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Conch

CEI/ Island School Research Expo a big success

Spring 2015 Island School Student plays a sea turtle Jeopardy! game with Youth Action Island Summit attendees. (Photo Credit-Cam Powel) On Saturday, June 6, Spring 2015 Island School students participated in the Research Expo, their final Research Class assignment, which coincided with the Youth Action Island Summit hosted at the Island School. For the Research Expo, each group was required to focus on the “bigger picture” of conservation in their research area and present their conservation message through the use of games, trivia, slide shows, and their Research Poster.

Spring 15 Island School student shows a tour group how to measure a queen conch. Photo credit: Cam Powell

 

This assignment was a great way for the students to show off all they have learned this semester, as well as to allow the students to demonstrate their abilities to speak to various audiences, such as young Bahamians, scientists, and UN delegates

The Spring 2015 Plastics Research Group presents to the Youth Action Island Summit attendees

At the end of the Research Expo, the Spring 2015 Plastics Research Group presented their findings to everyone in attendance. The audience was very impressed, with one Summit attendee praising the students for doing graduate level research in high school.

Spring 2015 Island School students discuss their findings on post-release survivorship with Jack Johnson and Youth Island Action Summit attendees (Photo Credit-Cam Powel)

Overall, the Research Expo was a success. The students enjoyed meeting people of various backgrounds, answering questions about their research, and demonstrating all that they have learned this semester. Their final research posters, which were displayed at the Research Expo, can be found here.

CEI outreach at Earth Day Event

Last weekend, the Sustainable Fisheries team packed up a van full of educational materials and headed to Governor’s Harbour for the annual Earth Day event, hosted by One Eleuthera, to showcase the ongoing sustainable projects at The Cape Eleuthera Institute. A member of the sustainable fisheries team, Alexio, gets interviewed by ZNS on the invasive species, the lionfish (1)

Representatives from Aquaponics and the Center for Sustainable Development also joined to demonstrate their projects. A working model of an Aquaponics system using a tank with tilapia and a grow bed with lettuce and basil resting on top, informed onlookers on ways to harvest both fish and vegetables sustainably. Many young kids were also enthralled by the demonstration on how to make biodiesel from used vegetable oil.

Mike Cortina, a member of the Center for Sustainable Development, teaches children how to make biodiesel from used vegetable oil (1)As for the Sustainable Fisheries team, the lionfish displayed prominently on the front table of the booth was a huge success, luring people in to ask questions about the invasive predator. For many children who passed by, this was the first lionfish they had ever seen. When asked if they had ever eaten lionfish, many of the visitors to the booth had never tried it, but the team encouraged people to start asking for lionfish in restaurants to increase the demand and create a more prominent fishery for lionfish. Some Bahamians and visitors were hesitant to try because of the venomous spines, but when they looked over the fillet guide on display, many people seemed to be interested in filleting and preparing their own lionfish in the future. A handful of people who spearfish told the team that whenever they see a lionfish they spear it because they know they are harmful to the reef. Most, however, did not know that they could eat lionfish and they were excited when they discovered they could eat the white and flaky lionfish meat.

Many women loved the idea of using lionfish fins to create earrings, and the younger groups passing by enjoyed touching the fins on display. Many of the children left the booth with face paintings of lionfish and sea creatures and kept coming back for more.

Ann holds up the lionfish slayer t-shirt she won in a drawing after signing up for The Cape Eleuthera Institute updates and newsletter

For those who signed up for The Cape Eleuthera Institute newsletter and weekly update, their names were entered into a raffle to win a “Lionfish Slayer: You Slay We Pay” t-shirt. Two lucky people received the shirts after two drawings, and pictured below is one of the winners, Ann Gates, a frequent visitor to Eleuthera.

ZNS, the local Bahamian news station, interviewed one member of the Sustainable Fisheries team about our projects on invasive lionfish. The segment will be shown to inform people who were not at Earth Day about the invasive predator, the destruction they are doing to the reefs, and ways that we can help with the invasion by eating and wearing lionfish!

Sustainable Fisheries team represents at Rock Sound Homecoming

This past Saturday, the Sustainable Fisheries team travelled to Rock Sound for the annual Homecoming to represent The Cape Eleuthera Institute. The booth, decorated with educational materials pertaining to invasive lionfish, was a success. Both locals and visitors approached the booth with questions and were intrigued by the live lionfish that was on display in a tank on the table. CEI team manning the booth at Rock Sound Homecoming

As people wandered by, the team educated the curious onlookers about the venomous spines, how to properly remove the spines and fillet the fish, common misconceptions about the lionfish, as well as the damage they are doing to the reefs.

Kids come face to face with the invasive lionfish

The team also advertised the Slayer Campaign; this campaign incentivizes local fishermen to spear lionfish. The team emphasized how tasty lionfish are to eat, pointing out the “You Slay, We Pay” motto hanging from the tent next to the wonderful illustrations of grouper, conch, and crawfish holding up signs saying “Eat More’ Lionfish”..

The team wore their lionfish fin earrings to show off the beautiful jewelry that can be made from the non-venomous spines, so not only are lionfish tasty, but they can create beautiful, sustainable, jewelry.

Bags of sustainably grown lettuce from the CEI/CSD aquaponics system were handed out to also people about the other projects at The Cape Eleuthera Institute.

