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Educational Programs

Educational Programs Team hosts Akhepran International Academy

While all visiting groups are special to us here at CEI, certain ones touch our hearts in unique and unexpected ways. Akhepran International Academy, visiting us for the first time from Nassau, was one group that made a big impact in their short time with us. Students sit on the beach to hold turtles as the research team takes their measurements

On Monday August 24, 10 students along with 2 teachers arrived from New Providence and jumped straight into the island school life. They had a jam packed day to orient them to our campus, complete with a sustainable systems tour and awesome day one snorkeling.

The rest of the week had a large emphasis on working with our IMG_5503research teams and discussing the implications of their work on our world. Lloyd Allen, head chaperone and a teacher at Akhepran, has a big vision for his scholars and hoped that in their time here they would see the plethora of career options in sciences and engineering and be inspired to pursue their passions.

Some students have dreams of being engineers. These students really enjoyed learning about our aquaponics system with Michael Bowleg and spoke excitedly about going home and engineering their own aquaponics system at home. Others dream of being marine biologists and, after a morning learning about and dissecting lionfish, want to go back to Nassau and tell everyone they know about this invasive species and get them to eat lionfish instead of more commonly overfished species.

These examples are just the beginning of this group’s studies.

Students assist researchers  studying stingrays

Their curiosity, questions, and positive approach to life made them a joy to spend the week with. By the end of the week many spoke about how their perspectives on the ocean had shifted and they had learned to love the ocean they grew up around even more. One student said, “every time a wave hits against me it’s like a kiss from mother nature” and another admitted that she had fears about the ocean, but that swimming in it and “being one with the fish” showed her she didn’t need to be so afraid.

This was truly a week of growth and inspiration, and even though their trip was cut short by threats of a hurricane, we look forward to this relationship and have hopes to visit their school in Nassau in the future.

BREEF 2015 Summer Camp at CEI!

chris blogOn Friday, August 21st, the Shark Research and Conservation Program at the Cape Eleuthera Institute was once again honored to host and be involved with 22 young Bahamian students from the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) Eleuthera Sea Camp for a full day of research-related activities. Friday capped off a week-long summer camp focused on the Eleuthera’s marine environment, and the relationships that residents of the Bahamas have with that environment.Firstly, students were introduced to our systems and facilities via a 60-minute walking tour of campus including a visit to our permaculture farm, aquaponics system, wet lab, and biodiesel facility. At each stop, members of the community informed students about sustainable farming practices, biodiesel production, and how we grow fish to not only eat, but that help us grow our lettuce and herbs. Following the campus tour, the students ate a picnic lunch at the Boathouse with members of the Shark Team.

Dr. Owen O'Shea describes the importance of understanding how stingray biology influences the environment around the Bahamas.

The afternoon was full-on, filled with the CEI shark research team, shark handling demonstrations, and a stingray tagging experience. Research Technician Cameron Raguse kicked things off with a short presentation on shark ecology, explaining their role as a top-predator in the Bahamas and how integral they are to maintaining a stable ecosystem. The students then split into groups alternating between two activities: one with Dr. Owen O’Shea and his team for stingray tagging; and one with University of Illinois graduate student, Ian Bouyoucos demonstrating shark handling and physiology. In each case, the students got an in-depth look at research here at CEI, as well as getting up-close with some often misunderstood animals.

an Bouyoucos, M.Sc candidate at the University of Illinois, prepares to show the students a juvenile lemon shark.

At the end of the day, the group left with a better understanding of elasmobranchs as a whole, and a deeper appreciation for the wildlife right at their doorstep.

To check out photos from the camp, go to our Flickr album!

 

Flyfishing, snorkeling and exploring South Eleuthera with Flats Week!

This past week, Flats Ecology and Conservation Program of the Cape Eleuthera Institute welcomed four students to our campus for Flats Week. Lead by Aaron Shultz, CEI director, and Georgie Burruss, Flats Ecology and Conservation Program research technician, as well as the summer interns, Connor Gallagher, Emilie Geissinger, and Chase Goldston, the group spent the week conducting research, flyfishing, snorkeling, and exploring South Eleuthera. DCIM166GOPRO

Two of the students learned how to fly fish for the first time. The group fished for bonefish for two days on the flats of South Eleuthera with Manex, a local bonefishing guide from South Eleuthera, and ended up successfully landing several bonefish. The group assisted with the Bahamas Initiative bonefish tagging program, founded by the Bonefish and Tarpon Trust (BTT), Fisheries Conservation Foundation (FCF), and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). A genetic sample was also taken from each bonefish caught as part of a genetic connectivity study by Dr. Elizabeth Wallace (FWC), Christopher Haak (University of Massachusetts Amherst). The Flats team spoke with the students about the controversial proposed regulations for managing the bonefishing industry in the Bahamas. The team highlighted the need for regulation of the bonefish fishery in the name of conservation. The group contributed to research with Carleton University’s Cooke Lab graduate student, Petra Szekeres, looking at how light pollution effects adult bonefish and learning how to conduct chase to exhaustion experiments. They also assisted Petra in catching over 30 juvenile bonefish to return to CEI for experiments, making it one of the most successful days yet for juvenile bonefish collection. They spent a day at a local pond, assisting the Inland Pond Project as well as flyfishing. The students snorkeled blue holes, learned about their formation and also saw several southern stingrays and many fish species. The students ended their week with a short down island trip, traveling to the banyan tree, the Rock Sound ocean hole, and the bat caves, focusing on how tourism and development has shaped South Eleuthera.

