Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Ok so this blog is going to be taking a different direction in the next couple of weeks as I prepare for an internship at the Cape Eleuthera Institute in the Bahamas. I will be mostly serving as an Aquaculture intern, but I will also be assisting with fish surveys for the lionfish research aspect of the Institute. The Aquaculture branch of the institute breeds Cobia in a giant open water pen at around 85 feet, as well as, as far as I can tell, sharknose gobies and rotifers. My responsibilities will include cleaning, cleaning, and monitoring water parameters in the giant tanks on land that are used for raising the baby cobias and the other fish, and power-washing the netting of the open water pen. Although I don't know exactly what I will be doing, I update regularly. Hopefully I will be able to make a couple of posts every week for the two months I will be down there ranging from discussion of daily activities, the science of what I am doing, and musings on whatever I am reading/seeing at the time. Please subscribe to be kept up to date!

 I've been doing some reading from different scientific journals about lionfish, and I feel that I should give a brief summary of the lionfish problem in the Caribbean. The populations of the Pterois volitans, or the Volitans Lionfish, in the Caribbean are not native - they are invasive species that originally hail from the indo-pacific. Although we don't know exactly how they got into the Caribbean, we think that Hurricane Andrew in 1992 was responsible, as the Miami Seaquarium was inundated by the surge and it is thought that several individuals on exhibit escaped. Anyways, the problem now is that they are really, really, really successful predators. Part of this is due to the native fish populations' not being used to this new type of predator. While the Caribbean has it's share of other sit-and-wait predators like frogfish, the rapacious hunger of these guys in addition to their increased mobility over frogfish, etc. are making their populations explode (see Arias-Gonzalez, J.E.,et al.,Predicted impact of the invasive lionfish Pterois volitans on the food web of a Caribbean coral reef.Environ.Res.(2011)) Personally, I still wonder why lionfish are so much more successful than the other sit-and-wait native predators, but that is something I hope to find out. So the lionfish are decimating native fish populations, and part of the research CEI is involved in are reef fish surveys, where they survey the biodiversity and biomass of fish populations in lionfish infected zones. While I'm not sure if I will be participating, many SCUBA divers have taken matters into their own hands and have started a spearfishing rampage in an attempt to slow the spread of the lionfish. Apparently they are good eating, and some restaurants are now using them on their menu. Personally, I have started to wonder if the marine aquarium trade will start importing Atlantic, invasive lionfish in lieu of the indo-pacific populations.

Thanks for reading this, and I hope you will stay tuned for further updates!