OAK Leadership Institute from Cleveland, Ohio joined us the first week of April for an action packed week. The five students and two teachers had the time of their lives exploring Eleuthera and the plethora of marine habitats we are so fortunate to live beside.
One particular highlight for the team was assisting with the stingray ecology research project. They joined the Island School research class out on the Schooner Cays to capture, measure, tag and work up southern stingrays. It was great to see both Island School students and our visiting students working together to support this project.
Most of the students also got a chance to experience camping on a beach for the first time, it was an awesome trip of firsts, exploration and learning.
Big thanks to OAK Leadership for bringing the first group of students down to us, we hope to see OAK return next year!
This past Saturday, the Sustainable Fisheries team travelled to Rock Sound for the annual Homecoming to represent The Cape Eleuthera Institute. The booth, decorated with educational materials pertaining to invasive lionfish, was a success. Both locals and visitors approached the booth with questions and were intrigued by the live lionfish that was on display in a tank on the table.
As people wandered by, the team educated the curious onlookers about the venomous spines, how to properly remove the spines and fillet the fish, common misconceptions about the lionfish, as well as the damage they are doing to the reefs.
The team also advertised the Slayer Campaign; this campaign incentivizes local fishermen to spear lionfish. The team emphasized how tasty lionfish are to eat, pointing out the “You Slay, We Pay” motto hanging from the tent next to the wonderful illustrations of grouper, conch, and crawfish holding up signs saying “Eat More’ Lionfish”..
The team wore their lionfish fin earrings to show off the beautiful jewelry that can be made from the non-venomous spines, so not only are lionfish tasty, but they can create beautiful, sustainable, jewelry.
Bags of sustainably grown lettuce from the CEI/CSD aquaponics system were handed out to also people about the other projects at The Cape Eleuthera Institute.
The Sustainable Fisheries team will have a similar booth set up for Earth Day and they hope to continue raising awareness about the different research projects happening at the Cape Eleuthera Institute and how to live sustainably.
March weather was perfect for the lionfish team as they visited 16 different patch reef sites for their quarterly surveys, observing fish species and abundance in relation to the presence of lionfish. Of the 16 sites, we remove lionfish from 8 of them every 3 months, comparing the removal reefs with nonremoval reefs as a way to measure the impact of lionfish on the patch reef systems.
At each patch all of the fish species present on the reef are counted for their relative abundance, especially the lionfish. Fish that compete for resources with lionfish, such as grunts, snapper, and grouper, are specifically noted along with their total body lengths. In addition to the roving survey and competitor observations, we also collected data on invertebrates, grouper, and parrotfish for three other studies. We counted the number of spiny lobster, queen conch, sea stars, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers on the reefs to add to a data set that will be part of an assessment for implementing a potential marine protected area.
Throughout the course of the week of collecting data we saw an abundance of reef creatures, but most notably three nurse sharks, a large school of yellow jacks, a big eye which has remained on the same patch for over a year and is not commonly found on patch reefs, as well as a hawksbill sea turtle, also rarely sighted on these patches because they are critically endangered. Continue reading →
In March, Florida State University Master’s students Brendan Talwar and Mackellar Violich, and Flats Ecology and Conservation intern Georgie Burruss traveled to Great Exuma to present at the Bahamas Conservation Symposium. The Symposium was organized by the Exuma Foundation, the Elizabeth Harbour Conservation Partnership, the Bahamas Marine EcoCentre, and the Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and hosted by the Exuma Foundation. The idea for the Symposium arose as a way to share scientific knowledge on the years that the Bahamas National Trust Conference does not meet. The Symposium was open to a general audience, drawing in community members of the Exuma Cays as well as local scientists.
Brendan Talwar gave a talk on deep-sea sharks, followed by Georgie Burruss’s talk on the Bahamas Initiative bonefish tagging program and their recent bonefish tagging trip to the Exuma Cays, and Mackellar Violich presented on deep-sea diversity, the Medusa project, and deep sea traps. Continue reading →
Our local Bahamian fishermen recently brought in over 40 lbs. of lionfish to The Island School as part of the “You Slay, We Pay” campaign. The slayer campaign incentivizes Bahamians to fish for invasive lionfish.
The lionfish are a healthy, locally sourced and sustainable fish choice for The Island School dining hall and also a great source of information. The whole lionfish brought in were dissected by the CEI lionfish research team, who dissected 49 of the fish to collect data on the weight, length, sex, and stomach contents of the fish.
The largest lionfish was 944 grams with a total length of 40 cm, close to the longest recorded lionfish which measured at 47cm. While the large size of the lionfish were impressive, so were the organisms found during the dissection in their stomachs.
One lionfish which was 22cm long had eaten a redband parrotfish of 10cm in length, thats almost half of its size! Other interesting finds included two lionfish who had exclusively crabs in their stomachs, and even a stomach containing lionfish spines!
