Last week, the Island School campus was inundated with the parents of the Spring 2014 students. Aside from campus tours and a breathtaking art gallery, parents also got to witness the students give scientific research presentations pertaining to the research projects they have been involved with all semester.
Each presentation was ten minutes long, and followed the format of a professional scientific presentation, explaining background on the topics, the current problem, the methods used to collect data, data analysis, and interpretation of results, ending with why the project matters and what can be done in the future. Parents were thrilled to see the young scientists give their first real talk in front of a large audience. Each student group also fielded questions from the parents.
Things are heating up here at CEI! Students are on campus, summer is on the way, and the adventures are everywhere. The Educational Programs team wrapped up the month of February with a returning group from Muncton High School in Canada. The blog for this group was written by student Jana Giles.
On our first day we all safely arrived at the Cape Eleuthera Institute. The view of the islands and ocean from the plane was absolutely incredible–the water was completely turquoise! Before even unpacking, we were already on the beach, and we finally enjoyed an amazing supper after a long day!
The first of 8 teams for 2014 were at CEI last week assisting with sea turtle research. 9 volunteers, from across America and Canada, spent 9 days collecting data from boats, on foot and by snorkeling in 11 sites across South Eleuthera. They collected vast amounts of data that would otherwise have taken much longer without their support. Using baited remote underwater video surveys for predators, they surveyed 9 sites and ‘captured’ 7 individuals from 3 different species: nurse, lemon and tiger sharks! They also caught and tagged 9 turtles, setting the record for catching 6 using the rodeo method in one day!
CEI Researchers Annabelle Brooks and Meagan Gary took a class of Grade 7 students from Deep Creek Middle School to get hands-on learning experience, capturing and tagging sea turtles in Half Sound, Eleuthera. The class was part of the middle school’s “School Without Walls” program which aims to tackle unique and pertinent issues confronting the surrounding community. Students waded out into the mangroves and captured 5 turtles and multiple bonefish. All were measured and tagged and released back into the wild. For many of the students, this was their first time exploring the mangroves ecosystems of Eleuthera. Two of the turtles were captured for the first time, which the kids named “Franklin” and “Slash”.
Meaghan Gary, Research Technician for the Turtle Research team, discusses her project:
We are currently conducting a study on the in-water thermal variation across a juvenile green turtle foraging ground and the thermal preferences of the juvenile green turtles utilizing this foraging ground. We have placed habitat temperature data loggers in sixteen different locations throughout our study site, Starved Creek, which is located on the west coast of Eleuthera. These temperature data loggers are called iButtons (Maxim Integrated Thermochron ® Temperature Data Loggers) and are programmed to record every hour so that we are able to account for tidal differences.
We are also in the process of attaching iButtons to juvenile green turtles in order to investigate their thermal preferences. The iButtons attached to green turtles will record a temperature every ten minutes due to their movement throughout the tidal creek. We hope to continue to attach more iButtons to green turtles throughout the spring and recapture as many as possible.
Visiting CEI for the first time, 26 students and 4 professors from the University of Exeter, UK, completed a 12 day program during 6th- 17th January. As part of a field trip module, where students can choose to explore South Africa, Borneo, the Canary Island or The Bahamas, these final-year college students started off the New Year with an immersion into tropical marine ecosystems and conservation. Over the course of 12 days, students got hands-on lessons about the major ecosystems and habitats right on their doorstep here at Cape Eleuthera. What better way to learn about mangrove flats than snorkeling through the creek channels and peaking into the roots of red mangroves and seeing all sorts of juvenile fish species that would normally live in this type of habitat? The team also had a class on bonefishing in the Bahamas, reef fish identification and patch reef surveys.
The students spent time with the shark research team at CEI. Highlights included catching a smoothskin dogfish and a rare sighting of a recaptured bluntnose sixgill shark with the deepwater shark team; they also tagged several sea turtles! The group also visited Jacks Bay to survey seagrass and encountered numerous turtles and spotted eagle stingrays there.
The group also had the opportunity to explore Eleuthera and went down island to check out the most narrow place on the island, Glass Window Bridge. They also swam like royalty in the Queens Bath and paid a visit to the Rock Sound Ocean Hole. Over a BBQ on their last night, students and professors reflected on how anxious they were a year ago while planning for this trip and how fast it went by now it is over. Some students commenting that this trip had exceeded their expectations. Everyone in this group experienced something that they had never seen or done before, whether it be snorkeling, touching a shark or holding a turtle.
