At the end of August, the final “Investigating Reefs and Marine Wildlife in The Bahamas” Earthwatch team arrived at the Cape Eleuthera Institute to conduct fish surveys on the patch reef systems of the Bahamas Banks. This program has been running at CEI for the last four years, and the most recent group of eight eager fish observers had the honor of completing the large data set for the prominent coral reef scientist Dr. Alastair Harborne of Queensland University. The overall study focused on the interaction between mangroves and corals reefs to improve our understanding and management of these systems.
The patch reefs off CEI have surprised us in terms of how different they can be as we move around the study area. This is particularly true for presence and numbers of juvenile grunts. During this last field season, patch reefs were resurveyed - half of the sites visited were patches that had previously been found to have an abundance of grunts, and the other half were sites that had fewer grunts present. The goal was to establish information on the site attachment of these grunts. Not only were grunts observed, but the team looked at the abundance and sizes of all fish on the reef.
After many fish identification lessons and sizing practices, the Earthwatch volunteers were both proficient and confident in their skills and able to collect relevant data for Dr. Harborne’s research. Led by Dr. Jocelyn Curtis-Quick and Alexio Brown in the field, not only were the Earthwatchers learning in the water, but they also had nightly presentations on various projects happening at CEI, such as the research on green sea turtles, inland ponds, invasive lionfish, and the accumulation of plastics in our oceans.
At the end of their 9 day expedition and some 23 patch reef surveys later, the team travelled down the island of Eleuthera to explore the Glass Window Bridge, the Banyan trees, as well as the Rock Sound Ocean Hole. To top off their successful week of data collection, the team enjoyed a meal of delicious lionfish at a wonderful local restaurant.
All of the Earthwatchers travelled home with full stomachs, back to their respective homes all over the United States, The Bahamas, as well as England, with many hoping to visit the Cape Eleuthera Institute again in the future.