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Lionfish

Lionfish Research in The Bahamas Makes Global Spotlight

[slideshow] Since its creation just over one year ago, the Lionfish Research and Education Program (LREP) at CEI has strived to become a hub for lionfish work in the Caribbean. Recently, LREP has taken some exciting steps toward reaching this status! Just last week, CEI hosted three producers and videographers from ZED (www.zed.fr), a major French documentary company that is working on gathering footage for an upcoming TV series featuring invasive lionfish. Specifically, the documentary team was interested in learning about Bahamian lionfish research and management initiatives. Luckily, visiting scientist, and partner of LREP, Nicola Smith was able to come over from Nassau to support the week’s activities and be featured in the film! Nicola is the lead coordinator for the Bahamian-wide lionfish research project that operates under the Bahamian Department of Marine Resources (DMR) and partners with CEI.

ZED producer, Jerome Segur, sound engineer, Olivier Pioda, and underwater videographer (and former member of Jacque Cousteau’s prestigious dive team!) Didier Noirot, joined Nicola and LREP researchers in the field to get a closer look at lionfish and to better understand the project’s research objectives.

The week proved to be a big success for ZED, DMR, and CEI! The documentary will provide a valuable avenue for scientific communication and represents a great opportunity for Bahamian scientist’s work to be recognized by wider audiences. It is very exciting that the initiatives taking place on Eleuthera will now be shared with people all over the world! The documentary is scheduled to air by the end of the year in both France and Germany… keep your eye out!

-Skylar Miller (S'03), LREP Manager

Lionfish Research Project Update: The First Week

The first week of research was a big week for the Lionfish research project. We oriented ourselves to our goals, methods, and systems. We discussed what an invasive species means, the invasion of lionfish, their life cycles, and their anatomy. On Thursday, we dissected lionfish in the lab. Our project began with learning external anatomy, including how to prevent lionfish stings. Next cut their bellies and look into the internal anatomy. We saw their key organs, and even their super stretch stomach that makes them such a successful predator. I found it especially interesting when we opened their stomach; we identified their stomach contents. This is especially significant because we identified their stomach contents to determine which species were suffering due to lionfish predation. I really enjoyed our dissection. The following week was our first field day. We went diving on a reef and practiced protocol for surveying a particular reef. The group was really excited to begin their work and get in the water. Stay tuned for new updates from the Lionfish research project! [slideshow]

"Conference Caffeine"

[slideshow] For those of us in the professional workplace, we know all too well that our day-to-day can get overwhelming, disheartening and sometimes banal. Even scientists, as exciting as our research can be, feel this too. At CEI, there is so much going that on that it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and take for granted this amazing place where we live and the truly interesting work we do. Long hours of fieldwork, scrubbing tanks, struggling through statistical analysis can sometimes can leave asking, “what is this all for?” To alleviate this, we look for “pick me ups”, which for many comes in the form of coffee, or, for the Brits among us, a cupp’a PG Tips. I find that taking a plunge into the ocean or a run around the loop also gets the job done. But these practices are…well, just not sustainable! The trick, I’ve discovered, to really get energized and motivated - I mean really excited about what you’re doing, your job, your day to day - is to attend a conference! Conferences bring like-minded people together to discuss similar topics of interest. They inform, spark dialogue, entice collaboration and get people enthusiastic about their work. I like to call this getting your “conference caffeine.”

Each year the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI, www.gcfi.org) holds a conference to promote the exchange of current information on the use and management of marine resources in the Gulf and Caribbean region. This is a tough task, given that the Caribbean alone is comprised of 28 island nations and over 7,000 individual islands! However, last week GCFI set out again to take charge. CEI Research Manager, Annabelle Brooks and I were fortunate to attend the 64th annual meeting, which was held this year in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, a small fishing village about 20 minutes south of Cancun. We joined government representatives, scientists, students, managers and fisherman for the week-long conference that included presentations on sustainable fisheries, management and socio-economics. Sitting through the sessions, I was excited to see the magnitude of work that other small islands, like Eleuthera, are taking on. Annabelle was invited to present during one of these sessions and did a great job representing CEI with her presentation, “Patch reefs as important habitat for Nassau grouper and Caribbean spiny lobster near Eleuthera, The Bahamas: Implications for MPA development,” which served to summarize and disseminate data that has been collected by Island School students since 2004.  I also had the opportunity to present information about CEI’s Lionfish Research and Education Program during the poster session, which proved to be a great venue to connect one-on-one with interested scientists and students. I was also invited to assist with the two-day Lionfish Collecting and Handling Special Workshop hosted by Lad Akins (REEF, www.reef.org). The workshop provided up-to-date information on this invasive species, lessons learned from areas already invaded and practical instruction in lionfish collecting, handling and monitoring for impacts. It was great to see the interesting and successful work that islands like Grand Cayman and Cuba have enacted to research and manage lionfish. This workshop will help build capacity for countries dealing with the invasion and was especially insightful for countries in the southern Caribbean who have just recently had their first lionfish sighting. I was able to lead a group of snorkelers from Guadeloupe and St. Lucia to experience their first capture of a lionfish. It was amazing to see their excitement when they learned how to use nets to capture the fish and safely handle, dissect and fillet them! It’s easy to feel isolated living on a small island, but working alongside people from other island nations helped remind me that - although we at CEI are nestled on the tiny area of Cow Point - we are part of the larger Caribbean community. The work we are doing is relevant, important and needs to be shared!

By the end of the week, I felt a definite sense of satisfaction and a newfound energy. Stepping off of the plane, I was happy to be back in Eleuthera. I felt reconnected with this island I now call home. I had been reminded of my passion for this place, for my work, and for my role as an environmental steward. GCFI gave me my “conference caffeine” and I’m eager to put this new energy, these new ideas and these connections to work.

By: Skylar Miller, Lionfish Research and Education, Sp ’03 Alum

F'11 First Lionfish Research Update

By Maddy Philipp and Katie Harpin [slideshow] Greetings from the Lionfish Research team! We are now three weeks into the program and have already learned so much. The purpose of our study is to look at how grouper and currents affect the distribution of invasive lionfish (Pterois volitans) found around Cape Eleuthera, Bahamas. So far we have gone on two mock dives. Unfortunately our second one got cut short due to an unexpected thunderstorm. We have also learned how to identify grouper and take the total length of fish from a distance underwater. For one of our classes, we took a trip to CEI and learned how to dissect a lionfish. From the dissection we could see what the lionfish had eaten. We also learned that lionfish can expand their stomachs up to 30 times its normal size. For another class we became scientist for a day and learned the correct structure for scientific papers. We have 3 research classes a week and two of those usually involve fieldwork. Although the readings may be strenuous, the lionfish team is excited to have the opportunity to work alongside biologists and helping to further the worlds knowledge on lionfish.