BSM Blog: Red Knights Contribute to Real-World Marine Science Research During Bahamas Trip

BSM Blog: Red Knights Contribute to Real-World Marine Science Research During Bahamas Trip

Sixteen BSM students, accompanied by science teacher Lauren Reuss and English teacher Casey Mosich, spent their Spring Break in the Bahamas participating in an experiential program at the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI), a facility that promotes a connection between people and the environment through marine research.

During the week-long program, students had the opportunity to actively engage in tropical sciences and sustainable design initiatives through application-based experiential courses.

This is the first year BSM has participated in the CEI program where students have had an amazing time learning about the common biological and environmental principles of the island's ecosystems. The program also incorporates team-building, social skills, service opportunities and plenty of time for adventure.

The institute is located on the island of Eleuthera and activities have ranged from coral reef ecology classes to volunteering with an after-school program in town to exploring caves. Additionally, students have had the opportunity to contribute to real-world marine science research and discovery.

Throughout their time there, they have documented their days in daily email blogs from the chaperones, where students also contributed to the updates. Everyone has had a fantastic time! Read about their adventures below.

The Bahamas, Day 1 Recap:

Today sure started EARLY for our first-ever BSM Spring Break trip to the Bahamas!

Our travels were pretty standard throughout the majority of the day. It was once we got to Nassau, New Providence when our adventures really seemed to start. Our entire group made up the only passengers for our flight from Nassau to Cape Eleuthera.

Students and chaperones were not disappointed once we got there. Our dorms are quite literally on the ocean, and the campus and staff provided a warm, exciting and welcoming environment. Students got to eat their first meal at CEI and proceeded to get into and experience the water with a bit of free time.

After a long day of traveling, we now find ourselves unpacking, winding down, and preparing for an adventurous and educational week in the Bahamas!

The Bahamas, Day 2 Recap:

Students were up and at it today around 7 a.m. Once we were fed, staff members from CEI shuttled us back to Rock Sound to St. Anne's Catholic Church. There, BSM students were welcomed with open arms into the Rock Sound Catholic community's worship of God and got to experience a traditional Catholic service from a different cultural perspective. Many of the hymns and prayers remained the same (our students knew almost all of them!), but the low key and communal aspect of St. Anne's was a wonderful experience for all of us.

In the afternoon, students analyzed their carbon footprint both in terms of how much carbon was produced on our personal journey to Cape Eleuthera, as well as approximately how much their households potentially use on a daily basis. Students were challenged academically as they were introduced to the carbon cycle and came away learning about ways to potentially reduce their own carbon footprint.

“In Carbon Footprint class, I learned that just in one day breathing oxygen comes out carbon dioxide and it is over five gallons. I can’t wait to learn more.” - Mitchell Theuringer ‘23

We then traveled to the local marina as a group to get some snacks and check out the nurse and bull sharks that we heard swim around there when the local fishermen come back in to clean their catch.

The students finished out the night learning about fish, their morphology, and the species of fish they will come to see as soon as tomorrow's snorkeling activity! Students were introduced to how to analyze fins, color patterns, and behaviors of many species found here in the Bahamas.

The Bahamas, Day 3 Recap:

Bright and early at 6:45 this morning, we had our first lesson on common marine invertebrate species in the area. Following our lesson, we jumped into the water and snorkeled a nearby shipwreck, which many had been looking forward to.

“I am looking forward to snorkeling by the shipwreck because I want to see what it would actually look like inside of one.” - Mitchell Theuringer ‘23

We saw large sea stars and even a few ray species! It was a great opportunity to test our new-found invertebrate knowledge!

“The best experience so far was the reef snorkel. I got to identify different kinds of fish and the water was much warmer than expected. I also learned that coral is an animal and not a plant. It made me think why there are not anti-mobile animals on land.” - Patrick Cowan ‘23

For our morning class, we participated in a scavenger hunt highlighting the sustainable initiatives around campus. Students were impressed with the onsite farm and aquaponics systems, which we will get to investigate later this week.

This afternoon we snorkeled a nearby reef. For many students, the highlight of their day was investigating the wide array of corals and reef fish. We even saw a Southern stingray!

The Bahamas, Day 4 Recap:

After breakfast, we participated in our lionfish lesson, highlighting an invasive species in the area. After learning more about invasive species and their impact on fisheries in the Bahamas, we got the chance to dissect lionfish speared in the waters outside CEI. We also had a comparative anatomy lesson and learned that lionfish have very small brains with a very large and almost barbed mouth.

With the remnants of our fish, we headed down to the marina and fed them to the sharks that hang out down there. Excitingly, we saw two bull sharks and a sea turtle alongside the nurse sharks that are commonly there.

