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#WorldEnvironmentDay, I AM THE CHANGE!

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Today has been an event filled day here at CEI. We held many from around the world to celebrate our love of nature and living sustainable. People from all over the world such as Africa, Canada, Germany, Switzerland, and Bahamians came together in one spot to learn about how we all are connected through our love of the water.

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Celine Cousteu=au, granddaughter of Jacques Cousteau.

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5 Gyres Co-Founder, Marcus Erikson.

We have been graced by the presence of people such as Marcus Erikson and Anna Cummins, Co-founders of 5Gyres. The ever majestic Celine Cousteau, guests from United Nations Environment Programme UNEP, Bahamas Plastic Movement, and Jack Johnson.

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UNEP Director, Naysán Sahba (Left) and new UN Ambassador of Goodwill, Jack Johnson (Right). Image courtesy of @UNEP.

Yes…THE Jack Johnson. And he was officially signed in as the UN Ambassador of Goodwill. How awesome is that? Something as powerful as this, captured right here in Cape.

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Going to events around the world, to bring back opportunities for young Bahamians-Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald

The Minister of Education of Science and Technology, the Honourable Jerome Fitzgerald was here as well delivering a powerful message in spreading the opportunities that other countries and private institutions have with their students to Bahamians. I was touched by his words in going out to other places, meeting new individuals, and networking to bring back knowledge for us, the people.

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Kristal Ambrose, founder of BPM. Image courtesy of BPM.

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Say it with me “I AM THE CHANGE!”-Kristal Ambrose 2015

Another familiar face today, Kristal Ambrose. She is the founder of BPM, Bahamas Plastic Movement where her goal is to rid The Bahamas of single use plastics by 2020. She gathers her inspiration from working at Atlantis on Paradise Island in Nassau, New Providence. Here she worked with the Turtle Sanctuary. Over a period of time during her stay there, she noticed that one of the turtles would keep to themselves and barely ate. Upon calling the vet to come in and check to see what was the matter, it was discovered that there was a blockage. come to find out, it was plastic. She remembers vividly having to hold the front flippers of the turtle, hearing it cry in agony as they would pull plastic from it rectum.

From then on, she was on a mission to figure out where this plastic came from and how WE can combat it.

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Alexio Brown (familiar name yet?) spoke on behalf of future Bahamian researchers to come during the Ribbon Cutting of the new graduate studies building. He recalls fondly of his time here at Island School as a student, becoming and intern, and now a research assistant at CEI. He strengthens the need for this building for Bahamians to come home to conduct their research in their own backyard.

There was even a fun beach clean up for everyone to join in.

It is happening, slowly but surely, the growing awareness that WE ARE THE CHANGE.


Please follow these wonderful people on their respective platforms on their personal Websites, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

5 Gyres

Bahamas Plastic Movement

Celine Cousteau

UNEP

#DeepCleanDeepCreek, Bringing the Community Together to Care

 The clean up team posing in front of one of the truckloads of trash collected.

Image courtesy of CEI.

Within the past few weeks, members of the Deep Creek community have come together to #deepcleandeepcreek. The lead of this deep clean is a recent resident of Deep Creek, Flats Intern Georgie. Thanks to her and others of the CEI community, this has become a success that will continue as long as there are people passionate for their work.

Georgie has gotten together with Deep Creek Middle School and Deep Creek Primary School to foster and encourage the concept of trash and the importance of proper disposal.

Get the full story here.

#EnvironmentalEducation, Rock Sound Homecoming 2015

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(L to R) Mackey (Deep Sea Researcher), Adrian (Sustainable Fisheries), Alexio (Sustainable Fisheries), Luanettee’ (Sustainable Fisheries), Alanna (Sustainable Fisheries), and Christina (Sharks). Photo courtesy of Alanna Waldman, SP15 Sustainable Fisheries Intern.

This past week was Homecoming for rock Sound, Eleuthera. Homecoming is a gathering within a settle or on an island where people ‘go home’ to their family island (any island outside of New Providence) for a few days of celebration, music, food, family and friends.

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Luanettee’ speaking to some curious youth about the Lionfish display. Photo courtesy of Alanna Waldman, SP15 Sustainable Fisheries Intern.

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Photo courtesy of Alanna Waldman, SP15 Sustainable Fisheries Intern.

