Last week Justin Lewis, from Grand Bahama, Zack Jud, from Florida International University and Tiffany Gray, from Cape Eleuthera Institute, worked with Cassandra Abraham at Friends of the Environment in Marsh Harbour, Abaco on a flats program with local students from Abaco. This flats program was like a shorter version, just 3 days, of our 7 day sleep over Flats Week summer program at Cape Eleuthera Institute. It gives students a chance to not only learn the basics of flyfishing, but also immerse themselves into the ecology and conservation of the flats ecosystem. We had 5 students, all Bahamians, participating in the course.
The program started out on Tuesday, August 13th, with an informational presentation on bonefish and flats ecology. Zach and Justin also spent a bit of time that first day teaching students the basics on flyfishing where they had the chance to practice casting, some of them for the first time! That afternoon we headed over to Great Cistern to do an introduction on methodology and how to use the seine net. We saw lots of turtles, a shark and caught some shad (mojarra), crabs, shrimp, and other fun stuff in the seine net.
The second day we tagged 20 bonefish around Crossing Rocks, about 12 miles south of the Marls. Clint Kemp from Black Fly Lodge in Schooner Bay took us out with two of their flats boats for a Continue reading
Early Monday morning Shark & Flats week were off after a busy camp exploring the mangrove flats ecosystem in South Eleuthera.
The flats week students not only worked alongside our Flats researchers all through the week, but also had the opportunity to go bonefishing with some of the local fishermen of Rock Sound and Savannah Sound. In doing this, they got a taste of some of the local ideas in conservation of the mangrove flats ecosystem and protection of bonefish as well as other species that spend all or just part of their life there.
The Shark week students spent a good amount of time in the field setting longlines and drum lines for juvenile lemon sharks and their predators. They were very successful in tagging and recapture of juvenile lemons, having caught 7 in one day at a nearby creek. They were also able to use their findings to relate to other juvenile lemon shark studies from the Bimini Biological Field Station.
On the last day, both shark and flats presented to their fellow campers and Continue reading
After graduating from Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Biology, Liane was offered a job at CEI working in the Flats Ecology and Conservation Program. She has since been given the opportunity to pursue her master’s in science through Carleton University, Canada at CEI. With the supervision of Dr. Steven Cooke (Carleton University, Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology lab) and Dr. Cory Suski (University of Illinois, Ecological Physiology lab) Liane will be studying the thermal biology and spatial ecology of bonefish.
In addition to being part of a multi-million dollar catch-and-release fishery, bonefish (Albula vulpes) are an essential component of tropical marine ecosystems and an integral part of Continue reading
This week, the CEO of Orvis, Perk Perkins, cruised through Cape Eleuthera. Perk is on a sabbatical from Orvis and is spending his time sailing throughout the Caribbean. He stopped by The Island School and Cape Eleuthera Institute to check out the work we are doing down here. He is most interested in CEI’s research on bonefish and the study of their flats habitat. We hope to stay in touch with Perk in the future so that he may help guide us as CEI becomes a hub for flats research in The Bahamas. The next stop on his tour of the Caribbean is the Exumas and CEI’s Aaron Shultz was lucky enough to accompany him on this leg of the trip. We hope Perk comes back to visit us again soon!
Two students from Carleton University in Ottawa, Felicia St-Louis and Petra Szekeres, will be on The Island School campus until June 19th collecting data for their research on the thermal biology of the checkered puffer fish (Sphoeroides estudineus) and bonefish (Albula vulpes). Over her short visit this past February, Felicia was able to validate intra-muscular cortisol injections as a method of increasing blood cortisol (i.e. a stress hormone) to ecologically relevant levels in the checkered puffer for her MSc project. She is examining the effects of short-term cortisol elevation on the thermal biology of the puffers in the lab as well as in the field. By building a thermal profile of Page creek and releasing puffers tagged with thermal logging iButtons within the creek for a one month period, she will be able to compare habitat preferences between control and cortisol-dosed puffers. Continue reading
Researchers from Carleton University (Cooke Lab) was at CEI last week studying flats ecology. The team is determining whether radio tags can be used to track the movements of checkered puffers in shallow mangrove habitats. Radio tags normally are used only in freshwater because signals are attenuated by sea water. However, the researchers have modified the tags such that the antenna points vertically and breaks the water surface as puffers swim about in tidal creeks. In addition, the researchers placed tri-axial accelerometer loggers on bonefish in McKinney Creek at CEI. The loggers record information on swimming (e.g., tail beats) and feeding (e.g., tilting as they dip their heads to feed) activity. This is the first time that such loggers have been used on bonefish and will provide information that will serve as the basis for a bonefish bioenergetics model. The same loggers were also placed on some fish in Kemps Creek to evaluate the effects of different handling techniques on post-release behaviour. The Carleton team includes Jake Brownscombe, Felicia St. Louis, Charles Hatry, Jason Thiem, and Dr. Steven Cooke.
So everyone has heard of climate change/global warming- increased anthropogenic CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere shifts annual global climate, which then leads to other catastrophic events within the Earth’s ecosphere. An increase in oceanic temperature and acidity is among the most pressing and readily apparent effects of climate change. Past research has shown fish of tropical reefs to be particularly sensitive to changes in ocean temperature and pH. In the flats department, we aim to determine whether common teleost occupants of tropical mangroves exhibit a similar sensitivity to such changes. Using bonefish (Albula spp.), checkered puffers (Sphoeroides tetudineus), juvenile yellowfin mojarra (Gerres cinereus), and juvenile yellowtail snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus), we aim to determine the Critical maximum and minimum temperature and pH at which each species looses equilibrium (“goes belly up”). Continue reading
By C.J., Noah, Hannah, Ellen, Heather, and Chris D.
The Flats Research team recently traveled by boat to Kemp’s Creek to catch bonefish. Our research group is studying bonefish, among other species, because there have been very few studies on them. This is surprising, considering the important ecological role played by bonefish, as well as their appeal for sport fishing in the Bahamas. Bonefish are mainly found in shallow flats ecosystems, since this is where they hunt for prey. At low tide, however, bonefish tend to swim into open ocean. Recognizing that bonefish would be making this transition during the change in tides, we headed to Kemp Creek to collect some for our research.
The process by which we caught the bonefish was a method known as seining. This method involves setting up a large net that covers the opening where the creek meets the ocean. Many fish enter tidal creeks during high tide to forage for food. We purposefully set the net during a time when the tide was leaving the creek, because the bonefish would be following the tide and retreating into deeper waters at this time. Continue reading