Reconstruction of Environmental History via analysis of foraminiferans (Draft 1)

This discussion topic submitted by Margot Doremus ( on 1/5/99.

Arguably, the most important scientific challenge facing environmental scientists is the recognition of global change in terrestrial and marine environments. This task is not often easy to do.
The major objectives of my work are to reconstruct the tropical ecosystems of two pristine and undisturbed Bahamas tropical lagoons over the last 6000 years using two 4 meter deep cores of the sedimentary record (which contains only the dead) and compare this past record with modern day communities using surface samples (which contains both dead and living species). I will be able to recognize subtle shifts in community composition over time in the 4 meter cores while the modern day record will provide a template for comparison with the past. My focus organisms are foraminferans, arguably one of the most important marine groups used in recognizing marine environmental change. My main purpose is to better understand the complex history of these ecosystems over the last 6000 years and compare this past record with the present status of two lagoons. Has change occurred? If so, why has it occurred?
My study will take place in two parts. During the academic year, I will analyze the past community record using one 4 meter core. Then, this summer in the Bahamas, in addition to taking one more deep 4 meter core, I will concentrate on intensive sampling of the modern day lagoonal communities in a variety of subhabitats in two tropical lagoons. Upon returning to Miami, I will begin the crucial comparisons of the modern day record with the past record.
Some expected project outcomes are as follows: to be able to recognize and reconstruct the lagoonal environments over the last 6000 years and compare these changes with the present, modern day record. My ultimate goal is to publish my work. Other goals are as follows: (1) a presentation at the Eighth Symposium on the Natural History of the Bahamas on June 17-21st at the Bahamian Field Station in San Salvador, where I will address the environmental history of the lagoon over the past 6000 years; (2) upon completion of my work, I will write and submit a research paper on this study to the Bahamas Journal of Science.

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