Sustainabale Fisheries, Deep Sea Exploration and Sharks research programs were there holding the fort, bringing all ages and occupations to the table to learn about what we do and the opportunities for Bahamians at CEI. We talked heavily on the invasive species of lionfish, educating all on the venomous verses poisonous, their health benefits, and the increasing jewelry market for them. Deep Sea and Sharks strutted their stuff with a show of some interesting creatures they haul up from the deep sea (anything beyond 200M in depth).

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Christina (R back row) talking with a local fisherman. Luanettee’ (R front listening and answering questions from curious bystanders. Photo courtesy of Alanna Waldman, SP15 Sustainable Fisheries Intern.

Fishermen came around wanting to learn more about our YOU SLAY WE PAY campaign down at the Institute. Our very own Alexio (Sustainable fisheries Research Assistant)  and Christina (Sharks Intern SP15) getting down and nitty gritty with them on the growing market for Lionfish.

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Photo courtesy of Alanna Waldman, SP15 Sustainable Fisheries Intern.

It was a success, with many newly informed and interested in the research of The Bahamas.  Once all was done we packed up, we danced the rest of evening, enjoying food, music, and embracing my culture.


Have you ever been to a Bahamian event? What did you expect and how was it met? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next year 🙂

#Sustainablefoodandjewlery: Providing a New Economic Need from an Invasive Foe

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Diving in the Acropora (staghorn) coral nursery. The bits grown here will be used on damaged patch reefs.

The past several weeks have been a whirlwind of adventure. With there being several different programs here, everyone is busy with either doing field work, data entry, or assisting each other. There is always something to find to do here. The other day, I had gone out to the coral nursery of Acropora (staghorn) and cleared my scuba diving check. Whoot! One step closer to Advance 😀

The staff here are heavily in community outreach. They provide information sessions and programs for the surrounding areas of the research conducted here, what it hopes to achieve, how it affects them directly, and dispel many local myths. In addition, they are beginning to hold monthly meetings for the Bahamian staff so that they are informed and can talk to others who have questions about what exactly is going on the site. One of the more fascinating presentations that I have been to is the one on lionfish. I wrote down several points that I found interesting:

General map to where documented sightings of lionfish in the Atlantic region. Photo from Discover: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/science-sushi/2013/03/22/new-girl-fishes-for-laughs-catches-terrible-episode/

  1. Lionfish are originally from the Indo-Pacific (That’s the Indonesia region). There are many myths as to how they were brought over such as from the balas of a ship. However, it is more believed that they arrived through the exotic aquarium trade. They are brightly coloured and slow to move, which make them ideal for aquariums. Even though this is true, they are generalists predators in nature in what they eat. Owners began to release them into their backyards or oceans (hoping nature takes its course) when they realized that these creatures were literally eating every fish in their tank that could fit into their mouths.
  2. Within their home range, there are several organisms that have evolved to eat these fish. For example frogfish.  In this part of the world, large predatory fish have not adapted to eating these creatures but we as humans can.

    Indopacific area. Photo from Lionfish Hunting: http://lionfish.co/lionfish-faq/

  3. They are carnivorous and habitat generalists. That is, they can live on the majority of environmental structures from seagrass, mangroves, coral reefs, artificial reefs, and depths up to 1000 ft! Their food source is ANYTHING that can fit into their mouths that protrudes out in a sucking motion. Interestingly, when their in insufficient for them to eat they either migrate to another area and/or resort to cannibalism (eat their own species). Their stomach can expand to up to 30 times the original size.

    Contents of a lionfish’s stomach. Stomach can stretch to 30 times its original size. The only thing that would stop a lionfish from eating is the size of its mouth. Photo from Lionfish Hunting: http://lionfish.co/cleaning-and-preparing-lionfish-to-eat/

  4. With an abundance of food, little to no predation, and ample space, their reproductive systems have changed to fit the environment. Females produce an egg sac with up to 20,000 eggs within it. In the Indo-Pacific, they tend to mate ONCE per year due to the environment and predatory pressures there. In this neck of the woods they can mate EVERY 4 DAYS!! That’s roughly 2 MILLION eggs per fish!
  5. They are VENOMOUS NOT POISONOUS. What does that mean? It means that they have  venom, similar to a snake and its fangs or a scorpion and its tail, in their spines. JUST THE SPINES have venom. Poison is an attribute given to organisms or subject that  if ingested can cause mild to severe health issues. For example, some amazon tree frogs or snails. So basically you can eat venomous animals!The lionfish has 18 venomous spines that are harmful. The sting is much like a bee sting, on one has died from a lionfish sting. To treat a sting soak area in hot water.   You can serve up the meat anyway you want. I prefer them deep fried 🙂 But whole baked jerk lionfish is also delicious!

