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Cape Eleuthera Institute

Lionfish Research Project Update: The First Week

The first week of research was a big week for the Lionfish research project. We oriented ourselves to our goals, methods, and systems. We discussed what an invasive species means, the invasion of lionfish, their life cycles, and their anatomy. On Thursday, we dissected lionfish in the lab. Our project began with learning external anatomy, including how to prevent lionfish stings. Next cut their bellies and look into the internal anatomy. We saw their key organs, and even their super stretch stomach that makes them such a successful predator. I found it especially interesting when we opened their stomach; we identified their stomach contents. This is especially significant because we identified their stomach contents to determine which species were suffering due to lionfish predation. I really enjoyed our dissection. The following week was our first field day. We went diving on a reef and practiced protocol for surveying a particular reef. The group was really excited to begin their work and get in the water. Stay tuned for new updates from the Lionfish research project! [slideshow]

Conch Research Project Update: Our First Day in the Field

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.

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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.

Mask and Snorkel Donation

This fall, Cape Eleuthera Institute's conch research intern from the College of the Bahamas, Tarran Simms, facilitated the donation of 500 masks & snorkels from Dolphin Cay at Atlantis resort in Nassau to Ron Knight, Island School Director of SCUBA operations and waterfront manager. Knight in turn, divided the bulk of the snorkel gear among every 4th, 5th, and 6th grader between Tarpum Bay & Deep Creek, where the excited students and teachers accepted appreciatively. Knight also intends to distribute the remaining gear to student of DCMS in Deep Creek, Eleuthera.

More Baby Fish Have Arrived!

On Friday, January 27th half a million eggs arrived from Miami, Florida! They were placed in an incubation tank, where they hatched early Saturday morning. To the naked eye they looked like pieces of rosemary floating in the water. But under the microscope you could see the egg sack that was encased around the head and the tail was sticking out. The bottom of the tank was siphoned in order to get rid of the unhatched eggs and dead larvae. This is very important because if they were left in the tank bacteria can grow, which can kill the larvae. After determining how many larvae were alive, they were then transferred into six larval rearing tanks. They will obtain their food from their egg sack for three days. Cobia develop after they hatch, which means their mouths are very small and in turn can only eat rotifers for the first couple of weeks. They will eat enriched rotifers for about three weeks and then move onto eating artemia for another 45 days. Once they start growing more we will be able to wean them onto dry food and then eventually bring them out to the offshore cage that is fitted with shark resistant netting that was donated by DSM Dyneema! [slideshow]

Update from CEI's Flats Ecology Research

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So everyone has heard of climate change/global warming- increased anthropogenic CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere shifts annual global climate, which then leads to other catastrophic events within the Earth’s ecosphere. An increase in oceanic temperature and acidity is among the most pressing and readily apparent effects of climate change. Past research has shown fish of tropical reefs to be particularly sensitive to changes in ocean temperature and pH. In the flats department, we aim to determine whether common teleost occupants of tropical mangroves exhibit a similar sensitivity to such changes. Using bonefish (Albula spp.), checkered puffers (Sphoeroides tetudineus), juvenile yellowfin mojarra (Gerres cinereus), and juvenile yellowtail snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus), we aim to determine the Critical maximum and minimum temperature and pH at which each species looses equilibrium (“goes belly up”). With the help of visiting students from the Maine School of Science and Mathmatics, we have already determined the critical maximum temperature for puffers, mojarra, and snapper by observing behavior of test subjects while gradually increasing the ambient temperature. With our recently engineered water-cooling system, we plan on determining critical minimum temperature this week! Once completed this study will help us to predict the phenotypic plasticity of these mangrove species in response to rising oceanic temperatures and acidity.