Category Archives: Student Update

A Place of Change by Ethan Vitaz

The island school is a place of change. We come back older, taller, and dirtier – but the most significant change happens within ourselves. We have experienced things that can’t necessarily be explained to those at home, at least not easily. As our semester comes to a close we have begun to look into how we have changed, both personally and as an Island School class. While observing changes in ourselves we strive to understand how these changes occurred. Many students might tell you that it is from their solo or from being away from home or living in a dorm but I think, at least in my own case, that this change has come from a collection of every moment at the Island school.

Take a leap
Take a leap

Most people do not have one moment that defines the inevitable transition during their IS experience. This collective change comes from absorbing the numerous little things that IS has to offer: jumping off of High Rock, swimming in Current Cut, going to the marina store for some much anticipated snacks. The transition home that faces us is depicted as being very difficult. We will leave this place that we have learned to love in the past ninety some days. We will miss it but we are also glad to get home after our long journey. On this note, I ask our loved ones that, once your Island School grads get home, you give them space to transition and that you are patient. This transition can be tough for many students so it is not uncommon for them to take time to jump back into their daily routines.

The importance of family:  Parents Weekend '15
The importance of family: Parents Weekend ’15

And a tip to future students: make every moment of the Island School count. Take advantage of every situation.

Island School Research Projects by Andrieka Burrows

All nine research groups here at The Island School have different components that make them unique to their purpose of study, and very interesting to those who are partaking in them. Island School students team up with CEI researchers and interns who come from international backgrounds and strive for excellence in their particular fields of study.

From gathering information on a diverse range of landlocked anchialine ponds to catching deep sea sharks five kilometres offshore, research at the Island School doesn’t only provide answers to unsolved scientific mysteries, but also allows Island School students to develop an intimate relationship with science research as it coincides with “hands on education.”

Ponds Assessment

There are approximately 200+ Anchialine ponds on Eleuthera, yet, there is very little information about these ponds in scientific publications. The inland ponds are unique in their structure and thriving ecosystems that often contain endemic life. The large number of unique species in the ponds are a result of the isolation and the environmental conditions of each ecosystem. Inspired by the seahorses found in one pond, researchers at CEI set out to explore the other ponds on the island. In this research project, baseline information on the water quality, the level of human disturbance and the life present is collected at each pond site. This information will help to support future conservation efforts.

Deep Sea Sharks

Deep-sea shark populations are under global threat due to human activity such as fishing and mining. Therefore studies must be conducted in an attempt to understand deep sea sharks. The group aims to investigate vertical habitat use in Exuma Sound’s deep-sea sharks using satellite tags which record 2 minute resolution, temperature and depth data for each subject. The three target species are Cuban dogfish, Bigeye Sixgills, and Gulper Sharks. Animals are caught on 800 – 850 meter longlines before being brought up to the boat, at which time a satellite tag is attached through the animal’s dorsal fin.The animals are then released in an anti-predation release cage. This work will identify depth boundaries and vertical habitat use in cosmopolitan deep-sea sharks providing useful baseline data for management and policy.


It is obvious that when a fish is captured multiple times it can begin to experience physiological behavioural changes. This research group has set out to study the physiological and behavioral effects of multiple captures and angling events on bonefish. The group also studies how bonefish can recognize and potentially avoid hooks. This study aims to determine how increasing angling pressure and the resulting repeated capture events can affect individual bonefish.

Lemon Shark Physiology

This group of researchers is concerned with how longline gear modifications affect lemon sharks’ stress levels and behavior. To study this, the lemon shark team goes to tidal mangrove creeks to collect juvenile lemon sharks using block/spot seining techniques. After capture, the lemon sharks are brought back to the wet lab at CEI where they are caught in experimental longline tanks. The shark’s stress and behavior are measured by drawing blood and using accelerometer tags, respectively. It is hypothesized that giving sharks more room to swim when caught will affect their stress levels and behavior to a lesser degree.

Bahamian Knowledge of Turtles

There are two sea turtle projects that are conducted here at the Cape Eleuthera Island School. The first examines the social relationship between Bahamians and sea turtle. This is a new project in which the research team speaks with Bahamians to get a better understanding of Bahamian knowledge on sea turtles, sea turtle conservation, and understanding Bahamians’ perceptions of sea turtles and sea turtle conservation, particularly in regards to the 2009 ban on harvesting sea turtles. This involves interviewing Bahamians across different settlements on Eleuthera and recording their responses. This team also conducts in-water abundance surveys to align Bahamian knowledge with sea turtle abundance in different creeks across South Eleuthera.

