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Cape Eleuthera Institute

The Fish Have Arrived!

I repeat...THE FISH HAVE ARRIVED! [slideshow]

After much anticipation, we got the call! The cobia fingerlings had a long journey from The University of Miami’s experimental fish hatchery at RSMAS to the Cape Eleuthera Institute. We spent the day preparing the tanks for the fingerlings...scrub, rinse, soak, drain, scrub, rinse, fill! Marie and Josh took the truck to pick up the 13 boxes from the Rock Sound Airport Friday afternoon. It was like Christmas morning when the truck finally pulled up. We put the bags in the tank to acclimate the cobia to their new home. After, we opened each bag and carefully let them free! The fingerlings will be used in an upcoming feed trial. The new food is specifically designed for the cobia species and it has a lower percentage of fish meal than the typical generic aquaculture feed. We will study the growth rates of the fingerlings for a month and after that time we will transfer the cobia into a nursery net, housed in the off-shore cage, with it’s new shark resistant netting, and will be monitored daily. This is the first time fish will be stocked in an offshore cage with shark resistant netting.

CEI at the Abaco Science Alliance Conference

Last week members of the Cape Eleuthera Institute attended the 5th Abaco Science Alliance Conference. Every two years Friends of the Environment host this conference that showcases research being done on the areas of natural history and environmental science of Abaco and The Bahamas. This two day event was held in Marsh Harbour and addressed a wide range of subjects, from cave formations to migrating birds. CEI’s aquaculture manager, Marie Tarnowski, presented on the development of the Sustainable Aquaculture Program at CEI and Annabelle Brooks, Research Manager at CEI, presented findings on lemon shark abundances in mangrove creeks around South Eleuthera. CEI’s Flats manager, Liane Nowell, presented a poster that focused on bonefish handling practices and the bonefish tagging program while Josh Shultz, Aquaponics manager at CEI, presented a poster that focused on developing aquaponics in The Bahamas. This was the first time anyone from the Cape Eleuthera Institute had presented at the Abaco Science Alliance. All attendees from CEI had a great time not only learning about other facets of research in The Bahamas, but also sharing our own novel research and making great connections. Representatives from CEI look forward to attending future Abaco Science Alliance Conferences.

[slideshow]

CEI November Shark Expedition

[slideshow] The Geronimo, an experiential education vessel operated by St. George’s School from Newport, Rhode Island, under the direction of Captain Stephen Connett, conducted shark research cruises from the early 1970's through to the mid 1990's throughout the western Atlantic. From autumn 1979 through to spring 1981, regular seasonal surveys were conducted in Bahamian waters focusing on a shallow bank known as "the bridge" that connects the southern tip of Eleuthera to the northern tip of Cat Island. The data resulting from these surveys, representing a snapshot of Bahamian shark abundance from over 30 years ago, have never been rigorously analyzed or published. Edd Brooks, manager of the Shark Research and Conservation Program at CEI, is collaborating with Stephen Connett and Jeff Stein (University of Illinois) to recreate these surveys over the next two years, with the goal of identifying potential shifts in the diversity, abundance and demographic population structure of sharks in the North East Exuma Sound over the last 30 years. The first field season took place earlier this month and Edd, Jeff, and Stephen successfully completed surveys of the bridge with the assistance of two Bahamas Environmental Stewards Scholars, Ann Marie Carroll and Brandon Jennings, Stephanie Liss (former CEI shark program intern and graduate student at University of Illinois) and Christopher Koch. Christopher, an experienced captain and diver, has supported the Shark Research and Conservation Program since his daughters, Hanna and Melanie, studied at The Island School in Fall 2006 and Fall 2008, and offered to return to Eleuthera once again to help on this exciting expedition. Just goes to show that IS alumni aren't the only ones that can come back to The Island School and CEI--parents can, too!

