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STUDENTS COMPLETE CORAL REEF ECOLOGY INTERNSHIP WITH CEI’S THE BAHAMAS CORAL INNOVATION HUB

Photo of the group collecting gamete bundles from the groove brain coral. Besides the coral team from CEI, Perry Institute for Marine Science, and Secore International we were joined by CEIS staff and interns.

Photo of the group collecting gamete bundles from the groove brain coral. Besides the coral team from CEI, Perry Institute for Marine Science, and Secore International we were joined by CEIS staff and interns.

Hello! Our names are Silia, Donald and Matthew; this summer we received full scholarships to participate in the coral reef ecology and conservation internship at The Bahamas Coral Innovation Hub at the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI). The Bahamas Coral Innovation Hub aims to upscale coral reef restoration across the region, while engaging and educating local Bahamians on the importance of coral conservation. The coral restoration projects that we were involved in included larval propagation and coral gardening. The first involves the collection of coral gametes to rear corals until they are big enough to be outplanted onto the reefs, and the second is the use of underwater nurseries to grow corals.

We arrived at the Cape Eleuthera Institute on June 24th and after a quick campus orientation, we jumped right into the action!  During our first week, we went diving and observed grooved brain coral spawning. This is where the corals release thousands of little gamete bundles containing sperm and eggs. We collected these bundles so we could conduct external fertilisation in our lab and rear the resulting larvae. We provided substrates to the larvae to settle and recruit, and follow up their development and grow, until they are big enough to be outplanted onto the reef. How lucky were we to experience coral spawning for the first time on our very first dive here!

Donald doing AGRRA coral monitoring at Bamboo.

Donald doing AGRRA coral monitoring at Bamboo.

During our internships we were in charge of maintaining the coral nurseries and measuring the coral fragments. The Coral Innovation Hub is growing two critically endangered coral species: elkhorn and staghorn, which are key species for the survival of coral reefs and their high biodiversity. We did this twice, we remove all the sediments, algae and other marine organisms that were growing on the tree nurseries CEI has at Bamboo. Our measurements gave us information about how fast the corals are growing in Eleuthera.

We also had the chance to learn a reef monitoring method:  Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment surveys (AGRRA), a standardized protocol used across the Caribbean region to assess reef health. We have familiarized ourselves with many local species of coral, fish, algae and other invertebrate species.  We have had the opportunity to go snorkeling at reefs in Half Sound where we saw some of the largest elkhorn coral we had ever seen and we even saw elkhorn and staghorn coral hybrids.    

After collecting gamete bundles in the field, we start the cross-fertilization. Matthew was trying to catch a crustacean that was trying to eat our eggs and embryos.

After collecting gamete bundles in the field, we start the cross-fertilization. Matthew was trying to catch a crustacean that was trying to eat our eggs and embryos.

This summer we also had the opportunity to collaborate with Island School Outreach to host Coral Camp. For the duration of the week, we worked with 11 high school-aged students from Eleuthera and Nassau and focused on coral reef restoration and art for advocacy.  As the summer interns for The Bahamas Coral Innovation Hub, we created an informative and interactive presentation about coral reef science, the most pressing threats to coral reefs and why these reefs are vital to The Bahamas. Additionally, we led snorkels to our coral nursery to show the students the corals that we work with.  It was exciting for us to have the opportunity to engage with Bahamian youth and we hope that by educating these young people about coral reefs, we have created life long Bahamian coral reef advocates.

We were so grateful for the opportunity to work with researchers in this field and gained so much experience with coral restoration techniques.  We would especially like to thank Cape Eleuthera Institute, Island School Outreach, The Nature Conservancy in the Caribbean, Perry Institute for Marine Science, Reef Rescue Network and Students Rebuild.  None of this would have been possible without their support. 




Summer Intern Blog: Shark Intern, Chris Daniell (F'10) & Boathouse Intern, H. Hoell

Chris Daniell Hello! My name is Chris Daniell, Shark Intern and IS alum, and thank you for reading my blog post!

Being a student at the Island School was the most amazing experience of my life. I was here in the fall of 2010, and I spent the majority of 2011 trying to return. And here I am, living on Eleuthera, and living the dream.

The three months I spent as an Island School student were the best of my life. I loved every aspect of life here, from the more environmentally conscious nature of life, learning new things and meeting new people, and exploring the island of Eleuthera. However, my favorite part of The Island School experience was the connection to the ocean. My life has been dominated by a love for two things: science and the creatures that inhabit the world’s oceans. The Island School gave me my first hands-on experience with marine science, and gave me the opportunity to work with marine biologists. I was placed in the flats research program measuring the metabolic responses of bonefish under the various stressors forced upon them by global climate change. I loved every moment of it. This was the defining experience of my time as an Island School student. However, I have always harbored a fascination for sharks and their relatives. Naturally then, being a part of the sharks program at CEI is a dream come true.

