodiversity of the islands.
Our faculty and staff recently wrote in support of the islands:
Selected Science articles
Packing a suitcase for the future
November 27, 2018
Extinct tortoise yields oldest tropical DNA
February 8, 2017
New book reveals untold history of pre-colonial Caribbean islands
January 12, 2017
Bat Dispersal in the Bahamas (Video)
January 12, 2014
To share our research and relationship with the Bahamas, we created some #BahamasStrong Stories for social media:
A #BahamasStrong story:
University of Florida and Florida Museum scientists and students have been doing research in the Bahamas for decades. This tiny fossil bat mandible in clear capsule was collected there in 1958 by J.C. Dickinson & Walter Auffenberg, two of our well-known scientists.
There are 11 species of bats currently living in the Bahamas. The Bahamian Funnel-eared Bat, Chilonatalus tumidifrons, lives only on a few islands in the Bahamas. It is considered near threatened, and is vulnerable to human impact, climate change & severe weather.
More about this tiny bat on the IUCN Red List
Because they can fly, bats are good models for studying mammal movement in fragmented habitats. This video looks back at our then-UF grad student Kelly Speer, our scientist David Reed and team doing bat research in the Bahamas in 2013:
Bat Dispersal in the Bahamas (Watch)
A genetic analysis of bats living in the #Bahamas found that there was a difference in northern vs. southern populations of Brazilian free-tailed bats, and bats might not be flying across a very narrow channel to intermingle for some unknown reason. Full story:
Ocean channel in Bahamas marks genetic divide in Brazilian free-tailed bats
It may be some time before our professional work in the Bahamas can resume. But as relief work evolves, we will be extending support to the island community.
A #BahamasStrong story:
Years ago, diver Brian Kakuk helped scientists excavate thousands of fossils from an unusual Bahamas site–a blue hole. This sinkhole contains salt water covered by freshwater, with a middle layer of hydrogen sulfide.
Full story: Fossils from Bahamian Blue Hole may give clues to early life
A tortoise skeleton from the blue hole helped scientists tie the species’ extinction to human arrival on the island. “It’s probably a blend of direct hunting and habitat loss as the humans started burning the forests in the dry season,” said Dave Steadman.
Full story: Extinct tortoise yields oldest tropical DNA
Recently, DNA from one of the fossils revealed an extinct bird–Creighton’s caracara. The sinkhole’s caustic hydrogen sulfide prevented light and oxygen from degrading the fossil, leaving enough fragile genetic material for scientists to examine.
Full story: Extinct Caribbean bird yields DNA after 2,500 years in watery grave
“On islands like Abaco that have always been dominated by reptiles, the flora and fauna are more vulnerable because they have evolved to lead a more laid back, island existence,” Steadman said of Abaco’s largest carnivore & herbivore disappearing.
Full story: Answer to restoring lost island biodiversity found in fossils
For years, Brian Kakuk & scientists campaigned for protection of these blue holes. Kakuk: “From a scientific standpoint, we have basically been here since the splitting of Pangea, so the Bahamas are a great way to see how things have changed over time.”
Full story: Protecting a sunken ancient world
Museum collections are valuable yet vulnerable. Blue hole specimens were stored both in the Bahamas & here at the Florida Museum. Scientists also left specimens in the sinkhole, so there are likely more discoveries to be made some day.
In the spirit of friendship, collegial support and human resiliency, the Florida Museum stands in solidarity with the people of Abaco and Grand Bahama during their time of recovery, healing and rebuilding.
The people of the Bahamas can use a tremendous amount of support right now, and rebuilding will require a lot of funding. While many local organizations are arranging donated supplies to be delivered to the islands now, monetary donations will be critical to long-term recovery.
Some notable national/international organizations*:
More local, national and international organizations from our local WUFT/PBS site:
*The Florida Museum does not endorse these relief organizations. Please research before donating.