“We went to a class about sustainable fisheries, which was probably my favorite class other than seeing all the sharks. It was awesome to learn that you can recycle waste from organisms and fertilize plants.” - Sophia DiPaola ‘23

After lunch, we headed out to the aquaculture nets that the Island School keeps offshore for raising a species of fish called cobia for the community. We saw a few species of jacks, but more excitingly, we saw a HAMMERHEAD SHARK! There are instructors on campus who have been here months (some even years) and have had no luck seeing one. All our students now have the opportunity to say they have been in the water with a shark!

We also had a service opportunity with the Deep Creek Primary School's Gardening club. Students worked with elementary students to prepare compost, plant seeds, and water existing seeds. Beyond the work in the school's garden, our group developed friendships with the local students.

Across the board, we had a lot of luck in our sightings today. Tomorrow, we head out on our Down Island Trip to explore parts of the island we have yet to see.

The Bahamas, Day 5 Recap:

Today was a very busy, adventurous, and relaxing day for our group! The journey started with a drive approximately an hour and a half away to Hatchet Cave! Students had the chance to walk through and spend some time interacting with the cave.

“Our first stop was a cave where we sat in silence and in darkness. It was cool because we could hear the dripping from the top of the cave and the environment, including bats. One of my favorite things here is spending time with everyone and swimming while learning about marine life, and ecosystem.” - Francine Fournier ‘23

Our next stop was a white sand beach near Governor's Harbor called Old Navy Beach. It was a picture-perfect landscape as students enjoyed swimming together, taking pictures, and eating lunch in the pristine surrounding.

Our journey down the island continued through the actual town of Governor's Harbor, the oldest settlement on the island, and back towards CEI. We made a pit stop at The Ocean Hole where students got to jump in and swim some more in a small water hole over 600 feet deep. This was connected to the ocean via small passageways in the limestone that had been eroded over time.

Our last stop away from the Institute was back at Deep Creek Primary School, once again, where students got to see their new friends from yesterday. After participating in garden club yesterday, our students helped with sports club today, playing a variety of games. The connections students from both schools made based on these interactions after just two days of spending time together was amazing to watch as students said their goodbyes for the week.

Overall, today provided a wonderful view of the island, culture, and places Cape Eleuthera has to offer!

The Bahamas, Day 6 Recap:

Today, we worked alongside Dr. Valeria Pizzaro. Dr. Pizzaro is a scientist from Columbia working on coral restoration, looking specifically at staghorn and boulder coral species. Students got a glimpse of the day-to-day life of a marine research scientist through the cleaning of tanks, collection, cutting of coral 'cookies,’ and transfer of coral larvae.

After lunch, we learned a little bit about the food security initiatives on campus at the school's permaculture farm and aquaponics setup. CEI and the Island School have a working farm with not only plants but also pigs and chickens. Today we planted mangos, sour oranges, and sugar apples, which one day will be transplanted all over campus.

“Today I learned more about Aquaponics and what it is. I found out that it is more effective than regular farming. This is because you can raise both fish and plants at the same time while saving lots of water.” - CJ Johnson ‘23

This evening, we had the opportunity to partake in a traditional Bahamian meal at Sharil's Inn in Deep Creek. We enjoyed fried chicken, ribs, rice, and even lionfish. The girls I was sitting with at dinner were impressed with lionfish so much so that they plan to speak with the staff at Taher to hopefully bring lionfish to BSM!

Each evening, we also have a presentation about the ecology of the area or the Bahamas in general. Tonight, we were lucky enough to enjoy a presentation about the impact of tourism in the Bahamas and also a presentation from a visiting scientist in the field of polymer chemistry. I have to say, I was incredibly impressed with our students' abilities to jump right in and break down collegiate level chemistry.

The Bahamas, Day 7 Recap:

Believe it or not, we have come to our final day at the Cape Eleuthera Institute. The time has really flown by and we have made some amazing memories. When we first started talking with students about this trip, I would tell them that it is a learning trip of a lifetime. I can honestly say now that it truly was a once in a lifetime experience.

“This trip has changed my thinking about the planet. I would definitely recommend this program because you really get to experience living sustainably in a different way than you normally would. This program teaches you about how we can make a difference on a larger scale and on a smaller more practical scale.” - Angela Zbaracki ‘22

To celebrate the wonderful adventure that we have had this week, we headed out early this morning for Lighthouse Beach, the southernmost point on Eleuthera. After a roughly thirty minute hike, we made it to a beautiful beach with the finest sand I have ever seen. While there, students took a moment to relax and enjoy the waves.

Tonight students also partook in the school's rite of passage, the “high rock jump.” At sunset, students traveled to a nearby overhang where they were able to jump off into the ocean. Students described it as adventurous, beautiful and an experience to remember!

“This overall trip was definitely a trip of a lifetime. From seeing the stack of beautiful conch shells to seeing a hammerhead shark 90 feet down when it looks like 10 feet down from the clear water. I would definitely recommend this trip because it was something that actually changed me.” - Robby Hoyt ‘23

Thank you to our incredible chaperones for making this once in a lifetime trip possible for our students!

For more great photos from the trip, click here to see the Facebook album.