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Islands of the Lesser Antilles

The Lesser Antilles comprise an arc of coral and volcanic islands that skirt the eastern border of the Caribbean Basin from the US Virgin Islands to Trinidad to Aruba. Compared to their larger northern cousins, like the Bahamas, Cuba, and Jamaica, these islands are relatively less explored. Within these islands are coral reefs, recent lava flows, indigenous sites, mangroves, blue holes, and historic shipwrecks. They face the same environmental problems—overfishing, species invasion, sea level rise, and ocean acidification—as the rest of the Caribbean, as well as they own unique struggles, such as the eruption of Montserrat, which buried the seabed with pyroclastic flow from which it is still recovering. The Lesser Antilles still struggle with the legacy of colonization, and, though many islands are now independent, others remain territories of former colonial powers.

These expeditions will focus on science, education, and exploration within the Lesser Antilles using OpenROV Trident and other tools, as well as divers, snorkelers, and citizen scientists to better understand the environmental challenges facing these islands.

How to participate

  1. Must be the leader of an active Open Explorer Expedition (Start one here).
  2. User account has Facebook verification (Check here).

Initiative Sponsors

Open Explorer Initiatives are made possible by a variety of partners, both foundations and companies. If your organization would like to get involved, please email us at openexplorer@natgeo.com

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In the last three semesters, faculty at Polk State College have used 2.8 OpenROVs to collect water samples in some of our Oceanography, Environmental Science and Biology classes. We expect this to become more common as additional faculty in these subjects become familiar with their use. Students at PSC’s affiliated collegiate high school have built OpenROVs which they’ve demonstrated to both STEM and business audiences. We are just getting started; the program is being expanded to involve additional classes, more students, and to do so in more places. There will be a focus on other areas of science and exploration, such as environmental productivity and the impacts of contamination. Our upcoming Fall 2017 trip to Guadeloupe will combine the excitement of travel - for many of our students, this will be the first time they have left Florida - with citizen science. Participants will be able to pilot the ROVs and also utilize the new ROV payloads that we are developing. We have been asked if our OpenROVs are capable of collecting water samples large enough to isolate eDNA. Our current efforts – due to the bigger water samples needed for eDNA – are focused on building larger Niskin bottles and a sampling sled to carry them. The new Trident models appear to be better suited to towing equipment than the 2.8 ROVs that we are currently using. Faculty in Guadeloupe have also expressed an interest in using ROVs to sample sediment and deposit equipment on the sea floor. These goals will be met by designing a variety of interchangeable payloads, while also attempting to ensure that they can be constructed using a minimal set of basic tools. We’ll demonstrate that micro-ROVs are not toys and can be legitimate research tools. The OpenROV platform is particularly useful because it engages our students. The majority of them are not SCUBA certified. For many, flying an OpenROV may be the only way they will ever see below the water. Without the ROVs, these students’ sampling had been restricted to either the surface, or blind collection at depth. Now they can investigate beyond the water’s surface, collect samples, and do so without expensive equipment and training. Piloting an ROV allows them a chance to experience aquatic life in real time and feel a connection to some of the things they have heard about in their course work. This gets them excited about STEM while increasing awareness of the natural world and the challenges to maintaining its health. We hope this will create a new generation of ocean advocates. We are thankful for this opportunity to apply for the gift of an OpenROV Trident, and for the support you have shown for our prior efforts. Your leadership in the industry and enthusiasm for our work is greatly appreciated. We hope to be able to use the Trident in in ways that will make your company proud.