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Cape Eleuthera Institute

Summer Term 2013: Student Update July 14, 2013

During the fifth day of each academic rotation for Human Ecology: Food Systems, students get the opportunity to participate in one of three CEI research projects: turtles, sharks, and bonefish.  Here is an excerpt from our day on the field working with the turtle team on Friday!

Setting up the net in Half Sound.

It was a gloomy Friday morning in terms of weather, but The Island school kids were ready to go. Smiles, music, and gossip about turtle names drifts through the van on our way to Half Sound, an embayment 45 minutes north of school. Tagging turtles for research is not for the faint-hearted, and the Island School team showed up ready to get some catches. After a long ride to the creek we finally arrived, ready and waiting for the first turtle to cross our path.  After a small talk about the movement of the tides and how it affects the destination of the turtles in the creek system, we quickly set up the net for the first capture. Turtle-ing requires patience and interaction with your peers. As we quietly form a line yards away, we face the net and walk back kicking and splashing as loud as we can. This may sound easy, but after a few hours and a mini lunch break in the water, we found ourselves worried that the turtles had outsmarted us. With our doubts we set up our net with a different technique. Instead of keeping the net in one location, making it easier for the turtle to escape, we moved the net around the people herding, hoping to get the turtle in the circle. After turtles made it out of the circle by jumping over the net and moving under the net, we made our first catch!

Green sea turtle.

After the catch, we quickly proceeded to take care of business.  Turtles are able to live outside of water, but we always wanted to make sure the turtle is not stressed through the process.  We went on to tagging where we insert a tag on each of the turtle’s front fins so that if he or she was to show up in a new location and somebody found them, they would know who to contact and get an idea of growth rate. We also recorded the species, width, weight, and length of the turtle. The process was not lengthy and the turtle swam off unharmed and quickly. Although this green sea turtle was our only catch of the day, The Island School crew and the help of a few researchers from CEI put in the effort, making this a successful quest for turtles!

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Thanks to Gabi for this Student Update!

 

Summer Term 2013: Academics Update July 11, 2013

After a week exploring South Eleuthera above and below the water, the students are already taking on the academic portion of Summer Term!  Again, the students are quite busy, so Summer Term faculty have filled in for this blog post!  We, as faculty, are consistently asking them, “How can we live well in a place?”  Exploring this question, students will rotate through week long intensives focusing on three different themes: Marine Ecology, Food Systems, and Tourism & Development.

Marine Ecology: In Marine Ecology, the classroom is not a room full of chairs or desks. Instead, the classroom is a small portion of a larger coral head, buzzing with fish of all sizes and coral of all kinds. As students learn about various components of the marine ecosystem, they have the opportunity to explore what they learn in class underwater by taking the time to observe a single section of a reef. Students return to the same spot every class, each day more aware of the complex interactions that make a functional ecosystem. Students also dive into the world of Aldo Leopold and Rachel Carson and participate in discussions about ethics and conservation.

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Food Systems: Understanding where our food comes from, how it gets to our table, and where our waste going after we are through are all essential in gaining a sense of place and grasping our term’s theme: living well in that place.  During the Food Systems unit, students will visit farms (both on and off Island School’s campus) to learn about the challenges and techniques to growing food on Eleuthera.  In addition, students will understand both our environmental and social impacts that accompany our production of waste products.  After two and a half days of in and out of classroom learning about food systems and human ecology, students will take part in intensives that highlight important sustainable food systems here on the Cape.  Students will break up into two groups, focusing on either the Aquaponics system at CEI or the Farm on Island School’s campus to further understand how to live well in a place with regards to the food we eat and the waste we produce.

Tourism & Development (Down Island Trip): Students explore the island of Eleuthera on a four day camping road trip. While visiting new settlements, such Governor’s Harbour, Harbour Island and Spanish Wells, student conduct interviews with local Bahamians. On the Down Island Trip, students also visit some of the natural attractions like ocean holes to swim in, or caves to climb through. Throughout the week, students conduct a variety of readings and have discussions about how tourism has shaped the development of Eleuthera. As they see the effects of failed tourism on the island, they began to discuss alternative forms of tourism and how it can be done so in a sustainable way for the island of Eleuthera. The class opens student’s eyes to how we can travel and understand a place we are visiting, as well as getting a chance to see all 100 miles of Eleuthera!

