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Sharks

Global Finprint Project: Nassau Expedition

A juvenile tiger shark  (Galeocerdo cuvier) - one of three captured on camera Last week, four members of the Shark Research and Conservation Program (SRCP) travelled to Nassau, New Providence to participate in a global effort to assess the abundance and diversity of apex predators on coral reefs, termed The Global Finprint Project (GFP). The GFP is a Paul G. Allen initiative, facilitating global cooperation between various scientific institutions. The main goal is to collect abundance and diversity data on reef-associated elasmobranchs in order to provide a valuable baseline pertaining to their current population trends.  The call to assess the health of these populations is critical, as many are either listed by the IUCN as data deficient, or are showing rapid declines.  The GFP is the largest study of its kind ever undertaken, and the SRCP is responsible for surveying a multitude of sites across the greater Caribbean.

Abundance and diversity data is collected through a scientifically accepted, non-invasive methodology, Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUVs).  BRUV’s consist of a camera, weighted frame, and bait arm, which provides a concentrated plume, designed to attract predators. BRUVS are deployed for 90-minute ‘soak’ periods in order to allow enough time for the plume to travel and disperse within the water column.  Over seven days the team collected over 100 hours of video from two regions (south west, and north east) off Nassau, New Providence, from depths ranging from 2m to 30m.

 

Two Caribbean reef sharks (Carcharhinus perezi) feeding from a bait crate

Preliminary assessment of the video data suggest a diverse array of sharks and other predators associated with reefs around Nassau. The team identified hammerhead, Caribbean reef, blacknose, nurse, and tiger sharks, as well as southern stingrays, amberjack, turtles and a Spanish mackerel.  Failing to robustly assess the diversity and the relative abundance of these animals has large implications for their effective management, and data collected from Nassau provides an intrinsic step to facilitating the success of this global conservation effort. Finally, our team would like to extend large thanks to Stuart Cove’s for their generous hospitality during this trip.

 

A southern stingray (Dasyatis americana) passing a BRUV unit

 

 

A busy week with The Island School Research Symposium and Parent's Week

Last Thursday was The Island School Research Symposium! It is a highlight of Parent's Week, and a time for parents to hear about the good work being done by their sons and daughters. Throughout the semester, The Island School students have collaborated with CEI researchers, contributing to ongoing research projects. They have been studying various ecosystems around Eleuthera, including inland ponds, the pelagic zone, the deep sea, shallow water sandbars, and tidal creeks . Dr. Craig Dahlgren discussing the current state of coral reefs in The Bahamas.

 

In all, nine projects were presented, and Dr. Craig Dahlgren, Senior Research Scientist for the Bahamas National Trust, concluded the event with a talk on the state of coral reefs in The Bahamas. All nine projects are being featured on our Instagram (@CEIBahamas) and Facebook pages, so please check them out for more details on the amazing research done this semester!

CEI Stingray Research Group takes Bahamian Staff out for a day of ‘Inreach’

Last week, the Stingray Research Group, headed by Dr. Owen O’Shea, took 15 of our Bahamian staff members out to The Schooner Cays– a location the majority of staff have never visited despite gracing the views from office windows all over campus. The goal was for the team to experience and learn the scientific objectives of this research project  Two groups of staff were organised into morning and afternoon trips, along with other ray team members. First, there was safety briefings and capture methodologies discussed in the boathouse, along with the objectives and conservation ambitions of this research, before heading out on the water to find rays. Dr. Owen O’Shea explains to the team how to tag stingrays, before Sophia Louis works up the ray

The morning group, featuring kitchen manager Sophia Louis, guest services employee Corey Lightborne, and Bio-diesel engineer Sammy Dorcent, saw five stingrays caught in just 3 hours, including three new individuals, and the retrieval of one of our data loggers. The team was enthused and excited to be part of this research, and preconceptions regarding these gentle animals were challenged, with every member participating in either catching or working up animals.

The morning group

The afternoon session saw a slightly tighter schedule (largely due to inclement weather), and included head of facilities Oscar Knowles, most of the accounts team, and campus mechanic Valentino Hall, who helped catch two additional rays. We were also able to deploy a data logger and, like the morning team, we travelled back to Cape Eleuthera to the sound of joyous discussion on how valuable the experience was. Requests for further expeditions have been made, and certainly the Stingray Research Group aims to make another trip before Christmas, for those staff unable to attend this one.

The afternoon group

Stingrays are among a group of animals poorly understood and often feared among Bahamians, and so sharing this work and allowing up close and personal interactions with these rays has dispelled myths and changed perceptions, certainly among those staff who attended.

CEI Shark team working on Oceanic Whitetip Project

Please click HERE to learn more about the oceanic whitetip project that has been going on in The Bahamas in collaboration with the Save Our Seas Foundation and Stony Brook University.  

The main objective of the project is to tag oceanic whitetips in The Bahamas, a shark sanctuary, and to track their movements. This can be compared to areas of protection vs. potential threats. This information can then be used to influence policy and management on a national level.

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More research from Brendan Talwar

Click HERE for the latest update from MSc student Brendan Talwar's research on deep sea sharks- this time focusing on blood chemistry analysis! New equipment that Brendan is working with!