On Saturday, June 6, Spring 2015 Island School students participated in the Research Expo, their final Research Class assignment, which coincided with the Youth Action Island Summit hosted at the Island School. For the Research Expo, each group was required to focus on the “bigger picture” of conservation in their research area and present their conservation message through the use of games, trivia, slide shows, and their Research Poster.
This assignment was a great way for the students to show off all they have learned this semester, as well as to allow the students to demonstrate their abilities to speak to various audiences, such as young Bahamians, scientists, and UN delegates
At the end of the Research Expo, the Spring 2015 Plastics Research Group presented their findings to everyone in attendance. The audience was very impressed, with one Summit attendee praising the students for doing graduate level research in high school.
Overall, the Research Expo was a success. The students enjoyed meeting people of various backgrounds, answering questions about their research, and demonstrating all that they have learned this semester. Their final research posters, which were displayed at the Research Expo, can be found here.
Last weekend, Deep Creek hosted its annual Conch Fest. Unlike past years, Conch Fest was new and improved, focused on keeping Deep Creek green, clean, and pristine. Instead of using plastic containers to hand out food, all of the booths used recyclable materials. Single use plastics have become an issue for the oceans, as they are being consumed by and entangling marine organisms. This initiative in Deep Creek will hopefully spread to other settlements as well as other islands to reduce the plastics ending up in the oceans.
The Sustainable Fisheries Team of The Cape Eleuthera Institute set up their own booth at Conch Fest among the many others. While the live lionfish in the tank and the model of the aquaponics system attracted attention, the main attraction of the night was the lionfish fritters that the team handed out as samples for everyone to try. Although conch fritters are part of the traditional Bahamian cuisine, many Bahamians were both surprised and impressed by how tasty the lionfish fritters were! Most people came back for seconds and many requested a bag to take home with them.
The team also had lionfish jewelry on display and every pair or lionfish earrings were sold by the end of the night. Some people even made special orders for lionfish jewelry to be picked up at a later date.
Although conch fritters are a tasty treat, conch is an unsustainable fishery. Hopefully people will begin to cook lionfish fritters instead of conch fritters after tasting them at The Sustainable Fisheries booth this year. Next year the Sustainable Fisheries Team will be back at Conch Fest handing out lionfish fritters, and spreading the word on how pretty (as jewelry) and tasty lionfish can be!
Last week The Island School hosted Parents’ Week. The week included an opportunity for parents to tour our campus, view a student art exhibit, parent-teacher meetings, and a day for students to show their families the island of Eleuthera.
52 excited Island School students had the opportunity to present their semester long research projects to their parents, real world scientists from The Cape Eleuthera Institute, and The Island School faculty. Each research group had 10 minutes to present the culmination of their semester’s work including an introduction to their project, their hypotheses, a description of methods employed, results section, and conclusions of findings from their data. In addition, each group answered questions from curious parents and researchers about their topics.
The parents learned about how plastic pollution can end up in a fish’s stomach, exciting new research focused on the deep-sea, the current status of important fisheries species in South Eleuthera and new research focused on the inland pond systems in Eleuthera. Guest commented on how impressed they were with The Island School students’ level of professionalism when presenting and their ability to share in-depth knowledge on their chosen research topic.
In the Bahamas, the fishing industry is crucial for the economy of the country, worth about $100 million annually. This mainly comes from the three main fisheries of The Bahamas, spiny lobster, queen conch, and Nassau grouper.
In efforts to protect these crucial fisheries, The Bahamian government aims to protect 20% of the coastal waters by 2020 through mechanisms such as marine protected areas. There are 19 proposed marine protected areas for The Bahamas currently, and one of them is proposed in South Eleuthera, protecting the patch reef systems east of the Cape Eleuthera.
While many studies have been done on the fish populations and abundances on these patch reefs, there is a lack of empirical data on the invertebrates, specifically the queen conch and the spiny lobster, which are economically important to the Bahamian fisheries, but also the sea stars, sea cucumbers, and sea urchin,s which are ecologically important to the health of the reefs.