Green Turtle Habitat Use

In this turtle group, researchers focus on tracking tagged juvenile green sea turtles in an attempt to map each turtle’s home range based on size class. Each tag emits a beeping pattern, unique to each individual, that allows researchers to monitor their movements using a technique called acoustic telemetry. Once individual turtles are located and spotted, a GPS point is recorded in order to create a map that indicates the individual home range area of each turtle. This work will help us better understand juvenile green sea turtles habitat use and help managers more effectively protect this endangered species.


The Stingray Research Team is one of the most intense, exciting research groups here on campus. This could be because the team is constantly in the field chasing and catching stingrays to assess their occupation of space and the differences in habitat specificity of two co-occurring species. When the stingrays are caught, measurements and tissues samples are taken and the animals are tagged to determine long-term site fidelity. The study is vitally important to The Bahamas since this information is not yet known and many habitats critical to life-history of stingrays are degraded or encroached upon. This work will highlight the importance of coastal and nearshore ecosystems to this meso-predator and provide frameworks for conservation and management.

Queen Conch

The queen conch, is a culturally, economically and ecologically important species. There is a need for an up-to-date assessment of conch nursery grounds locally as data collected by CEI & Island School shows declines in adult mating pairs and an increase in the harvest of juveniles. In an effort to produce this information the conch team goes out on a boat and tows two people behind, students count the conch and determine their life stage. This research is important as it will help inform future marine resource management decision making.


Last but not least we have the plastics research group. This team normally goes to sea on “The Cobia” to quantify plastic pollution from the Exuma Sound, as well as whether or not fish, such as dolphinfish, tunas, and wahoo, are ingesting plastics. The team pulls a trawl, or a net, behind the boat to collect macro and micro plastics alike. In addition to collecting plastic from the sea, the team also collects fish from local fishermen or from trolling for subsequent dissection and analysis of their stomach contents in order to identify whether fish commonly harvested for human consumption ingest plastic. It is obvious that marine organisms are negatively affected by pollution, but this team is on a mission to find out whether or not plastic pollution is making its way onto our dinner plates!

3-day Kayak by Jack Megrue

If you were at boat house cut on August 31st at around noon, you would have seen thirteen eager students holding paddles up towards the sky – the sign that we were all ready to depart on our three day kayak trip.20931316518_8d47c485ab_k

When we first set off, we were traveling at a speedy pace, with Helen Roosevelt leading the diamond shaped pod, Justin Box and Katie Koch acting as the sides and I was holding up the rear. Eventually, Catherine Klem and Ian Overton, our leaders for the three days, gave us the signal that we would stop for lunch. When we pulled up for lunch near the lemon shark pen that was about three miles down the coast from the Island School, everyone was tired, but we all helped set up the lunch tarp and lay out our food. Then we took our PB&Js into the clear blue ocean that was the perfect temperature for lunch in the water.

We soon set off again and after passing two or three mangrove-ridden islands, we arrived at our campsite. We all got out of our kayaks and handed out jobs. With speed and elegance, we brought the kayaks up on the shore, unloaded the group gear, and flipped the kayaks for safe keeping through the night. After all of the group gear, food, and kayaks were taken care of, we then moved on to setting our hammocks that we would sleep in for the night.
Later, we all helped gather firewood for our fire that would be used for cooking our meal of rice, beans, and vegetables. As a treat, we were surprised with marshmallows that we roasted over the fire and cooked to a golden brown.

That night, everyone brushed their teeth and attached their dry bags to trees in case a sudden Bahamian storm rolled in. Then we all zipped up our bug nets to our hammocks under the light of the full moon, and we fell asleep.

