Exploring the Exumas

University of Miami Ph.D. student and team study geologic evolution of the Exumas on research trip

drilling core Drilling a core at Rocky Dundas, located in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. Cores are drilled using a rotary drill and tripod with a wire-line core barrel system. (L-R) Irena Maura, Harold Hudson, Kirk Nuzum, Jan Norbisrath, Estelle Chaussard, Gregor Eberli. Photo by Kelly L. Jackson.

MIAMI — (April 22, 2011) — Nine students from the Marine Geology and Geophysics graduate program at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science participated in a research cruise to the Exumas, Bahamas this spring. The primary purpose of the trip was to drill geologic core samples which will form part of Kelly Jackson’s Ph.D. dissertation, to better understand the effects of past sea level change on coastal environments such as those in the Bahamas, and help scientists understand how future sea level changes will affect coastal environments.

“The trip was very successful. The data we collected will be very useful in determining how the different islands or ‘Cays’ of the Exumas were formed, and what types of environments were present during their evolution,” said Jackson. Drilling to a maximum depth of 76 feet, Jackson and her team collected data even the average tourist can appreciate. “A large portion of the rocks exposed on the islands today were deposited 125,000 years ago when the sea level was about 6 meters higher,” Jackson said.

In addition to drilling core samples, students were led by Drs. Gregor Eberli and Donald McNeill on a field trip to explore the different geologic environments of the Exuma Cays. Estelle Chaussard, a Ph.D. student in Geophysics was one of the students on the trip assisting Jackson who took in all that the Exumas had to offer. “I learned not only about the Bahamas’ geology, but also about corals and stromatolites (layered structures formed in shallow water over the years by the trapping, binding and cementation of sedimentary grains and microorganisms). My favorite part of the trip was the mapping experience, hiking around islands and discovering beautiful landscapes — things that you would never experience in a typical touristic trip to the Bahamas!”

Jackson plans on returning to the Exumas later in 2011 to complete her mapping studies in the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park.

About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School
The University of Miami’s mission is to educate and nurture students, to create knowledge, and to provide service to our community and beyond. Committed to excellence and proud of the diversity of our University family, we strive to develop future leaders of our nation and the world. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, please visit

marine geology and geophysics •  dr. gregor eberli •  dr. donald mcneil •  estelle chaussard •  kelly jackson •  research •