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CEI Research Manager attends Coral Reef Strategic Planning Workshop

Cape Eleuthera institute coral reefs bahamas The Bahamas National Trust invited the Cape Eleuthera Institute to participate in a Strategic Planning Workshop  intended to develop a national strategy for improving the health of coral reef ecosystems and species that depend on them. The workshop took place June 23rd – 26th at the British Colonial Hilton in Nassau and was led by Dr. Craig Dahlgren. The aim of the meeting was to incorporate knowledge of island-specific and national issues, threats, and current or planned activities into the overall strategic plan.

 

 

Dr. Craig Dahlgren provides a review of coral reef ecology and threats present in The Bahamas.

Representatives from local research, conservation and education organizations also discussed ways to implement national strategies on a local level throughout The Bahamas.The Plan will integrate island specific and national coral reef conservation, education, restoration, management and policy efforts. The Disney Conservation Fund supported the workshop, and the Bahamas National Trust are also looking to build strategic partnerships to maximize the benefits from existing funding sources and to collaborate to target additional funding for island specific and national projects.

Group photo

Partners included: Bahamas Reef Environment Education Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, Department of Marina Resources, Save The Bays, Bahamas Agriculture and Marine Science Institute, Young Marine Explorers, Atlantis, Friends of the Environment, AGGRA, Shedd Aquarium, Andros Conservancy and Trust, and the New England Aquarium.

CEI is excited to be involved!

Lionfish June Patch Reef Surveys

The lionfish team recently completed their quarterly surveys of lionfish and other reef fish in the patch reef system of South Eleuthera, part of a longterm study. Adrian (SP 15 intern) does a great job removing a lionfish

This time around the team saw a few unfamiliar fish species on the reef.  First on the list are juvenile Bluelip parrotfish; these fish are not a usual site on the reefs and this may be the first time they were spotted in these parts.  Next the team saw the spotted hawk fish; which can be difficult to identify.  Lastly, a Bandtailed puffer popped in on one of the surveys.  Sadly the Bigeye that has been hanging out on one patch for the last nine months had moved on.

One of the lionfish removed during surveys

A total 91 lionfish were spotted from the 16 sites visited over the four days of diving. However,the team speared/netted 30 of those lionfish from removal reefs! The biggest one caught was 27 cm long and the smallest was 4 cm. Interestingly, they caught quite a few lionfish that were under 10 cm, which is great that they can remove the little ones off the reef before they have a chance to reproduce.

 

Research class update!

The following is an excerpt from an update by Island School student Patrick Henderson, talking about his Research Class, Fish Assessment: The School Research Class Reef Assessment team has been very busy already this semester. We meet at least 3 times a week and dive during 2 of these sessions. Our goal is to conduct an up-to-date assessment of the current status of commercially important fish in South Eleuthera. The data we collect will be compared to previous studies from 2009 in order to identify if there are any trends that show an increase or decline in fish density and biomass. Our goal is to provide unbiased data that could help inform future potential marine resource management strategies.

In class we hold discussions about scientific readings we have completed for homework assignments. In these discussions we question how the readings apply to our project, the subject/purpose of the reading, and how we can actively apply what we have learned from the readings in our research.

Students practicing using a t-bar during a reef transect

Our first week was spent primarily learning fish identification. This consisted of presentations about fish biology, body forms, markings, families, and species all to ensure that on our surveys we could accurately and correctly identify any fish that we came across.  These presentations were followed by fish point-out dives.

After we got a handle on identification we turned our focus to size estimates underwater. We worked in the classroom and underwater ensuring that every member could correctly estimate fish sizes and counts on dives.

Student Douglas Vetter on a class dive

We then began practice surveys using The Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) Program fish protocols. This consisted of classroom work as well as going out and practicing on actual reefs.  Each team member had to learn the different jobs that must be completed on a survey as well as the possible risks/problems that can arise if the protocols are ignored.

This past Wednesday the team went diving on a fore reef at 60ft. Accompanying us on this dive were 3 divemasters who monitored our survey and ensured our safety. Each dive consists of 3 teams of 2 students; the students take turns practicing each role. One student counts fish during the survey, while the other holds the tape measurer ensuring the Assessment follows AGGRA protocol. Soon we should be able to begin conducting actual assessments on reefs surrounding South Eleuthera.

