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

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

Intern Update: Cassidy Edwards Gets Her Hands Dirty at CEI

Cassidy Edwards
Cassidy Edwards holds a green sea turtle before it is measured and tagged as part of an ongoing monitoring program.

Here is a update from Bahamian intern, Cassidy Edwards, who has been working with the Turtles, Lionfish, Sustainable Fisheries, and Flats teams:

Being here at CEI a few weeks, I got to do some amazing things that I hope will benefit research. On my first day, I went out to sea to retrieve BRUVs (Baited Remote Underwater Videos) with Eddie from the Turtle team. I got my first surprise of the day by pulling up a baby octopus. He wanted to stay stuck to the boat, but we let him free and he thanked us with ink. As the days passed, I began to help with setting BRUVs, and analyzing them, which was interesting. What I saw was spectacular; who’d have thought a crab and remora would be fighting for food!

Most of my days were spent in the field, placing BRUVs and doing turtle abundance surveys, or sometimes both. I even got to tag turtles for a study on juvenile turtle habitat use and body condition. As I continue here, I hope to tag more turtles and actually catch one.  Continue reading

Award for Excellence in Research

swim tunnel lemon shark
A swimming respirometer controls the speed at which a fish swims, while concurrently measuring oxygen consumption.

Each year, CEI offers two in-house studentships to graduate students conducting research at CEI and teaching research class though The Island School. Applicants of the Award for Excellence in Research are evaluated based on their teaching and research experience, and the conservation relevance, publication probability, and outreach potential of the applicant’s proposal. In addition, proposals are evaluated on their ability to contribute meaningfully to CEI and the applicant’s home institution.

lemon shark accelerometer swim tunnel
Though sharks can fully turn around in the respirometer, confinement can have effects on swimming performance and energetics.

For the fall semester, University of Illinois graduate student Ian Bouyoucos received the Award for Excellence in Research. Ian’s research focuses on understanding activity-specific metabolic rates of juvenile lemon sharks so that we can better understand what happens to these sharks when caught on hook-and-line. The award will improve Ian’s research by improving CEI’s capacity to for respirometry studies through constructing a swimming respirometer suitable for juvenile sharks, barracuda, and even fish schools. CEI has used both swimming and resting respirometers extensively in the past to measure metabolic rates of fishes, as affected by angling and climate change, by measuring the rate at which fish consume oxygen in the sealed respirometry chamber.

Bull Shark Tags Provide Clues to Migratory Movements

The Cape Eleuthera Institute’s Shark Research and Conservation Program has just started to receive data back from the satellite tags deployed last winter onto five female bull sharks. These transient sharks come to The Cape Eleuthera Marina each November and spend around four months inhabiting the shallow marina waters where fishermen clean their daily catches. Their habitat occupation and use of space beyond Cape Eleuthera has remained a mystery until now.

Bull Shark Blog Images together
(Left) Track data for a female over a 6-month period after leaving Cape Eleuthera Marina. (Right) The attachment of satellite tag to a shark.

The migratory routes of these animals has been speculated due to the necessity for females to seek freshwater in order to pup, however, the first track we have received reveals a long and exciting journey via Cuba and the Florida Keys. The highly migratory nature of this species creates challenges for conservation and management efforts as they travel across international boundaries with differing levels of protection.

Research efforts at The Cape Eleuthera Institute in collaboration with Microwave Telemetry will increase our understanding of the species by elucidating critical information about their use of space and seasonal habitat occupancy.

First-Ever Bahamian Lionfish Jewelry Making and Awareness Workshop a Huge Success

Lionfish fins swimming
The invasive lionfish, Pterois volitans and P. miles, is noted for its characteristic brightly colored fins and venomous spines.

The lionfish, an invasive predator from the Indo Pacific currently wreaking havoc on Caribbean and South American coral reef fish populations, was first introduced to the region through the exotic aquarium trade.  These beautiful carnivorous fish have characteristic orange and red stripes, spotted and striped pelvic and caudal fins, and flamboyantly colored wide-spreading pectoral fins, which they use to corral prey.  These fins, though possibly to blame as the instigators of the devastating invasion, are now offering a new way to help control the rampant spread of the predatory fish. Continue reading

South Eleuthera Primary Schools Explore Marine Invertebrates & Sustainable Systems

Green Castle primary EP
Green Castle students discussing characteristics and adaptations of the invertebrates found.

