Palm Beach Day Academy visits the Cape Eleuthera Institute

palm beach day academy cape eleuthera institute
Josef Huainigg and Lyon Foster diving at Somethin’ 2 See on their first full day in Eleuthera.

Seven students from The Palm Beach Day Academy, in Palm Beach, Florida, kicked off a busy December at the Cape Eleuthera Institute with a five day program focused on marine ecology and sustainability. As most visitors staying on campus, not only were students taking navy showers to reduce their water use and save some precious rainwater, but they also had a chance to visit some of the vital ecosystems this island is known for. We had a few certified SCUBA divers in this group and were able to head out to a reef just off of the Exuma Sound. Somethin’ 2 See, as the reef is known, is shallow enough for a great snorkel but deep enough for a colorful and exciting SCUBA dive.

palm beach day academy cape eleuthera institute
Talia Chachkes & Lead Outdoor Educator, Tiffany Gray getting friendly with a yellowline arrow crab found around 25 ft atop the aquaculture cage.

Another highlight was snorkeling in 80 feet of water at the aquaculture cage to kill some time before hauling a deep water longline with Brendan Talwar, M.S. candidate at Florida State University. Brendan is researching the survivorship of deepwater sharks, specifically Cuban dogfish, after they are caught on a longline set 500-700 m deep. Students were able to support Brendan’s work by helping the shark research team work up the 4 Cuban dogfish caught that day, while others snorkeled off the boat in deep blue water as the sharks are pulled onto the boat for analysis. The sharks are then released in a cage and monitored by GoPro for the next 24 hours before they are released.

Each morning at 6:30 am students met for morning exercise to start off their day. One of the most popular workouts is the run-swim. Students run a short distance and swim a short distance then jump off a high ledge and run-swim back to campus. Waking up is always the hardest part but so worth it for an energetic morning work out to get your day started.

Students overall got a sense of some of the research conducted at the Cape Eleuthera Institute while also learning about mangroves, coral reefs, and what it means to live sustainably. We hope to see some of these bright faces back for shark week this summer or even Island School students in the future. Thanks for coming down Palm Beach Day!

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CEI’s Flats Ecology and Conservation Program Attends the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust Symposium

Btt fountain conference
Anglers are critical stakeholders in the management of marine resources. Tax dollars from fishing gear and license sales contributes heavily to fisheries management and research, and anglers are one of the strongest voices in marine conservation issues.

CEI Director Aaron Shultz and Flats Ecology and Conservation Program Manager Zach Zuckerman attended the 5th International Bonefish and Tarpon Trust (BTT) Symposium on Nov. 7th – 8th at the International Game Fish Association Hall of Fame and Museum in Florida. Zuckerman presented findings on movement and growth of bonefish in South Eleuthera, and how development and anthropogenic land use change have resulted in bonefish habitat loss. Shultz moderated a discussion on bonefish management and coastal protection as part of The Bahamas Initiative‘s bonefish management workshop. Workshop attendees included Eric Carey and Vanessa Haley-Benjamin of The Bahamas National Trust, as well as guides, BTT scientists, and conservation-minded anglers. Continue reading

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Fall 2014 IS/CEI Symposium Focuses on Outreach

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The Island School student Peter Knudsen explains the role of coastal development in increasing pollutant runoff to a group of visiting children.

The Island School and Cape Eleuthera Institute Research Symposium was held last Saturday, November 29. As with previous years, The Island School students prepared scientific posters about their Applied Research Class projects, which they presented to Symposium guests. Some students also manned stations in the wet lab, showing guests how their experiments were run in real time.

Attendees then had the chance to tour the Center for Sustainable Development, and learn about the sustainable systems on campus, such as the wind turbine, the solar panels, and the biodiesel. After the tours, guests moved on to the boathouse, where students had set up games aimed at outreach and conservation. Continue reading

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CEI Researchers attend GCFI Conference in Barbados

67LogoCEI researchers Claire Thomas and Zach Zuckermen attended the 67th Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute in Barbados the first week of November. This conference focused on small islands and developing nations, and gave Claire and Zach and opportunity to talk about their work in Eleuthera.

An adult queen conch found grazing during summer surveys.
An adult queen conch found grazing during summer surveys.

Claire’s talk focused on her recent assessment of essential queen conch habitat in South Eleuthera. Her main findings were that there are low densities of adults and juveniles in shallow water habitat, and that populations of adult breeding conch have declined severely in the past 20 years. Also, she pointed out that the area in South Eleuthera proposed as a marine protected area might be beneficial to shallow water inhabitants, but does not include any of the important breeding grounds. Continue reading

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Slayer Campaign Launches Year-Round

nehemiah lionfish
Deep Creek fisherman Nehemiah surfaces after spearing a lionfish off the Cape.  With CEI and The Island School purchasing lionfish from fishermen year-round, it is hoped that pressure will increase on these venomous, voracious, prolific, but delicious fish.

