Cape Eleuthera Institute said goodbye this week to SeaTrek, a group of students aboard a sailing, scuba, and marine biology expedition. They kept a very detailed blog during their time at CEI–check it out here!
During the fifth day of each academic rotation for Human Ecology: Food Systems, students get the opportunity to participate in one of three CEI research projects: turtles, sharks, and bonefish. Here is an excerpt from our day on the field working with the turtle team on Friday!
It was a gloomy Friday morning in terms of weather, but The Island school kids were ready to go. Smiles, music, and gossip about turtle names drifts through the van on our way to Half Sound, an embayment 45 minutes north of school. Tagging turtles for research is not for the faint-hearted, and the Island School team showed up ready to get some catches. After a long ride to the creek we finally arrived, ready and waiting for the first turtle to cross our path. After a small talk about the movement of the tides and how it affects the destination of the turtles in the creek system, we quickly set up the net for the first capture. Turtle-ing requires patience and interaction with your peers. As we quietly form a line yards away, we face the net and walk back kicking and splashing as loud as we can. This may sound easy, but after a few hours and a mini lunch break in the water, we found ourselves worried that the turtles had outsmarted us. With our doubts we set up our net with a different technique. Instead of keeping the net in one location, making it easier for the turtle to escape, we moved the net around the people herding, hoping to get the turtle in the circle. After turtles made it out of the circle by jumping over the net and moving under the net, we made our first catch!
After the catch, we quickly proceeded to take care of business. Turtles are able to live outside of water, but we always wanted to make sure the turtle is not stressed through the process. We went on to tagging where we insert a tag on each of the turtle’s front fins so that if he or she was to show up in a new location and somebody found them, they would know who to contact and get an idea of growth rate. We also recorded the species, width, weight, and length of the turtle. The process was not lengthy and the turtle swam off unharmed and quickly. Although this green sea turtle was our only catch of the day, The Island School crew and the help of a few researchers from CEI put in the effort, making this a successful quest for turtles!
Thanks to Gabi for this Student Update!
After a week exploring South Eleuthera above and below the water, the students are already taking on the academic portion of Summer Term! Again, the students are quite busy, so Summer Term faculty have filled in for this blog post! We, as faculty, are consistently asking them, “How can we live well in a place?” Exploring this question, students will rotate through week long intensives focusing on three different themes: Marine Ecology, Food Systems, and Tourism & Development.
Marine Ecology: In Marine Ecology, the classroom is not a room full of chairs or desks. Instead, the classroom is a small portion of a larger coral head, buzzing with fish of all sizes and coral of all kinds. As students learn about various components of the marine ecosystem, they have the opportunity to explore what they learn in class underwater by taking the time to observe a single section of a reef. Students return to the same spot every class, each day more aware of the complex interactions that make a functional ecosystem. Students also dive into the world of Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson and participate in discussions about ethics and conservation.
Food Systems: Understanding where our food comes from, how it gets to our table, and where our waste going after we are through are all essential in gaining a sense of place and grasping our term’s theme: living well in that place. During the Food Systems unit, students will visit farms (both on and off Island School’s campus) to learn about the challenges and techniques to growing food on Eleuthera. In addition, students will understand both our environmental and social impacts that accompany our production of waste products. After two and a half days of in and out of classroom learning about food systems and human ecology, students will take part in intensives that highlight important sustainable food systems here on the Cape. Students will break up into two groups, focusing on either the Aquaponics system at CEI or the Farm on Island School’s campus to further understand how to live well in a place with regards to the food we eat and the waste we produce.
Tourism & Development (Down Island Trip): Students explore the island of Eleuthera on a four day camping road trip. While visiting new settlements, such Governor’s Harbour, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells, student conduct interviews with local Bahamians. On the Down Island Trip, students also visit some of the natural attractions like ocean holes to swim in, or caves to climb through. Throughout the week, students conduct a variety of readings and have discussions about how tourism has shaped the development of Eleuthera. As they see the effects of failed tourism on the island, they began to discuss alternative forms of tourism and how it can be done so in a sustainable way for the island of Eleuthera. The class opens student’s eyes to how we can travel and understand a place we are visiting, as well as getting a chance to see all 100 miles of Eleuthera!
Our first Down Island Trip comes back to campus today and we are looking forward to having our whole community together this afternoon! Stay tuned for more updates from Summer Term 2013!