Our first Down Island Trip comes back to campus today and we are looking forward to having our whole community together this afternoon!  Stay tuned for more updates from Summer Term 2013!

Summer Term 2013: Student Update July 10, 2013

Greetings from the Island School’s 2013 Summer Term!  This weekend, students enjoyed an evening off to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the independence of the Bahamas.  We piled into the bus with high anticipation of enjoying some traditional Bahamian food and dance.   The warm hour and half long ride to Governor’s Harbour ended with a cool breeze and the sweet smell of celebration.  Almost immediately it seemed that the overwhelming smells of conch fritters and coconut drinks drew everyone into a line behind Shauna’s food stand.  After chowing down on the food, the cool grooves of rake and scrape music coaxed us into the dancing field.  Many of us took a break from twisting and shouting to cool off along the ocean side.  Some of us couldn’t help but admire the locally made jewelry and baskets.  Only the strong winds and rain could stop our moving feet.  A small storm blew in, forcing us to pile back into the bus with our conch salads and high spirits. The drive back quickly lulled us to sleep under the beautiful South Eleutheran stars. It was a truly memorable night. Happy Birthday, Bahamas! Catherine securing aquaponics materials at CEI in anticipation of the wind.

Thanks to Savannah and Chase for this Student Update!  In addition to celebrating Independence day today, we are also preparing the campus for the wind and rain expected to arrive later this week.  Students helped out on Island School's campus and at CEI by assisting in storm prep!  Everyone is ready to face the wind and rain head on!

We're "okay" and ready for the storm!

 

Parents Weekend Research Presentations

For those of you hoping to watch your child's research presentation again, you're in luck! We have posted all of the Parents Weekend Research Presentations on YouTube for you and your son or daughter to enjoy. All of the presentations can be found on the CEI YouTube Channel homepage here.

New Research on Migratory Behavior of Oceanic Whitetip Sharks

In association with Microwave Telemetry, Inc. and the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, Edd Brooks and CEI's Shark Research and Conservation program have discovered new findings while studying the migratory behaviors of ocean whitetip sharks that can help shape conservation strategies. Some sharks spend extended time periods in the protected waters of The Bahamas yet roam long distances when they leave. For the full article, read below or click here. As the nations of the world prepare to vote on measures to restrict international trade in endangered sharks in early March, a team of researchers has found that one of these species – the oceanic whitetip shark – regularly crosses international boundaries. Efforts by individual nations to protect this declining apex predator within their own maritime borders may therefore need to be nested within broader international conservation measures.

The research team, which included researchers from Microwave Telemetry, Inc., the Cape Eleuthera Institute, and the Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University, attached pop-up satellite archival tags to one male and 10 female mature oceanic whitetip sharks off Cat Island in The Bahamas in May 2011, and monitored the sharks for varying intervals up to 245 days. The tags recorded depth, temperature, and location for pre-programmed periods of time. At the end of the time period, the tags self-detached from the sharks, and reported the data to orbiting satellites. Their findings, published online today in the journal PLOS ONE, show that some of these sharks roamed nearly 2,000 kilometers from the spot where they were caught, but all individuals returned to The Bahamas within a few months.

“While the oceanic whitetip shark is one of the most severely overexploited shark species, it is also among the least studied because it lives much of its life far from land in the open ocean,” said Lucy Howey-Jordan, scientific liaison for Microwave Telemetry, Inc. and lead author. “Before this study and our ongoing research, very few of these sharks had been fitted with satellite tags, and the data we obtained will help establish new conservation measures.”