After its initial trial launch in April of this year and a successful 4-month run, the CEI Lionfish Research and Education Program’s “You Slay, We Pay” campaign has now been re-launched, this time permanently and year-round.  CEI and The Island School will be buying lionfish from local fishermen for the price of $11/lb for scaled fillets and $5/lb for whole fish.  This effort to increase demand for the invaders coincides with an increased effort to disseminate information to local fishermen regarding safe handling of the fish; knowledge of spine locations, best treatment of stings, and easy ways to de-spine the fish will hopefully aid fishermen targeting them. Continue reading

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Coral Nursery Fragments Recover from Bleaching Events

In March of this year, CEI started a coral nursery in collaboration with scientists at the University of Miami RSMAS and NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratories.  With their strong backgrounds in successful coral restoration, collaborating researchers were able to advise CEI on methods for staghorn collection, growth and care, and eventual outplanting.  It is hoped that through these restoration efforts some of the coral cover lost in recent years around Cape Eleuthera might be recovered.

coral nursery bleaching
In October, staghorn coral fragments in the nursery showed signs of bleaching and absent zooxanthellae.

Coral bleaching is a phenomenon where corals lose their pigmentation as they expel their symbiotic algae (zooxanthellae) out of their tissues. This event occurs when corals can no longer host their symbiont due to the high energy expenses of coping with increased water temperature for extended periods of time. If a bleaching event continues for an extended period of time, corals will eventually become covered by macroalgae and die.  However, the effects are reversible and zooxanthellae can return to previously vacated coral hosts. Continue reading

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Lyford Cay ‘Take Action’ Projects Get Inspiration from CEI Visit

Lyford Cay permaculture farm
Students worked in the CEIS farm in order to better understand permaculture as a potential sustainable solution for their communities.

Last week, a group of grade 8 students from the Lyford Cay International School flew over from Nassau to visit the Cape Eleuthera Island School. These sixteen students made it their mission to develop an idea for their year-long Take Action projects. The projects, focused on environmental stewardship, look to empower the students to push for sustainable solutions to the problems which plague their school or community. Over their three-day visit, the students focused on learning about alternative energy, water conservation, waste and plastics pollution, and permaculture.

Shortly after their arrival, students were exposed to the CEIS’s renewable energy systems during a tour of campus. Then, with the help of sustainability teacher Mike Cortina, the students explored different ways we harness energy from our environment here on campus: solar thermal to heat water as well as photovoltaic and wind to create electricity. The students were also introduced to biodiesel production, one of the crown jewels of our alternative energy systems. Continue reading

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On-track Anderson-Cabot Hall Construction Project Demonstrates Sustainable Building Practices

The Anderson-Cabot Hall broke ground in January, 2014 and is currently halfway through construction.  Once completed, this structure will accommodate up to 44 interns, teaching fellows, and graduate students who are all attracted to The Cape Eleuthera Institute for experience in tropical and marine sciences.  This is the first phase of the graduate housing facility and is on track to be completed and ready for occupancy by December, 2015.  Currently all the exterior walls are erected and the roof trusses will be installed by the end of 2014.   All potable water for this building will be collected off of the rooftop and stored in subterranean cisterns; all energy it consumes will be produced from a photovoltaic array mounted on the south side of the building which will also provide shading for windows; all wastewater will be processed on-site with grey water being reused for flushing toilets.

Anderson-Cabot Hall
Significant and steady progress has been made on the hall over the course of the last year.  Construction methods are in keeping with sustainable practices and will hopefully serve as a model of green building for other institutions in The Bahamas.

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Graduate Student Update: Kate McClellan Press Explores Elasmobranch Electrosensitivity

yellow ray measurement
The total length of a yellow ray is measured in the lab.

Kate McClellan Press is a PhD student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the Intercampus Marine Science Graduate Program and a fellow with the UMass National Science Foundation IGERT Offshore Wind Energy Engineering, Environmental Science, and Policy Program. As offshore wind facilities are developed across the world, the potential environmental impacts of their construction and operation must be understood, and negative impacts mitigated. One question that arises is whether transmitting energy from the wind farms to shore has any environmental consequences, specifically for electrosensitive fishes. Continue reading

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Lyford Cay Students Explore Sustainability

Conch flared lip caliper Lyfor Cay
Lyford Cay grade 12 student Sean Blyden uses calipers to measure the thickness of the flared lip on a queen conch. This indicates maturity and can be used to assess the sustainability of conch harvest around Cape Eleuthera.

In the last week of October, CEI welcomed Lyford Cay International School’s two classes for their annual visit.

Denise Mizell, a science teacher at Lyford Cay, brought grade 10 to CEIS for some hands-on learning about sustainability. Students discussed the positive impacts they can each individually have on the natural world around them. Activities exploring research areas in aquaponics and permaculture opened the students’ eyes to how difficult and often damaging it is to pull resources from the natural world. The kids were challenged to think of ways they can better improve resource management on their own campus. Snorkeling, exploring Eleuthera’s caves, and climbing the Banyan tree reinforced this idea of sustainability and inspired students to become passionate about their world and how to protect it. Continue reading

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