Lionfish Team Spring Survey Update

The lionfish team at work March weather was perfect for the lionfish team as they visited 16 different patch reef sites for their quarterly surveys, observing fish species and abundance in relation to the presence of lionfish. Of the 16 sites, we remove lionfish from 8 of them every 3 months, comparing the removal reefs with non­removal reefs as a way to measure the impact of lionfish on the patch reef systems.

Shoal of yellow tail jacks came to say hi

At each patch all of the fish species present on the reef are counted for their relative abundance, especially the lionfish. Fish that compete for resources with lionfish, such as grunts, snapper, and grouper, are specifically noted along with their total body lengths. In addition to the roving survey and competitor observations, we also collected data on invertebrates, grouper, and parrotfish for three other studies. We counted the number of spiny lobster, queen conch, sea stars, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers on the reefs to add to a data set that will be part of an assessment for implementing a potential marine protected area.

The team still smiling after a 5 dive day

Throughout the course of the week of collecting data we saw an abundance of reef creatures, but most notably three nurse sharks, a large school of yellow jacks, a big eye which has remained on the same patch for over a year and is not commonly found on patch reefs, as well as a hawksbill sea turtle, also rarely sighted on these patches because they are critically endangered.

This week we look forward to dissecting the 22 lionfish that we collected from the removal sites to gather data on each fish, particularly which reef fish they have predated on.

Also, check out this video of the dives:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6v1zyiPb1Q&feature=youtu.be

Update From the Spring 2015 Gap Year Team

Here is an update from our Spring gappers:

Travel. A new place. A different rhythm. Novel colours, sounds and smells assail many a traveler as they set foot on foreign land. With this often comes the unmistakable adventure; something is just different as if the air itself was charged with anticipation. Arrival at CEI was no different (well maybe a little). With warm smiles and enthusiastic introductions, we were welcomed inside the community. The openness of those already here seemed to mitigate the shock of adjustment as we fell into the tight yet comprehensive embrace that defines the community.

August and the team teaching DCMS Fish ID class

Getting to know the aquaponics system first hand

From Aquaponics and permaculture, to ocean research with conservation in mind, we witnessed stimulating, cutting-edge projects that radiated a vibrant atmosphere of purpose and progress to the facility. Being exposed to this environment where sustainability is the main focus in all aspects prompted a plethora of concerns and reflections shared by the Gap students in the Human Ecology and Environmental Issues classes. How we've lived here will undoubtedly influence the way we act in relation to our environment and resources for the better, inspiring those around us, as we were here, to achieve a society where we can live in harmony with nature and its flows. And so on we strive.

Heading back a little in time, early February, we braved the cold and went on a kayak trip down to the settlement Green Castle. We learned how to create and sustain a fire using just one match; all of us achieved this! While out on our kayak adventure, we snorkeled at a blue hole where we were graced with the presence of five spotted eagle rays!

Emilio and Caroline on a marine ecology dive

Our time has also been spent diving. The boys started their advanced diver certifications, with one more dive, the night dive, to go! Research was a big theme, getting our hands into each of the different research teams. The adventure continued when we were on the island exploration trip, where our activities were as varied as surfing, heading down into the Hatchet Bay cave system, snorkeling with sea horses, jumping into a pristine blue hole, visiting Harbor Island, and also doing some community service at the Leon Levy Nature Preserve in Governors Harbour. Throughout our trip, we made gourmet camping meals and saw incredible views. We ended our trip with a 44 hour solo experience on Red Bay beach that gave time for reflection, for thinking about what this experience has meant, and the learnings taken from it.

Students at Glass Window Bridge on our island exploration trip

As we finish up the program, the team has been working on an internship with respective teams from both the Cape Eleuthera Institute and the Center for Sustainable Development. Emilio, a sharp young gentleman from Mexico’s heartland, is working in the aquaponics department. He has spent the past week digging the foundations of a new aquaponics bed, and he has loved every minute of it. Next, we have Caroline. She is working with the shark team, and although this is her first research experience, she is doing a great job assisting with video analysis of the deep water camera the Medusa, and also getting some field time. Last but not least, we have August. Born and raised in New York City, he wanted a taste of the country life, and has started work at the permaculture farm. While learning many essential farming techniques from a very hands-on perspective, he has started Haitian Creole lessons with some of the full-time farmers.  All gappers will give a presentation on the work they have done in a few weeks time, and although slightly nervous, we are very excited to share what we have learned with the greater community.