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Abaco Flat Program - Friends of the Environment

IMG_1293Last week Justin Lewis, from Grand Bahama, Zack Jud, from Florida International University and Tiffany Gray, from Cape Eleuthera Institute, worked with Cassandra Abraham at Friends of the Environment in Marsh Harbour, Abaco on a flats program with local students from Abaco. This flats program was like a shorter version, just 3 days, of our 7 day sleep over Flats Week summer program at Cape Eleuthera Institute. It gives students a chance to not only learn the basics of flyfishing, but also immerse themselves into the ecology and conservation of the flats ecosystem. We had 5 students, all Bahamians, participating in the course. IMG_1273The program started out on Tuesday, August 13th, with an informational presentation on bonefish and flats ecology. Zach and Justin also spent a bit of time that first day teaching students the basics on flyfishing where they had the chance to practice casting, some of them for the first time! That afternoon we headed over to Great Cistern to do an introduction on methodology and how to use the seine net. We saw lots of turtles, a shark and caught some shad (mojarra), crabs, shrimp, and other fun stuff in the seine net. 

The second day we tagged 20 bonefish around Crossing Rocks, about 12 miles south of the Marls. Clint Kemp from Black Fly Lodge in Schooner Bay took us out with two of their flats boats for a beautiful day on the water. After tagging and doing a little fishing, he took us over to the Black Fly Lodge to check out their facilities. It was very quaint and personal lodge, right on the newly developed Schooner Bay. Clint was a wealth of information on not only what it's like to be a top notch fly fishing guide, but also some of the background on the development of the unique "Live, work, and play" community of Schooner Bay. 

Check out their website:

Black Fly Lodge - 

Schooner Bay -


For the last day, we headed out flyfishing to get more practice using the fly rods and to catch a few bonefish. We went out in Cherokee Sound with local guide Buddy Pinder and found LOTS of bonefish. Those spooky Cherokee bones are known to be tough to catch, but we did have two students get the chance to catch two bonefish that morning! Once the tide got a little high for fishing, we had lunch at the Pinder's house in Casuarina. Students then learned to make their own flys to take home and use next time they are out fishing! 

Check out Buddy Pinder at:

It was a great week out on the flats. Students got a well rounded experience on the importance of bonefish in the coastal flats ecosystem. They also learned first hand the value of bonefish in the flyfishing industry where in the Bahamas, $141 million dollars is produced annually. We hope to have a few future flyfishing guides come out of the bunch! Big thanks to our guides, Clint and Buddy, as well as researchers, Zack and Justin, who helped make the experience unforgettable for our students.

We look forward to collaborating with Friends of the Environment next year for the next Abaco flats program!

Check out Friends of the Environment at:

Shark Week and Flats Week at CEI

Early Monday morning Shark & Flats week were off after a busy camp exploring the mangrove flats ecosystem in South Eleuthera. The flats week students not only worked alongside our Flats researchers all through the week, but also had the opportunity to go bonefishing with some of the local fishermen of Rock Sound and Savannah Sound. In doing this, they got a taste of some of the local ideas in conservation of the mangrove flats ecosystem and protection of bonefish as well as other species that spend all or just part of their life there.

The Shark week students spent a good amount of time in the field setting longlines and drum lines for juvenile lemon sharks and their predators. They were very successful in tagging and recapture of juvenile lemons, having caught 7 in one day at a nearby creek. They were also able to use their findings to relate to other juvenile lemon shark studies from the Bimini Biological Field Station.


On the last day, both shark and flats presented to their fellow campers and researchers on some of the information they had learned and collected through the week. The day concluded with a trip down island to check out the Rock Sound caverns, Ocean Hole Park, the giant banyan trees, ending at a Bahamian style dinner at Sharil’s in Deep Creek. The week was a busy one full of fun, friendships, and most importantly learning about the mangrove flats ecosystem!