Green Castle Primary School’s teacher, Ms. Mary Thompson, brought her class of students in grades 5 & 6 for a marine invertebrate and snorkel trip at the Cape Eleuthera Institute last Tuesday. Students first discussed 4 common invertebrate phyla they might find: cnidarians, echinoderms, porifera, and mollusks. Then they headed out to snorkel off the beach! This was an exciting trip for students who examined the different invertebrates we found such as cushion sea stars, a brittle star, juvenile conch, a sea anemone, rose coral, and even a little periwinkle.

EP Local schools
(Top) Wemyss Bight students are excited after winning a sustainability competition. (Bottom) Green Castle students pose for a group shot after snorkeling.

On Wednesday, Ms. Nathalie Sweeting with Wemyss Bight Primary grade 4 came for a trip to explore some of the sustainable systems on campus. Students started off reviewing the differences between renewable and nonrenewable resources. Then the class headed out to various systems around campus so that they could see these concepts in action. Their first stop was the dining hall cistern to measure how much water we had at the time and to talk about water conservation. Then they headed over to the wind turbine and solar panels to discuss some of the differences between how we get our energy and where they get theirs at home. A highlight for students was the aquaponics system where sustainability teacher, Adam Dusen, caught a few Tilapia and described how the system works to produce fish and hydroponically grown plants for consumption in the dining hall. It was great to get a close-up look at the unique system. Continue reading

Bonefish movements in Grand Bahama

Eric Schneider bonefish
CEI Research Assistant Eric Schneider releases a tagged fish that has fully recovered from the surgical procedure.
Blacktip shark
Bonefish are not the only economically important species found on the flats! Bonnethead, lemon, blacktip (pictured), and other sharks all visit shallow nearshore habitiat and were spotted while seining for bonefish.

Bonefish are a highly sought-after sportfish, supporting a $140+ million industry in the Bahamas. Shallow coastal waters that bonefish inhabit are under threat from development and other human-induced stressors; identifying how bonefish use critical foraging and spawning habitats is essential for securing the longevity of the Bahama’s bonefish fishery.

Over the past week, CEI’s Flats Ecology and Conservation Program (FECP) has been conducting a field study on Grand Bahama Island as part of a joint effort to further investigate the spawning activities of bonefish. The FECP is joined by a diverse team of scientists, fishermen and stakeholders that hope to learn more about local populations to direct future conservation efforts. The overall objective of this multi-year study is to determine the location of bonefish spawning aggregations to best determine possible sites for the establishment of Marine Protected Areas and National Park’s to conserve the local bonefish population. Continue reading

The Lionfish Team Breaks from Lab Work to Conduct Patch Reef Surveys

 

Speared lionfish patch reefs

balloonfish patch reefsNurse shark patch surveys

bigeye patch reef transect
(top) Lionfish are culled from select patch reefs every 3 months. During the latest round of patch reef surveys the team found (second-fourth from top) a balloonfish hiding in one site’s recesses, a nurse shark waiting when they entered the water at the next, and a bigeye fish normally only found at depths greater than 15 m.

For the past three seasons the Lionfish Research and Education Program, managed by Dr. Jocelyn Curtis-Quick, has been conducting an array of lab-based behavioral studies.  Projects have assessed everything from interactions between lionfish and Caribbean spiny lobsters to preferential prey consumption by the carnivorous invaders to possible collaborative hunting nature of the fish.  This fall brings a brief hiatus from lab-based work as data analysis and writing shift to the fore.

Field work for the lionfish team, on the other hand, continues.  Another round of quarterly surveys were performed in September on the patch reefs just North of the Cape, an area in which lionfish monitoring has been going on for the past 4 years.  These small and relatively self-contained reefs allow for comparisons between communities with and without lionfish, as the LREP program regularly culls lionfish from specified patches.  September surveys were completed and over the course of the dives 78 lionfish were sighted, ranging in size from 2-28 cm. In addition to common fish a nurse shark, bigeye, and balloonfish were spotted, as well as a small aggregation of masked or glass gobies – two species impossible to differentiate underwater.

Stay tuned for Eleuthera’s first Lionfish Awareness and Jewelry Workshop, a collaboration between CEI and Eleuthera Arts and Cultural Center!