Bahamian students monitor diseases in local mangroves

Bahamian students monitor diseases in local mangroves

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Photo: Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation

ABACO, Bahamas — Students enrolled in the Bahamas Awareness of Mangroves (BAM) program launched an environmental monitoring program and a new partnership with North Carolina State University to study diseases in Bahamian mangrove trees.

The BAM program, spearheaded by the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation and partners at FRIENDS of the Environment, combines science education with mangrove restoration.

Amy Heemsoth, director of education for the Khaled bin Sultan Living Oceans Foundation said, “This is the second year we have run the BAM program, and the students have grown in their understanding of mangroves, as well as their enthusiasm to conserve them.”

Students enrolled in BAM venture into the mangrove forest to learn about the plants and animals that live there. They also collect mangrove seedlings which they raise under test conditions throughout the school year, before returning to plant them in restoration sites.

This year, the BAM program expanded to include a second year of activities. BAM students returned to the mangrove seedlings they planted the previous year, and measured their growth and the health of the forest.

Heemsoth said, ‘We are delighted to expand BAM into a two-year program, and to include a scientific partnership with North Carolina State University.”

Recently, large swaths of mangroves in the Marls on Abaco Island have died, and scientists at North Carolina State University suspect a deadly fungus is to blame. They asked BAM students to participate in their research. Students from Forest Heights Academy will look for signs of disease in the trees and worked with scientists at North Carolina State University to identify the types of fungal disease. This marks the start of a new international citizen-science partnership between BAM and North Carolina State University.

Nicola Roberts, a BAM student at Forest Heights Academy, is proud to take part in this new partnership.

She said, “As part of the future generation it is our job to protect the mangroves as they are a crucial part of our Bahamian Ecosystem.”

Nicola’s biology teacher, Lindsey Borsz, said, “I love that the Living Oceans Foundation welcomed our school into hands-on practical research.  I can already see that my students are proud to take ownership of the beautiful environment they live in as well as contributing to environmental research on worldly and current issues.”

Demetra Moss, a teacher at Abaco Central High School, added, “I am happy that the program provides students with a real-life opportunity to practice skills learned in the science lessons.”

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