CEI recently sent a team to Hummingbird Cay, Exumas, to conduct bonefish and stingray research. Here is a link to an amazing video (edited by Dr. Owen O’Shea of the Shark Research and Conservation Program).
Expect an update on details of the expedition soon!
Travel. A new place. A different rhythm. Novel colours, sounds and smells assail many a traveler as they set foot on foreign land. With this often comes the unmistakable adventure; something is just different as if the air itself was charged with anticipation. Arrival at CEI was no different (well maybe a little). With warm smiles and enthusiastic introductions, we were welcomed inside the community. The openness of those already here seemed to mitigate the shock of adjustment as we fell into the tight yet comprehensive embrace that defines the community.
From Aquaponics and permaculture, to ocean research with conservation in mind, we witnessed stimulating, cutting-edge projects that radiated a vibrant atmosphere of purpose and progress to the facility. Being exposed to this environment where sustainability is the main focus in all aspects prompted a plethora of concerns and reflections shared by the Gap students in the Human Ecology and Environmental Issues classes. How we’ve lived here will undoubtedly influence the way we act in relation to our environment and resources for the better, inspiring those around us, as we were here, to achieve a society where we can live in harmony with nature and its flows. And so on we strive.Continue reading →
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 email@example.com or call 334 8552 ext. 6206.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
The 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!