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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Successful lionfish jewelry workshop in Deep Creek

Local children used nail polish to color and varnish their lionfish fins before adding bows, bells, and sequins to create holiday ornaments.
Local children used nail polish to color and varnish their lionfish fins before adding bows, bells, and sequins to create holiday ornaments.

As invasive lionfish decimate Caribbean coral reef systems, consumptive fishery demand is promoted as one of the best ways to control their populations.  Recently, though, there is a new reason to find and spear the fish; the characteristic pectoral, pelvic, anal, and caudal fins of the fish are being dried and used by artisans and dilettante crafters to make jewelry pieces.  A battle that before was fought with knives, forks, and frying vats is now reinforced by needle nose pliers, silver fasteners, and 24-gauge wire.

LREP Manager Dr. Jocelyn Curtis-Quick helps students plan the construction of holiday ornaments out of lionfish fins.
LREP Manager Dr. Jocelyn Curtis-Quick helps students plan the construction of holiday ornaments out of lionfish fins.

The CEI Lionfish Research and Education Program (LREP) has worked hard this fall to encourage the spread of this new lionfish jewelry trend around Eleuthera.  In October they collaborated with the Eleuthera Arts and Cultural Center in putting on The Bahamas’ first-ever Lionfish Jewelry Making and Awareness Workshop.  Local artists Shorlette Francis and Sterline Morley joined the Arts and Cultural Center’s Audrey Carey to supply craft materials and construction guidance to the professional artists, handicraft enthusiasts, and community members in attendance.  CEI’s Dr. Jocelyn Curtis-Quick gave an overview of the invasion of the lionfish in the Caribbean and explained why it is so important to target these gluttonous fish.  The event was such a success that several local artists are now selling lionfish earrings and other jewelry in The Island School’s School Store and around the island.

 

Attendees were provided with lionfish fins as well as earring hooks, findings, paint, varnish, and beads in the construction of their pieces.
Attendees were provided with lionfish fins as well as earring hooks, findings, paint, varnish, and beads in the construction of their pieces.

With such positive outcomes from the first event, the CEI LREP team hopes to hold workshops in many more settlements around Eleuthera.  During The Island School’s Parents’ Weekend the team was ready to show visiting families how to incorporate additional recycled materials, such as aluminum cans, into lionfish fin pieces.  On December 2nd, the team conducted the second workshop open to the public, this one hosted at Deep Creek Middle School.  Over 30 community members attended to learn about current CEI research regarding lionfish and try their hands at crafting earrings and holiday ornaments.  With the growing community of lionfish jewelry producers and consumers, this new angle for controlling the invasion shows a tremendous amount of promise.

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Earthwatch Sea Turtle Programs have a successful year in 2014!

9 expeditions, 92 volunteers, 115 turtles, and 145 Baited Remote Underwater Video Surveys  - just a taste of the successful year the Earthwatch-funded sea turtle research program had in 2014!

All pictures depict volunteers helping out with every aspect of the research project.
All pictures depict volunteers helping out with every aspect of the research project.
This is the first year of study that Earthwatch has supported the sea turtle research program at CEI and 92 Earthwatch volunteers travelled to Eleuthera to assist with fieldwork between February and November this year. The age range was 15 – 80 years old and over the course of nine days volunteers helped conduct sea turtle abundance surveys, deploy and analyse baited video surveys to look at shark abundance and diversity, and hand capture turtles – plus they got to have some fun snorkelling and touring around Eleuthera!
DSCN3268The main species caught is the green turtle (Chelonia mydas) however a few hawksbills (Eretmochelys imbricata) were also tagged! The study is well on its way to better understanding forgaing ground use by juvenile green sea turtles. The study spans across 10 sites around South Eleuthera and Earthwatch volunteers are critical in providing man-power to actually complete field work as well as funds to cover research costs.
Thank you to all the volunteers, interns, Research Assistants and staff at CEI, as well as the Family Island Research and Education team, for their contributions this year – we’re looking forward to another busy and successful year in 2015!
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Palm Beach Day Academy visits the Cape Eleuthera Institute

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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.

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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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