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National Geographic Grant to Document Underwater Cave System in Abaco

Photo 1-Divers explore Cave Formations in South Abaco Blue Holes National ParkThe underwater cave system in the Abacos will be extensively documented thanks to a grant from the National Geographic Society. The global nonprofit group will partner with Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation (AMMC) through the University of Miami, to provide the Bahamian government with a comprehensive map of the area. Project coordinators will accurately document the existence of key paleontological finds, biodiversity hotspots, and sites in the aquatic environment and set the foundation for future research. Other partners include Friends of the Environment in Abaco and Bahamas Underground- a foundation established to research caves in The Bahamas.

In a push to explore the planet and protect the natural environment, the National Geographic Society funds conservation and research projects around the world with the goal of educating current and future generations. Dr. Keith Tinker, Director of AMMC, sees significant benefits to the research being facilitated by the National Geographic grant.

“In terms of data and documentation, the grant has provisions to involve the community and provide resources to educate the local population on protecting the groundwater environment and preserving the natural heritage. Within the next year we will work with the team on curriculum and interpretive trials,” he explained. “While the research will focus on looking at the current habitat, the partnership will also assist us with establishing the protocol and database for scientists exploring the underground water systems in the future.”

The importance of the inland blue holes and caves in the Abacos is well documented with research focusing specifically on the biological, paleontological, and climatological perspectives. Six years ago, National Geographic Magazine featured the underwater system as its cover story.

New studies seek to deliver a comprehensive map of the submerged caves using technology like 3-D magnetic mapping and imaging to survey the area. Explorers attached to this project will also conduct a baseline ethnobotanical survey of the area and conduct interviews with locals to determine the use for the plants found in the blue hole. Fieldwork is slated to commence from December 1 to December 14, 2016.

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