Sea turtles are on the endangered species Red List. The most common species of turtle found in the Bahamas is the green turtle, which we are studying. Previous studies in the Bahamas have included nutrition, grazing, growth rates, and abundance, but none have been conducted on Eleuthera. Our study is currently being conducted just north of Rock Sound in Half Sound, on the Atlantic side of the island. The purpose of our study is to investigate the abundance, size, and distribution of green sea turtles in Half Sound and our hypothesis is that areas with an abundance of sea grass will have dense turtle populations. We have two main methods that we’ve used so far in order to catch these turtles. The first is by boat, in which we take a small skiff to Half Sound. We ride Continue reading
Our research group is determining the population density of Queen Conch (pronounced “conk”) in South Eleuthera. Specifically, we are seeing if there is enough conch in the area for reproduction, since they are density-dependant. Conch is very economically, ecologically and culturally important in the Bahamas. Conch populations are declining because of overfishing and high demands for the meat in the United States. We are excited to take part in the research and we hope to help in the creation of a Marine Protected Area. Today we went out into the field and completed multiple 1,000 meter transects by towing two snorkelers at a time behind a boat while counting adult, subadult and juvenile conch. Alongside the conch we saw cushion sea stars, lobster, moon jellyfish and a large assortment of colorful fish! Honk if you love conch!
- Connor, Brian, Christina, Eunna, Nora & Maren
Research classes kicked off this week for The Island School students. On Tuesday, students broke into their 8 different research groups and spent the afternoon getting to know their research advisors–members of the research team at the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI). They also learned about the study they would be working on for the next 3 months. Thursday afternoon was their first field block, where they got out on the water or into the lab for the first time! The 8 studies being conducted this semester focus on shark ecology & physiology, the impact of climate change on bonefish & mangrove flats species, lionfish & reef fish population ecology, and sea turtle & conch abundance & distribution around South Eleuthera. These studies are well-established areas of research at CEI and as a result, many visitors and collaborators will be visiting our campus over the next few weeks to share their knowledge and expertise with the students.
Research class is an exciting opportunity for students to gain new skills in the field – from fish identification and handling to public speaking and PowerPoint creation. Students learn about and contribute to global conservation issues, work in small groups, and ultimately, have the experience of a lifetime!
When Island School alum Skylar Miller (S’03) returned to Eleuthera in the summer of 2010, she was looking for an opportunity that bridged her passion for teaching concepts of marine biology with field-based research. “When I heard the Cape Eleuthera Institute’s mission of ‘Research, Education, and Outreach’ I thought: That’s perfect. That’s exactly what I want to do,” Miller reflected. She has since become a pioneer for that mission. Her collaborative work has resulted in the creation of CEI’s Lionfish Research and Education Program, in partnership with the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) and Simon Fraser University (SFU).
The scope of her work is expanding into the future, with many exciting opportunities to forge new partnerships and extend lionfish programming throughout the Caribbean. “Lionfish invasion is a regional issue,” she described. “There are lots of countries similar to The Bahamas’ situation, politically, economically, socially. We need to consider how we can learn from one another. Looking at communication and how we can share ideas is going to be important as we move forward, as we figure out a solution to the lionfish problem.”
This fall, Miller will begin graduate work at the University of the West Indies, Barbados. Continue reading
Cape Eleuthera Institute’s Kristal Ambrose embarked on her epic journey to of plastic research, leaving on April 24th.. From Nassau, Bahamas to Texas, USA; from Tokyo, Japan to Guam; and finally, on to Majuro, Marshall Islands, the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of exploration, opportunity, and learning for Ambrose, CEI’s Aquaponics Intern and researcher dedicated to finding solutions to plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.
“Most of what we eat, drink or use in any way comes packaged in petroleum plastic—a material designed to last forever yet used for products that we use for as little as thirty seconds then throw away,” describes Ambrose on her blog. “Plastic creates toxic pollution at every stage of its existence: manufacture, use, and disposal. This is a material that the Earth cannot digest. Every bit of plastic that has ever been created still exists, including the small amount that has been incinerated and has become toxic particulate matter. In the environment, plastic breaks down into small particles that release toxic chemicals into the environment. These particles are ingested by wildlife on land and in the ocean, contaminating the food chain from the smallest plankton to the largest whale…This trip will serve as my formal training experience to tackle the plastic pollution and marine debris issue within my country.”
In Nassau during the days before departure, Ambrose was invited to tea at the home of His Excellency Sir Arthur Foulkes, Governor General of The Bahamas. Continue reading
A couple weeks ago the Bonefish Flats group took a trip to Page Creek in order to gather information about the habitat that Bonefish live in.
