Kyla Smith, a researcher with the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, spoke to students in the Oceanography course via Zoom on Thursday, April 1 about how a healthy ocean is important to the tiny island of Bermuda — and to the planet as a whole.
She began by providing some background about Bermuda, which is a volcanic sea mountain that arose from the Mid Atlantic Ridge about 100 million years ago.
“Today, we are a small, flat island that is extremely susceptible to climate change and rising sea levels because we are so low lying,” said Smith.
She said that it’s extremely important to preserve the island’s coral reefs and mangroves which provide some protection against an increasing number of devastating hurricanes.
Smith also warned that melting ice caps have created a cold patch in the North Atlantic and could tip the delicate balance of the Gulf Stream. “Our ocean gyres have certainly been changing and we have already seen a huge impact with trash washing up on our island,” she said. “We’ve seen numerous animals caught up in ‘ghost nets’ and other debris, but the biggest problem by far is plastics. Plastics don’t disappear. They are broken into tiny microplastics that are ingested by marine life and birds.”
In her work with BIOS, Smith said that she has seen how coral bleaching and ocean acidification are also becoming dangers for Bermuda. “Although this topic can be depressing, it’s still a very exciting time to be active in environmental science,” she said. “It’s important that we all push for our politicians to unite and display like-mindedness when it comes to protecting the environment. Everything that you do really does make an impact. We all need to step up and care.”
She concluded her presentation by encouraging interested students to apply for a marine science internship with the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences.