Bahamas National Trust

Research Abstracts

The Bahamas National Trust publishes a list of abstract of scientific publications on research relevant to the ecosystem of the Bahamas.

Hint: Use your browser's search function to find specific topics of interest to you.

Source: BNT Abstracts

BAhamas: a Coral reef Hope spot (BACH). Tag and recapture of bonefish provides information critical to habitat conservation
Aaron Adams1, Dave Philip2 & Aaron Shultz3,
1Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, Key Largo, FL, 33037, USA, 2Fisheries Conservation Foundation, Champaign, IL 61820, USA, 3Cape Eleuthera Institute, Rock Sound, Eleuthera, The Bahamas

The overall lack of information on fish habitat use continues to be a challenge to formulating a marine conservation strategy. This is especially true for recreationally important species, such as bonefish (Albula vulpes). Although bonefish support an economically and culturally important fishery, only recently have we gained enough information to help guide conservation. As part of the Bahamas Flats Fishing Alliance collaboration, we’ve partnered with guides, lodges, and anglers to tag bonefish in the Bahamas since 2009. Project goals are to identify key habitats and locations for bonefish and for the fishery, and to better understand linkages between habitats – such as foraging and spawning – information important for prioritizing conservation efforts. Over 6,000 bonefish have been tagged by guides and anglers while fishing and by scientific crews using seine nets, on Abaco, Grand Bahama Island, Eleuthera, Exuma, and South Andros. Approximately 3% of tagged bonefish have been recaptured: most recaptures were within 1.5 km of the tagging location; the average time between dates of tag and recapture was 258 days (maximum 766, minimum 2). This indicates a relatively small home range. Long distance movements appear to be associated with spawning migrations: for example, a bonefish tagged in November 2010 was recently recaptured from a pre-spawning aggregation approximately 70 miles away, and a bonefish tagged during a spawning migration was recaptured 3 months later in its purported home range. This research is identifying important foraging and spawning habitats, and migration pathways, areas which will be targeted for conservation and fishery protection.

Are clues from our past charting our future? Lessons from The Bahamas blue holes
Nancy Albury
The National Museum of The Bahamas / Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation, P.O. Box AB20755, Marsh Harbour, Abaco, The Bahamas

Caves in coastal environments alternate cyclically between flooded and dry conditions as a result of rising and falling sea-levels during Pleistocene glacial events. These changes can create unique but ephemeral fossil capture and preservation conditions in flooded caves known as blue holes. Sawmill Sink, a blue hole in central Abaco, has acted as a traditional passive pitfall trap through time, capturing floral and faunal species that accumulate in bottom sediments. The plant and animal remains are spectacularly preserved due to the water chemistry and geological profile and reflect the environment during the time in which they were deposited. Our studies of vertebrate fossil remains, plant macrofossils, pollens and sedimentary profiles from blue holes strongly suggest that around 1000 years ago terrestrial plant and animal communities were heavily impacted following the arrival of humans into The Bahamas. Today, blue holes act as windows into our freshwater resources, our past and our future because they also reflect the effects that modern human activities have on the environment. This is a critical time in The Bahamas as decisions about development and conservation are being made that will have long term consequences.

Implications of fish nutrient supply for coastal ecosystem function
Jacob E. Allgeier1 & Craig A. Layman2
1Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA, 2Marine Sciences Program, Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, 3000 NE 151st Street, North Miami, Florida, USA

Identifying the degree to which fish regulate primary production through excretion of nutrients is critical if we are to fully integrate consumers into models of ecosystem function. We used artificial reef habitats, i.e., structurally complex habitats that support dense aggregations of fishes in seagrass ecosystems, to manipulate fish densities and explore patterns of nutrient limitation and primary production and to test for thresholds of ecological change associated with hot spots surrounding artificial reef habitats. Nutrient loading by fishes enhanced seagrass growth rates by as much as 374% when fish aggregated around artificial structures. Seagrass nutrient content (nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P)) increased, and molar N:P ratios of seagrass decreased, with increased nutrient supply by fishes. Thresholds of change were found for all seagrass response variables, with significantly higher nutrient content and blade height adjacent to reefs. Spatial patterns varied among response variables as a function of the relative abundance of the aggregated animals, physiology of primary producers, and the biogeochemical processes that link the two. Our findings demonstrate consumers, through an under-appreciated bottom-up mechanism in marine ecosystems, can directly alter nutrient limitation and production of seagrasses, thus increasing the net storage of carbon in seagrass beds. Further, identifying such complexities in ecological thresholds is important for characterizing the extent to which biogeochemical hot spots may influence ecosystem function (e.g., storing blue carbon) at a landscape scale. These data have widespread implications for conservation strategies in ecosystems fundamentally altered by multiple, interacting, human impacts.

Sponge diversity of nearshore habitats of Abaco
Stephanie K. Archer & Craig A. Layman
Marine Sciences Program, Florida International University, 3000 NE 151st Street, North Miami, FL 33181, USA 

Sponges are a diverse group filter feeding organisms that perform many critical roles in tropical and subtropical marine ecosystems. However, sponge diversity and community composition are not well understood in most nearshore, non-coral reef, habitats. The most recent published number of confirmed sponge species for the Bahamian archipelago was 95 species, which is considerably less than those reported for nearby regions such as Florida (153 species) and Cuba and Hispaniola (275 species). Therefore, it is likely that sponge diversity has not been fully documented in The Bahamas. In the summer of 2012 we surveyed the sponge community in mixed seagrass and hard bottom habitats surrounding Greater Abaco Island. A total of 214 individual sponges were identified, 173 of which have been assigned to a genus. Thus far 29 unique species belonging to 22 genera, 18 families, and 8 orders have been identified. All sponges identified to date have belonged to the class Demospongia. This study, combined with other recent sponge surveys in Bahamian archipelago, will likely significantly increase the number of sponge species reported for this region. Sponge species can differ dramatically in the ecosystem functions that they perform. Therefore, identifying the members of the sponge community is the first step towards understanding the functional role of sponges in Bahamian nearshore ecosystems.

Lucayan ethnobotany
Mary Jane Berman1 & Deborah M. Pearsall2
1Miami University, USA, 2University of Missouri, USA

Archaeological investigations and archaeobotanical plant recovery reveal that the Lucayans used an array of native and introduced plants for food, transportation, building materials, fuelwood, mortuary accompaniments, perishable technologies (basketry and weaving), and ceremonial activities. These plants were grown or collected in house gardens, fields, or natural habitats indicating the Lucayans’ intimate knowledge of a range of environments and sophisticated understandings of local ecologies. This paper will review the Lucayan archaeobotany data base, the uses to which these plants were put in culturally-specific ways, the environments the Lucayans exploited, created, and managed, the roles that plants played in Lucayan daily, political, spiritual, and symbolic lives, and how the Lucayans used plants to create a unique Lucayan identity.

Biology of green turtles and hawksbills on a foraging ground in the Southern Bahamas: Insights from 35 years of field work
Karen A. Bjorndal & Alan B. Bolten
Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research and Department of Biology, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, USA

We present results from our 35-year study of sea turtles in Union Creek Marine Reserve on the north coast of Great Inagua. Union Creek is a foraging area for immature green turtles and hawksbills and is one of the few places in The Bahamas where sea turtles have been protected from human exploitation over the past four decades. From mtDNA sequence analyses, we know that the green turtle foraging aggregation represents a mixed stock with source rookeries throughout the Atlantic. A combination of flipper tag returns and satellite telemetry has revealed that when green turtles leave Union Creek, they move throughout the Greater Caribbean. Recapture records of individual turtles in Union Creek have allowed estimation of growth rates, survival and emigration probabilities, and estimation of abundance and population trends. We will emphasize results from our study that are only possible from a long-term study including growth models, density-dependent effects, temporal variation in source rookeries, and population trends. We will also describe results from our studies of the roles that sea turtles play in marine ecosystems, including nutrient transport and their effect on the structure and productivity of seagrasses. We will discuss our collaborative efforts to expand the study of sea turtle populations – both intensive mark-recapture studies and extensive surveys – throughout the Bahamas archipelago.

Corals to community: A model for restoration and management
Larry Boles1, Craig Dahlgren2, Sara Green1, Scott Martin1, Allison Corwin1, Tanya Kamerman1, Stacy Knight1, Magan Celt1, Kristin Williams3, Olivia Patterson3, M. Andrew Stamper1
1 Disney’s Animals, Science, and Environment; Walt Disney World Resort, 2 Perry Institute for Marine Science, 3 Friends of the Environment

The abundance of coral reefs around southern Abaco, like others in the Caribbean, has declined over the last four decades as the marine environment has faced a number of natural and man-made stresses. The ecosystem’s inability to recover from these impacts suggests that the habitats have undergone an ecological phase shift from coral reef to an algae dominated state. This decline is evident in terms of the area’s low coral cover and the scarcity or absence of key reef building corals. Since 2007, researchers associated with Walt Disney’s Animal, Science and Environment Team have partnered with Craig Dahlgreen of the Perry Institute for Marine Science to investigate the status of coral reefs off Sandy Point, Abaco. Over the years the project has expanded from a basic scientific study to incorporate aspects of community education with cooperation from Friends of the Environment, and most recently to investigate the feasibility of small scale sponge farming in Bahamian waters.
The specific goals of this project are to (1) determine the baseline status of patch reefs surrounding Gorda Cay (home to Disney’s Castaway Cay) through diver surveys, (2) investigate whether additional sea urchins on certain patch reefs would decrease algal cover, (3) enhance the abundance of reef building corals through nursery growth and transplantation of coral fragments, (4) partner with Friends of the Environment to expand their program offerings for Bahamian students, and (5) investigate the feasibility of sponge aquaculture in southern Abaco.

