This November, CEI was flooded with over 100 guests as The Island School hosted Parents’ Weekend for all 45 students. The week was full of tours around campus, a student art show, parent-teacher meetings, and plenty of free time for students to show their families the island of Eleuthera. One of the many highlights of the week came when students could share their semester research projects with their families and other members of the Foundation.
For the research presentations during Parents’ Weekend, each group had 10 minutes to give an introduction to their project, explain their hypotheses, describe the methodology and results, and share the conclusions they came to from their data. In addition, each group faced a firing squad of questions from curious parents about their topics. The parents learned a lot about a predator’s effect on the growth rate of young juvenile lemon sharks, how climate change might affect the metabolic rates of fish in mangrove creeks, and the invasion of the voracious lionfish. Continue reading →
CEI recently started performing shuttle box experiments in the wet lab. The set-up of the shuttle box system is simple: two tanks are connected through a short “walkway”, and above the tanks a camera is mounted to monitor the fish movements, with little human interference on fish behavior.The shuttle box trials complement the critical temperature experiments that the Flats team wrapped up in early October 2012. These experiments tested the range of temperatures that a fish can tolerate before losing equilibrium, and are used to study how the projected conditions for climate change will affect fish in the flats ecosystems.
The shuttle box comes provides a unique aspect while studying effects of climate change, by adding a behavioral decision-factor element to the study. Trials will be run using one the common mangrove prey species (bonefish, yellowfin mojarra, yellowtail snapper and checkered puffer) in one of the two tanks and a mangrove predator (juvenile lemon shark) in the other tank. Then, the environmental conditions in the prey tank are manipulated to an unfavorable level (i.e. high temperature) and the fish is viewed on the cameras to see when it decides that being in the same tank as the lemon shark, with the threat of predation, is preferred to unfavorable environmental conditions. Continue reading →
Research classes kicked off this week for The Island School students. On Tuesday, students broke into their 8 different research groups and spent the afternoon getting to know their research advisors–members of the research team at the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI). They also learned about the study they would be working on for the next 3 months. Thursday afternoon was their first field block, where they got out on the water or into the lab for the first time! The 8 studies being conducted this semester focus on shark ecology & physiology, the impact of climate change on bonefish & mangrove flats species, lionfish & reef fish population ecology, and sea turtle & conch abundance & distribution around South Eleuthera. These studies are well-established areas of research at CEI and as a result, many visitors and collaborators will be visiting our campus over the next few weeks to share their knowledge and expertise with the students.
Research class is an exciting opportunity for students to gain new skills in the field – from fish identification and handling to public speaking and PowerPoint creation. Students learn about and contribute to global conservation issues, work in small groups, and ultimately, have the experience of a lifetime!
Cape Eleuthera Institute’s Kristal Ambrose embarked on her epic journey to of plastic research, leaving on April 24th.. From Nassau, Bahamas to Texas, USA; from Tokyo, Japan to Guam; and finally, on to Majuro, Marshall Islands, the last two weeks have been a whirlwind of exploration, opportunity, and learning for Ambrose, CEI’s Aquaponics Intern and researcher dedicated to finding solutions to plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.
“Most of what we eat, drink or use in any way comes packaged in petroleum plastic—a material designed to last forever yet used for products that we use for as little as thirty seconds then throw away,” describes Ambrose on her blog. “Plastic creates toxic pollution at every stage of its existence: manufacture, use, and disposal. This is a material that the Earth cannot digest. Every bit of plastic that has ever been created still exists, including the small amount that has been incinerated and has become toxic particulate matter. In the environment, plastic breaks down into small particles that release toxic chemicals into the environment. These particles are ingested by wildlife on land and in the ocean, contaminating the food chain from the smallest plankton to the largest whale…This trip will serve as my formal training experience to tackle the plastic pollution and marine debris issue within my country.”
