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Gap Year

Gap Year Update

Gap Year 2014 We’re officially back on campus safe and sound! Over the past two weeks we have been embracing the adventure and outdoor education component of the Gap Year Program here at CEI.  We have had the time of our lives traveling along the island of Eleuthera by kayak one week and by van the next.

Our kayak trip took us along the Eleutheran coast through the Bahamas Banks.  Paddling by day, in the evenings we would bring our kayaks onto the beach and set up camp, cooking dinner on an open fire despite what turned out to be one of our biggest challenges - the bugs! Every night bar the last one a storm rolled in with lots of rain and some lighting and thunder. Despite it all, though, we still had a great time.  We also all survived our solo experiences - 27 hours of solitary thought and reflection on a secluded beach on the banks. 

After visiting the Hatchet Bay Caves the team is adorned in creative mud designs.

Sunday morning after the kayak trip, we headed “down island” for a week of car camping. We visited some pretty amazing locations including blue holes, caves, and abandoned beach resorts. One definite highlight of the trip was Hatchet Bay Caves. Here we were all able to let out our inner spelunkers; we descended down three levels into the caves and at the bottom-most level preceded to cover ourselves in mud designs.  At the end of every day, no matter where we had gone, we got to set up our tents right on the beach and wake up to beautiful sun rises in the morning. We were immersed in the culture, history and environment of this place, and as a result have become more connected to Eleuthera - the island we now call home.  All in all, we’re sad the trip is over but we’re all looking forward to what the next three weeks has to offer!

Gap Year Student Update

The Fall Gap Year Program is underway and boy have the gappers come a long way since we met, as seven strangers, at the Rock Sound Airport three weeks ago. With our fearless leaders, Liz and Pat, we have become a tight-knit family. Between getting SCUBA certified and oriented to campus, we had an action-packed first week. Gap Years 2014 clean up community service at ocean hole in red

At the start of our second week, we really got into the swing of things. We began our classes, Human Ecology and Environmental Issues, where we learned how to live more sustainably in our daily lives. Each of us chose a topic of interest to research and present to the rest of the group.

Gap Year 2014 sense of place class

For example, we learned about climate change, inlet dredging, and the harmful effects of our reliance on oil. Each afternoon, after class, we had the opportunity to shadow the research groups that study sharks, sea turtles, lionfish, and flats. Experiencing first hand the inside world of research being done around us was incredible. During this second week, we also began our morning exercise routine to prepare for our upcoming triathlon and our weekly community service.

ocean hole cleanup gap years 2014

The Island School community has been incredibly welcoming. On the third week, we were invited to a CEI wedding, where we danced to the Rum Runners, a local Eleutheran band. Each week we look forward to having a family dinner at Liz’s house. Last week, we made lionfish tacos and played corn-hole with local kids.

We have been taking advantage of our surroundings so much so that the salt seems to never dry off our skin. We have already learned so much in our time here at The Island School, most importantly the significance of relationships with both the people around us and the environment we live in. We are excited to explore Eleuthera during our kayak and down island expeditions over the next two weeks.

Gap Year Students in the Field with the Lionfish and Sustainable Fisheries Teams

lionfish dissection external Gap Year students spent an afternoon with the sustainable fisheries program, dissecting lionfish and engaging in discussion about the invasive species. During the dissection students poked at lionfish visceral fat and removed the fishes' venomous spines, among other organs. The dissection was a hands-on way to see how these habitat and feeding generalists thrive in the Bahamas. They eat during all hours of the day and, as a result, have more visceral fat than most fish. Understanding mechanisms which make lionfish such successful invaders is an important first step to effective management of the species.

After learning about the latest research regarding lionfish prey preferences and feeding habits, Gap Year students headed into the field to try their hand at catching prey fish for the lab.  Armed with fins, snorkels, and hand nets, the team of 5 targeted juvenile fish which could be used in lab choice trials.  Despite initial setbacks (catching fish has a learning curve!) the excursion was ultimately a success and a collection of damselfish, silversides, and grunts made their way back to the CEI wet lab.

Final weeks, final research with the Gap Year students

Gap Year students after completing their annual triathalon The Spring 2014 Gap Year students are nearing the end of their program here at CEI. The last portion of the course is a three week internship with one of our research programs at the Institute. Below are accounts from both students on how their experience has been since joining the Sustainable Fisheries and Shark Research and Conservation Program, respectively.

Katlin Tilly

After two weeks on the Sustainable Fisheries team, focusing on lionfish, I have learned a lot and continued to develop my passion for sustainable fisheries.  The first week was spent planning outreach ideas for increasing demand for lionfish on Eleuthera. I love doing outreach work so I found this aspect very enjoyable. I got to get hands-on experience in the lab by assisting with the continued lobster/lionfish displacement experiment. During the second week we were joined by an educational program teaching them about the lionfish issues that are currently affecting the Caribbean. This group also got to experience a lionfish dissection and we went out into the field to catch some reef fish for our future experiments. Video analysis was a big focus of my internship, which has taught me a lot about the amount of time that goes into research, I am hugely grateful for this opportunity and am excited for my final week with the team.

Aren Lawton

_Y1A2447For the past two weeks I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to intern with the Shark research and Conservation team. The projects that are currently underway are a study on how a decrease in pH affects yellow stingrays and a new project starting this Spring that is a study of deep water species in the Bahamas. I have been able to work with both projects, from assisting in taking blood from the Yellow Stingrays to helping build the 16 deep sea traps. It has been a great insight into how shark research is performed and I have a lot of new skills under my belt!