Rachel Miller Attends Sea Turtle Conference in GA

Earlier in February, Rachel Miller, the Research Assistant for the Sea Turtle Research and Conservation Program at CEI, attended the Southeast Regional Sea Turtle Meeting in Jekyll Island, GA. The conference was a five-day conference that focused on the newest sea turtle research from the Southeast United States.

Rachel Miller sea turtle conference

Even though Rachel doesn’t live or work in the Southeast United States, many of the sea turtles that nest or hatch from that area come to The Bahamas to eat and grow, so it is important that the Sea Turtle Research and Conservation Program at CEI keep up-to-date with important research from that area of the world. Rachel also had the opportunity to meet with a number of individuals involved in sea turtle research and conservation, including distinguished scientists such as Dr. Peter Pritchard and Dr. Kate Mansfield, as well as Island School alumni.

The Sea Turtle Research and Conservation Program is gearing up for a busy year, and hopes to use some of the newly acquired information from the meeting to help the program run smoothly. If you are interested in keeping track of what the program is doing, please check out the Tracking Sea Turtles in the Bahamas page on Facebook!

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Sea Turtle Team Takes DCMS Students in the Field

sea turtle release
Program Manager Annabelle Brooks releases a recaptured green sea turtle.

On Friday, January 23, the Sea Turtle Research Team was joined by the Grade 7 students from Deep Creek Middle School. The day was started by reviewing the biology of different species of sea turtles and talking about why sea turtle species are declining.  The effects that humans are having on sea turtles worldwide were also discussed, as well as what students can do to protect the threatened species.  The knowledge that DCMS students already had about sea turtles and their habitats was impressive! Continue reading

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The Lillian and Betty Ratner School Learns All About Lionfish

lionfish dissection ratner
LREP Intern Alanna Waldman shows students from the Ratner School how to safely remove venomous lionfish spines.

This past week, visiting students from Ohio’s Lillian and Betty Ratner School spent a week at The Island School stretching their comfort zones and exploring what it means to live sustainably while simultaneously learning about the marine life of The Bahamas. As a part of their educational experience, the Ratner students listened attentively to Dr. Jocelyn Curtis-Quick, the head of the Lionfish Research and Education Program, present on the detrimental impact of the non-native lionfish on Caribbean marine ecosystems. The students learned that these fish, originally from the Indo-Pacific, are resilient creatures that can live in environments with a wide range of salinity, depth, and habitat conditions, are seldom predated upon by Caribbean natives, and as a result are ravaging reefs by consuming native fish and invertebrates.  Such intense predation impedes important ecosystems services that otherwise keep the reefs healthy and alive.

lionfish spine dissection
LREP Research Assistant Alicia Hendrix describes envenomation mechanisms to listening students and shows them a lionfish spine close-up.

After viewing footage of bobbit worm predation in the lionfish’s native range, the school relocated to the CEI wet lab to assist Alanna and Alicia, an LREP intern and research assistant (respectively) with lionfish dissections. The students were able to point out the venomous spines of the lionfish: 13 dorsally located, 2 pelvic, and 3 anal. Once the fins were removed, the kids were enthralled with finding the heart and the otoliths of the fish, and looked on closely as the stomach was removed to check for stomach contents. Many of the students even ventured to touch the ocular lens of the eyeball as well as stick their fingers into the mouth and touch the gills. Continue reading

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PH Albury & DCMS Eco Clubs Team Up for SEEP Recycling

All volunteers and adults congratulate themselves on a job well done!  Photo credit: Nicole Elliot
All volunteers and adults congratulate themselves on a job well done! Photo credit: Nicole Elliot

This past Saturday, the Deep Creek Middle School Early Act and Eco Club teamed up with Preston H. Albury High School’s newly formed Eco Club to sort plastics 1, 2, and 5. It wasn’t the prettiest job – sorting plastic bags and food containers and removing bottle caps from a few hundred bottles – but friendly competition made it fun as three groups each tried to sort the most! Continue reading

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Cape Eleuthera Institute Southern Stingray Project gets underway

Southern stingray SRCP
Southern stingrays (Dasyatis americana) are the subjects of the SRCP’s latest project.

With a successful start to field sampling for its newest project, the CEI Shark Research and Conservation Program broadened its portfolio to include studies of Southern stingrays  (Dasyatis americana).  These rays are elasmobranch relatives to the program’s more traditional subjects. Principal investigator Dr. Owen O’Shea explains, “the research will determine long-term site fidelity, seasonality, and spatial partitioning within this species so as to allow a multi-faceted approach to understanding ontogenetic habitat transitioning in this species.” Continue reading

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Brittney Parker and James Murray are the newest additions to the Sea Turtle Research Team

Here is a brief introduction to the new Sea Turtle interns, written by James Murray (IS FA’11):

We are really excited to be here at CEI, studying and assisting in the conservation of sea turtles around South Eleuthera. I graduated from The Island School in the fall of 2011 and I’m taking this year off from college to explore opportunities and get some work and field experience. Brittney just graduated from University of Connecticut with a degree in Natural Resources with a concentration in Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation and Management. She is hoping to get more research experience in preparation for graduate school upon her return to the US.

This spring, the sea turtle team will be gathering data using abundance surveys on several shallow creek areas as well as catching turtles and collecting morphometric data on them. This will help us get a better understanding of the distribution and abundance of sea turtles in foraging grounds. One of our other major projects will be the use of baited remote underwater video surveys (BRUVs) to determine the types of predators present in the areas where we will be tagging and gathering data. Brittney and I are also excited to be working with Earthwatch groups over the duration of our internship.

