A group of 18 students from Skyline school in Seattle joined the turtle team at the start of April on an action packed 9-day Earthwatch expedition. Days were filled with turtle abundance surveys, baited remote underwater video (BRUV) deployments to assess predator distribution, and the capturing of turtles to collect morphometric data (measurements and weight). For some of the students, this trip was their first experience of snorkelling, travelling in boats and seeing wild turtles. Despite a few nervous faces at the start of the trip all the students quickly embraced this new experience and the rest of the time was filled with excited faces and (a lot of) happy singing!
The students had a great time exploring different habitats while looking for turtles. The most turtles counted in one day was 80 at Half Sound on the Atlantic side! In total over the 9 days the group counted 179 turtles and caught 18 turtles for morphometric data collection.
The Earthwatch students spent their final night with the turtle team having dinner on Sunset Beach. As the sun sank below the horizon, each student gave their favourite memory from the past 9 days. These ranged from watching some of their peers with their ‘interesting’ methods of getting into and out of the water from the boat, to singing on the van trips to study sites, and enjoying the very bumpy boat rides on windy days. However, there were two favourite memories that all the students could agree on; working hands-on with sea turtles, and the passion that all the researchers at CEI have for their research projects.
Thank you Skyline School for your enthusiasm and hard work during your Earthwatch expedition!
Lyford Cay International School in New Providence brought 25 bubbly 5th graders down for a 3 day sustainability program at the Cape Eleuthera Institute. Besides learning about topics such as Bahamian ooidic limestone, ocean pollution, and permaculture, students also learned first hand how biodiesel is made from used cooking oil by making a “test batch” in the lab.
This group of students was the youngest group to ever do a run-swim! A run-swim is a morning exercise where students go through a series of short runs and short swims before climbing a sea wall, jumping off a cliff and run-swimming back to campus. Run-swims are always a highlight for visitors and of course a great way to start your day off on the right foot!
Lyford will be returning in the fall with more grades, more science, more fun and more learning!
Although one of our youngest overnight programs, Lyford Cay 5th grade students blew us away with their prior knowledge on sustainability as well as their excitement to learn even more through experience!
Here is an excerpt of her Island School experience, by Link School student Medina Purefoy-Craig:
I can now safely say that I can jump into water and actually not drown. Early this morning before the sun itself was up we embarked on a “Run Swim”. We did multiple drills that would help us feel more relaxed in the water and know what to do to conserve energy. When I first arrived I had no idea how to swim. I relied heavily on every flotation device around even when I have my PFD (Personal Flotation Device) on. After the drills I was able to swim from one shore to the other by myself, even though I did swallow more salt water than needed and flipped over on my back when I meant to swim forward.
After breakfast, we had a small lesson on plastic and how much ends up in the ocean. We then proceeded to Cotton Bay Beach where we picked up plastic of the beach and did a not-so-competitive competition to find the weirdest things. We found a lot of nets, refrigerator door, toothpaste tube (made in the US, package designed in the UK) a plate, some clothes, and a lot of unidentified objects as well. Overall it was a great way to give back to the earth and to save the fish even though I never eat any. In the end we had three full boxes and had to leave some there to grab later.
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!
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.
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 →
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.
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 →
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 →
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.”
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!