Geoscience in the Bahamas – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Geoscience in the Bahamas

Two years after a winter field study in the Bahamas, the HWS Geoscience Department is returning to the island of San Salvador for GEO 299: “Carbonates Ancient and Modern-The Bahamas,” where students are developing hands-on experience in science and communication by exploring modern and ancient carbonate environments.

During the last trip, led by HWS Professor of Geoscience Nan Crystal Arens and SUNY Oswego Associate Professor of Atmospheric and Geological Sciences Diana Boyer, the group examined sedimentary geology, marine conservation, climate change and human impact, and documented a beach cleanup service-learning project with a short film.

This year, the group is “studying how wind, waves and currents shape the sedimentary environment and habitat for organisms and comparing that to the Pleistocene and Holocene rocks that are preserved nearby,” says Arens, who is again leading the trip with Boyer, accompanied by HWS Professor of Chemistry Walter Bowyer.

They have also added another project this year.

In October, Hurricane Joaquin spent about 36 hours over San Salvador. During the storm, a sizable container ship sank off shore, and on their initial visit to the island’s eastern beaches, the group found remnants of the ship’s cargo such as insulin needles and flea medicine. As they comb the beaches, students are developing a documentary about the ocean trash that washed up during Joaquin, using the equipment purchased for the trip through an innovative technology grant sponsored by the Office of the Provost at Hobart and William Smith and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Now in the midst of the trip, the group is looking specifically at debris strand lines as a way to understand the storm surge and bring that understanding to a broader audience.

As Arens said during the 2014 excursion, “Science literacy in our culture is low. Only scientists can improve literacy. To do that means reaching out to all kinds of people in a way that is fun and accessible.”

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