Marine Invertebrates in the Bahamas

Latest update April 15, 2019 Started on February 20, 2019

Follow along as we explore and observe marine invertebrate diversity around San Salvador in the Bahamas. This year we will start a photo/video record of specific locations to observe annual changes in growth and diversity.

February 20, 2019
Expedition's summary cannot exceed 240 characters


Did you know that the National Geographic Society is currently offering Explorers a variety of funding opportunities in the fields of conservation, education, research, storytelling, and technology? To learn more and apply for a grant click here.
If you're not interested in applying for a grant, click continue below
Supported by:

Sarah Mapes: I am so excited for the upcoming trip to San Salvador! We are leaving for the Bahamas in 13 days and I truly don’t know how time went by so quickly this semester! To prepare for the trip, I have accumulated all of my snorkeling gear, class books, rash guards, flashlight, and camera to make sure I have everything I need well before we leave for the trip; I do not want to forget anything or leave things to the last minute in order to make sure I don’t miss out on any opportunities presented on our travel abroad trip. I have always wanted to go to the Bahamas and now I am so close to arriving and experiencing all that the Bahamas has to offer; I can’t wait to see the diverse marine life up close and be able to identify as many species as possible that we learned about in my Natural History of Invertebrates course taught by Dr. Shillington. I also can’t wait for warm weather, the sound of ocean waves and to learn all about the types of research going on at the GRC! In anticipation of the trip, I have already begun digging into some of the research that the Gerace Research Centre (GRC) has done and I can’t wait to learn even more. I’m hoping to see all kinds of marine organisms on the trip, I really love cephalopods, cnidarians, porifera and echinoderms! Honestly, I would be overjoyed to see any organism. I am also hoping to see some sharks; I doubt the other students want this experience but I love sharks so that would be an incredible experience; I am not sure how likely it is that I will see any but I’ll keep my fingers crossed!

Edie Nissen: I am very excited for the upcoming Bahamas trip! I have bought my snorkel, mask, and fins and am planning on helping test out the underwater drone in the university pool. I have also purchased an underwater camera! Photography has always been a hobby of mine so I can't wait to use it while in the Bahamas. Throughout the semester, I have found a lot of the stuff we've studied very interesting. One thing in particular that I have enjoyed studying is the phylum Cnidaria. I am hoping to be able to see some jellyfish and corals! In the meantime, I will keep studying and practicing with my fins and snorkel. Can't wait!

Susan, Julie & Amanda: We are so excited for our trip to the Bahamas! As you can see, we have been testing our equipment at one of Eastern’s pools. We are also in the process of acquiring the rest of the required materials, such as the ID books and cameras. We are also organizing our notes so that we will be able to quickly identify invertebrates while we are in the Bahamas.
The entire time we were at the pool we discussed how many new and amazing opportunities San Salvador will provide us. The coral reefs will be amazing and this will also be the first time out of the United States for the three of us. Added to that, we will be staying at a real research station (Gerace Research Centre), which in itself is an exciting opportunity. As such, we expect that there will be a lot of new experiences. As for the invertebrates available, we are especially excited to see the coral reefs, the unique shells, nudibranchs, christmas tree hydroids, and christmas tree worms. We have also just learned how to identify male and female crabs in class, and we will be doing this with the crab population on the island. There are mixed feelings between us about how nervous or excited we should be about touching them and their pincers, but it will definitely be interesting to bring our new knowledge outside of the classroom. We are counting the days until our trip and cannot wait to see everything!


Bria Spalding & Stephanie Saunders: We are super excited to be heading to San Salvador in about a month! To prepare for the trip, we have been purchasing and gathering our gear. We want to minimize the amount of glitches in our gear, so we have been trying them out in the pool. We have been trying to use one of the campus pools at least once a week. So far, everything has been working out and we are excited to spend the most amount of time possible in the ocean!


