Monday , November 28 2022

Bioluminescent wonders in Saba's deep sea waters

SABA–Deep sea explorer Edie Widder held a well-attended Sea and Learn presentation on “Exploring and Protecting Planet Ocean” at The Cottage Club in Windwardside Wednesday evening.


Widder made over 250 dives in submersibles. Her deep sea research has been featured in BBC, PBS, and Discovery Channel and National Geographic television productions. Her oceanographic research and expertise led to technological innovations in special observation cameras. She combines her scientific
work with activism in reversing the worldwide trend of marine ecosystem degradation.

Widder’s bioluminescence presentation brought about not just passion and deep knowledge of pioneering field research, but also impressive film and photography that easily outshone the most outlandish science-fiction productions. She is a leader in inventing submersible instrumentation that enables unobtrusive deep-sea observations, tools that allowed Widder to obtain rare footage of new species and marine animal behaviour yet unknown to science.

In 2005 she cofounded the Ocean Research and Conservation Association ORCA for the study and protection of marine ecosystems through development
of innovative technologies and science-based conservation efforts. Widder started her lecture confessing that she helped discover something “that I think is going to blow the lid on ecotourism here. I’d hate to destroy “Eden” by bringing too many people but you’ve got an amazing place here.” She said this in talking about the bioluminescent “string of pearls” phenomenon present in local waters.

The phenomenon is caused by tiny crustaceans the size of tomato seeds, which emit light in species-specific string formations. These crustaceans used to
be present in the Florida Keys, and Widder suspected the phenomenon to be also present in the Caribbean but she did not expect what she found on her dive
here. “It was a lightshow like nothing I’ve ever seen before…It was amazing.” The string of pearl lights is part of the species’ mating, commonly starting 15
minutes after sunset. The synchronized displays are orchestrated by males to attract females, and the horizontal, vertical or group displays are specific to the
various species. Most of the displays observed in Saba waters are vertical pearl strings.

Widder used the occasion to call on all Saba restaurants to join ORCA’s Seafood Watch programme developed with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation.
It provides a recommendation guide on sustainable seafood consumption to support those fisheries and fish farms that are healthier for ocean wildlife and the environment. She also talked about the need to teach optimism in spite of all the seemingly insurmountable ecosystem threats being faced and that only a change in attitude can lead to the kind of personal dedication that can lead to solutions.

She mentioned the threat of garbage discharge in Saba waters, saying “you have an amazing piece of paradise here, unlike anything I have seen anywhere
else, but you have to think carefully about the choices you make, because many places throughout the Caribbean have lost their pieces of Eden.” As an incentive she picked up a jar filled with the bioluminescent creatures and shook them, producing enough light for all in the audience to see. She invited everyone to join.

Check out some background information on bioluminescence HERE.

Source: The Daily Herald October 6, 2012

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