Conserving a cultural icon: Reconsidering queen conch fishery management in The Bahamas
Catherine Booker1, Allan Stoner2,3, and Martha Davis4
1Community Conch, Savannah, GA, 31405, USA, 2Community Conch, Waldport, Oregon 97394, 3Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA, Newport, Oregon 97365, USA, 4Community Conch, Littleton, CO 80121, USA

The queen conch (
Strombus gigas) remains one of the most culturally and economically important species in The Bahamas. The Bahamas conch fishery is one of the few remaining in the Caribbean region that still supports large domestic and export markets. Recent work by Community Conch, a small volunteer-based U.S. non-profit, and Bahamian partner organizations, suggests that queen conch stocks in The Bahamas are declining. Surveys of conch populations inside and outside of a marine reserve, the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park (ECLSP), and several surveys of important commercial fishing grounds have provided scientists, resource managers, and the conservation community with a clearer picture of the impact of fishing on several measures of conch fishery sustainability: 1) the density of mature adult conchs in a population; 2) the size of juvenile conch aggregations, 2) and the age at which conch become sexually mature. With a new appreciation of the challenge of conserving conch populations in hand, it is now time for stakeholders and policymakers to seriously debate changes to current management policy for the sustainability of the Bahamian conch fishery. The Bahamas is in a unique position to avoid the total fishery collapse that other countries have experienced by protecting reproductive stock, juvenile nurseries, and limiting the overall harvest of conch.

Saving the wetlands one ride at a time
Keanu Braynen
Young Marine Explorers, Rugby Drive, Nassau, The Bahamas, P.O Box CB-13179

The mangrove ecosystems in The Bahamas are being destroyed despite their importance. The Sandals’ Foundation, Young Marine Explorers, Bahamas Sport fishing Conservation Association and Experiential Learning are working together to address this issue. In The Bahamas as well as worldwide mangroves are being deforested for various reasons. Mangroves in The Bahamas influence the community structure of fish on neighboring coral reefs. Mangroves are the nurseries for many species of juvenile fish that sustains The Bahamas as a top fishing destination in the world. Noticing the need for mangroves, the project “Sandals’ Ride to Save the Wetlands” was launched in September, 2012 and aims to take 3000 Bahamian students into mangrove ecosystems where they are learning about the importance of mangrove ecosystems through immersion learning. This project explains how exposing Bahamian students to their mangrove ecosystem can help them to develop an appreciation for their natural environment.

A preliminary assessment of the spatial dynamics of immature green turtles (
Chelonia mydas) within a foraging ground on the Atlantic coast of Eleuthera, The Bahamas
Annabelle Brooks
1, Marie Tarnowski1, Alan Bolten2 & Karen Bjorndal2
1 Cape Eleuthera Institute, Eleuthera, The Bahamas. 2 Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research, Florida, USA

Shallow water, neritic habitats such as mangrove creeks and sea grass beds, serve as critical developmental and foraging habitat for juvenile and sub-adult sea turtles. Tagging studies have elucidated long term use of foraging areas and site fidelity, but very little research has been conducted on the short term movements and habitat partitioning of turtles within foraging habitats. This information is vital for effective management of sea turtles populations throughout their early life stages as harvest or other anthropogenic disturbance could reduce the reproductive potential of the entire population.
This study investigated the spatial dynamics of immature green turtles (
Chelonia mydas) at foraging grounds on the east coast of Eleuthera, The Bahamas. Half Sound is a large (~3 km2) previously un-studied semi-enclosed embayment which encompasses mangroves, rocky shoreline, seagrass beds, and sand flats in depths ranging from 0 – 3m. A narrow channel (~175m wide) connects this diverse mosaic of habitats to the Atlantic ocean. Mangrove and reef-associated fish and sharks are also known to utilise the sound.
Standardised, boat-based, visual surveys were conducted to determine estimates of abundance throughout the sound between March 2012-January 2013. Turtles were captured, measured, weighed and tagged to determine movements and habitat use within the sound, in addition to facilitating population size, growth and survivorship estimates. This data serves elucidate movements, habitat association, and size-based dispersal of individuals within the sound. Identifying these fine-scale patterns within foraging grounds will contribute to a better understanding of habitat and resource use within discrete populations of foraging sea turtles.