On day two of our kayak trip, we headed out to the blue hole. Once we finished the two and a half mile trip down the coast, we pulled into a little bay and attached our kayaks to the nearby mangroves. Then, we all helped in setting up lunch of tortillas, peanut butter, and jelly were all laid out on the tarp and we all feasted awaiting the upcoming blue hole snorkel.jack's picture
We put on our snorkeling gear and out to the blue hole. We were all in pairs of twos (the buddy system) and swimming eagerly to the site. When I approached, I saw the white sand with some seaweed on the bottom, Cam Reisinger and Owen Ryerson were on either side of me, and then I saw the blue hole. Suddenly the sand dropped off into a black abyss. The blue hole was covered in coral and filled with fish of all different shapes and colors. We dove down and looked around to see more coral that had fish nibbling on the ends of it. Everyone was stunned at the amazing blue hole and all of the life that was around it.

After we snorkeled in and around the blue hole for twenty or thirty minutes, we went back to our boats and kayaked back to our campsite.

The next and last day of our trip, everyone was sad to be packing up their hammocks because, even though it was only two nights, everyone had an amazing time and we were all sad that we had to leave. After we had breakfast and packed the kayaks, we were on our way. We paddled past the shark pen to a new lunch spot, about half way between our previous campsite and the Island School. We all ate the PB&Js as we had the previous two lunches, and we played a game in the little bay where our boats were beached. After thirty minutes or so, we left for The Island School.21036547186_6f904dee04_k

Once we arrived, we were all tired and a bit sad that we were at the end of such and incredible trip. We put our boats away and gave everyone high fives for having finished and for such an incredible trip. Now, we are all excited about going on our eight-day trip with new people and creating new memories.

Student Update: The Final Week

This morning all 53 students headed off on their way. Congratulations Spring 2015! Here are some reflections from the final week.

Conch Fest

Last night proved the saying “the party don’t start ‘till we walk in.” Arriving at conch fest around 4:35 we were the first ones to occupy the fair ground in Deep Creek. After a day of pouring rain, the grassy area sloshed under our feet. We decided to walk up the street for a little bit of puppy TLC. There is a house behind the local drug store Jemmaks that is home to seven or so puppies who have provided much enjoyment to Island School students over the past couple weeks. By the time we all finished loving on the little bundles of fur, Mooch (the famous) had set up her booth.

The interesting albeit ironic thing about conch fest is that the Island School and CEI profess strongly that conch should be given up in favor of a more sustainable fishery. Because of this, CEI had a booth dedicated to promoting lionfish consumption. Lionfish are highly invasive in this area and are both sustainable and delicious. In addition, one of the Community Outreach projects that was presenting at the festival was Destinee’s trashion show. The show featured Deep Creek Middle School students, Island School students, and faculty alike. I have to say, I was highly impressed by what Destinee was able to create with chip bags and Caprisun pouches. We left the festival early to prepare for the half marathon the next day. What a way to end the semester: trashion, fried food, and exercise.

-Locke Curtis

Human Ecology: Energy Track

I grew up hearing all about grown ups and work and the “real world.” It has all seemed so far off; but it wasn’t until I was sitting in a conference room with four of my peers, blankly looking at this project before us, that I realized “real life” was staring me right in the face. The task was to design a renewable solar energy system for the new Anderson-Cabot graduate hall. This design had to consist of an energy audit, schematic, financial analysis, step-by-step guide to what would be produced and how, all thoroughly explained and justified in the format of a professional written proposal.

Group dynamics were rough; with so much to do and no idea where to start, heads were butting and emotions were running high. It took awhile to get our ideas off the ground. But the reason there was so much frustration was because we were all so passionate about the project and truly wanted to do the best job we could. With 3 5-hour class blocks, we spent a total of at least 18 hours, not even including the hours put in outside of class. I realized that simply sitting down and getting it done would not be a possibility. It was a long two weeks of a lot of mistakes, a lot of compromises, and a lot of disappointment. But thankfully, we ended up with more successes than failures. Deadline day came and we turned in a completed 24-page proposal, followed by a 5-minute pitch to our peers, faculty, and even the family who donated the money for the building. Hard work doesn’t even begin to describe what we did, and accomplished doesn’t even begin to describe how we feel now. It goes to show that we truly are capable of anything we set our minds to- just one example of many showing how The Island School pushes you to be your best, and to explore the endless potential we didn’t know we had.