We look forward to the next batch of lionfish from our local fishermen to dissect and fillet for more insight into lionfish biology as well as the opportunity to eat these tasty sustainable invasives. Remember to eat and wear lionfish!
In collaboration with the Fisheries Conservation Foundation (FCF) and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI) sent researchers to the Exuma Cays in February to tag and collect genetic samples from bonefish (Albula vulpes) and southern stingrays (Dasyatis americana). The CEI team was comprised of Director Aaron Shultz, Associate Researcher Dr. Owen O’Shea, Research Assistant Alexio Brown, Flats Ecology intern Georgie Burruss, and Sustainable Fisheries intern Adrian Feiler. They were joined by FWC Post-doctoral research fellow Dr. Liz Wallace, and a North Carolina based volunteer and avid fisherman, Chandler White. The researchers spent eight days on Hummingbird Cay, a privately owned island south west of Great Exuma, and two days at the Exuma Foundation on Great Exuma.
The focus of the trip was to continue the Bahamas Tagging Initiative in Exuma, which aims to passively track bonefish movement and growth rates throughout the Bahamas. Each fish is tagged with uniquely coded external ‘spaghetti’ and the length of each fish is recorded. This allows the assessment of growth rates and location data once the fish are re-caught. These data can then be used as a powerful tool in understanding the mechanisms of spatial distribution, natural mortality, and factors influencing growth of this highly prized sportfish. The tagging program has been implemented in Eleuthera, Grand Bahama, Abaco, Andros, and the Exuma Cays. Continue reading →
During the 5th to the 7th of March, Zakita and Micheal represented the Centre of Sustainable Development (CSD) and the wider Island School/CEI community at the annual Agribusiness Expo in New Providence. Here, they spoke about the models of food production (Permaculture and Aquaponics) currently being employed at Cape Eleuthera, as well as networking and informing visitors to the expo about the events and opportunities going on within this organization.
Many primary and high school children came by the booth, and an exciting dialogue ensued on the benefits of aquaponics and sustainable agriculture. It was inspiring to see how many of the booth-visitors knew about aquaponics in particular and wanted to know how to set up their own system for household food production.
In total, the expo visit was productive and a success and it was heartening to spread the word about the good work that the Island School-CSD-DCMS- CEI community is engaging in.
Education and research may be the staples of CEI, but they are just the tip of the iceberg. As part of the Gap Program, the students train throughout their semester for a culminating event- a Triathlon. Tuesday marked the third bi-annual Gap Triathlon.
Comprised of three events, the triathlon aims to challenge the students using all aspects of our environment and our resources. Individually each aspect is more than manageable – ½ mile swim, 13 mile bike, 3 mile run; together they provide a veritable challenge for any competitors. In our typical unconventional style, each competitor must complete the triathlon on one of the schools beach cruisers, giving our triathlon an island feel.
On Tuesday, nine competitors completed the course we have fondly come to know as the Talapia-thon (after our aquaponics system). The effort put into the event by the competitors was matched, if not surpassed, by the support the community gave during the event. Congratulations to all who competed, assisted, and cheered, and here’s to the next bi-annual triathlon later this year.
In October 2014, the Flats Ecology and Conservation Program visited Grand Bahama Island to set out an array of acoustic receivers to track bonefish movements during their spawning season. This was part of an effort to determine aggregation sites and spawning areas.
In December 2014, the project received a substantial equipment grant from the Ocean Tracking Network (OTN), providing an extra 32 receivers for the study array. The team, consisting of CEIS board member Dr. Dave Philipp, College of the Bahamas professor Dr. Karen Murchie, CEI Research Assistant Eric Schneider and Bonefish and Tarpon Trust’s (BTT) Bahamas Initiative Coordinator, Justin Lewis, downloaded the initial array in January 2015 to determine where the additional receivers should be deployed based on preliminary data.
Out of the 56 fish tagged in October 2014, 19 had been detected in the array. Movements to date included use of the Grand Lucayan Waterway, along with at least two key areas that appear to be aggregation sites on the south side of Grand Bahama. Movements to the aggregation sites typically occurred during moon phases during which spawning events normally occur. Continue reading →
What happens to the research done at CEI after the excitement of the field season and the hours in the lab are over? Researchers need to find interesting and accessible ways to share their discoveries with others. Naomi Pleizier, a student from Carleton University, is doing this by showcasing her research on pufferfish at CEI in the NSERC Science, Action! video contest.
Take a look at the 60 second video to get a glimpse of one of the emerging projects from CEI, and like and share it to show your support!
Naomi and her team studied several key survival behaviours of checkered pufferfish, a common mangrove fish, to determine whether consistent individual behaviours can be altered by a stress hormone, cortisol. The results help us understand how a resident of these vulnerable ecosystems might respond to natural challenges and stress caused by humans. Follow the link to see research at CEI in action!