"Conference Caffeine"

[slideshow] For those of us in the professional workplace, we know all too well that our day-to-day can get overwhelming, disheartening and sometimes banal. Even scientists, as exciting as our research can be, feel this too. At CEI, there is so much going that on that it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture and take for granted this amazing place where we live and the truly interesting work we do. Long hours of fieldwork, scrubbing tanks, struggling through statistical analysis can sometimes can leave asking, “what is this all for?” To alleviate this, we look for “pick me ups”, which for many comes in the form of coffee, or, for the Brits among us, a cupp’a PG Tips. I find that taking a plunge into the ocean or a run around the loop also gets the job done. But these practices are…well, just not sustainable! The trick, I’ve discovered, to really get energized and motivated - I mean really excited about what you’re doing, your job, your day to day - is to attend a conference! Conferences bring like-minded people together to discuss similar topics of interest. They inform, spark dialogue, entice collaboration and get people enthusiastic about their work. I like to call this getting your “conference caffeine.”

Each year the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI, www.gcfi.org) holds a conference to promote the exchange of current information on the use and management of marine resources in the Gulf and Caribbean region. This is a tough task, given that the Caribbean alone is comprised of 28 island nations and over 7,000 individual islands! However, last week GCFI set out again to take charge. CEI Research Manager, Annabelle Brooks and I were fortunate to attend the 64th annual meeting, which was held this year in Puerto Morelos, Mexico, a small fishing village about 20 minutes south of Cancun. We joined government representatives, scientists, students, managers and fisherman for the week-long conference that included presentations on sustainable fisheries, management and socio-economics. Sitting through the sessions, I was excited to see the magnitude of work that other small islands, like Eleuthera, are taking on. Annabelle was invited to present during one of these sessions and did a great job representing CEI with her presentation, “Patch reefs as important habitat for Nassau grouper and Caribbean spiny lobster near Eleuthera, The Bahamas: Implications for MPA development,” which served to summarize and disseminate data that has been collected by Island School students since 2004.  I also had the opportunity to present information about CEI’s Lionfish Research and Education Program during the poster session, which proved to be a great venue to connect one-on-one with interested scientists and students. I was also invited to assist with the two-day Lionfish Collecting and Handling Special Workshop hosted by Lad Akins (REEF, www.reef.org). The workshop provided up-to-date information on this invasive species, lessons learned from areas already invaded and practical instruction in lionfish collecting, handling and monitoring for impacts. It was great to see the interesting and successful work that islands like Grand Cayman and Cuba have enacted to research and manage lionfish. This workshop will help build capacity for countries dealing with the invasion and was especially insightful for countries in the southern Caribbean who have just recently had their first lionfish sighting. I was able to lead a group of snorkelers from Guadeloupe and St. Lucia to experience their first capture of a lionfish. It was amazing to see their excitement when they learned how to use nets to capture the fish and safely handle, dissect and fillet them! It’s easy to feel isolated living on a small island, but working alongside people from other island nations helped remind me that - although we at CEI are nestled on the tiny area of Cow Point - we are part of the larger Caribbean community. The work we are doing is relevant, important and needs to be shared!

By the end of the week, I felt a definite sense of satisfaction and a newfound energy. Stepping off of the plane, I was happy to be back in Eleuthera. I felt reconnected with this island I now call home. I had been reminded of my passion for this place, for my work, and for my role as an environmental steward. GCFI gave me my “conference caffeine” and I’m eager to put this new energy, these new ideas and these connections to work.

By: Skylar Miller, Lionfish Research and Education, Sp ’03 Alum

CEI Enters Grant Proposal to Solution Search

Over the past few weeks, Dave Philipp, Julie Claussen, Peter Zdrojewski, Skylar Miller, and Liane Nowell, scientists and faculty members from CEI and Island School have been working on a grant proposal to enter in RarePlanet's Solution Search, which rewards innovative conservation successes in communities where the need is greatest. This specific Solution Search is focused projects that address the issue of the depletion of global fish stocks. With all the great work CEI is doing with dwindling fish stocks, we believe we have a good chance of winning the first place project grant of $20,000, or one of the other great honors up for grabs. You can read more about Solution Search here, and the grant our team put together here. Wish us luck!