Symposium on a bioluminescent bay in Salt River Bay, St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

Dr. Latz participated in a symposium reporting on scientific results of two projects studying the ecology of a ‘new’ bioluminescent bay in the Salt River, St. Croix. His research, supported by the St. Croix Environmental Association, involved field work by citizen scientists to study bioluminescence and water quality from June-December 2013. Measured bioluminescence was as bright as Mosquito Bay, Vieques, Puerto Rico, considered one of the best bioluminescent bays in the world. Bioluminescence varied on both weekly and monthly time scales. Short-term changes were usually associated with storm events, with rapid recovery. Longer-term changes were associated with wind speed and direction.  Bioluminescence was strongly correlated with the abundance of the tropical dinoflagellate Pyrodinium bahamense, the source organism for other Caribbean bioluminescent bays. Background illumination, in the form of bright moonlight, could diminish the observed brightness of bioluminescence.

The bioluminescence study complemented a larger project funded by the Department of the Interior and administered through the National Park Service that examined water quality in the bay. Principal Investigator Jay Pinckney of the University of South Carolina proposed a list of recommendations for managing the bioluminescent bay to maintain ecosystem health.