Last week members of the Cape Eleuthera Institute attended the 5th Abaco Science Alliance Conference. Every two years Friends of the Environment host this conference that showcases research being done on the areas of natural history and environmental science of Abaco and The Bahamas. This two day event was held in Marsh Harbour and addressed a wide range of subjects, from cave formations to migrating birds.
CEI’s aquaculture manager, Marie Tarnowski, presented on the development of the Sustainable Aquaculture Program at CEI and Annabelle Brooks, Research Manager at CEI, presented findings on lemon shark abundances in mangrove creeks around South Eleuthera. CEI’s Flats manager, Liane Nowell, presented a poster that focused on bonefish handling practices and the bonefish tagging program while Josh Shultz, Aquaponics manager at CEI, presented a poster that focused on developing aquaponics in The Bahamas. This was the first time anyone from the Cape Eleuthera Institute had presented at the Abaco Science Alliance. All attendees from CEI had a great time not only learning about other facets of research in The Bahamas, but also sharing our own novel research and making great connections. Representatives from CEI look forward to attending future Abaco Science Alliance Conferences.
After a year and a half of trial and error CEI’s aquaculture cage has been refitted with shark resistant netting! Last Wednesday the aquaculture team, along with help from the majority of CEI, successfully installed this newly developed netting. Sharks biting holes in the netting has been the greatest hurdle that the aquaculture program has come across while trying to demonstrate the feasibility of aquaculture in The Bahamas. Previous growouts have failed due to escapements through holes that sharks had bit in the netting. The new netting was donated by the life materials company, DSM and the net manufacturing company, Net Systems. This is the first time this type of netting has ever been used on a SeaStation and the first test run will begin in February when 5,000 cobia will be stocked in the offshore pen. This will be the third time fish have been stocked in the offshore cage and fingers crossed, the first time the netting will be shark resistant.
The Geronimo, an experiential education vessel operated by St. George’s School from Newport, Rhode Island, under the direction of Captain Stephen Connett, conducted shark research cruises from the early 1970′s through to the mid 1990′s throughout the western Atlantic. From autumn 1979 through to spring 1981, regular seasonal surveys were conducted in Bahamian waters focusing on a shallow bank known as “the bridge” that connects the southern tip of Eleuthera to the northern tip of Cat Island. The data resulting from these surveys, representing a snapshot of Bahamian shark abundance from over 30 years ago, have never been rigorously analyzed or published. Edd Brooks, manager of the Shark Research and Conservation Program at CEI, is collaborating with Stephen Connett and Jeff Stein (University of Illinois) to recreate these surveys over the next two years, with the goal of identifying potential shifts in the diversity, abundance and demographic population structure of sharks in the North East Exuma Sound over the last 30 years. The first field season took place earlier this month and Edd, Jeff, and Stephen successfully completed surveys of the bridge with the assistance of two Bahamas Environmental Stewards Scholars, Ann Marie Carroll and Brandon Jennings, Stephanie Liss (former CEI shark program intern and graduate student at University of Illinois) and Christopher Koch. Christopher, an experienced captain and diver, has supported the Shark Research and Conservation Program since his daughters, Hanna and Melanie, studied at The Island School in Fall 2006 and Fall 2008, and offered to return to Eleuthera once again to help on this exciting expedition. Just goes to show that IS alumni aren’t the only ones that can come back to The Island School and CEI–parents can, too!
For those of us in the professional workplace, we know all too well that our day-to-day can get overwhelming, disheartening and sometimes banal. Even scientists, as exciting as our research can be, feel this too. At CEI, there is so much going that on that it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and take for granted this amazing place where we live and the truly interesting work we do. Long hours of fieldwork, scrubbing tanks, struggling through statistical analysis can sometimes can leave asking, “what is this all for?” To alleviate this, we look for “pick me ups”, which for many comes in the form of coffee, or, for the Brits among us, a cupp’a PG Tips. I find that taking a plunge into the ocean or a run around the loop also gets the job done. But these practices are…well, just not sustainable! The trick, I’ve discovered, to really get energized and motivated – I mean really excited about what you’re doing, your job, your day to day – is to attend a conference! Conferences bring like-minded people together to discuss similar topics of interest. They inform, spark dialogue, entice collaboration and get people enthusiastic about their work. I like to call this getting your “conference caffeine.” Continue reading
Over the past few weeks, Dave Philipp, Julie Claussen, Peter Zdrojewski, Skylar Miller, and Liane Nowell, scientists and faculty members from CEI and Island School have been working on a grant proposal to enter in RarePlanet’s Solution Search, which rewards innovative conservation successes in communities where the need is greatest. This specific Solution Search is focused projects that address the issue of the depletion of global fish stocks. With all the great work CEI is doing with dwindling fish stocks, we believe we have a good chance of winning the first place project grant of $20,000, or one of the other great honors up for grabs. You can read more about Solution Search here, and the grant our team put together here. Wish us luck!
By Maddy Philipp and Katie Harpin
Greetings from the Lionfish Research team! We are now three weeks into the program and have already learned so much. The purpose of our study is to look at how grouper and currents affect the distribution of invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) found around Cape Eleuthera, Bahamas. So far we have gone on two mock dives. Unfortunately our second one got cut short due to an unexpected thunderstorm. We have also learned how to identify grouper and take the total length of fish from a distance underwater. For one of our classes, we took a trip to CEI and learned how to dissect a lionfish. From the dissection we could see what the lionfish had eaten. We also learned that lionfish can expand their stomachs up to 30 times its normal size. For another class we became scientist for a day and learned the correct structure for scientific papers. We have 3 research classes a week and two of those usually involve fieldwork. Although the readings may be strenuous, the lionfish team is excited to have the opportunity to work alongside biologists and helping to further the worlds knowledge on lionfish.
Attention alumni! Edd Brooks, shark project manager, is in need of some support on his upcoming shark expedition and is looking to The Island School alumni network for help. November 6-18, Edd and his team will be in Little San Salvador to recreate shark surveys that were conducted in the late 1970s. Their goal is to identify any shifts in the diversity and abundance of sharks in the last 30 years. If you are interested in applying to join this expedition or have any other questions, please contact Edd at firstname.lastname@example.org by October 14th. Continue reading
Every winter for the past few years, the Cape Eleuthera Institute has hosted biologist Nigel Waltho and a group of students from Carlton University in Ottawa, Ontario for a two-week dive-intensive field course. During their stay, the students develop individual projects on coral disease, reef health, fish communities, etc. At the conclusion of the course, they must put prepare and present a final report. Nigel has recently uploaded a number of videos from their time in Eleuthera. Check out all their videos here!