Scientists from the University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratories, NOAA, visited CEI to install a coral reef nursery on Cape Eleuthera.
A beautiful staghorn coral fragment at the nursery
Dr. Ian Enochs and Francesca Forrestal, PhD candidate (RSMAS), who is an Island School alum and sits on the CEIS foundation board, made the initial connection between the various institutions that resulted in this exciting opportunity. Dr. Diego Lirman and Stephanie Schopmeyer (RSMAS) have installed and studied staghorn coral (Acropora cervicornis) nurseries in Florida and throughout the Caribbean and were able to offer their expertise to the research team at CEI, through funding from Counterpart International. Over the course of two days, two nursery trees were set up at a local dive site and wild staghorn fragments were collected from local colonies. These fragments will be left in the nursery to grow and the nursery will hopefully be ready for expansion in the next 6 months. The goal is to be able to outplant these fragments next year and help restore wild populations of staghorn on Eleuthera. Staghorn – a major reef-building coral – has suffered major decline in recent decades and was listed as critically endangered in 2008 by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Restoration efforts are critical and the new nursery at CEI will also help raise awareness with all our visitors about the threats facing coral reefs globally. Visitors will be able to snorkel and dive the site and assist with maintenance – we’ll keep you updated on how the grow out goes!
A group of biologists from Universities throughout the United States gathered to discuss the improvement of the research facilities at the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI). This meeting was funded by a National Science Foundation planning grant written by PI Dr. Bill Louda (Florida Atlantic University) and Co-PIs Dr. Dave Philipp (University of Illinois), Dr. Brian Lapointe (Florida Atlantic University), and Aaron Shultz (CEI). The expert panel, along with their individual research interests, is listed below. The three day meeting started off with a tour of The Island School and CEI campus, and an excursion to some of the natural points of interest on the island.
Several group meetings were held to discuss other research stations in the region (E.g., Central Caribbean Marine Institute, Florida Keys Marine Lab, etc.), current research projects at CEI, how to diversify the research portfolio at the institute, and the infrastructure needed to meet current and future demands. The following are highlights from the discussions: the need for an ecosystem based approach to our research initiatives; the need for water quality analysis; and more lab space for visiting researchers and graduate students. Overall, it was a very productive site visit that will aid in the development of the full NSF laboratory improvement grant. CEI looks forward to collaborating with these researchers in the future.
The bull shark (Carcharhinus leucas) is one of the most infamous sharks in the world’s oceans. They have evolved to hunt large prey in shallow coastal waters and, as a result, are thought to be responsible for more interactions with humans than any other species. Consequently, this species is commonly portrayed in the media as the archetypical ‘killer shark’; however, the reality is very different. Indeed, bull sharks regularly interact with divers without incident, and there are many places in the world (e.g. Mexico & Fiji) where shark dive operators regularly feed bull sharks for the tourist industry providing non-consumptive economic value for this species.
Despite its infamy and economic importance in some areas, the bull shark remains one of the least studied species of large shark in the greater Caribbean region. Basic information relating to its biology and ecology is lacking, making any form of management virtually impossible.
The Shark Research and Conservation Program at the Cape Eleuthera Institute, in collaboration with its partners Microwave Telemetry Inc. and The Cape Eleuthera Resort and Marina, recently completed the first phase of its bull shark satellite-tagging program. Five x-tags have been deployed on mature female bull sharks 246 – 291 cm (8.0 – 9.5 ft) in length which will log water temperature, depth every two minutes, and the approximate location of the animal every day. The x-tags are pre-programed to remain attached for 6 or 9 months and when they start to pop-up in August 2014; the data will be transmitted via satellite back to the research team.
The bulls sharks encountered at Cape Eleuthera usually arrive in October-November when the water temperature starts to cool, and are commonly sighted in the marina until spring where they compete with the nurse sharks and snapper for fishermen’s discards. An interesting characteristic of this aggregation it is entirely composed of large mature females, the most important reproductive component of any population. A male has yet to be seen at Cape Eleuthera. Bull sharks pup in freshwater or estuarine areas, a habitat which is almost completely absent in The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands, suggesting that these animals’ migrations will take them north to Florida, or perhaps south towards Cuba, Haiti or the Dominican Republic in search of a safe place to give birth to their pups. The data from these tags will help us to understand where this important demographic go when the leave Cape Eleuthera and hopefully help solve this mystery.
The ‘You Slay, We Pay’ campaign is underway. Lionfish are invasive and devastating reefs; fortunately for us, they are delicious! However, these fish are still an untapped sustainable marine resource. The Island School with CEI launched a campaign to start a lionfish fishery and are buying lionfish from local fishermen for $11/lb during this lobster closed season (April 1st – July 31st). Locals fishermen are encouraged to bring fish in – they receive an amazing lionfish slayer t-shirt when they drop off their first 15 lbs of lionfish. Additionally, we enter them in a raffle each time they bring in 15 lb of lionfish, and there will be a prize draw at the end of season to win a new pole spear and other goodies.
So how can you support this campaign? Several ways:
Eat lionfish! Please, when you are eating out, ask for lionfish! Even if it is not on the menu it is a great way to create a demand and therefore supply. * Don’t choose to eat species that are in closed fishing season or are unsustainable.
Buy a t-shirt! The purchase of your t-shirt supports the cost of ‘You Slay, We Pay’ sustainable fishery campaign. These limited edits shirts are available online now!