13 dorsal, 2 pelvic, and 3 anal venomous spines for a total of 18. The other fins are safe to snip off and use in jewelry. Photo from Google Images.

Presentations like these are given not only to the visiting groups but also to the local community. This is important to spread awareness and break myths because the lionfish are here to stay. We can never get rid of them all (remember they can have up to 2MILLION eggs per year). It is interesting since we as humans have a tendency to overeat or overhunt something into extinction. All we can do is create a new form of economic value that people can use to create extra income. This is where workshops come into play within the surrounding community and eventually, out into the general Bahamas.

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CEI encourages local fishermen to take extra care when spearing. Proper tools for those who wish to pursue this new endeavor of lionfishing are: 3 prong spear to prevent the fish from sliding down onto the fisherman, thick gloves that the spines will not pierce through, equipment to despine and fillet the fish, and a thermos with hot water to pour onto any spot that may get pricked..

LREP Manager Dr. Jocelyn Curtis-Quick helps students plan the construction of holiday ornaments out of lionfish fins.

Dr. Jocelyn instucting how to decorate lionfish fins. Photo taken from blog.ceibahamas.org

There have been jewelry workshops as well for the local community. Here, CEI create an outreach program to encourage a new form of income that is growing in popularity: lionfish jewelry. You can see the work on their blog. To prepare the fins the lionfish must be despined first of all spines. Once this is completed, the spines can be let air dried and baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Take them out and let cool. The remainder fins (dorsal, caudal, anal fins) that are on the fish can be removed, and set out to dry. When that is completed, you can decorate and make whatever you want 🙂

Rocking my lionfish earrings!

Have you every tried lionfish? What does it taste like to you? Would you try it now knowing that it is safe to eat once prepared properly? Let me know below in the comments.


For more details and information on lionfish, please look to these sources: CEI blog, and CEI website.

Adventures at Cape Eleuthera

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Working hard after morning chores 🙂

For the past week, I have been on a whirlwind of an adventure here in Eleuthera. I have been given the opportunity along with another Bahamian, Alexio, to work at the Institute as a Research Assistant. It is not only he and I that arrived on the island. There were several interns that flew in as well from all over the world. Just by meeting them, I was given a small glimpse of the size and scope of the Cape Eleuthera Institute with its outreach and research.

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Taken from Cape Eleuthera website: http://www.ceibahamas.org/

The campus itself is much larger than I would expect. I had just come from Forfar Field Station in North Andros where I spent two weeks with student’s from University of Saint Francis and Luer’s High School for Doc’s last Bahamas Field Studies trip that he would be leading. The torch has now been handed to an alum that joined us on the trip, Dr. Leo Procise.

For the first few days, it was orientation. During this time we got to know each other, the several interns and the RAs. Our fearless leader, Alp, took us around the campus, handing the baton to other staff members depending on the area. When I say this place is large, I am not exaggerating. It has its own aquaponics area where they grow Tilapia which is hooked up in a cycle with the garden; a wet lab where they can house sharks, stingrays, lionfish, basically most marine animals for research; solar panels on several buildings; a wind turbine; a sustainability office; several small dorms; a middle school further in the community; a farm with some chickens, geese, goats, and pigs; an orchard; boathouse; and several other buildings.

Currently, the RAs and several others are taking a course called WFR (wolf-er): Wilderness First Response. *edit: definitive care* It is an American based course that teaches first response emergency scenarios and training for wilderness areas (ocean, mountains, desert, etc.) or areas further than 1+ hour from definitive care. The skills that we learn here have been tailored by the medic, Jai, for being on an island. So drowning, snorkeling, boat incidents, construction incidents, etc. The way that Jai teaches this course is a fine balance between scholastic reading, notes, and personal research, and simulated incidents. The incidents have varied from constipation to shallow water blackouts.