CEI's Liane Nowell Embarks on her Masters on the Cape

After graduating from Queen’s University with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Biology, Liane was offered a job at CEI working in the Flats Ecology and Conservation Program. She has since been given the opportunity to pursue her master’s in science through Carleton University, Canada at CEI. With the supervision of Dr. Steven Cooke (Carleton University, Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology lab) and Dr. Cory Suski (University of Illinois, Ecological Physiology lab) Liane will be studying the thermal biology and spatial ecology of bonefish.


In addition to being part of a multi-million dollar catch-and-release fishery, bonefish (Albula vulpes) are an essential component of tropical marine ecosystems and an integral part of Bahamian culture. A variety of activities are currently threatening the future of the bonefish, including global climate change.

Water temperature is the “master” environmental factor influencing the biology of fish. Water temperature exerts more control over fish than any other single abiotic factor as it influences nearly all biochemical, physiological, and life history activities. The advent of small thermal loggers that can be surgically implanted in fish has provided the opportunity to reconstruct the thermal history of fish over an entire year. Using a swim tunnel Liane will also be investigating the role of temperature on bonefish swimming energetics and metabolic rates.

Given the ecological and economic importance of coastal areas, coupled with the influence of thermal phenomena such as El Niño and the impact of global warming in these ecosystems, a lack of information demands a broader investigation into the thermal physiology and ecology of fish. This data will be modeled to examine the consequences of different climate change scenarios on bonefish. Liane believes this area of research has great potential to address novel questions regarding bonefish conservation and management.

Orvis's Perk Perkins Visits The Island School and CEI

This week, the CEO of Orvis, Perk Perkins, cruised through Cape Eleuthera. Perk is on a sabbatical from Orvis and is spending his time sailing throughout the Caribbean. He stopped by The Island School and Cape Eleuthera Institute to check out the work we are doing down here. He is most interested in CEI's research on bonefish and the study of their flats habitat. We hope to stay in touch with Perk in the future so that he may help guide us as CEI becomes a hub for flats research in The Bahamas. The next stop on his tour of the Caribbean is the Exumas and CEI's Aaron Shultz was lucky enough to accompany him on this leg of the trip. We hope Perk comes back to visit us again soon!

Carleton University Students Studying Thermal Tolerances in the Checkered Puffer Fish and Bonefish at CEI

[slideshow] Two students from Carleton University in Ottawa, Felicia St-Louis and Petra Szekeres, will be on The Island School campus until June 19th collecting data for their research on the thermal biology of the checkered puffer fish (Sphoeroides estudineus) and bonefish (Albula vulpes). Over her short visit this past February, Felicia was able to validate intra-muscular cortisol injections as a method of increasing blood cortisol (i.e. a stress hormone) to ecologically relevant levels in the checkered puffer for her MSc project. She is examining the effects of short-term cortisol elevation on the thermal biology of the puffers in the lab as well as in the field. By building a thermal profile of Page creek and releasing puffers tagged with thermal logging iButtons within the creek for a one month period, she will be able to compare habitat preferences between control and cortisol-dosed puffers. Determining the effects of additional environmental challenges such as temperature, on the physiology and behaviour of animals is relevant to understanding the thresholds for survival and predicting the associated ecological consequences. Felicia expects to shed some light on the physiological, behavioural and ecological effects of environmental change on coastal marine wildlife. Petra’s undergraduate research stems from the Florida cold snap of 2010 that resulted in over a million dead game fish including tarpon, snook and bonefish. The sublethal physiological and behavioural effects of the cold shock on bonefish were unknown. She is therefore, evaluating the consequences of a short term cold shock on bonefish. The physiological aspect of her study consists of taking a small blood sample, which will be analyzed for cortisol, lactate and glucose concentrations, pH and hematocrit. The behavioural aspect of her study consists of simulating response to a predation event as characterized by the distance they swim and the time it takes to exhaust the fish. This project hopes to achieve a framework for the sublethal consequences of cold shock in bonefish with regard to their stress levels and predator avoidance behaviour.