The Caribbean reef shark (
Carcharhinus perezi): Six years of research in Bahamian waters
Edward J. Brooks1,2
1Shark Research and Conservation Program, Cape Eleuthera Institute, Eleuthera, The Bahamas, 2School of Marine Science and Engineering, Marine Institute, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, United Kingdom
The Caribbean reef shark (
Carcharhinus perezi) is the most economically and ecologically significant species of shark in The Bahamas, generating substantial revenue as a mainstay of the shark diving industry, and playing a key role as an apex predator in Caribbean coral reef ecosystems. Despite its significance, it remains one of the least studied carcharhinid sharks and fundamental information pertaining to its biology and ecology is largely absent. Over the last six years the Shark Research and Conservation Program at the Cape Eleuthera Institute has been investigating the life history and ecology of the Caribbean reef shark in Bahamian waters through the use of standardised scientific longline surveys, acoustic and satellite tracking, and mark-recapture studies. Findings to-date indicated a demographically stratified population which undertake precise seasonal migrations. Caribbean reef sharks spent 77.8% of the time in water shallower than 40m but regularly made dives to depths in excess of 200 m. The mean depth was significantly shallower during crepuscular periods, in addition to being found at significantly deeper depths during the day compared to the night. The mean depth maintained by females was significantly deeper than that of males and depth records in excess of 100 m were significantly more common in females than males and significantly common at night, indicating sexual and diurnal variation in deep diving behaviour. Caribbean reef sharks inhabiting Bahamian waters have developed demographically segregated habitat use patterns that are both spatiotemporally and vertically stratified, most likely in response to the large and diverse habitat mosaic available on the Bahamas Banks, and greater seasonal range of water temperatures, compared to contemporary study sites.

The diversity and distribution of deepwater Elasmobranchs in the northeast Exuma Sound, The Bahamas, with notes on the movements of bluntnose sixgill sharks.
Edward J. Brooks1,2, Annabelle M. Brooks1, Sean Williams1, Lance K.B. Jordan3, Debra Abercrombie4, Demian D. Chapman5, Lucy A. Howey-Jordan3 & R. Dean Grubbs6
1Shark Research and Conservation Program, Cape Eleuthera Institute, Eleuthera, The Bahamas, 2School of Marine Science and Engineering, Marine Institute, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, United Kingdom, 3Microwave Telemetry, Inc., 8835 Columbia 100 Parkway, Suites K & L, Columbia, MD 21045, USA, 4Abercrombie and Fish, Miller Place, NY 11776, USA, 5School of Marine and Atmospheric Science & Institute for Ocean Conservation Science, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York 11794, USA, 6FSU Coastal & Marine Laboratory, Florida State University, 3618 Coastal Highway 98, St. Teresa, FL 32358, USA.

Basic taxonomic, biological and ecological information is lacking most deep water species, especially elasmobranchs, largely due to the logistical challenges of sustained ecological investigation in this remote and hostile ecosystem. The Exuma Sound is a deep water inlet of the Atlantic Ocean 500 to 2000 meters deep and characterized by steep walls along its margin. The sound is close to land (<3 km), facilitating the sustained investigation of its deep water elasmobranch fauna over extended periods. We conducted 69 deepwater longline surveys from September to December, 2010 and 2011 (depth: 472.6 – 1024.1 m; seabed temperature: 15.6 – 5.9 °C), resulting in the capture of 144 sharks of at least eight species and potentially a new species of
Centrophorus. Elasmobranch species richness declined significantly with increasing distances from the edge of the Exuma Sound (ρ = -0.295, p = 0.014), increasing depth (ρ = -0.242, p = 0.045), and increasing seabed water temperatures (ρ = 0.288, p = 0.016). Distance from the edge of the Exuma Sound and depth were significant predictors for the presence or absence of Squalus cubensis, Mustelus canis insularis. In addition, satellite tagging data for the largest species encountered, Hexanchus griseus, indicated this species makes regimented diel vertical migrations between 400 and 1100 meters deep. Our results demonstrate that deepwater longline surveys in oceanographic areas such as the Exuma Sound are efficient and cost effective methods for the sustained investigation of deep water elasmobranchs that is vital for the effective management of this vulnerable group of species.

A Bahamian network of marine protected areas: Basic concepts and progress on key scientific questions from research in The Bahamas over the last decade.
Daniel R. Brumbaugh1, Alastair R. Harborne2 & Peter J. Mumby2
1Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th St., New York, NY 10024, U.S.A., 2Marine Spatial Ecology Lab, School of Biological Sciences, University of Queensland, St. Lucia Campus, Brisbane, Qld. 4072, Australia.

First in 1999 and then again in 2008 as part of the Caribbean Challenge, the Government of The Bahamas affirmed the goal of protecting 20% of its marine and coastal habitats. As The Bahamas works towards the Challenge’s 2020 targets, this presentation will discuss different types of marine protected areas (MPAs) in The Bahamas, review important criteria and types of data for enhancing the Bahamian network of MPAs, and highlight ecological concepts about how MPAs function. We will introduce concepts of community “representation” and population “connectivity,” often used in the design of robust protected areas systems, and illustrate analyses that show how these scale and apply to Bahamian coral-reef communities. In addition, we will highlight other data products, including maps of hurricane intensity, wave exposure, and coral bleaching vulnerability, that can be used to supplement and complement community and connectivity patterns in national MPA planning. Last, switching from the national to the local level and using the Exumas Cays Land and Sea Park (ECLSP) as a case study, we discuss some of the ecological effects of MPAs to illustrate the importance of MPAs for maintaining and restoring critical Caribbean reef ecosystem processes such as herbivory and coral recruitment.