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If you are interested in participating in Flats Week in August 2016, please visit the CEI short courses webpage.

The South Eleuthera Children's Camp celebrates its 20th year!

Friday, July 24th marked the culmination of the 20th summer of the South Eleuthera Children’s Camp at Cape Eleuthera. Fourteen children between the ages of 8 and 14 attended the one-week camp designed to introduce campers to the ocean and teach them about marine issues and conservation. For many young campers, this was their first contact with the ocean and on day one they are taught to face their fears of the sea as they dive in and learn how to swim. One camp counselor describes her first day as "inspiring" and "of real importance to children who live in such close proximity to the ocean". All 14 campers passed their swim test and three days later dove into the deep blue of the Exuma Sound. When asked about their favorite part of camp, many children stated that facing their fears and jumping into the deep blue sea was the highlight of their journey. Aside from learning to swim, the campers learned about ocean conservation and the marine creatures that inhabit their waters. At the end of the week, each camper gave a presentation of what they had learned to an audience of master student scientists from around the world.

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Two current, CapeEleuthera Island School employees were among the first campers in the two-decade-old tradition. Sammy Dorset of Tarpum Bay, attended the camp at age 15 and Shamara Burrows of Waterford, attended at age 9.

For both Sammy and Shamara, this camp was their first encounter with Island School founders, Chris and Pam Maxey and, for Shamara, her first encounter with the ocean and learning to swim.

Both Shamara and Sammy are now key contributors to The Island School community. Sammy is a Biodiesel Technician where he works to convert used cooking oil into usable diesel to supply Island School vehicles with a sustainable, alternative fuel. Shamara is part of the accounts team and works diligently to compensate and maintain good standing with our various vendors and suppliers. They both remember their experience at camp fondly and attribute much of their current success to their first contact with The Island School - at summer camp.

When asked about the origins of the Summer Camp, Chris Maxey said, “Our true roots here for supporting educational opportunities on Eleuthera began back in the summer of 1995 with the start of our South Eleuthera Camp. Long before The Island School or the Deep Creek Middle School we camped along the shore in the Casuarina forest. I am especially proud that two of our pioneer campers who back in the beginning lived in tents by Sunrise Beach are now working with us at Cape Eleuthera Island School. The camp journey is focused on exploring the marine environment and helping instill a conservation ethic in this next generation of South Eleuthera citizens; now this summer in our 20th year of running the camp we have reached well over 250 campers. We give special thanks to the Cotton Bay Foundation for funding this opportunity since it's inception.”

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The South Eleuthera Summer Camp is a tradition here to stay and to continue to inspire young people to understand, explore and love their environment.

Tandem Friends School visits CEI

Phoebe Shuylor, Emma Ward, and Rachael Alberts head to the creeks with Rachel and Grace from the sea turtle conservation team to do sea turtle abundance surveys. Earlier this May, we welcomed the very FIRST group of female students to ever visit CEI from Tandem Friends School in Charlottesville, Virginia.  This trip was planned as part of their school’s Emphasis Week, a time where students have an opportunity to travel and immerse themselves in learning experiences outside of the classroom, and they couldn’t have picked a better place!  The group spent a week exploring the reefs and creeks around South Eleuthera, adapting to living sustainably, and doing things that they might not be able to anywhere else in the world!

Admiring a lionfish's gape during a dissection with the sustainable fisheries team. Left to right- Kate Bollinger, Susan Wheeler, Emma Ward, Alanna Waldman, Rachael Alberts

Before Tandem Friends arrived, they had 3 things on their marine creature checklist- sharks, turtles, and sea stars.  Guess what?!  We managed to see all three!  After getting settled into dorms, everyone came down to dip their feet into the Bahamian waters.  Sure enough, the water was so calm and clear we spotted some sea stars from shore!  We spent much of the first full day out helping the turtle conservation team do abundance surveys and came across a few turtles in their natural habitat.  The next morning while snorkeling we came across the tiniest juvenile nurse shark hiding out in the wreck just off the beach!

A lot of the week spent in the water.  The girls learned about  all sorts of other marine life, whether they were snorkeling around coral reefs, floating through the mangroves, or wading in the shallows at night.  Everyone was even able to watch the stingray team capture and tag a Southern Stingray during a visit to learn about ooid geology at the sandbar!  The lionfish dissection with the sustainable fisheries team was another favorite- after learning about invasive species the girls got a chance to get their hands dirty and were even able to taste lionfish during dinner out at Sharil’s!  On the last full day we spent the afternoon on the picturesque Cotton Bay beach for some relaxation and reflection time.  What a perfect ending to a fun-filled week!!