Fun and learning at the CEI booth

The Sustainable Fisheries team will have a similar booth set up for Earth Day and they hope to continue raising awareness about the different research projects happening at the Cape Eleuthera Institute and how to live sustainably.

CEI Researchers attend GCFI Conference in Barbados

67LogoCEI researchers Claire Thomas and Zach Zuckermen attended the 67th Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute in Barbados the first week of November. This conference focused on small islands and developing nations, and gave Claire and Zach and opportunity to talk about their work in Eleuthera. An adult queen conch found grazing during summer surveys.

Claire's talk focused on her recent assessment of essential queen conch habitat in South Eleuthera. Her main findings were that there are low densities of adults and juveniles in shallow water habitat, and that populations of adult breeding conch have declined severely in the past 20 years. Also, she pointed out that the area in South Eleuthera proposed as a marine protected area might be beneficial to shallow water inhabitants, but does not include any of the important breeding grounds.

Zach's talk focused on Rapid Ecological Assessments (REAs) performed in South Eleuthera tidal and mangrove habitat. These REAs are a quick and cost-effective way to get an initial assessment at levels of anthropogenic impact in nearshore habitats, as well as species richness and number of economically important species that utilize specific creeks. This research has been important in South Eleuthera, particularly because it involves local students getting involved as citizen scientists. The project has helped to raise mangrove awareness to local communities.

The GCFI conference is a big collaboration with scientists and managers from several Caribbean countries. Claire and Zach were excited to network with several other scientists, and hope to expand their research projects in the near future.

Brookwood School Visits CEI

Brookwood School students and teachers recently headed back to Massachusetts after their school’s first visit to Cape Eleuthera Institute. During their 6-day adventure the group was able to learn more about the sustainability initiatives in practice around campus and explore some of the local environments. After visiting these places, students were able to develop a better understanding of the impact that they as individuals and humans have on the marine environment. Brookwood Educational Programs paige creek snorkel

Students started off their adventure with field lessons in coral reef and mangrove ecology. When snorkeling to explore these areas, many were surprised by the warm water temperature and the abundance of colorful fish. So different from the coastal waters back home in the New England area! The group spent a lot of time in the water; they snorkeled above the aquaculture cage, explored some patch reefs, swam in a blue hole, visited Lighthouse Beach, and even went out on a night snorkel!

One student describes his snorkeling experience, “Some of the best parts of the trip are the parts I didn’t expect. First of all, we snorkel A LOT. From snorkeling at night (terrifically terrifying), to snorkeling at 6:30am, to snorkeling in water the color of blue Gatorade, I snorkeled more than most people do in a lifetime. I never got sick of sand dollars, conchs, sea stars, and crabs.”

Brookwood Educational Programs ocean snorkel

 

Brookwood Educational Programs down island trip (DIT) at the caves

Another afternoon, everyone had the chance to split up into smaller groups and get a firsthand look at what some of the research groups were currently up to. One group went out seining with the flats ecology team, another helped dissect a lionfish, and the third learned about conch and its importance to The Bahamas. The next day, Brookwood took a mini down island trip and had some time to sit and reflect upon their journey. Disconnected from internet and electronics, many felt that the trip was a challenging and enlightening experience. Students were challenged to step out of their comfort zones, work together as part of a community, and to be inquisitive about their surroundings. Below, a few students describe some of their experiences:

“The trip offered incredible amounts of leadership opportunities. We were entrusted with the inner workings of the place, like working dish crew, which was actually one of the most valuable experiences of the trip. At the Island School there were almost no rules, so we had a lot of freedom. Also, in the airport we had to take care of ourselves.”   Brookwood student

Brookwood Educational Programs seining lemon sharks, Eric Schneider

“I came up to release my first fish from the seine net; it was a juvenile barracuda. It must have been trapped after we had scared them into the net and in a crazed frenzy to get out it had gotten stuck.  I felt its heartbeat and the life pulsing in it.  I slowly removed its fin from the net and flattened it and pulled the fish out carefully.  I held it for a minute watching it’s large teeth ebb and flow with the waves and then it suddenly burst from my grasp.  Leaving me yearning for the comforting heartbeat.” #fishlover #cuda  #flats   – Ben Gibson

“We jump off things a lot. This morning we jumped off a bridge, this afternoon, a cliff. My drive to see what was in the water got me through my paralyzing fear of heights, something I never anticipated.”  Brookwood student

“The Island School campus is awesome because it is such a tight-knit community. In Massachusetts, of course I’d say, “Hi,” “Excuse me,” or “Sorry” to a stranger, but I’ve never experienced a full-blown conversation with an adult while waiting in the lunch line. Now, this might seem like it’s not a big deal, but there are not many people here at all. Everyone is so friendly: natives and travelers from all across the world. I feel 100% more confident talking or just waving to complete strangers. And they appreciate it, I think, because they always smile and wave back. And, everyone works together, which definitely contributes to making this place so friendly.”   – John McKean

Brookwood Educational Programs cobia snorkel

Overall, Brookwood was thrilled with their visit and could hardly wait to share their experiences with family and friends. Students and teachers left Eleuthera feeling inspired by their newly acquired knowledge of sustainable systems and ready to put it into practice  upon return to Massachusetts. The program was a great success and many students are already encouraging younger siblings and classmates to participate next year!

If you’d like to read more about Brookwood’s adventures, you can check out their blog here.