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Hurricane Dorian: Impacts Below the Surface

In September 2019, powerful Hurricane Dorian made landfall over Abaco and Grand Bahama islands as a Category 5 storm. It is estimated that several hundred people lost their lives in the tragic disaster and the hurricane’s sustained 180 miles per hour winds and associated storm surge caused catastrophic damage on land. The storm also affected nearshore habitats like coral reefs and seagrass beds. So efforts are being made to better understand these effects.

Shortly after the storm, R/V ANGARI Expedition 31 circumnavigated Grand Bahama Island and Abaco with researchers from the Perry Institute for Marine Science, The Nature Conservancy, Middlebury College and The Walt Disney Company. They performed post-hurricane reef surveys at 29 sites. All of the sites had been previously surveyed during R/V ANGARI expeditions in 2018 and 2019, providing a unique opportunity for scientists to directly compare reef ecosystem health before and after the hurricane.

On September 30, 2020 ANGARI Foundation, Changing Seas and South Florida PBS hosted a live panel discussion with experts who have been studying the impact of Hurricane Dorian on the marine environment and marine life in The Bahamas for the past year. They discussed everything from the reef surveys conducted during Exp 31 to research on marine mammals, seagrasses, oysters and more in the region.

Recorded event presented by ANGARI Foundation, South Florida PBS & Changing Seas:

Supplemental Educational Content:

Interested in learning more about the impacts of hurricanes on marine life? We’ve curated some additional resources that will allow students, and lifelong learners alike, to explore the topic in more detail!

Hurricane Dorian Specific Resources
  ECO Magazine – Weathering the Storm: The Fate of Coral Reefs Post Hurricane Dorian
[VIDEO]  NBC 6 South Florida – Scientists Explore Coral Reef Damage From Dorian in Bahamas
[READING]  Perry Institute for Marine Science (PIMS) – Bahamas Coral Reef Report Card 2020
[WEBINAR]  PIMS – Bahamian Coral Reef Report Card 2020 Assessing Reef Health & Plotting the Path Forward
[3D MODEL]  PIMS – Hurricane Dorian Bleaching Example – OFAV colony
  Power & Motoryacht – Road to Recovery

Related Resources
  NOAA National Ocean Service – How do hurricanes affect sea life?
[READING]  NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary – Hurricanes: Friend or foe to coral reefs?
[READING]  Orlando Sentinel – When a hurricane hits, what happens to sharks, dolphins and marine life?
  Patrick, C. J., Kominoski, J. S., McDowell, W. H., Branoff, B., Lagomasino, D., Leon, M., … & Zou, X. (2022). A general pattern of trade-offs between ecosystem resistance and resilience to tropical cyclones. Science Advances, 8(9), eabl9155.
[JOURNAL ARTICLE]  Gutowsky, L. F. G., Rider, M. J., Roemer, R. P., Gallagher, A. J., Heithaus, M. R., Cooke, S. J., & Hammerschlag, N. (2021). Large sharks exhibit varying behavioral responses to major hurricanes. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 256, 107373. (Hurricanes Matthew & Irma)
[READING]  Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network – Hurricanes and their Effects on Coral Reefs; from Wilkinson, C., Souter, D. (2008). Status of Caribbean coral reefs after bleaching and hurricanes in 2005. Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, and Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, Townsville, 152 p. (ISSN 1447 6185)
[VIDEO]  Business Insider – What happens to fish and other sea creatures underwater during a hurricane
[READING & VIDEO]  University at Buffalo – Hurricanes and Coral Reefs (Hurricanes Irma & Maria)
[WEBINAR]  ANGARI & Florida International University (FIU) – Ocean Expert Exchange: Sea Turtle Ecology
[READING, VIDEO & GAME]  FIU@Home – Explore hurricane impacts on sea turtle behaviors
[LESSON GRADES 3-12]  NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries – Coral Constructors Lesson
[LESSONS GRADES 4-12]  COSEE East Coast MARE – Hurricanes and Ocean Organisms (Hurricane Sandy)


Cha Boyce, Executive Director
Friends of the Environment

Dr. Diane Claridge, Executive Director
Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation

Dr. Craig Dahlgren, Executive Director
Perry Institute for Marine Science

Dr. Charlotte Dunn, President
Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation

Dr. Krista Sherman, Senior Scientist
Perry Institute for Marine Science


Alexa Elliott, Changing Seas Series Producer
South Florida PBS






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