The University of Exeter left CEI and The Island School satisfied.Their first field course to the Bahamas was a fun-filled, educational, and life-changing one. The professors of this group are now planning for another visit next year and more years to come, with more students! Thank you everyone that took part in working with this group. Your hard work is really appreciated!
The Sea Turtle Research Program at CEI was recently awarded funding through the Earthwatch Institute! Starting in February, 8 expeditions are planned throughout 2014 where people of all ages and all nationalities can join the research team and assist with this important study.
Earthwatch expeditions allow individuals to spend a meaningful vacation working with scientists in the field, getting a unique experience, learning new skills and assisting in tackling environmental issues. Participants on the sea turtle expedition will live on the CEI campus and be immersed in all it has to offer, be trained in the skills necessary for field work, collect and enter data and participate in evening activities such as guest lectures and island exploration.
Over the course of the next few years, Earthwatch volunteers will assist in the collection of data that will lead to several peer-reviewed scientific publications. The topics focus on the
selection of and fine scale movements in foraging grounds, by green and hawksbill turtles, so that these areas can be conserved. To better understand this volunteers will be surveying for turtles on nearshore reefs and in tidal mangrove creeks, capturing and tagging turtles, surveying the habitats they are found in, and assessing predator abundance and diversity (sharks!) in these habitats.
Stay tuned for updates from the field and click here for more information:
FRIENDS of the Environment hosted the 6th Biennial Abaco Science Alliance Conference (ASAC). The conference goals were to provide a forum for networking and information sharing for Abaco and Bahamas-based research projects, to encourage the use of research for local education and environmental management purposes and to stimulate further research in The Bahamas.
The research and educational programs team traveled from South Eleuthera to Marsh Harbour, Abaco to represent the Cape Eleuthera Institute. The team presented on various research topics currently conducted at the Institute. From mangrove restoration to deep water sharks, here is list of ASAC attendees representing CEI:
Stephen B Cone Jr, an outstanding 2013 summer flats intern, gave a talk titled “The mangrove action plan: an adaptive outreach and ecosystem rehabilitation initiative.”
Dr Owen OʼShea, research associate for CEI’s shark research and conservation program, gave a fantastic talk on deep water elasmobranch surveys. His deep sea videos caused much excitement!
Dr Jocelyn Curtis-Quick encouraged all to eat lionfish and talked about her study on the interactions between the Caribbean Spiny Lobster, Panulirus argus, and Invasive Lionﬁsh, Pterois volitans.
Kristal Ambrose gave a passionate talk on the spatial and temporal patterns in the abundance and diversity of plastic marine debris on beaches in South Eleuthera.
Megean Gary presented on her turtle research examining the spatial dynamics of immature Green Turtles (Chelonia mydas) within a foraging ground on the Atlantic coast of Eleuthera.
Whitney Knowles is a sophomore at The College of The Bahamas, majoring in Small Island Sustainability with a focus in Marine Science. Initially, Whitney worked at CEI as an Aquaculture and Aquaponics intern, followed by a stint as an Educational Programs Apprentice from February to August, but now she has taken on the role of Aquaculture and Turtles Research Apprentice.
Her current duties include grading tilapia, organizing feeding rates and schedules, collecting fry, getting involved in outreach with DCMS, setting BRUVS for turtle research, tagging and releasing turtl,es and habitat mapping. Whitney’s future goal is to leave CEI with all the knowledge and experience that she has gained, and apply it to her daily life, and to inspire others to do the same. Next summer she is planning on resuming her education at the College of The Bahamas, then moving on to attend Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada to study Marine Biology and fisheries conservation. Good luck to her in the future, and we are lucky to have her talents a work right now at CEI!
Our Gap Year crew has been very busy in their first month here at CEI with marine research, road trips, classes and community service. We’ve studied human ecology, coral reefs, mangroves and more. We analyzed sustainable aspects of our Island School/CEI community here and compared them to our home communities with the ultimate goal of designing a solution to an issue of sustainability at home.
Outside of our classes, we’ve helped out with many on-site research projects studying everything from green sea turtles to Caribbean sharks to a local favorite, queen conch. We’ve also conducted plastic surveys and helped out in our permaculture garden. Last week we explored outside our immediate community and volunteered at the Tarpum Bay Arts & Cultural center doing a landscaping project (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Eleutheras-Art-and-Cultural-Centre/234550843232729). There we met the lovely director, Audrey Carey, who regaled us with stories about what life was like when she grew up in the Bahamas (very sustainable!) and showed us the local students’ and artists’ work. Continue reading →