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#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.