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gap year program

Gap Year Program Update This first GAP year update was written by a gapper reflecting on their first week:

When I asked the copious newcomers that arrived at Cape Eleuthera Institute in the past week or so if they could describe their experience so far, they responded ultimately a plethora of words: surreal, funky fresh, refreshing, really salty, lots of lettuce, and extremely informative. Personally, I would not object to any of those, but due to lack of time, as I am a gap year student here at The Cape Eleuthera Institute, and have to finish my prerequisites for SCUBA training, I am only going to focus on the week being “surreal, informative, and refreshing.”

Along with four other gappers (for the sake of an easier flow to this blog post, and a more real description of our time here, I am going to refer to a gap year student as a “gapper”, what everyone else has come to call us), we arrived at the sunny south side of the island Eleuthera, and it immediately seemed as if the luminous sun hovering the enticing, crystal, teal waters sucked out the oxygen from the moment, where we were all amazed at how perfect a place can really be. It was only the beginning to the infinite exploration we will endure here. Later on in the week we were fortunate to witness a beautiful sunset over the water in Plum Creek, spend an afternoon snorkeling around the sandbar (one of the most unique places I personally have ever been too), climb a Banyan tree, swim in an ocean cave, and many more. I do not think there will ever be a night where we are not amazed by the abundance of stars and bright moon that covers the “rumber” (lumber and rubber, made out of used tires) bridge through the mangroves, coming back from dinner to the dorms.  It is nothing but surreal.

On our second day here, we were given a “tour” which ended up containing enough information for it to be more of a lecture on sustainability, disguised as a tour.  Scott, the director of the gappers, showed us all of the many ways Cape Eleuthera Institute and Island School makes sustainability an attribute. This lesson continued further with exposure to more lessons brought to us in all different varieties by the community here. We were fortunate enough to have Ian and Joseph introduce us to the permaculture here. We were not only able to see and understand the purpose of permaculture, but also got to work in the farm as well, leaving very excited to see our kale, swiss chard, and arugula thrive! Later in the week we got to help Claire conduct a survey along the shoreline on conch. After learning about the significance of conch’s presence in culture, and biodiversity, we left that lesson in a funk, where we only had found three live conch out of around three hundred surveyed. The more unfortunate aspect of that, not regarding the preposterous ratio, was that most of the conch found had been proven to be harvested, particularly the juvenile.

But not all hope was lost. We even got to learn from within us gappers! Two of us paired up and presented the others with information on banyan trees, ocean holes, and ocean caves. I personally thought taking a gap year was going to be a break from school, but I have never learned and enjoyed so much within a week here than I ever did in school itself!

One thing all of us gappers have in common is the interest in the mystery of the world and culture we live in. Joining the community here was relieving to see a great amount of people who had the same intentions. All of the programs running here at Cape Eleuthera Institute introduced us to their projects, inspiring us to further our interest into one of these projects, and plan to eventually get the chance to work on them. Rachel Carson said it best, “Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth, are never alone or weary of life.” It’s refreshing to have all of these amazing opportunities brought to us, all coinciding with our enthusiasm for sustainability and conservation.

I spent my last three months backpacking, seeing a whole different world of conservation, and in the eyes of a tourist I should really say the lack of conservation in a world. I found myself in a position where I was in fact doing the complete opposite. Returning home, I again witnessed another world of conservation, but here ignorance was present. It’s extremely refreshing to join a community that is working hard and thriving to set an example for others. There is no better place to be welcomed than a place that is filled with your personal passion. It’s been of the utmost informative, surreal, and refreshing time so far.

GAP Program Update #3

By Calvin Clapp Here in South Eleuthera, the past couple weeks have been somewhat of a blur. Whether the blame falls upon camping trips, scuba diving or research, there is no doubt that we have been fully engaged in life on the island. Last weekend, the interns organized a small camping trip to Surfer's Beach. So we started bussin’ it down the island, making any of the necessary stops to make it a proper camping experience. After sharing stories and laughs, with the fire simmering down, we all headed to bed ready for a fun-filled day of aquatic activities. The last minute decision to camp was not regretted by anyone.