Greetings from the Island School’s 2013 Summer Term! This weekend, students enjoyed an evening off to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the independence of the Bahamas. We piled into the bus with high anticipation of enjoying some traditional Bahamian food and dance. The warm hour and half long ride to Governor’s Harbour ended with a cool breeze and the sweet smell of celebration. Almost immediately it seemed that the overwhelming smells of conch fritters and coconut drinks drew everyone into a line behind Shauna’s food stand. After chowing down on the food, the cool grooves of rake and scrape music coaxed us into the dancing field. Many of us took a break from twisting and shouting to cool off along the ocean side. Some of us couldn’t help but admire the locally made jewelry and baskets. Only the strong winds and rain could stop our moving feet. A small storm blew in, forcing us to pile back into the bus with our conch salads and high spirits. The drive back quickly lulled us to sleep under the beautiful South Eleutheran stars. It was a truly memorable night. Happy Birthday, Bahamas!
Thanks to Savannah and Chase for this Student Update! In addition to celebrating Independence day today, we are also preparing the campus for the wind and rain expected to arrive later this week. Students helped out on Island School’s campus and at CEI by assisting in storm prep! Everyone is ready to face the wind and rain head on!
For those of you hoping to watch your child’s research presentation again, you’re in luck! We have posted all of the Parents Weekend Research Presentations on YouTube for you and your son or daughter to enjoy. All of the presentations can be found on the CEI YouTube Channel homepage here.
In association with Microwave Telemetry, Inc. and the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, Edd Brooks and CEI’s Shark Research and Conservation program have discovered new findings while studying the migratory behaviors of ocean whitetip sharks that can help shape conservation strategies. Some sharks spend extended time periods in the protected waters of The Bahamas yet roam long distances when they leave. For the full article, read below or click here.
As the nations of the world prepare to vote on measures to restrict international trade in endangered sharks in early March, a team of researchers has found that one of these species – the oceanic whitetip shark – regularly crosses international boundaries. Efforts by individual nations to protect this declining apex predator within their own maritime borders may therefore need to be nested within broader international conservation measures.
The research team, which included researchers from Microwave Telemetry, Inc., the Cape Eleuthera Institute, and the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, attached pop-up satellite archival tags to one male and 10 female mature oceanic whitetip sharks off Cat Island in The Bahamas in May 2011, and monitored the sharks for varying intervals up to 245 days. The tags recorded depth, temperature, and location for pre-programmed periods of time. At the end of the time period, the tags self-detached from the sharks, and reported the data to orbiting satellites. Their findings, published online today in the journal PLOS ONE, show that some of these sharks roamed nearly 2,000 kilometers from the spot where they were caught, but all individuals returned to The Bahamas within a few months.
“While the oceanic whitetip shark is one of the most severely overexploited shark species, it is also among the least studied because Continue reading
By: Korinna Garfield, Sam Hastings, Atalanta von der Schulenburg, Maggie Bland, & Nathaniel Millard
Hello! We are team Patch! On this research project we are looking at the spatial and temporal abundance of fish species in Eleuthera, here in the Bahamas. Patch reefs are transitional juvenile habitats for fish after their early life in mangroves. One of the main reasons we are conducting this research, is to see if it is necessary that an MPA be established near Cape Eleuthera, based upon the fish population and habitat trends in the area. We hypothesize that patch reefs will have a higher fish biomass the closer they are to mangroves, there will be an increase in lionfish (an invasive species), and Continue reading
Last week the Bahamas National Trust hosted Kristal Ambrose, Aquaponics Technician at Cape Eleuthera Institute, as a public meeting guest speaker. The topic for the evening featured her internship to study plastics in the North Pacific Western Garbage Patch, an area highly concentrated with plastic debris and an environmental issue only just beginning to be studied by scientists. Kristal recounted her expedition, which sought to answer questions that explore what happens to plastics that enter the ocean, from ingestion by marine life, to absorption of harmful pollutants. The opportunity to share this experience with a Bahamian audience was especially important to Kristal, as her primary goal following this study is to find real solutions through education, research and outreach projects in her home country. After peaking the interest of one attendee at the BNT meeting, Kristal was approached to also share her experience with students at St. Andrews School where she spoke to two classes on Friday.
Kristal’s study was supported by the BNT, Bahamas Reef Environment Foundation (BREEF) and The Nature Conservancy, all of whom were represented at the meeting Continue reading
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!
Dr. Mark Hixon plus four graduate students have been conducting lionfish research at CEI this summer. Dr. Hixon is the most cited coral reef biologist in the last decade and recently gave a TED talk about the lionfish invasion.
Mark and his team our the first long-term residents in Hallig House. He speaks about his experience at CEI in the video below. Mark will return later in August with Carl Safina and a film crew in tow. They will be shooting an episode for Saving the Ocean.