Restoring degraded Acropora Reefs throughout The Bahamas.
Felicity M. Burrows
The Nature Conservancy, Northern Caribbean Program. 2011. 6# Colonial Hill Plaza, Thompson Boulevard, Nassau, The Bahamas 

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) along with the Kerzner Marine Foundation and The Department of Marine Resources have been working in partnership on a pilot project that focuses on restoring degraded Acropora reefs throughout the Bahamas. This involves establishing and maintaining in-water Staghorn (
Acroporacervicornis) and Elkhorn (Acropora palmata) coral nurseries in the territorial waters of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas. To establish these nurseries, the following tasks are to be performed: 1) Collection of opportunistic, wild coral fragments (boat or storm damaged) of A.cervicornis and A. palmata that would not likely survive in the locations or circumstances in which they are found (i.e. soft substrate or rubble); 2) transportation and storage of collected fragments in staging and quarantine areas near collection or nursery sites (a process called “caching”); 3) tissue sampling (1cm2) from each collected fragmented colony and export for genetic analysis; 4) fragmentation of collected corals into suitable size for nursery propagation; 5) maintenance of the coral nurseries at sites in the waters off of New Providence and other Bahamian islands once suitable sites have been selected; and 6) outplanting sufficiently large colonies from the nursery to coral reef sites that are only located by the nearby area. Once the nurseries have been established, the project’s short term goals include making these coral fragments available for the caching of damaged coral after ship groundings and major storm events. During ship groundings impacted corals in the area may also be exposed to heat damage and antifouling chemicals. This will offer immediate returns on protection of nearshore resources through reduction in environmental impacts and recovery time after such events. The long-term goal however is to increase acroporid larval production and genetic diversity by increasing the likelihood of successful cross-fertilization between genetically distinct colonies within each island’s individual ecosystems located on outplanted restoration sites. This will help acroporid corals increase larval supply rates within the country and the region. Another goal of this project is to determine the most resilient acroporid coral genomes and optimum environmental factors which foster the best coral reef recovery. The coral genotypic information collected as part of this project will provide information on: 1) the degree to which genetics plays a role in influencing survivorship, growth, tolerance of bleaching, and tolerance of other disturbances, and 2) the genetic connectivity of these corals across The Bahamas, Florida and the Virgin Islands of the United States (USVI).Both of these goals will result in significant ecological gains toward the recovery of coral reefs and contribute to long term gains in fisheries and tourism sectors.

Beaked whales and navy sonar in The Bahamas
Diane E Claridge1,2, Charlotte A Dunn1,2, Leigh S Hickmott1,2 & John W Durban3
Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation, P.O. Box AB-20714, Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas, 2Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8LB, Scotland, UK, 3Protected Resources Division, Southwest Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 3333 N. Torrey Pines Ct., La Jolla, California 92037, USA

Atypical strandings of beaked whales from the genera
Mesoplodon and Ziphius have correlated with naval sonar, highlighting the need for a better understanding of their population and behavioural ecology in order to develop effective mitigation. Research conducted on and around navy ranges in the Great Bahama Canyon is filling key data gaps on abundance, density, behavioural responses to sonar and the potential biological significance of sonar exposure on local populations. Primary study areas include coastal waters off southwest Abaco Island and the US Navy’s Atlantic Underwater Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC) in Tongue of the Ocean, where training involves regular sonar use. Sightings from line-transect surveys revealed high abundance of both Mesoplodon and Ziphius in the Great Bahama Canyon, with estimates of 1,426 whales or 51 whales/1000 km2 (CV 0.40), and 1,380 whales or 50 whales/1000 km2 (CV 0.49), respectively. A mark-recapture model fit to photo-identification data from Abaco and AUTEC revealed that annual probabilities of emigration, re-immigration, and survival were similar at the two sites. However, there was a high probability (p=0.88) that average annual abundance was lower at the navy range. Comparison of the age class distributions suggests fewer immature animals at AUTEC, despite a higher proportion of adult females. Lower recruitment may be related to population level effects of sonar use at AUTEC or bio-oceanographic differences between the two sites.

Flamingos in the Bahamas: Past, present and future
Nancy J. Clum
Wildlife Conservation Society, 2300 Southern Blvd., Bronx, NY 10460, USA

This paper reviews changes in the historic distribution of flamingos within the Bahamas, productivity of the Great Inagua population since 1949, results of aerial surveys since 2004, and examines the history of hurricanes in the Bahamas since 1949 and their relationship to patterns of flamingo productivity. Flamingos were documented to nest on at least nine islands within the Bahamas, but by 1890 only two colonies remained. By 1949, Great Inagua was the last remaining breeding colony in the country. During a 52 year period, flamingos bred 83% of years and were at least partially successful in 88% of attempts. All failed breeding attempts were weather-related and 90% were related to drought conditions. Low productivity in breeding years was primarily associated with high rainfall during incubation and nesting. Although productivity was variable, there was no difference in the number of nest mound or the number of chicks over time. However, the number of breeding attempts was lower during the past 30 years compared with the preceding 30 year period. Survey data suggests that the population of flamingos within the Bahamas contracts and is concentrated in Inagua during breeding years and expands to other islands and other parts of the Caribbean during non-breeding years. Preliminary analysis of hurricane data suggests that nesting success is related to the number of storms passing within 500km of the colony and to the directional track of the hurricane (east or west).