The flat that we went to was surrounded by the ocean and land. In the beginning of it the depth ranged from 0-3 feet, deeper into the flat it was only a foot deep. Some fish populations included yellowtail snapper, schoolmaster fish. There were also red mangroves all over. Flats are generally shallow areas. They are an abundance of mangroves and small fish that use the mangroves for protection. Present in the mangroves are species such as small fish, echinoderms, Cassiopeia, etc. In the flat that we went to the water varied from 0-3 feet. The beginning of the flat was deepest, and then it got shallower. In the flat we found yellow tail snapper, schoolmaster fish, blue crabs, etc. There was sand and turtle grass on the floor. When we went there it was low tide and the sun was high in the sky. This caused for the water to be much warmer than if the sun was not out and it was high tide because the more water there is the more energy it takes to heat it up. It was important for us to take a trip to the flat and observe it because this is the habitat for Bonefish.
We went into the flats to have hands on experience with our studies. We went into the field to collect, observe, and tag Bonefish to have a better idea of where we should take out studies. Continue reading
Since its creation just over one year ago, the Lionfish Research and Education Program (LREP) at CEI has strived to become a hub for lionfish work in the Caribbean. Recently, LREP has taken some exciting steps toward reaching this status! Just last week, CEI hosted three producers and videographers from ZED (www.zed.fr), a major French documentary company that is working on gathering footage for an upcoming TV series featuring invasive lionfish. Specifically, the documentary team was interested in learning about Bahamian lionfish research and management initiatives. Luckily, visiting scientist, and partner of LREP, Nicola Smith was able to come over from Nassau to support the week’s activities and be featured in the film! Nicola is the lead coordinator for the Bahamian-wide lionfish research project that operates under the Bahamian Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and partners with CEI.
ZED producer, Jerome Segur, sound engineer, Olivier Pioda, and underwater videographer (and former member of Jacque Cousteau’s prestigious dive team!) Didier Noirot, joined Nicola and LREP researchers in the field to get a closer look at lionfish and to better understand the project’s research objectives. Continue reading
Each research group is continuing to make progress in preparation for our group introductions on Saturday. Introductions are short PowerPoint presentations where each project answers the question: Why does our research matter?
Of course being in deep water sharks is super cool. We get to study different shark species using The Medusa – a high-tech video camera designed to dive up to 2000 feet underwater, lent to us by Edith Widder at National Geographic. But what’s even cooler about my research project is how little humans know about what I’m studying!
At home, whenever I was given a research paper or project to do in science class, there was a definite ending point and answer to the project. Continue reading
The first week of research was a big week for the Lionfish research project. We oriented ourselves to our goals, methods, and systems. We discussed what an invasive species means, the invasion of lionfish, their life cycles, and their anatomy. On Thursday, we dissected lionfish in the lab. Our project began with learning external anatomy, including how to prevent lionfish stings. Next cut their bellies and look into the internal anatomy. We saw their key organs, and even their super stretch stomach that makes them such a successful predator. I found it especially interesting when we opened their stomach; we identified their stomach contents. This is especially significant because we identified their stomach contents to determine which species were suffering due to lionfish predation. I really enjoyed our dissection. The following week was our first field day. We went diving on a reef and practiced protocol for surveying a particular reef. The group was really excited to begin their work and get in the water. Stay tuned for new updates from the Lionfish research project!
by Amelia Patsalos-Fox, Shane Wetmore, Sterling Wright
On Saturday we went out to free dive for conch in the shallows near the sandbar to see how many adults we could find. It was a nice first experience for us and it taught us how to find conch even when they are camouflaged in the sand. For the past week we have been focusing on queen conch identification, history of the conch fishery, and ways to survey the population effectively. Our most exciting experience so far has been in the field. We were able to travel out into Cape Eleuthera Sound and take our first peek at some conch. As we snorkeled around, we practiced our free diving and determining live queen conch from dead shells. We mostly saw juveniles and a few sub-adult sizes. We then gathered in a group in the water to practice identifying differences between juvenile and sexually mature conch shells. This was very helpful in learning about the shells. It was extremely hands on and we had the help of a visiting conch researcher, Catherine Booker, from Community Conch, a Bahamian non-profit organization. She had given us a presentation previously on conch in the Bahamas and it was amazing to see her teach us about proper ways spot conch. All in all it was a positive experience and was very helpful towards our future in surveying the density of conchs in the Cape Eleuthera Bite.
The following week we were able to go out and start experimenting with collecting real data. Our project hopes to identify Continue reading