I have spent the last month assisting in all aspects of the shark research program. My first experience was with the nurse shark mating aggregations project. Every summer, nurse sharks enter the creeks nearby to mate. During this window of opportunity, the sharks team set out to record as much as we could. Every day, a couple of us would bike to a nearby creek and record all sighting of nurse sharks, or their behavior. On a few occasions, we would bring the entire team out with a large net and to catch and tag a few of them. Another program I am involved with is the ongoing study of baby lemon sharks. For this we go out into the field and catch juvenile lemons and other creek animals in a large seine net to monitor the population of the sharks in the creeks as well as their prey. Once a week, a few people head out to the creeks by boat to catch the sharks that eat the baby lemon sharks themselves. The third project is the long line stress physiology project. The goal of this project is to record the behavior and blood chemistry of a shark that has been caught on a long line hook. Cameras record the shark when its hooked, and an accelerometer measures its movements. Blood samples are also taken to record stress levels.

The experience has been a truly amazing one, and I feel incredibly lucky to be able to be here. The days go by too quickly, just as they did in 2010. The work is hard, but I am following one of the most important lessons I learned as a student here:

“Do just that labour that marries your heart to your right hand” – Derek Walcott

H. Hoell

There is always something to work on around the boathouse. I clean the bottoms of boats, assist with motor repair, drive boats for research teams, and perform various other tasks. After five weeks of working in the boathouse I have developed my skills in boat repair and scuba diving. This internship has definitely been a worthwhile learning experience!

Summer Systems Intern Blog: Stephan Grabner

As a Systems Intern at CEI this summer, I will work with Matt Poss, Sam Kenworthy and other members of the facilities team for the next two months. Although my main project this summer will be CEI’s biodiesel production, I will also help out with other projects that need an extra pair of hands.

At the moment we produce working fuel but don’t really know what quality it is. It’s easy to make biodiesel that seems to work well but has contaminants in it which relatively quickly destroy engines, are hazardous to the brewer and user, and which can actually be worse for the environment than petrodiesel. So having a clue about the quality of one’s product, as well as its various byproducts, is quite important! There are a lot of tests to which commercial biodiesel producers have to submit their product, but they generally require extremely costly equipment or highly trained analytical chemists, and- at least at the moment-  cannot be carried out here on Eleuthera. Over the next few weeks I will therefore research different tests we can reasonably do for every batch of diesel we produce and begin to use these tests on our feedstock oil and the diesel we make. This will allow us to ensure that our vehicles run smoothly and give us an idea of how the quality of our biodiesel varies from batch to batch, which in turn will allow us to improve our production process. So far I have worked only briefly with Marco (who runs the biodiesel lab) to do some basic tests on samples of the waste vegetable oil we will convert into fuel, but later this week he will hopefully show me the entire process. I will also look at a possible expansion of our biodiesel production facility in order to see how we could meet more of our fuel demand in the future.

I am originally from Austria but currently attend UNC-Chapel Hill, where I am about to enter my third year as a philosophy major focusing on the intersections of ethics and economics in the context of sustainable development. Communities trying to be (self-) sustainable in terms of food and energy are pretty fascinating to me, so I am excited to be here at CEI and see the subject of my academic studies in action. I am grateful to be given the chance to add a more practical/ technical aspect to my perspective on sustainable development, and looking forward to the coming weeks!

Summer Aquaculture Intern Blog: Drew Villeneuve

Hey Everybody! My name is Drew and I am an Aquaculture intern at CEI this summer. I’m from Maryland and just graduated from high school in DC; I will be attending Bowdoin College in Maine this fall where I hope to study Biology and English. In the past I have volunteered/interned at the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum and National Zoo. My specific interest is in Invertebrates, so it’s a change of pace for me to be working with fish! At the museum I worked primarily with deep water invertebrates that were pulled from Lophelia reefs in the Gulf of Mexico collected before and after the oil spill in 2010, all in hopeful preparation for some comparative analyses, and I worked at the Zoo in the Invertebrate exhibit maintaining some of their tanks. In my spare time I like to work on my marine aquarium, whitewater kayak on the Potomac, read, and explore the Appalachian mountains. If you are not already aware, the aquaculture team (Marie, Tyler, and I) with the help of a lot of other awesome CEI people transferred our cobia to the offshore cage. For the past week or so we have been making daily dives on the cage to feed the cobia and check the overall integrity of our new shark-proof netting. We have also started some water quality testing to monitor the effect of our aquaculture cage on water quality – there is some concern that the waste produced by so many fish in such a small area might start effecting water quality and overall health of the surround ecosystem. Other than that I do maintenance jobs around the labs, like making a solar distiller to dry out sand cores as well as producing some sea salt for the kitchen.

Thanks for reading, I am having a blast down here and I am certain the Island School kids will too!

CEI Welcomes its Summer Interns, Including Six IS Alumni

This week, 16 summer interns arrived on Eleuthera to work at Cape Eleuthera Institute. Of those 16, we were excited to welcome back 6 Island School alumni who spent a semester, summer term, or divemaster course here on the Cape over the last 6 years. Mackey Violich (F'06), Elizabeth Douglas (S'08), Jasmine Wilchcombe (F'08), Grace Dennis (Su'10), Chris Daniell (F'10) and Jake Verter (S'09) will be here supporting the Shark and Aquaponics programs for the next two months! We're glad to have you back!
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