Engaging young Bahamians in sea turtle research and conservation
Stephen M.H. Connett
Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA

Family Island Research and Education has volunteered for the Bahamas National Trust since 2006. Our mission is to represent the BNT in the family islands giving presentations in the primary and secondary schools to promote the National Trust and marine conservation. We generally use sea turtles as models to talk to the students about ocean ecology and conservation, but we have also given presentations on sharks and conch to help preserve those species. Stephen Connett has been working with sea turtles for over thirty years beginning with Archie Carr and continuing with Karen Bjorndal and Alan Bolten. Turtle research is an effective means of introducing students to oceanographic studies, so we carry students on day trips, and we take BESS scholars on one to three week research cruises. Since turtles are air breathing reptiles, they can be kept out of water for short periods, and the students can inspect and handle them. The students may forget us but they don’t forget the turtles. The marine ecosystems in the Bahamas have come under tremendous pressure from land development, commercial and recreational fisheries, waste and runoff, and so on. One of the challenges to reducing this pressure and managing marine resources is raising public awareness. By working with the students we know we are investing in the future, but we also find that the students become advocates in their communities and help educate their parents and citizens in their communities.

Ensuring the Nassau grouper’s future in The Bahamas: What over two decades of research can tell us about the sustainable future of this important species
Craig Dahlgren
Perry Institute for Marine Science, P.O. Box 30812, Tucson, Arizona 85751-0812, USA

Nassau grouper (
Epinephelus striatus) were once one of the most important fishery species in The Caribbean, but are now considered an endangered species throughout their range. The Bahamas is one of the few places where viable fisheries for Nassau grouper still exist, with Nassau grouper being one of the most valuable fishery species of The Bahamas. But even here stocks are showing signs of decline. Increasing efforts to protect the species over the past decade have included the implementation of a closed season and expansion of The Bahamas marine protected area network, to complement existing size restrictions. Recently there has been increasing pressure from fishermen to ease some of the restrictions on the fishery. Here we examine the scientific facts to inform management decisions. Critical aspects of Nassau grouper ecology are examined and changes in status of Nassau grouper stocks are examined over the past decades. The Bahamas present management strategies and their implementation are evaluated in light of these aspects of Nassau grouper ecology and recommendations are made to ensure the sustainable future of this important species.

Carbon sequestration of mangrove flats in Eleuthera, The Bahamas
Pedram P. Daneshgar
Monmouth University, Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy Program, 400 Cedar Avenue, West Long Branch, NJ 07764, USA

A promising approach to mitigating rising atmospheric carbon dioxide is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems that sequester large amounts of carbon. Mangrove flats may potentially sequester large quantities of carbon both in the plant biomass and in the sediment. Our primary objective is to determine the carbon sequestration of mangrove flats in Eleuthera. The aim is quantify how much carbon is currently stored in the flats, determine at what rates flats accumulate carbon, and identify the factors that explain these rates. Four mangrove flats were selected for study around Cape Eleuthera.
At each site, two transects with three plots per transect were established. Within each plot, carbon quantities will be determined from above and below ground biomass. Aboveground biomass will be determined through allometrics based upon growth parameters of individuals. Belowground biomass will be determined from root cores. Extracted soil cores will be analyzed to determine percent organic carbon in the sediment. Depth of sediment will be measured quarterly to quantify yearly sediment accumulation. Mangrove growth rates will be determined by measuring the lengthening of internodes over the course of several years. Environmental variables including salinity and tidal flow will be measured at each site and correlated to mangrove growth and sediment accumulation. With the factors known that contribute to the greatest amount of carbon accumulation in mangrove flats, then appropriate sites can be selected for future restoration. Our results will definitely demonstrate whether or not mangrove ecosystems serve as strong carbon sinks.

