by Amelia Patsalos-Fox, Shane Wetmore, Sterling Wright On Saturday we went out to free dive for conch in the shallows near the sandbar to see how many adults we could find. It was a nice first experience for us and it taught us how to find conch even when they are camouflaged in the sand. For the past week we have been focusing on queen conch identification, history of the conch fishery, and ways to survey the population effectively. Our most exciting experience so far has been in the field. We were able to travel out into Cape Eleuthera Sound and take our first peek at some conch. As we snorkeled around, we practiced our free diving and determining live queen conch from dead shells. We mostly saw juveniles and a few sub-adult sizes. We then gathered in a group in the water to practice identifying differences between juvenile and sexually mature conch shells. This was very helpful in learning about the shells. It was extremely hands on and we had the help of a visiting conch researcher, Catherine Booker, from Community Conch, a Bahamian non-profit organization. She had given us a presentation previously on conch in the Bahamas and it was amazing to see her teach us about proper ways spot conch. All in all it was a positive experience and was very helpful towards our future in surveying the density of conchs in the Cape Eleuthera Bite.
The following week we were able to go out and start experimenting with collecting real data. Our project hopes to identify the population density of queen conch near Cape Eleuthera by conducting long surveys where a snorkeler is towed by a boat. Though it was rather cold in the water, we successfully practiced our hand signals to spotters on the boat and identifying the conch shell size classes properly. Each of us was able to get into the water and do a practice tow. Though our abundance values varied at times, we were pleased with our progress. After a long day of practice today, we are finally ready to start working out in the field for our official data.