Melissa Carter from Scripps Institution of Oceanography visited the Trust from April 24th through May 2nd to train our project staff, DNER technicians, local college students and even a marine biologist and the head of a local conservation group from St. Croix how to recognize and count dinoflagellates with our new microscope. The new microscope, when connected to a computer or monitor, makes it is easy to see the plankton. Expert in the science of bioluminescence and long time collaborator, Dr. Michael Latz, also from Scripps, along with Ms. Carter, helped us find and purchase the right equipment for the dinoflagellate counts. The microscope was purchased with funds donated by Daphne Gemmill, Bill Mueller and Elizabeth Langhorne. Ms. Carter’s trip was made possible by a donation from Barbara Hyland.
On the night of April 23rd, Carlos Bermudez of JAK Watersports reported very high levels of bioluminescence in the bay. Two water samples were collected for analysis. Using the new microscope to count the bioluminescent dinoflagellates, the results found were 248,159 P. bahamense per litre, the equivalent to 938,041 per gallon. Ms Carter commented that this count was 25% higher than what has typically been found when the bay is glowing brilliantly and was the highest she has ever recorded in Puerto Mosquito, Laguna Grande en Las Croabas or in Mangrove Bay, the Bioluminescent bay in St Croix.
On her last evening in Vieques, Ms. Carter gave a talk as part of the VCHT speaker’s series. The conference room was full as most of the bio bay tour providers were in attendance. The discussion focused heavily on the current high levels of bioluminescence and how the tour providers can continue to help with the scientific studies documenting the condition of the bay by cataloguing their observations of the bay on each trip. This concept of “Citizen Science” that the VCHT has been developing with the tour providers and community members since last year has been a powerful collaboration that has continued to help build a solid baseline of scientific information that will help us understand more about the different factors that affect the delicate balance within the bay.