Divers, data, and documenting the successfulness of a marine park
Melanie DeVore1, Sandra Voegeli2 & Deborah Freile3 1Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Georgia College, CB 01, Milledgeville, GA 2106, U.S.A, 2UC Berkeley Hastings Natural History Reservation, Carmel Valley, CA 93924 USA,; Georgia College and State University (GCSU) Maymester Study Abroad, Ecology and Community Ecology, Bahamas & San Salvador Living Jewels (SSLJ); San Salvador, Bahamas 3Department of Geoscience & Geology, New Jersey City University, Jersey City, NJ 07305, U.S.A.
There are a number of grassroots movements among divers targeted at protecting marine environments. For example, Project Aware Foundation has recently established initiatives for divers to play an active role in shark protection and marine trash cleanup. The benefit of such projects is that they are financed by the diving tourism community and do not use governmental resources to fund management of marine resources vital to the economy. In essence, the tourist is in part, paying the cost needed for maintaining the resource they use. Aside from large worldwide communities, such as Project Aware, it is possible to have regional dive operators harness the environmental consciousness of their guests. In this presentation we would like to discuss a model for establishing a system for collecting data on conch on San Salvador Island in conjunction with Seafari
at Club Med. The potential for gaining invaluable data regarding the status of conch populations before and after the establishment of a marine park exists. Partnerships between the dive industry and the BNT would build a strong alliance for maintaining the marine resources which are the lifeblood of Bahamian tourism.

Ecology and conservation of the Bimini Boa (Epicrates striatus fosteri)
Ricardo A. Escobar III1, William K. Hayes1, Grant Johnson2 & Katie Grudecki2
1Loma Linda University, California, 92350, USA, 2Bimini Sands Hotel, Bimini, The Bahamas

Published ecological studies of the endemic Bimini Boa (
Epicrates striatus fosteri) remain absent from the scientific literature, despite a suspected decline within its historic range. In light of the escalating rarity of the species, the somewhat fragile nature of remaining habitat on Bimini, and the irreplaceable role that Bimini Boas occupy in the culture and ecosystems of the islands, we have begun a series of studies to acquire ecological information with the hope of aiding sound management decisions in the future. Preliminary analyses of mark-recapture data (61 snakes; South Bimini) collected from 2005 to 2010 suggests approximately 60% survivorship and a population numbering only in the hundreds on South Bimini. In addition, we used radiotelemetry (spring 2010-present) to study the movement ecology and habitat preferences of eight adult boas (6 females, 2 males). Snakes frequently remained at one site for extended periods of time (up to 1 month), only occasionally making short daily movements to new sites, and often returning to previously used sites. Boas exhibited a preference for rock piles on the edges of Blackland Coppice forests, which were often associated with disturbed anthropogenic habitat. Thus far, it remains unclear why boa numbers are dwindling, but we suspect that deliberate road killings, predation by invasive mammals (cats, dogs, rats, and raccoons), and loss of habitat are major contributors. As a “charismatic species” that readily captures the fascination of the public, the boa can serve as an effective “flagship species” to enhance environmental and conservation awareness among Bahamians. Additional ecological, population genetics, and phylogeographic studies are underway, and conservation education programs are also being planned. One particular educational component will be to construct a small captive breeding facility that will be open for public visitation. This facility will facilitate our efforts to increase awareness about the boa’s plight and help us augment the natural population.

Investigating manatee habitat use in The Berry Islands
Kendria L. Ferguson1, Diane E. Claridge1, Charlotte A. Dunn1, Indira N. Brown3, Adam R. Morgan4 & James P Reid2
Bahamas Marine Mammal Research Organisation, P.O. Box AB-20714, Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas, 2U.S. Geological Survey/SESC-Sirenia Project, 2201 NW 40th Terrace, Gainesville, FL 32605, 3Department of Marine Resources, Ministry of Agriculture & Marine Resources, P.O.Box N-3028, Nassau, Bahamas, 4Dolphin Cay-Atlantis Paradise Island, P.O. Box N-4777, Paradise Island, Bahamas

Over the past two decades, the number of reported sightings of West Indian manatees
(Trichechus manatus) in The Bahamas has increased. Starting in 2000, a small resident population of West Indian manatees have become established near Great Harbour Cay (GHC), Berry Islands. This is the first known breeding population of manatees to be documented in The Bahamas, which provides an opportunity to investigate how manatees utilize habitats available here. In April 2012, after spending over six months in captivity, two known manatees from Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, were fitted with telemetry tags and released in GHC. Here we report on over 200 days of radio-tracking an adult female and her dependent female calf, providing data on their movement patterns, site-fidelity, and preferred use areas. Post-release field tracking using VHF signals resulted in fourteen visual observations over a 39-day period, six of which included one or more of the four other manatees resident at GHC. Visual observations coupled with telemetry data highlighted four areas used for resting, traveling and feeding, and therefore may be critical for manatees survival at GHC. As the number of manatees in Florida continues to increase, we can expect more manatees to appear in Bahamian waters, so there is a need to understand their behavioural ecology in the region. Our data suggest that The Berry Islands have suitable habitat and resources for sustaining manatees. These findings will help guide conservation measures for this population, and for other areas where manatees may become established in The Bahamas.