A team of scientists consisting of Aaron Shultz and Malcom Goodman from the Cape Eleuthera Institute, David Philipp and Julie Claussen from the Fisheries Conservation Foundation, Karen Murchie from College of the Bahamas (Freeport), and Greg Vincent and Jason Franklin of H2O
Bonefishing from Grand Bahama gathered in Freeport in January to track bonefish movements. This project began in October 2013, when 30 bonefish from around the island of Grand Bahama were captured and implanted with acoustic tags. Electronic receivers were then placed in strategic locations throughout the island and recorded if a tagged fish swam nearby. Fish were also located periodically using a manual receiver.
The first goal of this trip was to retreive each of the receivers and download the data to determine if any bonefish had been recorded. January, however, is still early in the spawning season for bonefish, so that data recorded over the next few months is expected to be highly valuable in understanding bonefish movements and the habitats they use for spawning. The second goal was to use the manual tracking device to determine if bonefish were travelling to possible spawning locations around the new moon.
This early retrieval of data from the receivers was very encouraging, with several of the tagged fish being detected. Two fish with transmitters, likely travelling to spawning locations, were recorded
traveling from one side of the island around to the other and back again, one covering over 140 miles roundtrip. Greg and Jason from H2O Bonefishing were instrumental in finding schools of bonefish to see if tagged fish could be located using the manual receiver. Many fish were
located very near where they were tagged.
Scientist Karen Murchie will be analyzing the movement data from the project, and many thanks to her for providing housing and logistical support during the trip.
The Spring Gap Year program concluded this past week after an intense past nine weeks here at the Cape Eleuthera Institute.
The students have been involved all over the organization and got their hands into literally everything. To cover all we have done would take a lifetime to explain, but after speaking with two of the students who graduated, there were some definite highlights.
The students got to hang out with DCMS resource center every Tuesday and Thursday evenings. This consisted of them assisting students with their reading skills. Not only that though, the Gappers got to have meaningful conversations about their history, both personal and geographical that has impacted their experience tremendously, making them think differently about different aspects of life here in the Bahamas.
During the final week of the program we held a Triathlon that spanned around the cape; a ½ mile swim, followed by a 12 mile cycle and then finished with a three mile run. It was completed with smiles on faces, as we high-5’d the flag pole on IS campus. It was a triumphant moment as all the training of the past nine weeks paid off.
As these students leave behind a legacy for the next Gap Year program, they embark upon different adventures around the globe. Learning more about the world and how they fit into it. We wish them all the best as their navigation continues.
The Cape Eleuthera Insitute is excited to announce the launch of CEI Street View! You can now take virtual tours of The Island School, Cape Eleuthera Insitute, and Center for Sustainable Design campuses, as well as iconic locations around the Cape as if you were there! To move througout the tours, pan around the “photosphere” and click on the hovering arrows or circles located on the screen.
The Island School Campus Tour has six locations throughout the tour: The Flag Circle, Entrance, Boathouse, Dining Hall, Boy’s Dorm, & Boy’s Dorm Beach.
Gap Year students after completing their annual triathalon
The Spring 2014 Gap Year students are nearing the end of their program here at CEI. The last portion of the course is a three week internship with one of our research programs at the Institute. Below are accounts from both students on how their experience has been since joining the Sustainable Fisheries and Shark Research and Conservation Program, respectively.
The importance of scientific outreach is empirical to the goals and objectives of the Cape Eleuthera Foundation, aiming to educate and inspire the next generation of young scientists.
Friday 14th February saw the arrival of the Deep Creek Middle School’s seventh grade to the Cape Eleuthera Institute, as part of their current ‘Schools Without Walls Program’. The program allows students to experience education outside the 4 walls of an ordinary classroom, and throws them head first into aiding and studying current scientific research practices. The goal of the project is to offer an alternate learning experience in which students have the opportunity to ‘learn-by-doing’.
Fridays class lead by shark team’s Mackellar Violich and Oliver Shipley
Friday’s class was led by the Shark Research and Conservation Program’s Mackellar Violich and Oliver Shipley who tackled the topic of deep ocean exploration using the MEDUSA BRUV (Baited Remote Underwater Video) Unit. The MEDUSA Unit was kindly donated by CEI collaborator and senior board member Dr Edith Widder, from the Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA – www.teamorca.org) in fall 2013 for her second spell here at CEI. This specific study aims to assess the abundance and diversity of organisms occupying the great depths of the north-east Exuma Sound ocean trench, using a relatively non-invasive video technique.
Retrieving the MEDUSA alongside the Cobia.
The session exposed students to the different oceanic depths zones, and their associated biological characteristics, as well as an informative breakdown of MEDUSA’s components and mechanical operation. Students then travelled out on the Cobia to aid and witness the first Medusa deployment and recovery since October 2013, as well as having the opportunity to snorkel the deep-blue of the Exuma Sound.
The Shark Team plan to continue their seasonal deep-water surveys in the coming weeks, allowing for a comparative analysis with the 9 successful deployments last semester.
The Cape Eleuthera Institute recently launched a Twitter and Instagram account! The new Twitter account, ceibahamas, will give updates from the institute, information on research findings & publications, and serve as a news hub for marine sciences, research, and conservation in the Caribbean, Bahamas, and beyond!
Check out CEI’s Instagram account, ceibahamas, for a regularly updated feed of photos and videos from our research programs and events. You’ll find videos of sharks, pictures of juvenile lionfish & bonefish, sea turtles being caught and tagged, sustainable fisheries, and more marine life from around the Cape!