-Madeline Parker

Plastics Summit

On Thursday night we went to bed, just the 52 students and few teachers that live on campus. After a good night’s sleep, we awoke on Friday to find that there were suddenly over a hundred people in line at the dining hall. This semester, Island School had the honor of hosting a large youth summit on the issue of plastics on the weekend of June 5, or World Environment Day. The guest list included a number of Bahamian schools, members of the United Nations, Celine Cousteau-Jacques Cousteau’s granddaughter, 5 Gyres, Bahamas Plastic Movement, the Bahamian Minister of Education, and a few other organizations and important individuals dedicated to reducing plastic use. Oh, and there was this guy named Jack Johnson, whoever he is. Friday morning started with presentations from the preeminent scientists and researchers in the field of plastics and went on the ceremony where Jack Johnson was officially named a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Environmental Program. He went on to play a few songs…and wow. He sounded exactly like his recordings, and he did it all with a laid-back ease. The next event on Friday was the dedication of the new Anderson-Cabot Grad Hall, where Maxey, Aaron Schultz, and the Bahamian Minister of Education honored the Andersons and Giant, the architect of the actual grad hall. The grad hall will serve as housing for grad students, interns and researchers that come through CEI.

On Saturday, we had our culminating project for research, where we displayed all of our work in a way that would reach audiences from toddlers to scientists. My group presented our poster, but we also had a slideshow with photos and videos and we designed and constructed two games. Research has been incredibly fun, but it was a relief to finally be done with our projects.

Today, Sunday, the Plastics Summit came to an end with a bang. We all biked down to the marina for lunch, and were greeted by a local band called the Rum Runners. After we finished our meal, we got a special treat. Jack Johnson then performed for us, with the help of some of the crew of the Mystic, the ship he sailed in on, the Rum Runners, and even two Island School students (shoutout to Lily and Hal).

This whole weekend was pretty surreal. There were so many impressive individuals, from scientists to politicians to musicians to professional surfers (who just stopped by today to say hi and join Jack Johnson). I hope that this summit and the relationships that we built during this weekend will last on to further semesters.

-Douglas Vetter

Student Update: Time in the Kitchen

Cole, Derece, Ethan and Olivia.
Cole, Derece, Ethan and Olivia.

Last weekend, Peter Z pulled four of my fellow Boys Dorm residents and I aside. After breaking a rule earlier in the semester, we were due for a punishment. At the time this punishment seemed like the end of the world. I was terribly angry at my early-in-the-semester self for having broken a rule. In my mind I had lost 10 hours of my Island School Experience.

But The Island School is full of surprises; it finds a way to make punishment one of the outstanding experiences of the past week. On the Sunday after exploration there was a free afternoon, exploration from 1:15 until 6:00. It was the first of my three days of punishment. I can imagine the frown that must have been on my face as many of my friends rode past me on their bikes off campus.

Our first task was to move dozens of chairs from the dining hall across campus to CSD. After a few sweaty trips, we ran into facilities team member Arlington. Arlington lives in the nearby settlement of Rock Sound, and is recognizable by the tower of dreadlocks that he hides underneath a red, green, and yellow column of cloth and his warm demeanor. Immediately recognizing our struggle, Arlington offered to give us a helping hand. He made time in his day to  bring his flatbed truck around to the dining hall so we wouldn’t have to carry more chairs. This first task became a few truck rides, mixed in with conversations with Arlington about life and morality. For the next three or four hours, we were scheduled to help out the kitchen staff. For me, the first hour of this period was really hard. For all that time, I was hunched over scrubbing mold from a brick corner of the dishes area where faucets fill up dish buckets. As I worked up a bit of a sweat and got my elbows dirty, I had some time to really reflect on what I had done wrong.

After we were done with the dishes area, Mooch (our head chef) surprised us with some leftover corn fritters. We shifted our efforts to helping our beloved kitchen staff members Mooch and Derece to organize the walk in fridge and freezer. While we worked, everybody’s mood improved. Mooch and Derece started acting goofy, then we started acting goofy, then everybody started laughing and joking as we worked.

Although we see Mooch and Derece are around campus a fair amount, I felt like I hadn’t had the chance to really get to know them. During this punishment, I got to see a side of them that I had no idea was there and that I’m so glad I found. When we finished our work it was about 4:00- there was 2 hours to spare. Instead of going back to Boy’s Dorm, us five boys stayed in the kitchen. We lost track of time as we joked and gossiped with Mooch and Derece over leftover cheesecake and mangoes. I can honestly say it was one of the most hilarious hangouts I’ve had in a long time.