This semester, the Island School research class taught by Claire Thomas, Sustainable Fisheries Program Manageer at CEI, is assessing the abundances of the economically and ecologically important invertebrates in the South Eleuthera proposed marine protected area on randomly selected patch reefs to investigate the current status of these important invertebrates. To collect data, the students preform a roving snorkel survey, counting the number of each key invertebrate they observe both on the reef and 5 meters around the patch reef. With this information and information previously collected pertaining to the measurements, structure, and habitat parameters of the reef, the students will quantify the densities in relation to the habitat variables.
Last weekend, the Sustainable Fisheries team packed up a van full of educational materials and headed to Governor’s Harbour for the annual Earth Day event, hosted by One Eleuthera, to showcase the ongoing sustainable projects at The Cape Eleuthera Institute.
Representatives from Aquaponics and the Center for Sustainable Development also joined to demonstrate their projects. A working model of an Aquaponics system using a tank with tilapia and a grow bed with lettuce and basil resting on top, informed onlookers on ways to harvest both fish and vegetables sustainably. Many young kids were also enthralled by the demonstration on how to make biodiesel from used vegetable oil.
As for the Sustainable Fisheries team, the lionfish displayed prominently on the front table of the booth was a huge success, luring people in to ask questions about the invasive predator. For many children who passed by, this was the first lionfish they had ever seen. When asked if they had ever eaten lionfish, many of the visitors to the booth had never tried it, but the team encouraged people to start asking for lionfish in restaurants to increase the demand and create a more prominent fishery for lionfish. Some Bahamians and visitors were hesitant to try because of the venomous spines, but when they looked over the fillet guide on display, many people seemed to be interested in filleting and preparing their own lionfish in the future. A handful of people who spearfish told the team that whenever they see a lionfish they spear it because they know they are harmful to the reef. Most, however, did not know that they could eat lionfish and they were excited when they discovered they could eat the white and flaky lionfish meat.
Many women loved the idea of using lionfish fins to create earrings, and the younger groups passing by enjoyed touching the fins on display. Many of the children left the booth with face paintings of lionfish and sea creatures and kept coming back for more.
For those who signed up for The Cape Eleuthera Institute newsletter and weekly update, their names were entered into a raffle to win a “Lionfish Slayer: You Slay We Pay” t-shirt. Two lucky people received the shirts after two drawings, and pictured below is one of the winners, Ann Gates, a frequent visitor to Eleuthera.
ZNS, the local Bahamian news station, interviewed one member of the Sustainable Fisheries team about our projects on invasive lionfish. The segment will be shown to inform people who were not at Earth Day about the invasive predator, the destruction they are doing to the reefs, and ways that we can help with the invasion by eating and wearing lionfish!
The following is an excerpt from an update by Island School student Patrick Henderson, talking about his Research Class, Fish Assessment:
The School Research Class Reef Assessment team has been very busy already this semester. We meet at least 3 times a week and dive during 2 of these sessions. Our goal is to conduct an up-to-date assessment of the current status of commercially important fish in South Eleuthera. The data we collect will be compared to previous studies from 2009 in order to identify if there are any trends that show an increase or decline in fish density and biomass. Our goal is to provide unbiased data that could help inform future potential marine resource management strategies.
In class we hold discussions about scientific readings we have completed for homework assignments. In these discussions we question how the readings apply to our project, the subject/purpose of the reading, and how we can actively apply what we have learned from the readings in our research.
Our first week was spent primarily learning fish identification. This consisted of presentations about fish biology, body forms, markings, families, and species all to ensure that on our surveys we could accurately and correctly identify any fish that we came across. These presentations were followed by fish point-out dives.
After we got a handle on identification we turned our focus to size estimates underwater. We worked in the classroom and underwater ensuring that every member could correctly estimate fish sizes and counts on dives.
