Brac science students examine their island

Environmental Science students in Cayman Brac left their classroom last Friday to examine what their island is made of, guided by visiting geologist Dr. Murray Roed.

brac geologist

Visiting geologist Murray Roed shows Matthew McKinley, Shane MacDonald and Daniella Christian how to differentiate between dolomite and ironshore at Long Beach. In the distance, the huge rock in the sea is known as Little Cayman Brac. Photo: Martin Keeley

Dr. Roed, author of Islands from the Sea – Geologic Stories of Cayman, spent several days in the Sister Islands, taking most of Friday to work with the science class of UCCI’s Brac campus. Course teacher Martin Keeley summarised the day.

The first portion of Dr. Roed’s exciting analysis of the Brac’s geology took place in the morning when he discussed the contents of his book, which was published in 2006. He explained that he wrote the book as a synthesis of the 1000 or more scientific articles that have been written about Cayman, with a special focus on geology.

The book explains the geological origins of Cayman, ‘their origin at the whims of nature, the scientific endeavour to unlock their secrets, and how their resources, onshore and offshore, are presently being utilized or abused.’

The afternoon with the Brac UCCI class was spent in field exploration – putting into practice what students had learned in the classroom. The class visited two sites to examine the Brac’s ecological formations. The first was at Stake Bay where students examined the edge of the Bluff, and the second at Long Beach where an examination took place of the rocky beach and ironshore.

For student Lolita Bodden, the fieldwork was especially interesting: ‘I think every kid on the Brac has grown up with a fascination regarding the Bluff, caymanite and the general geography of these islands,’ she said. ‘It was excellent to have a world recognized expert geologist like Dr. Roed to explain and share his insight on a range of topics and questions about the island and its pre-historic origins.

‘Knowing how these islands evolved definitely helps me gave a greater appreciation for what we have today. Our environment and the related ecosystems are our most precious resource and understanding them is a critical step in preserving them for the future,’ she added.

For Tashara Lewis Dr. Roed’s interpretation in the classroom and the field greatly improved her understanding of the Brac’s geology. She especially liked the acid test: ‘When he conducted the test with an acid solution we were able to clearly see the difference between limestone and dolomite,’ she said. ‘The other thing which really sticks in my mind is when he showed us how different organisms slowly consume the limestone rock.’

The two active volcanoes in the Cayman Trench about 100 miles south of George Town also impressed Tashara. ‘When he explained how the volcanoes were formed, and then showed us photos of them, it helped to scientifically verify stories that we had been hearing for many years about volcanoes,’ she said.

At the end of the day Dr. Roed presented each of the students with a signed copy of his book which was published by Cayman Free Press.