All the tags, except the one attached to the male shark, reported data. Of the eight tagged oceanic whitetip sharks tracked for more than 31 days, three stayed within or very near The Bahamas Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for their entire tracking period. The other five sharks, after an approximate 30-day period of residency within 500 kilometers of the tagging area, made long-distance movements outside of the EEZ, with one traveling as far as Bermuda. The fact that all these tagged mature female sharks returned to The Bahamas provides the first evidence of return-migration in this species. Additional findings that were surprising to the scientists included the sharks spending an average of 68 percent of the monitored time in Bahamian waters, and that these sharks, normally found near the ocean’s surface, made dives of approximately 1,000 meters, possibly related to feeding behavior.

“Although these sharks are relatively safe from fishing in Bahamian waters, our study shows their long-range roaming takes them across the boundaries of different countries and into the high seas where they still encounter fishing gear set for other species,” said Dr. Demian Chapman, a professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and assistant director of science at the Institute for Ocean Conservation at Stony Brook University. “If we want to continue to see these animals in our oceans, fishing nations will have to work together to protect this species, and monitoring of trade and enforcement measures will need to be coordinated on an international level.”

Once considered among the most abundant apex predators on Earth, overfishing has caused huge declines in oceanic whitetip sharks, and the species is listed as “Critically Endangered” in the Northwest Atlantic and Western Central Atlantic, and “Vulnerable” globally by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The fins of these sharks can be sold for $90 per kilogram because of the high demand for their use in shark fin soup, a delicacy in Chinese culture. There is growing international interest in improving the conservation of these sharks, including a proposal to list this species in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which will be considered at its upcoming Conference of Parties meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, March 3-14 of this year.

World renowned for its healthy shark populations and proactive conservation stance, The Bahamas is one of the few places left in the world where this open-ocean species can be found in relatively large numbers. In July 2011, during the timeframe of this study, The Bahamas banned all commercial fishing of sharks throughout the 630,000 square kilometers of surrounding ocean waters. The sharks now benefit from this protection, and the shark diving industry, a major contributor to the Bahamian economy, benefits from their presence in surrounding waters. Additionally, recent studies have shown ecosystem health is dependant, in part, on the presence of apex predators like sharks.

“The Bahamian government had the foresight to protect these and other species of sharks within their waters, starting with the longline fishing ban in early 90s, and culminating with the more recent shark sanctuary initiative,” said Edd Brooks, program manager of the Shark Research and Conservation Program at the Cape Eleuthera Institute. “This level of protection is vital for the continued existence of these important apex predators, and I hope that the example set by The Bahamas will encourage other nations to follow suit.”

This research was funded by Microwave Telemetry, Inc., the Cape Eleuthera Foundation, The Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Roe Foundation.

For more information on “Complex movements, philopatry and expanded depth range of a severely threatened pelagic shark, the oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus) in the western North Atlantic,” please visit http://dx.plos.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0056588 after 5 p.m. EST on Wed., February 20.

Cape Eleuthera Institute is a marine field station situated on Cape Eleuthera, Eleuthera, The Bahamas. It undertakes research on local environmental issues as well as acting as a host facility for marine and terrestrial scientists and visiting education groups of all ages. Cape Eleuthera Institute has especially focussed on developing new methods of resource use and management applicable to the Caribbean, such as effective use of solar energy and local recycling of waste organic and other materials. Its sister organisation, The Island School (www.islandschool.org), is a semester abroad program for high school students from the United States and The Bahamas, for whom the Cape Eleuthera Institute provides hands-on research experience through their in-house research programs. For more information, please visit www.ceibahamas.org.

The Institute for Ocean Conservation Science at Stony Brook University is dedicated to advancing ocean conservation through science. The Institute transforms real-world policy while pursuing serious science, both of which are essential for ocean health. For more information, go to: www.oceanconservationscience.org.

Microwave Telemetry, Inc. manufactures reliable and accurate electronic devices for tracking avian and marine species using cutting-edge technologies developed at its facility in Columbia, Maryland, USA. The company’s continual effort to develop smaller and smarter devices is driven by the needs of researchers worldwide. For more information, please visit: www.microwavetelemetry.com.