UNDERWATER MYSTIQUE

Dr. Reinhardt and his research team have been studying Sistema Ox Bel Ha, the longest underwater cave in the world, located in Quintana Roo, Mexico. They are measuring long-term salinity, temperature and water depth within different points of the cave, hoping to better understand the decline of the classic Maya. Learning more about the ground- water condition may shed light on how climate change, drought, societal conflict and deforestation eventually led the collapse of this civilization around 800-900 AD.

The researchers were able to examine the freshwater lens and approximate how drinkable it was through time. As mangroves grow at sea-level, the presence of mangrove peat in sediment samples gave indications of how high sea-levels were in the past. Reinhardt and his team also collected microfossil samples of testate amoeba shells preserved in sediment. Since different organisms prefer to live in different salinity levels, microfossils give indications of past water salinity. The team used radiocarbon dating to link these salinity levels to a particular time. Reinhardt and his fellow researchers hope that understanding groundwater conditions will raise awareness on the importance of the resources which have people depended on in the past and continue to depend on today.

YVETTE ROBICHAUD, Artist

Biology, Undergraduate

EDUARD G. REINHARDT, Ph.D.Researcher

Department of Geography and Earth Sciences

24” x 18”

ACRYLIC ON CANVAS