We then began practice surveys using The Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) Program fish protocols. This consisted of classroom work as well as going out and practicing on actual reefs. Each team member had to learn the different jobs that must be completed on a survey as well as the possible risks/problems that can arise if the protocols are ignored.
This past Wednesday the team went diving on a fore reef at 60ft. Accompanying us on this dive were 3 divemasters who monitored our survey and ensured our safety. Each dive consists of 3 teams of 2 students; the students take turns practicing each role. One student counts fish during the survey, while the other holds the tape measurer ensuring the Assessment follows AGGRA protocol. Soon we should be able to begin conducting actual assessments on reefs surrounding South Eleuthera.
This past Saturday, the Sustainable Fisheries team travelled to Rock Sound for the annual Homecoming to represent The Cape Eleuthera Institute. The booth, decorated with educational materials pertaining to invasive lionfish, was a success. Both locals and visitors approached the booth with questions and were intrigued by the live lionfish that was on display in a tank on the table.
As people wandered by, the team educated the curious onlookers about the venomous spines, how to properly remove the spines and fillet the fish, common misconceptions about the lionfish, as well as the damage they are doing to the reefs.
The team also advertised the Slayer Campaign; this campaign incentivizes local fishermen to spear lionfish. The team emphasized how tasty lionfish are to eat, pointing out the “You Slay, We Pay” motto hanging from the tent next to the wonderful illustrations of grouper, conch, and crawfish holding up signs saying “Eat More’ Lionfish”..
The team wore their lionfish fin earrings to show off the beautiful jewelry that can be made from the non-venomous spines, so not only are lionfish tasty, but they can create beautiful, sustainable, jewelry.
Bags of sustainably grown lettuce from the CEI/CSD aquaponics system were handed out to also people about the other projects at The Cape Eleuthera Institute.
The Sustainable Fisheries team will have a similar booth set up for Earth Day and they hope to continue raising awareness about the different research projects happening at the Cape Eleuthera Institute and how to live sustainably.
March weather was perfect for the lionfish team as they visited 16 different patch reef sites for their quarterly surveys, observing fish species and abundance in relation to the presence of lionfish. Of the 16 sites, we remove lionfish from 8 of them every 3 months, comparing the removal reefs with nonremoval reefs as a way to measure the impact of lionfish on the patch reef systems.
At each patch all of the fish species present on the reef are counted for their relative abundance, especially the lionfish. Fish that compete for resources with lionfish, such as grunts, snapper, and grouper, are specifically noted along with their total body lengths. In addition to the roving survey and competitor observations, we also collected data on invertebrates, grouper, and parrotfish for three other studies. We counted the number of spiny lobster, queen conch, sea stars, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers on the reefs to add to a data set that will be part of an assessment for implementing a potential marine protected area.
Throughout the course of the week of collecting data we saw an abundance of reef creatures, but most notably three nurse sharks, a large school of yellow jacks, a big eye which has remained on the same patch for over a year and is not commonly found on patch reefs, as well as a hawksbill sea turtle, also rarely sighted on these patches because they are critically endangered. Continue reading →
During the 5th to the 7th of March, Zakita and Micheal represented the Centre of Sustainable Development (CSD) and the wider Island School/CEI community at the annual Agribusiness Expo in New Providence. Here, they spoke about the models of food production (Permaculture and Aquaponics) currently being employed at Cape Eleuthera, as well as networking and informing visitors to the expo about the events and opportunities going on within this organization.
Many primary and high school children came by the booth, and an exciting dialogue ensued on the benefits of aquaponics and sustainable agriculture. It was inspiring to see how many of the booth-visitors knew about aquaponics in particular and wanted to know how to set up their own system for household food production.
In total, the expo visit was productive and a success and it was heartening to spread the word about the good work that the Island School-CSD-DCMS- CEI community is engaging in.
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 →