As the culprit, it can be tough to take a step back and appreciate disciplinary action. But The Island School managed to make punishment hard enough to provoke healthy reflection about my rule-breaking attitude while at the same time making it a meaningful experience. Losing Exploration Time for me was not the same as wasting time at The Island School, it was a time for me to further explore a part of The Island School that I had not yet grown to appreciate.

-Cole Triedman

Student Update: Marina Cut

Marina Cut, just adjacent to the Marina, was just opened up this week, meaning that Island School students are now permitted to jump off the low bridge and float down current cut (with facility supervision of course).

So, now that the cut is now open, I was so excited to take my turn floating down the lazy river. My advisor, Flora Weeks, was kind enough to supervise a group of girls who all wanted to jump off of the low bike bridge and swim in the current cut. As soon as classes ended at 4:15, I ran up to girls dorm to change into a bathing suit, then I jumped on my bike and peddled towards the marina.

Before hopping in, I decided to make a quick marina store stop and buy an ice cream. After, I walked towards the cut and dangled my feet over the crystal clear water while enjoying the cold ice cream in the heat. After I had watched three or four people jump off, I decided that it was my turn. So, I grab my mask and snorkel. Just before jumping off, looked over my toes which hung over the edge of the bride into the vibrant blue water. The hue of the water was incredible because as a man made cut, it is very deep in the middle but quickly gets shallower on the outskirts.

I counted down from three, held my breath and took one huge leap off the bridge. Submersed in water I opened my eyes, remembering I had a mask on. I left the strong current float me down the cut as I watched the wide array of life swimming past me. To my left, I saw a cluster of mangroves that provided habitat for many small and colorful fish. Looking down, I saw a large ray gently gliding along on the bottom of the floor. So, I decided to hold my breath and dive down to try to get a better view. It was so incredible to see a ray so close; I got so excited under the water that I had to come back up for air. Continuing on my way, a little further down, I saw a huge nurse shark swimming in my direction. At first, my heart jumped a beat at the sight of such a large shark, but I quickly remember that nurse sharks pose no real threats to humans. So, the shark and I swam along side each other for what seemed like hours. But suddenly, the nurse shark darted out in front of me and then turned around to face me. He started to rise up to my level in the water and as he swam closer, I realized I should probably get out of its way. So, I dove down and let the shark swim over me. After, as I looked back it its dorsal fin swimming away, I was in complete awe. Hopping out of the water and walking back to the bridge to do it again, I was so completely amazed at what just happened.

-Hanna Pierce


Student Update: Swim Throughs

Ben, with a turtle in the background.
Ben freediving, with a turtle in the background.

This past Wednesday in the early morn I found somewhat of a nirvana. I was out free diving at tunnel rock with twenty or so of my classmates, a few interns, some scientists, and the fish man himself Chris Maxey. For those of you who have never been to tunnel rock it is a huge coral head about a hundred yards off the coast. And its name comes from the huge L shaped swim through that runs through the entirety of the reef. It is an amazing experience fighting your mind against time so you can stay underwater for another twenty seconds. I personally find it exhilarating.

This particular dive however was almost life altering. I decided I was going to go through the swim through for the first time. So I dove down, everyone was watching and I went down and down until I reached the opening and found my way through it.  I reached the other side and was reemerged into the expansive ocean all around me. When my eyes adjusted to the light I could not believe my eyes there was a over a hundred year old ginormous loggerhead turtle waiting for me at the mouth of the tunnel as if it had chosen me for some greater purpose. I was already under water for about a minute but the second I laid eyes on my new friend oxygen was no longer a necessity. It swam all the way up to me and almost smiled. Something inside me changed inside at that moment I think I realized how much of an impact this world can have on you and amazing it really is; you just have to try.

