2019 Undergraduate Research Day

Are fish sanctuaries meeting their intended goals in Jamaica?

Second place poster presentation winner in GGP - Geography, Geospatial Science, and Planning!
  • Margaret Alexander
  • Faculty Advisor: Dr. Robert T. Pavlowsky

Government fish sanctuaries are often controversial because they can limit the use of marine access to fisherman, some of whom may not easily afford the costs of moving to new fishing grounds. This study evaluates public opinions about the success of two marine conservation areas: Bluefields Bay and Galleon Harbour created in 2009 along the south coast of Jamaica.  During a field visit in March 2019, I investigated the opinions of various stakeholders through social visits and on-tour discussions with wardens, founding members of the sanctuaries, fisherman, and local residents to evaluate if the sanctuaries were meeting their intended goals.  Overall, people believe the fish sanctuaries are meeting planned goals for both fish and community.  However, some locals are finding it harder to afford equipment and larger boats needed to reach the fishing banks located further out to sea. Sanctuaries have a significant spillover effect with increasing marine life spreading beyond the boundaries of the conservation area. However, programs to help fisherman transition from near to off-shore fishing grounds could be implemented to offset the financial hardship created by a no-take conservation area. Better integration of sanctuary use with sustainable tourism businesses can expand the economic benefits to the community.

Mangrove response to erosion and human disturbance in Jamaica

  • Taylor Emberton
  • Faculty Advisor: Dr. Robert T. Pavlowsky

Mangroves are important to the environment since they provide protection from floods, reduce erosion, create habitats for wildlife, and sequester carbon. However, mangrove forests along tropical coasts are threatened due to sea level rise, timber harvest, pollution, and coastal development. Understanding the present distribution and conditions of mangrove forests along coastal areas is an important first step toward developing conservation plans for them. This study evaluates the locations, conditions, and threats of mangroves along the south coast of Jamaica along Bluefields Bay and near Black River and Treasure Beach in St. Elizabeth. The species present and the conditions of their surrounding environment were documented in each area. It appears that beach erosion due to sea level rise and the clearing of mangrove forests are responsible for mangrove decline. In areas with large coastal marshes and lagoons and minimal human disturbance the mangroves flourish due to their natural resistance to high salinity water and acidic soils. Developing practices for the restoration of damaged mangrove forests could help prevent the loss of mangroves, ensuring they continue to benefit coastal ecosystems and local communities.

Jamaican riparian forest composition 40 years after a catastrophic flood event

  • Daniel Ruedin
  • Faculty Advisor: Dr. Robert T. Pavlowsky

Tropical forests are important for nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration and contain high biodiversity. After disturbance, forests follow a sequence of successional stages and eventually reach a climax community structure. Forest recovery can be affected by soil characteristics formed by the disturbance. This study assesses riparian forest composition along the Bluefields River in Westmoreland, Jamaica which was severely disturbed by a flood in 1979. Thirty six trees >6 cm diameter breast height were inventoried using the point quarter method at three different sites. One site was relatively unaffected by the flood. The second site was affected by deep flood flows and catastrophic channel erosion which left behind thin soil cover and exposed bedrock. The third site was affected by thick deposits of gravel and soil from debris flows generated by landslides in nearby mountains. The greatest importance value of tree species varied among the sites: (i) undisturbed site, cherry fig (Ficus americana) at 300.00; (ii) depositional site, Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia) at 115.96; and (iii) erosional site, almond (Terminalia catappa) at 133.18. The causes of these differences will be evaluated, but it is clear that forest recovery can vary along Jamaica rivers, even among relatively close sites (<1 km).

