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Cape Eleuthera Institute

Patch Reef Research Update

An aquamarine ocean, stretching from the shallowest of waters to the deepest of abyss may be a lonely place; at times nothing but stretches of white sand and swaying sea grass is found upon the seafloor. Following a yellowtail snapper though, one may find themselves floating over a bustling patch reef. What is a patch reef you may ask? Located in shallow waters, these isolated coral reef outcrops, with an array of brightly colored fish and slow moving invertebrates; provide an essential transitional habitat for juvenile fish still unequipped for the strains of the open ocean. South Eleuthera’s state of fishing is in distress. Nassau grouper, lobster and conch - the ‘Holy Trinity’, along with an array of other ecologically important species are experiencing increased fishing pressure. With the economically depressed state of south Eleuthera, people are dependent on marine resources more than ever.

In order to help rejuvenate depleted species within the sea, Marine Protected Areas, better known as MPAs, are a viable option. Within a MPA, restrictions vary from no-take zones where fishing is prohibited to bans specific to recreation or fishing techniques. MPAs not only benefit the protected areas, but spillovers of larvae and adult organisms bolster neighboring reefs as well. From 2004 to now, The Island School Patch Reef Program has been on the front line of marine research. As a squad, the Fall 2011 Patch Reef class has been fighting currents, tides and the elements to gain as much insight into the ecological significance of the patch reefs. With an ever growing knowledge of fish species, the squad is prepared to assess species abundance and richness. Additionally, we determine rugosity, depth, length and width of the reef, as well as isolating a certain quadrat through the use of an underwater GoPro Hero 5000XL (a camera). Each class brings a new adventure, and with mask, fins and snorkel, we progress ever further down the road of conservation in south Eleuthera.

F'11 First Flats Research Update

The Fall 2011 Flats Research program kicked off their first class with Sam Saccomanno, Annie Blanc, Kate Maroni, Tori Suslovitch, Brendan McDonnell, Franklin Rodriguez, and our research advisors, Justin, Liane, and Ally. The focus of our research group is to study and raise awareness about mangrove conservation.[slideshow] What are flats and mangroves? Flats are the area between land and sea where there is a broad surface level but shallow depth. Flats can be shallower than just a few centimeters and as deep as 2 meters. Mangroves are a plant species that thrive in the flats ecosystem and are very important on both an ecological and economic level. They are important nursery grounds and breeding sites for birds, fish, crustaceans, shellfish, reptiles and mammals, are renewable source of wood, accumulation sites for sediment, contaminants, carbon and nutrients, and offer protection against coastal erosion. This past Friday we traveled to the Deep Creek Settlement, where we got the chance to explore and observe the actual Deep Creek and mangrove ecosystem. After organizing the items that we needed to collect our data, we marched through several feet of mud to the mouth of the creek. There, we unpacked our gear and prepared to survey the area. Brendan and Frankie began the data collection by measuring the width of the mouth; unfortunately, they only had a 10-meter measuring tape for a 130-meters worth of creek. To solve this dilemma, they resorted to a ‘leap-frog’ method, in which they swam around each other with the tape in order to get the measurement.

Next, the team came together to snorkel down the left side of the creek and record the numbers of different juvenile fish, as well as measure water temperature, salinity, and dissolved oxygen, and counted mangrove prop roots in different areas. We celebrated a successful first data collection with refreshing tamarind juice cups at a store in Deep Creek. The entire team enjoyed the nice weather and their first field experience in Flats Research.

Fall 2011 First Aquaculture Research Project Update!

[slideshow] Aquaculture Fall 2011 is off to a great start! Six enthusiastic students have embarked on a journey through the wild scientific studies of Aquaculture. Already, we have trod through mangroves, swum through strong currents, and collected 200 water samples in the past week. We have been testing pH level, levels of nitrogen and phosphorous, salinity, dissolved oxygen, and temperature of the water. The water sample data we collected is being used to see if the mangroves surrounding the school and institute filter the water efficiently. The water is collected outside of the CEI campus and is then used in the CEI labs to raise fish. After the water goes through CEI, it goes through the mangroves and back out into the ocean. Hopefully our water sample research will show that the mangroves do effectively filter the water. Later on in the semester, we will dive down ninety feet to our underwater Aquaculture cage in order to help inform ourselves on ways to improve the problems Aquaculture has faced. We will keep you updated on our progress throughout the rest of the semester!

Carlton University Field Course Videos

Every winter for the past few years, the Cape Eleuthera Institute has hosted biologist Nigel Waltho and a group of students from Carlton University in Ottawa, Ontario for a two-week dive-intensive field course. During their stay, the students develop individual projects on coral disease, reef health, fish communities, etc. At the conclusion of the course, they must put prepare and present a final report. Nigel has recently uploaded a number of videos from their time in Eleuthera. Check out all their videos here!