Discovering the power of blue carbon in The Bahamas


The Bahamas


January 2021 – April 2021

Tiger sharks led Dr. Austin Gallagher, founder of Beneath the Waves, to the historic discovery of the world’s largest seagrass bed in The Bahamas.

The mission

bahamas mission

Discovering vibrant wild blue carbon ecosystems.

Our ocean is teeming with mystery, but perhaps the most puzzling and thrilling aspect of the world beneath the waves is just how interconnected all life truly is on this beautiful blue planet. In the words of the famous marine biologist and author Rachel Carson, “Nothing in nature exists alone.” Every species has a role to play in keeping our living world in balance, and we are only just beginning to uncover the complex relationships that keep our seas thriving.

Dr. Austin Gallagher, a leading marine biologist and founder of Beneath the Waves, was tracking the movements and behaviors of sharks in The Bahamas when the apex predators led him to the largest seagrass habitat known in the world! These grasslike meadows combat climate change due to their ability to capture large amounts of carbon through photosynthesis and safely store it in their deep root systems within the seafloor. The monumental finding of 92,000 km2 (35,521 square miles) of these beds makes it one of our planet’s most significant global climate assets.

“What this discovery shows us is that ocean exploration and research are essential for a healthy future. The untapped potential of the ocean is limitless. Further, this discovery underscores the role that science can play in developing resilient communities. And we knew that with a discovery of this magnitude, we needed to bring in the world’s best storytellers [SeaLegacy],” Dr. Austin J. Gallagher.

It was during this work that Beneath The Waves met and began collaborating with our co-founders Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen. The goal of this innovative collaboration is to position the ocean and seagrass ecosystems as one of the most productive natural solutions to climate change. The partnership of Beneath The Waves, SeaLegacy, and Dr. Carlos Duarte together blends the most advanced ocean and blue carbon science with unparalleled storytelling.

The results

bahamas turtle underwater

Restoring balance to our planet through blue carbon.

Our ocean and its coastal habitats hold the key to absorbing carbon and restoring balance to our planet; but how exactly do scientists map and collect data from these vast underwater meadows? And why is it important to know how much seagrass is growing in the ocean?

Our friends at Beneath the Waves formed an unexpected alliance with tiger sharks to aid in measuring the extent and distribution of the largest seagrass ecosystem on the planet. Healthy seagrass beds are known for their extraordinary ability to absorb and store vast amounts of carbon, helping to mitigate the effects of global warming. They also support the health of countless species in a complex balance of life overseen by top predators, including tiger sharks. The sharks help keep animals like sea turtles who forage on seagrass in check and, in turn, the turtles keep seagrass meadows healthy and productive with regular grazing. Knowing the range of seagrass beds helps scientists monitor these critical habitats and establish more robust protections for vulnerable ocean carbon sinks. This is why surveying and accurately mapping seagrass meadows is so essential.

The ocean and our planet are interconnected species of plants and animals working together to create environmental balance. Tiger sharks and seagrass are two very important species that will help us better understand and respond to climate change.

So much of our blue planet and its capacity to help address global challenges is still largely a mystery. But with scientists and researchers like the Beneath the Waves crew, along with their helpful shark assistants, we are uncovering the true story of how the ocean could be the most powerful solution to the climate emergency. Protecting the planet and driving down carbon means protecting ecosystems as a whole- including seagrass beds, turtles, and sharks.

bahmas tree in ocean

“We know that in order to leverage the natural solutions to climate change that blue carbon provides, we must work together. As photographers and storytellers who have been working extensively in the Caribbean region with many stake-holders for many years, we were limited to what we could capture through our lenses. We knew this marine habitat in The Bahamas was significant for many reasons, but understanding its role as a decarbonization ally in the fight against climate change, now backed by world-class science, is a source of real excitement and hope.”

Cristina Mittermeier
Co-Founder & Lead Storyteller