Conservation and restoration of Jamaican coral reefs

  • Krista Busick
  • Faculty Advisor: Dr. Robert T. Pavlowsky

The Caribbean Sea has been facing a major loss of coral reefs for many years, due to pollution, natural disasters, eutrophication, as well as over fishing. My research focused on a few localized areas around the Jamaican coast which includes Bluefield’s Bay Fish Sanctuary. Coral reefs are important because they are the support system of the sea. They are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. Coral Reefs buffer shorelines from wave action and prevent erosion, property damage and loss of life, as well as nutrient recycling, and carbon and nitrogen fixing. This source of nitrogen and other nutrients are essential in marine life food chain. The purpose of my study was to find out what the major loss of corals are in the Caribbean, and what is being done to repair the damages and make up for the loss of the reefs. Current methods of restoration include nursery’s, they are protected areas along the coast that allow healthy corals to be regrown. There are also efforts made towards making artificial coral that still provides the same benefits as a living coral. Coral reefs are our oceans roots. 

Conservation of coral reefs in Bluefield's Bay, Southwest coast of Jamaica

  • Krista Busick
  • Faculty Advisor: Dr. Robert T. Pavlowsky

The Caribbean Sea has been facing a major loss of coral reefs for many years due to pollution, natural disasters, eutrophication, as well as over fishing. Jamaica’s coral reefs are particularly degraded and there are concerns by international agencies about how to improve coral reef health.  Coral reefs are important because they are the support system of the sea functioning as the life-giving “roots” of the coastal zone. They are some of the most diverse and valuable ecosystems on Earth. Coral Reefs buffer shorelines from wave action and prevent erosion, property damage, and loss of life. In addition, coral is important for nutrient recycling, carbon sequestration, and nitrogen fixing. This study addresses the health of coral reefs and management efforts to conserve them in Bluefield’s Bay, a no-take fish sanctuary. Projects in the bay include the testing of artificial reef structures, installation of a coral nursery where young coral is grown for transplanting, and coral re-seeding.  The result of these efforts will not be known for years to come, however, the attention brought to the bay about coral health has raised locals concerns for protection of the water quality and coral reefs in Bluefield’s Bay.

Influence of channel geomorphic processes and sediment metal concentrations on macroinvertebrate communities in urban streams in Springfield, Missouri

  • Madalyn Behlke-Entwisle, Ethan Pelke, Micah Seago
  • Faculty Advisor: Dr. Robert T. Pavlowsky

Physical habitat assessments are often used to characterize macroinvertebrate sampling sites for stream impairment assessments. This study examines the relationship between benthic macroinvertebrate community indices (EPT & Taxa Richness) in urban streams in Springfield, Missouri, and geomorphic indicator scores. Potential effects of sediment metal toxicity will also be evaluated. Six long-term monitoring reaches approximately six channel widths long were surveyed for this study across a range index scores.  A modified rapid geomorphic assessment procedure that evaluated channel processes such as incision, aggradation, widening, and planform adjustment was used to identify the degree and cause of channel instability and degraded habitat. Active stream sediment was sampled at three sites within each sampling reach, and the <250 um fraction was analyzed for metals in the laboratory using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF). Organic matter content in the <250 um fraction was also analyzed using a Loss-on-Ignition test. Macroinvertebrate community index values were found to have a strong relationship to heavy metal content, but their relationship to geomorphic indicator scores was weaker than expected. 

History and culture of ganja farming in Jamaica

  • Justin Butkovich
  • Faculty Advisor: Dr. Robert T. Pavlowsky

Cannabis (Ganja) growing and use is an important economical and cultural element of Jamaican life.  However, recent trends for legalization in other countries, including the USA, may threaten export opportunities. This study examines the historical geography of Ganja and its farming and exportation in Jamaica to evaluate how internal cultural norms and economic approaches may respond to external market factors. A field study in March 2019 was used to assess the common perceptions of the taboo and other cultural aspects of Ganja in St. James, St. Elizabeth, and Westmoreland parishes. Qualitative information was collected from research prior to visiting Jamaica, discussions with locals local, and observations within the communities visited. Ganja has been intertwined with Jamaican culture since it was first introduced by Indian migrants in the mid-1800s and was used by the lower class for medicinal purposes then later by Rastafari for deepening of faith. Ganja farming is increasing in Jamaica due to large corporations competing with local growers. While Ganja is not fully legalized, Jamaican society views Ganja similar to alcohol or tobacco. Ganja culture and availability drives a substantial amount of tourism in Jamaica which may decrease in the future because increased legalization worldwide in recent years.