Jen Harper: I am so excited for the upcoming trip to San Salvador! I have been getting my snorkeling gear together to make sure I have everything I need because I do not want to miss a single opportunity to see all the diverse marine life the Bahamas has to offer. Next week, some friends and I will be making a trip to the university pool with our gear so that we can make sure everything is working how we need it to. I am currently taking the Marine Biology course taught by our expedition leader, Dr. Cara Shillington. In class we have been learning to ID and classify so many different organisms- sea grasses, algae (my favorite!), annelids, echinoderms, mollusks, fishes, cnidarians, ctenophorans, and of course a ton of invertebrates! I have been doing a lot of research about this trip and have been reading some of the publications made available on the Gerace Research Centre (GRC) website, which is where we will be staying on San Salvador. I have been learning about the history and geology of the island and reading the field guides on marine algae, shells, and invertebrates that they have published. These resources are invaluable and are getting me prepared and excited for the trip. I'll see you soon, Bahamas!

We just received news that we will be receiving a drone soon. So exciting. We are making planes to try it out at the university pool.

From Erica Lathers: To prepare for the trip to the Bahamas, I am studying the many different types of sponges, cnidarians, annelids, mollusks, arthropods and echinoderms that we will see will snorkeling at the research station. I am focusing on identifying the different types of corals especially, knowing different species. I am also reviewing different types of sea turtles and aquatic fish that we may see during our time in the water. I have also been reviewing the many species of chlorophytes. My goal is to be able to identify species quickly in the water. I am also getting ready by making sure I have all of the supplies that I will need for the trip. The trip is getting close and I am getting so excited!

From Kelsey Mitchell: In order to prepare for the upcoming San Salvador, Bahamas excursion, I have brought out identification notes from a previous marine biology class taught by the excursion leader, Dr. Cara Shillington. These notes, as well as my ID books, should help me better identify and understand taxa found throughout this tropical region. I have also brought out my snorkel, mask, and fins; needless to say I am getting ready a little early, but this is due to sheer excitement for this excursion!

Expedition Background

Eastern Michigan University takes biology students to San Salvador Island in the Bahamas after a semester long course studying invertebrates and marine ecology. Students have the opportunity to see close-up many of the organisms that they have been studying - seeing them in their natural habitat and observing their behavior. While this is a regular trip and we have lots of photos from previous trips, this year we will be starting a photo and video record of specific locations that we will revisit each time to track long-term changes in diversity and overall growth of organisms. Marine environments face multiple challenges associated with human activity and global warming, but sometimes changes over longer timescales are difficult to envision. When students are able to visit the same locations from year to year and visually document changes, this can become more meaningful and understandable. Our students are our ambassadors for the future welfare of our marine environments.

image-1 image-1 image-1 image-1
Great idea with the long term photography! Will that be using ‘fixed-point’ techniques? We’ve done similar things over a season on our fish nesting site and it shows habitat changes really well when you might not otherwise notice it. Looking forward to seeing you results!
We are planning to use the "fixed point" technique. Do you have photos posted of your fish sites? How long was the season?
Many fond memories of doing research in this place. The marine life is amazing. Also the first place I saw the horrific amount of plastic and other garbage that is so prevalent in our oceans. I hope you will send photos of this as well should you find the eastern beaches to be as polluted as I saw them in the late ‘90s

Contribute to this expedition

Email Address
Number card
Postal Code

Review Your Contribution

You have chosen to contribute to expedition.

Confirm your details:

  • Name:

  • Email:

  • Last 4 digits:

Click below to proceed.

Thank You for Your Contribution!

Fundraising Details:


Tell us how raising these funds will impact your expedition
You're almost there, we just need to know three more things:
Is any part or component of your project funded by the National Geographic Society or a National Geographic Society Grant?
Is anyone on your expedition/project team affiliated, either currently or in the past, with the National Geographic Society?
Did you apply for a grant/funding from the National Geographic Society for this project?
You have a goal to raise by for:
Is any part or component of your project funded by the National Geographic Society or a National Geographic Society Grant?
You’ve responded:
Is anyone on your expedition/project team affiliated, either currently or in the past, with the National Geographic Society?
You’ve responded:
Did you apply for a grant/funding from the National Geographic Society for this project?
You’ve responded:

Thank You

Fundraising is almost live!
Thank you for applying to collect contributions! We will review your request and follow up with next steps via email.
Feel free to email us if you have any questions.