CEI researchers Claire Thomas and Zach Zuckermen attended the 67th Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute in Barbados the first week of November. This conference focused on small islands and developing nations, and gave Claire and Zach and opportunity to talk about their work in Eleuthera.
Claire's talk focused on her recent assessment of essential queen conch habitat in South Eleuthera. Her main findings were that there are low densities of adults and juveniles in shallow water habitat, and that populations of adult breeding conch have declined severely in the past 20 years. Also, she pointed out that the area in South Eleuthera proposed as a marine protected area might be beneficial to shallow water inhabitants, but does not include any of the important breeding grounds.
Zach's talk focused on Rapid Ecological Assessments (REAs) performed in South Eleuthera tidal and mangrove habitat. These REAs are a quick and cost-effective way to get an initial assessment at levels of anthropogenic impact in nearshore habitats, as well as species richness and number of economically important species that utilize specific creeks. This research has been important in South Eleuthera, particularly because it involves local students getting involved as citizen scientists. The project has helped to raise mangrove awareness to local communities.
The GCFI conference is a big collaboration with scientists and managers from several Caribbean countries. Claire and Zach were excited to network with several other scientists, and hope to expand their research projects in the near future.