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 →
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!
With a successful start to field sampling for its newest project, the CEI Shark Research and Conservation Program broadened its portfolio to include studies of Southern stingrays (Dasyatis americana). These rays are elasmobranch relatives to the program’s more traditional subjects. Principal investigator Dr. Owen O’Shea explains, “the research will determine long-term site fidelity, seasonality, and spatial partitioning within this species so as to allow a multi-faceted approach to understanding ontogenetic habitat transitioning in this species.” Continue reading →
Seven students from The Palm Beach Day Academy, in Palm Beach, Florida, kicked off a busy December at the Cape Eleuthera Institute with a five day program focused on marine ecology and sustainability. As most visitors staying on campus, not only were students taking navy showers to reduce their water use and save some precious rainwater, but they also had a chance to visit some of the vital ecosystems this island is known for. We had a few certified SCUBA divers in this group and were able to head out to a reef just off of the Exuma Sound. Somethin’ 2 See, as the reef is known, is shallow enough for a great snorkel but deep enough for a colorful and exciting SCUBA dive.
Another highlight was snorkeling in 80 feet of water at the aquaculture cage to kill some time before hauling a deep water longline with Brendan Talwar, M.S. candidate at Florida State University. Brendan is researching the survivorship of deepwater sharks, specifically Cuban dogfish, after they are caught on a longline set 500-700 m deep. Students were able to support Brendan’s work by helping the shark research team work up the 4 Cuban dogfish caught that day, while others snorkeled off the boat in deep blue water as the sharks are pulled onto the boat for analysis. The sharks are then released in a cage and monitored by GoPro for the next 24 hours before they are released.
Each morning at 6:30 am students met for morning exercise to start off their day. One of the most popular workouts is the run-swim. Students run a short distance and swim a short distance then jump off a high ledge and run-swim back to campus. Waking up is always the hardest part but so worth it for an energetic morning work out to get your day started.
Students overall got a sense of some of the research conducted at the Cape Eleuthera Institute while also learning about mangroves, coral reefs, and what it means to live sustainably. We hope to see some of these bright faces back for shark week this summer or even Island School students in the future. Thanks for coming down Palm Beach Day!
Kate McClellan Press is a PhD student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the Intercampus Marine Science Graduate Program and a fellow with the UMass National Science Foundation IGERT Offshore Wind Energy Engineering, Environmental Science, and Policy Program. As offshore wind facilities are developed across the world, the potential environmental impacts of their construction and operation must be understood, and negative impacts mitigated. One question that arises is whether transmitting energy from the wind farms to shore has any environmental consequences, specifically for electrosensitive fishes. Continue reading →
Each year, CEI offers two in-house studentships to graduate students conducting research at CEI and teaching research class though The Island School. Applicants of the Award for Excellence in Research are evaluated based on their teaching and research experience, and the conservation relevance, publication probability, and outreach potential of the applicant’s proposal. In addition, proposals are evaluated on their ability to contribute meaningfully to CEI and the applicant’s home institution.
For the fall semester, University of Illinois graduate student Ian Bouyoucos received the Award for Excellence in Research. Ian’s research focuses on understanding activity-specific metabolic rates of juvenile lemon sharks so that we can better understand what happens to these sharks when caught on hook-and-line. The award will improve Ian’s research by improving CEI’s capacity to for respirometry studies through constructing a swimming respirometer suitable for juvenile sharks, barracuda, and even fish schools. CEI has used both swimming and resting respirometers extensively in the past to measure metabolic rates of fishes, as affected by angling and climate change, by measuring the rate at which fish consume oxygen in the sealed respirometry chamber.
The Cape Eleuthera Institute’s Shark Research and Conservation Program has just started to receive data back from the satellite tags deployed last winter onto five female bull sharks. These transient sharks come to The Cape Eleuthera Marina each November and spend around four months inhabiting the shallow marina waters where fishermen clean their daily catches. Their habitat occupation and use of space beyond Cape Eleuthera has remained a mystery until now.
The migratory routes of these animals has been speculated due to the necessity for females to seek freshwater in order to pup, however, the first track we have received reveals a long and exciting journey via Cuba and the Florida Keys. The highly migratory nature of this species creates challenges for conservation and management efforts as they travel across international boundaries with differing levels of protection.
Research efforts at The Cape Eleuthera Institute in collaboration with Microwave Telemetry will increase our understanding of the species by elucidating critical information about their use of space and seasonal habitat occupancy.
This fall, CEI’s Deepwater Project is continuing use of The Medusa, a specialized deepwater camera that can provide footage from up to 2000 meters underneath the ocean’s surface. The unit is on loan from Dr. Edie Widder of Ocean Research Conservation Association (ORCA). Footage collected from the camera will shed light on the diversity, distribution, and species assemblages of deep-water fauna present within the Exuma Sound trench community. A working understanding of healthy deep-water communities has become increasingly important in recent years as shallow-water overfishing pushes to expand the deep-sea fishing industry.
CEI is lucky enough to host an array of graduate students conducting collaborative projects between us and their home institutions. In this way we are able to maximize our facilities’ potential and to share it with a broader scientific community.
Brendan Talwar, an MSc candidate at Florida State University’s Coastal and Marine Laboratory is currently working with CEI Shark Conservation and Research Program Manager Edd Brooks to assess the post-release survivorship of deep water shark species caught on longlines. In an effort to better inform fisheries policies, Brendan hopes to look more closely at the effects of capture stress on Cuban dogfish and gulper sharks, two common bycatch species in deep sea fisheries, with the end goal of understanding why some sharks die while others survive during and after a capture event.
Recently, Brendan has been returning longline-caught sharks to the deep in a constructed cage and monitoring them for behavioral effects post-release. Check out Brendan’s progress and the success of his caging experiments thus far in this post, where you can hear a bit more about the potential complications that predation may introduce as well as some broader implications of his work.