For the Island School summer term, six students had the opportunity to work with Dr. Jocelyn Curtis-Quick researching invasive lionfish. In one day, the students became professionals at cast netting, dissecting lionfish, conducting behavior observations, and data analysis. They dissected fourteen lionfish, with body fat ranging from% 0.58- %2.1 and the discovered of various prey items in the stomach including crabs, grunts, and blue headed wrasse. Shockingly, there were twelve fish in one stomach; proving the voracious eating habits of the lionfish. The students are now knowledgeable invasive lionfish researchers. Of course, the students love to eat lionfish and recommend everyone do their part to stop the invasion by eating them.
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!
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 →
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!
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!
An aquamarine ocean, stretching from the shallowest of waters to the deepest of abyss may be a lonely place; at times nothing but stretches of white sand and swaying sea grass is found upon the seafloor. Following a yellowtail snapper though, one may find themselves floating over a bustling patch reef. What is a patch reef you may ask? Located in shallow waters, these isolated coral reef outcrops, with an array of brightly colored fish and slow moving invertebrates; provide an essential transitional habitat for juvenile fish still unequipped for the strains of the open ocean. Continue reading →
This was a very successful week for the lionfish research team. On Tuesday we had two great reading note presentations and started to work on our first group project. By our next class on Friday we had a PowerPoint set up that described our research group’s purpose. After a practice presentation we went out into the field. Each buddy team finished three transects at the first dive spot that went very well. However, the reef was quite flat so we didn’t see too many lionfish or grouper. A bolt of lightening then interrupted our dive, and we headed back to The Island School. Apparently the weather gods don’t like it when we dive on Friday. Saturday was an almost flawless day in the field. We got to both of our desired dive sites and had very well set up transects at each one. We saw more lionfish and grouper on Saturday because the reefs we visited had more ledges for lionfish to use as shelter. As a group we are definitely ready and excited for our presentation on Tuesday!
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.
Did you know that 5.2 million people die every year from waste related diseases? Now you do! This is a result of irresponsible and inappropriate global waste management – 50% of which is organic and 35% is unsorted recyclables. This is becoming a major problem in both developed and less developed countries with the latter usually suffering the consequences. Developed countries like the US often dump their trash in less developed countries that cannot always meet the waste demands. People have been trying to find alternative ways to dispose of waste more responsibly and sustainably. To solve this crisis, scientists turned to Nature for a solution – creating an emerging field known as biomimicry, which copies Nature’s processes to make the world a better place for humans. From this, a solution arose: Biodigestion. Continue reading →