The instructor teaches us to the extremes of reality around here. Fire or chemical burns from the biodisel area, cuts from power tools, back injuries from falling from a high place or not lifting properly from the legs, choking while eating, car accidents due to drunk driving, etc. Everything extreme he can think of because he knows in his mind that if we fall short of extreme fixer uppers, then he can depend on us to come to the call at any instant.

During each incident I have become more aware of how important keeping myself safe and uninjured is. In general society, you are taught that when someone needs help, you go and help them. In WFR, if someone is injured, needs help, unconscious, etc. YOU are number one. Your safety comes first above all else. I cannot help anyone if I become a victim as well by rushing in without assessing the situation, environment, or resources available to help this person. Do I have gloves? Am I wearing closed toed shoes? Are my legs protected from possible blood/fluids? These simple questions for yourself before interacting with the victim can save oneself a lot of trouble.

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It has been over a week and I am truly enjoying it so far. They are long days but its fun. I’m tired at the end of the day but if there is a get together with the other interns or colleagues, I manage the strength to go and hang out for a bit for relaxation.

The next several months are going to be epic.


If you would like more information on Cape Eleuthera Institute, you can check out their website.

Last Night in Paradise

 

Group photo of week 2 before heading out for the day. Joined by the Directors Joey, Kate and children (middle row 2nd and 3rd person on the left).


There are several places that we went adventuring to similar to week 1. As you have noticed, some are the same and some are different based on the weather forecast of the day.

Fresh Creek: Got its name because it was the port between the New World and Africa where the slave ships gathered. The slaves were rinsed and ‘freshened’ up to sell in the New World while those who died among the journey were disposed off into the water.

Androsia: A Batik factory with handmade Bahamian crafts.

 

LightHouse Club

The final places that we went to were Summerset Beach to have lunch, a nature hike in Maidan Hair Coppice, and went swimming to cool off in Cousteau’s Blue Hole. The last night here at Forfar was a memorable one for many. New friends have been made and old ones have strengthened. Everyone had something positive to take back with them when returning to the States.

Many wished it was the warmth. Until next everyone. Thank you for joining us on the journey here for Doc’s final hurrah leading a group down to the Bahamas. There were tears, hugs, and many memories made that will be kept to every single persons heart.


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He has been traveling to The Bahamas for 30+ years

 

Personal thoughts:

For me, this has been a wonderful experience. If Doc never came to The Bahamas or traveled to the other islands, my mother would not have met him. I would still be unhappy and trying to figure out what exactly I wanted to do to help my country, The Bahamas. The past 3 years have been full of love and heartache, but each one with a positive outlook and a learning experience. Saint Francis has been the best experience I have ever had in my education career.

I have grown to be such a better person and have met so many wonderful people along the way. He became my home away from home and his family is now my family. I don’t know how I can ever repay him but know that my home is always open to him and the family.

Thank you Doc and best wishes for your retirement.

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Dr. Joe has been coming down for 20+ years for birding and has the most thorough knowledge of migratory and residential birds within North Andros, Bahamas.

Dr. Joe has also played an intricate part in my development as a student. Both he and Doc has shown me the way in which I wish to teach environmental awareness and education to people. They are one on one with their students and share a seep passion to share. To share their knowledge with others.

I have been blessed to have these two remarkable people in my life. Blessings to both and their families.

 

 

 

Long days = Nap Time

All day trips makes everyone tired. By the end of the day, no one wants to get their photos.

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First day out on the boat 🙂

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Pigeon Cay: a small cay that has a high energy side. very shallow snorkel with a great geology lesson.

Stanyard Wreck: a cargo ship that wrecked along the shallow water and remained to become a healthy reef.

String’s Octect: it is located within a section of the Andros barrier reef and is known for the ‘labyrinth’ of coral heads scattered about.


 

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They see me rollin’, they hatin’…

We had a very windy yet pleasant day driving around with Doc 🙂 I think we wiped him out.

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Coconut Grove: a high energy beach close to the barrier reef. Lots of Gorgonias (sea fans)

Morgan’s Bluff: Legend has it that Andros was one of many spots that the famous Captain Morgan came into being a great power. It is said that he never fought out at sea. That he sent in sub captains to ships that he lured into the shallows by using a goat with a lantern tied to its neck and setting it loose on the cliff since lighthouses were signs of safe passage. Once the ships ran aground the coral beneath them, Morgan would send his crew out to pillage the boats.

Morgan’s Cave