The interns help construct a new BRUVs for use in the tidal creeks.
The interns help construct a new BRUVs for use in the tidal creeks.
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Williams College visits Eleuthera and works on sustainable food systems

Eleuthera was recently visited by a group of students from Williams College (Massachusetts). Their trip focused on Eleuthera’s food systems, with a focus on sustainable production. Over the past two weeks these students conducted interviews with farmers, restaurant owners, food market attendees, and fishermen all over the island.  They also studied the sustainable systems we have right here  at the Center for Sustainable Development (CSD), particularly the organic garden and the aquaponics system, which feeds roughly 125 people/day.
The Williams College group with Nassau resident Mr. Bhatti. Read more on their blog about their visit!
The Williams College group with Nassau resident Mr. Bhatti. Read more on their blog about their visit!

They ended their trip with a 45 minute presentation to a full room of Island School, CSD and CEI staff, that concluded with a 5-10 minute rough cut of the web video that they are making for One Eleuthera, the local non-governmental organization that partnered with Williams College in their local surveys.

Williams College has been blogging about their trip and their findings, which you can find here. Return to the site in early February 2015 to access their final report, “Eleuthera’s Promise.”
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The lionfish team completes year 5 of reef surveys

The lionfish team zipped up their 5mm wetsuits, donned their hoods, and braved the dropping water temperatures to conduct the 5th year of reef monitoring. It is well known that the presence of lionfish negatively affects the abundance and recruitment of fish on reefs, however, the secondary and long-term effects to is yet to be fully understood. It is the goal of these surveys to provide a data set that can answer these questions.

Big Eye fish sighted again!
Big Eye fish sighted again!

The team surveyed fish size and abundance at the 16 study reefs. They were excited to see the Big Eye fish again some three months after its initial sighting at the same site and exact same coral head. Additionally, the divers were armed with cameras and rugosity chains to assess the reefs benthic cover and complexity. We were pleased to see the reefs that were bleaching in September had started to recover. Less pleasing to see were the high densities of lionfish at the non-removal sites; one site had 20 lionfish in an area the size of a dining table!

These surveys contribute to one of the longest monitoring data sets that examine the effects of lionfish on reefs.  Dr. Curtis-Quick along with collaborators Dr. Green, Dr. Cote and Lad Akins will be working up this data for a publication later in 2015.  This monitoring is hoped to be continued in years to come and we wish to thank all the interns and volunteers who have assisted with the monitoring over the last five years. Special thanks to Alicia Hendrix, the current Research Assistant, who over the last year has made huge contributions to the lionfish team’s work.

 

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Deep Creek Primary School Community Garden: Jump starting healthy meals for the community

Deep Creek Primary School, with the assistance of The Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI), has started a new initiative to build a school community garden with the aim to provide students with access to healthy meals and nutritional awareness.

Tiffany Gray planting with community members.
Tiffany Gray planting with community members.

The planning phase for this project began in October of this year. Deep Creek Primary School teachers and CEI staff met to discuss the potential of a collaborative project that would not only be educational but also provide students with the opportunity to gain valuable practical skills.

Everyone working to clear the land!
Everyone working to clear the land!

A Parent Teacher Association meeting was held in mid October to ensure that all key-stakeholders were incorporated in the planning process and that there was sufficient backing to support the initiative.  The meeting was a great success with demonstrated support from teachers, student’s parents and local community members. An assessment of the surrounding grounds was completed by the key-stakeholders and an area adjacent to the school was chosen for the location of the proposed garden.

In early November the first gardening day was held with a great turn out; 21 community members and 8 CEI staff came together to start clearing the borders of the land so that grow-beds could be constructed.  Weekly gardening days were arranged to continue land-clearing efforts and seedlings were planted in preparation for transplanting into the anticipated grow-beds. The great physical effort of clearing the land was alleviated in late November by The Cape Eleuthera Resort and Marina, who kindly helped support this initiative by donating the use of their back-hoe to assist with clearing the large area of land and digging holes for fruit trees. This support was an enormous help to further the project.

A finished grow bed.
A finished grow bed.

Each class will have their own grow-bed, which they will be responsible for the up-keep of, creating ownership and competition between classes. Maintenance of the garden and respective class grow-beds will be incorporated into student daily chores. The combination of ownership that students have over the garden and competition between classes will motivate students and hopefully ensure the success of the project! This endeavor will not only provide students with useful knowledge but also requires them to be responsible and accountable for a project, a great life skill to practice.

In early December, a couple of fruit trees were planted, 7 of the class grow-beds were constructed and the previously potted seedlings were transplanted to the garden. Future plans include planting many more fruits and vegetables in the garden so that healthy meals can be produced for students at the school, and increasing education and awareness amongst students about a balanced, nutritional, healthy diet.

By early December, 43 Deep Creek Primary School students, the 5 Deep Creek Primary School teachers, 10 student relatives and 14 CEI staff had contributed to the community garden.

During semester time every Tuesday at 3pm, students, teachers, parents, community members and staff from CEI are committed to assisting the primary school with the set-up and expansion of the school community garden project- you are welcome to join us!

We need your help supporting the school community garden. Can you help by donating tools, seeds or plants?

If you would like more information or are interested in donating please contact Candice Brittain at candicebrittain@ceibahamas.org or call 334 8552 ext. 6206.

A big thank you to all our supporters- including the Cape Eleuthera Marina and Resort for donating their backhoe to clear the land!
A big thank you to all our supporters- including the Cape Eleuthera Marina and Resort for donating their backhoe to clear the land!
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