In Nassau during the days before departure, Ambrose was invited to tea at the home of His Excellency Sir Arthur Foulkes, Governor General of The Bahamas. Continue reading →
Since its creation just over one year ago, the Lionfish Research and Education Program (LREP) at CEI has strived to become a hub for lionfish work in the Caribbean. Recently, LREP has taken some exciting steps toward reaching this status! Just last week, CEI hosted three producers and videographers from ZED (www.zed.fr), a major French documentary company that is working on gathering footage for an upcoming TV series featuring invasive lionfish. Specifically, the documentary team was interested in learning about Bahamian lionfish research and management initiatives. Luckily, visiting scientist, and partner of LREP, Nicola Smith was able to come over from Nassau to support the week’s activities and be featured in the film! Nicola is the lead coordinator for the Bahamian-wide lionfish research project that operates under the Bahamian Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and partners with CEI.
ZED producer, Jerome Segur, sound engineer, Olivier Pioda, and underwater videographer (and former member of Jacque Cousteau’s prestigious dive team!)Didier Noirot, joined Nicola and LREP researchers in the field to get a closer look at lionfish and to better understand the project’s research objectives. Continue reading →
The first week of research was a big week for the Lionfish research project. We oriented ourselves to our goals, methods, and systems. We discussed what an invasive species means, the invasion of lionfish, their life cycles, and their anatomy. On Thursday, we dissected lionfish in the lab. Our project began with learning external anatomy, including how to prevent lionfish stings. Next cut their bellies and look into the internal anatomy. We saw their key organs, and even their super stretch stomach that makes them such a successful predator. I found it especially interesting when we opened their stomach; we identified their stomach contents. This is especially significant because we identified their stomach contents to determine which species were suffering due to lionfish predation. I really enjoyed our dissection. The following week was our first field day. We went diving on a reef and practiced protocol for surveying a particular reef. The group was really excited to begin their work and get in the water. Stay tuned for new updates from the Lionfish research project!
The joint CEI and University of Illinois shark research team just returned from the second of four, 2 week field expeditions to a shallow bank known as “the bridge” that connects the southern tip of Eleuthera to the northern tip of Cat Island. The first expedition went out in November 2011. The historical project is re-creating a study from a dataset detailing the diversity and abundance of shark populations in The Bahamas that took place over 30 years ago. Back then it was conducted by Captain Steve Connett and the crew of the R/V Geronimo from St Georges, Rhode Island. The current study is conducting surveys identical to those performed by Captain Connett and his crew 33 years ago, and has already discovered some very interesting results. In the original dataset, 96 sharks from six species were captured during 25 scientific longline sets. In just 12 sets, we have already caught 84 sharks from three species! Continue reading →
Greetings from the Lionfish Research team! We are now three weeks into the program and have already learned so much. The purpose of our study is to look at how grouper and currents affect the distribution of invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) found around Cape Eleuthera, Bahamas. So far we have gone on two mock dives. Unfortunately our second one got cut short due to an unexpected thunderstorm. We have also learned how to identify grouper and take the total length of fish from a distance underwater. For one of our classes, we took a trip to CEI and learned how to dissect a lionfish. From the dissection we could see what the lionfish had eaten. We also learned that lionfish can expand their stomachs up to 30 times its normal size. For another class we became scientist for a day and learned the correct structure for scientific papers. We have 3 research classes a week and two of those usually involve fieldwork. Although the readings may be strenuous, the lionfish team is excited to have the opportunity to work alongside biologists and helping to further the worlds knowledge on lionfish.
Attention alumni! Edd Brooks, shark project manager, is in need of some support on his upcoming shark expedition and is looking to The Island School alumni network for help. November 6-18, Edd and his team will be in Little San Salvador to recreate shark surveys that were conducted in the late 1970s. Their goal is to identify any shifts in the diversity and abundance of sharks in the last 30 years. If you are interested in applying to join this expedition or have any other questions, please contact Edd at firstname.lastname@example.org by October 14th. Continue reading →