With drowsy eyes and with a trailing stench of campfire, we rolled back to campus ready to take on a couple days of learning in the field with our respective research groups. We soon realized that our recent camping trip was only a pre-game for our exclusive DIT (Down Island Trip) for the gaps and our leader, Scotty.


This served as a great opportunity to explore and experience almost every corner of the long island of Eleuthera. We stopped at two neighboring islands - Harbour Island and Spanish Wells. Setting up camp at the history-rich Preacher's Cave as well as on the soft beaches of a former Navy Base under the stars proved to be a great team-building experience. From trekking through vast banana farms to exploring cavernous underground cave systems, it felt like we did it all.

Here we are again, rolling back to campus tired, dirty, and smelly, ready to take on whatever is on the horizon -- our 6-day kayak trip is but a few days away.

A restful weekend allowed us to recharge our batteries and prepare for the week ahead. After completing a series of dives we are now Advanced Open Water Divers. The deep, naturalist, navigation, and night dive allowed us to put another set of underwater adventures under our belt.

On to the next one!

Gap Program Update #2: Evolution of a CEI Intern

If evolution is a transformative process, then who’s to say we aren’t evolving everyday? As our third week here at CEI comes to a close, all of the gap year interns are beginning to naturally expand into our own place here. We all have developed and begun to find our place in the community at the Cape Eleuthera Institute; some of these changes we discover together, and some we can only find on our own.

This week we all brainstormed on ideas for our Independent Student Project, or ISP, which is the research or outreach project that we want to dedicate our time here to. Gap interns Sarah and Lulu are joining the Shark Team, I am joining the Lionfish team, Shaquel is focusing on gathering data on local knowledge of CEI projects, and Jon and Cole are developing an independent project studying filter feeders. The unfolding of each of our interests is becoming more apparent!

As we make these decisions, we are having plenty of fun in the meantime. SCUBA! This week we are working on Advanced Open Water Scuba, which involves a boat dive, deep dive, night dive, naturalist dive, and navigation dive. Here’s a drawing I did of the scuba transformation!

We have also welcomed the Warners from the Field School in Washington D.C. to CEI this week! Jordan, Alexandra, and Madison are here for a winter internship opportunity that their school offers and we are so happy to have them. They will be joining with research teams and getting to know the CEI and Island School campuses.

So, the gaps have 5 more weeks here at CEI, and I can’t wait to see what they bring!!

Shelby Hinds

Gap Year Program Update #1

Hi everyone! My name is Sarah Meyer, and I'm one of six students participating in the Spring 2012 Gap Year Program. We're nearing the start of our third week here, but it seems like we've been here much longer than that because we've been so busy! So far, we've been spending a lot of time being exposed to many of the research groups at CEI, such as the aquaponics, aquaculture, patch reef, lionfish, and shark teams. It's nice to have the ability to "scope out" the different aspects of each group before we decide which one interests us most; after we pick a team, we will choose a mentor who will help us with our Independent Student Project that we'll complete by the end of our semester.

In our first week here, we all received our Open Water SCUBA Certifications, and we're going to be starting our Advanced Open Water training next week. At first, diving was really strange to's a whole new world, and I'm still getting used to it! But, because I'm interested in lionfish research, it was neat to see my first in-the-wild lionfish on our last dive before receiving our certifications.

In addition to diving and working with the research groups, we also helped Deep Creek Middle School students prepare for the Junior Junkanoo last week. It was cool to see how all of the hard work put into their presentation finally came together on the day of the Junkanoo! The kids did a really great job.

We stay really busy here, but are really enjoying our time here thus far. This is such a unique opportunity, and I'm looking forward to all the activities planned for the next six weeks!