Summer 2014 was a fun but busy field season for the research team from Simon Fraser University. This was the first field season at Cape Eleuthera Institute for Fiona Francis, an MSc student studying the indirect effects of invasive lionfish under the supervision of Dr. Isabelle Côté. Two undergraduate field assistants, Kyla Jeffrey and Severin Vallaincourt, were assisting Fiona as well as working on small side projects of their own.
The team spent most of the summer studying how invasive lionfish can change primary productivity on reefs. Native fish provide nutrients to algae and seagrasses, and Fiona was trying to determine if lionfish predation on these native fish reduced the availability of those essential nutrients. To do this the team spent long hours catching fish to determine the levels of nutrients excreted by different species into the water around them. While this might not sound too hard, fitting a wriggling, venomous, spiny fish into a Ziploc bag full of water proved to be quite a difficult task!
By the end of the summer the team managed to measure nutrient excretion from over 200 individual fish. The team also ran over 300 transect surveys to count native patch reef fish, measured thousands of seagrass blades, and took hundreds of seagrass cores to calculate seagrass biomass at over 20 different patch reefs. They also measured algal production on 16 reefs (a project spearheaded by Sev) and looked at the effects of culling on lionfish (a project led primarily led by Kyla).
Team SFU is now back in Canada with a freezer full of samples to analyze, but are sorely missing all of the wonderful people that they were fortunate enough to meet at Cape Eleuthera Institute and The Island School over the summer. They wouldn’t have been able to do any of their research without the help and support of CEI, and they hope to be back next year for another season of fun!