Annabelle Brooks, CEI Research Manager, just attended the 35th annual symposium on sea turtle biology and conservation, hosted by International Sea Turtle Society, in Dalaman, Turkey. The symposium draws participants from around the world, from across disciplines and cultures to a common interest and objective: the conservation of sea turtles and their environment. The Symposium encourages discussion, debate, and the sharing of knowledge, research techniques and lessons in conservation, to address questions on the biology and conservation of sea turtles and their habitats.
Annabelle gave a presentation on some of her research findings, focusing on morphological variation in juvenile geen sea turtles around Eleuthera, and also attended talks on various topics including nesting, in-water biology, and fisheries bycatch of sea turtles. Next year the symposium will be held in Lima, Peru.
The morphological study is being conducted in collaboration with Dr. Duncan Irschick of UMASS Amherst and the full study will hopefully be published later this year!
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!
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!
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.
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!
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 →
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.
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!
Here is a update from Bahamian intern, Cassidy Edwards, who has been working with the Turtles, Lionfish, Sustainable Fisheries, and Flats teams:
Being here at CEI a few weeks, I got to do some amazing things that I hope will benefit research. On my first day, I went out to sea to retrieve BRUVs (Baited Remote Underwater Videos) with Eddie from the Turtle team. I got my first surprise of the day by pulling up a baby octopus. He wanted to stay stuck to the boat, but we let him free and he thanked us with ink. As the days passed, I began to help with setting BRUVs, and analyzing them, which was interesting. What I saw was spectacular; who’d have thought a crab and remora would be fighting for food!
Most of my days were spent in the field, placing BRUVs and doing turtle abundance surveys, or sometimes both. I even got to tag turtles for a study on juvenile turtle habitat use and body condition. As I continue here, I hope to tag more turtles and actually catch one. Continue reading →
Earlier this month was the return of Camden Hills Regional High School for their sixth visit to CEI, and Oceanside High School’s second trip alongside Camden. It was another stellar year of exploration, science, research and reflection.
Students focused on research during their time at CEI. They were not only getting out there and assisting our resident scientists with their data collection, but also coming back to the lab, sifting through video footage, % cover of seagrass and trying to work out where all the conch have gone. For these students science came alive. They were able to see what goes into real research, where time, weather, tide, and sharing resources play factors into every minute of every day.
The students final presentations were outstanding. With only three – four field days and approximately 10 hours of data analysis and thought time, they provided the community with well-rounded projects. Not only did they analyze data, they were able to offer thoughtful insights into why their research matters. Continue reading →
Congratulations to all of the Spring 2014 Island School students who gave oral and poster presentations at the Research Symposium. This event is a culmination a semester-long research class, where students become involved in all aspects of research. It is a chance for them to showcase the data that they collected, along with real world implications of the work.
We had many special guests in attendance this semester:
David Knowles, Director of Parks, Dr. Ethan Freid, Chief Botanist, and Camilla Adair Deputy Preserve Manager at Leony Levy Preserve, the Bahamas National Trust
Dr. Andy Danylchuk, past Director of the Cape Eleuthera Institute and currently Assistant Professor of Fish Conservation at UMass Amherst, collaborator with Flats Ecology program at CEI
Dr. John Mandelman, Director of Research and Senior Scientist at the New England Aquarium, collaborator with Shark Research program at CEI