-Ben Skinner

Student Update: Night Dives

Exactly how it sounds, one of the sickest thing that has been done all semester. Meet at the boathouse at 7:30 and get on the boat. I was really excited and have been looking forward to this dive for a long time. When the sun was going down and we were on the water the adrenaline was kicking in. I buddied up with Whit for this dive and I could tell that he was real excited as well. As we sat on the boat anchored up over tunnel rock we waited for it to get real dark. Then we jumped in. When we started to descend there were jacks attracted to the light and would come inches away from running into us. When we got down there it was like nothing else, wherever I shined the light that’s all I could see, the rest was just pure darkness. We made our way down to the bottom and I saw this huge figure underneath some rock so I went a bit closer to take a closer look, it was a 5-6ft turtle sleeping underneath this coral. I immediately swam after Nick tapped him and did the awkward turtle and pointed to it and his eyes lit up along with everybody else who could actually see it. After looking at this turtle for 10 minutes we went out off the coral a bit. We shut off the all the lights and Nick took a handful of sand and threw it up but all I could see in this pitch black area was a bunch of these little green lights, it was something I had seen in movies and films on TV but I had never thought I would get the experience of actually seeing it with my own eyes and it was beautiful. I sat there throwing sand up in amazement looking at these bioluminescents. After this we went up for our safety stop and went up to the surface.

Once everybody surfaced everybody started freaking out cause they were so stoked off what they just experienced. Everybody was telling everybody what they had just seen. We got on the boat and got everybody else up and got ready to go back to campus. I sat there with my buds looking at the starts and looking at the bioluminescents lighting up the white water on the side of the boat. It was like something out of a movie and that is what The Island School is all about, experiences like those.

-JJ L’Archevesque

Student Update: Swim Track

This coming Sunday and Monday, students will put their training to the test and take on the half marathon and super swim. Student Ella Fishman took a moment to reflect on her upcoming swim:

Students dive into the water.
Students dive into the water.

Before coming to the Island School, I was a terrible swimmer. I didn’t really know how to do any strokes, and I was pretty sure I would drown in the super swim. Despite this, I chose to go with swim track. I knew I probably wouldn’t get another opportunity to work out in the ocean every morning, and also I wouldn’t get hot and sweaty in the water. After learning how to do freestyle, and the correct way to breathe, I began to enjoy swimming. The day when the current pushed against me so that I wasn’t moving at all was hard—but swimming back being carried by the current was great. Running to Triangle Cut is still challenging, but getting in the water and swimming a lap and realizing you had a shorter time than the last time makes up for it. So there are ups and downs. I’m still not a very good swimmer. But I’m actually kind of looking forward to the 4 mile swim—and I’m confident that I won’t drown now!

-Ella Fishman

Beth, Ellie and Lily are all smiles after a recent run swim.
Beth, Ellie and Lily are all smiles after a recent run swim.

Student Update: Community Outreach

Gus and his buddy hard at work while JJ and Stephen look on.
JJ, Stephen, Gus and DCMS student Cristian hard at work during Community Outreach.

At the beginning of the semester, each Island School student is paired up with a ‘buddy’ from Deep Creek Middle School. Every Thursday at precisely 1:10 we meet at the flag pole and prepare to travel to DCMS to help them work on their final projects. There are a variety of projects ranging from AIDs and HIV awareness, to self-image for girls. Each group is a team of 6, three Deep Creek Middle School students (9th, 8th, and 7th graders) and their three Island School buddies.

This past Tuesday was no ordinary Community Outreach. Our group piled into a van and headed over to Tarpum Bay primary school for our drug awareness event led by Patron, a 9th grader at DCMS. Our group of 6 stood up in front of a class of 6th graders for the culminating event. We performed a short skit to educate about peer pressure and drug use. After the skit, Patron asked the kids questions about what they had just learned. It turns out we had left the questions we prepared at the school so we all had to wing it and come up with questions on the spot. The kids were eager to participate and with each question, around 10 hands shot up. After we exhausted the questions, Patron took the kids to the basketball court to show them the safe and fun alternative to drug use. We played three different basketball games which lasted around an hour and a half. Towards the end we got to take a break and cupcakes, lollipops, and lemonade were handed out. The kids were very excited to be outside, and it turned into a family event where cars stopped to watch and siblings came to join us. Although it veered a little from the drug education, overall everyone had a great time and Patron was so proud of how well his big event came together.

The group came back to the school with a sugar high and exceeded expectations. We had missed advisory time but it was well worth it. Our class had turned into an adventure and our buddies had become our close friends.

-Colleen McGuinness

Colleen and her DCMS buddy are all smiles.
Colleen and her DCMS buddy Kenvado pose for a picture at the end of Community Outreach.