Investigating personality in juvenile lemon sharks (Negaprion brevirostris).
J.S. Finger1,4, T.L. Guttridge1-3, A.D. Wilson5, N. Dochtermann6, S.H. Gruber1,3 & J. Krause4,5
1Bimini Biological Field Station, South Bimini, Bahamas, 2School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3XQ, UK, 3Division of Marine Biology and Fisheries, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA, 4 Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, 5Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, Department of Biology and Ecology of Fishes, Berlin 12587, Germany, 6 Department of Biological Sciences, North Dakota State University, U.S.A.

Animal personality has gained a lot of interest in the last decade and it is now clear that most animals (from vertebrates to invertebrates) have personality. Personality in animals represents behavioral consistency, meaning for instance that a bold individual will stay bold in every situation relative to a shy individual. The recent boom in personality studies comes from the far reaching implications from both an evolutionary as well as an ecological point of view. It is therefore important to investigate the presence of personality in elasmobranch fishes. This project is based on behavioral observations in different contexts such as sociability and novel environments in the juvenile lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris). An experimental pen was designed to assess six sharks for these latter tests per day in two nurseries. During the year 2012, 121 lemon sharks were tested and among these sharks 80 were retested. Results revealed that juvenile lemon sharks posses a social and explorative personality that stayed consistent over a 6 month period. Furthermore, in one of the nurseries a strong correlation between exploration and sociability was found being the first demonstration of behavioral syndromes in elasmobranches and also illuminating an interesting difference between the two tested populations. In the following year, the large sample size that will be accumulated by this method will allow us to investigate the genetic component of personality and the relationship between personality type, growth rate and survival along with testing personality in their natural environment.

The making of the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve, Eleuthera
Ethan H. Freid & Mark Daniels
Bahamas National Trust, The Retreat, Village Road, Nassau, The Bahamas

In the spring of 2006, Shelby White of the Levy Foundation approached the Bahamas National Trust with the idea of constructing a botanical garden/nature preserve on Eleuthera in honor of her late husband Leon Levy. The mission was to create a location to showcase Bahamian native plants, to conserve information about bush medicine, and to support early childhood education. In 2008, 25 acres were purchased outside of Governors Harbour and the following winter groundbreaking began. Twenty-three acres were intact pristine Dry Broadleaf Evergreen Formation- Forest (DBEF-F). The other two acres were heavily disturbed, covered with invasive
Jasminum flumense and Casuarina equisetifolia, and included an old dumpsite from the 1960’s. All of the trash and invasives were removed and native species brought in to restore the area to DBEF-F. On March 24, 2011 the Leon Levy Native Plant Preserve opened its doors to the public. The Preserve features 1.25 miles of walking trails, mangrove boardwalk, water feature, welcome center, education pavilion, medicinal plant beds, and a 20-foot tower at its highest elevation that overlooks Eleuthera. Programs are now being developed for primary and secondary school education and natural history research.

Overlooking the obvious: Conservation of the ecosystem engineers
Deborah Freile1 & Melanie DeVore2, 1Department of Geoscience & Geology, New Jersey City University, Jersey City, NJ 07305, USA., 2Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Georgia College, CB 01, Milledgeville, GA 2106, USA.
Calcareous algae are abundant in the near shore environments of the Bahamas. These organisms are important ecosystem engineers and are responsible for a significant amount of calcium carbonate sediment. To date, we know very little regarding the role these algae play in the global carbon cycle or how their rates of calcium carbonate production are impacted by ocean acidity. The Bahamas archipelago is an ideal setting for studies of calcium carbonate production by calcareous algae (Freile et al., 2011) and these studies would be useful in adding important data to global models of carbon cycling. These algae, and in particular,
Halimeda have been extensively screened for antimicrobial action (e.g. Selim, 2012) and could also represent a potential pharmaceutical resources (Freile-Pelegrin et al., 2008, Mooc-Puc, 2008) as well as serve as antioxidents (Zubia et al., 2007). Finally, there is growing evidence that the epibiotic biofilms on Halimeda ( play significant roles in the abiotic and biotic interactions of this organism with the environment. These include the potential of Halimeda harboring pathogens as part of its epibiotic flora. Of particular interest to coral reef health in the Carribbean is the documentation that Halimeda opuntia promotes mortality of some massive corals, including Montastrea (Marquez and Diaz, 2005). Conservation efforts often focus on the rare organisms and those used extensively by humans. However, conservation and monitoring of the common, obvious elements of ecosystems can provide important indications of the health and operation of near shore marine communities.

The discovery of important shorebird overwintering sites in The Bahamas
Walker Golder1, Matt Jeffery2 & Predensa Moore3
1National Audubon Society, North Carolina State Office, 7741 Market Street, Unit D
Wilmington, NC 28411, USA,
2International Alliances Program, National Audubon Society, 1200 18th Street, Suite 500, Washington D.C. 20036, USA & Bahamas National Trust, P.O. Box N-4105, Nassau, The Bahamas

 Many shorebird species that occur in The Bahamas breed in the middle and northern latitudes of North America, some as far north as the Arctic Circle. They travel southward in the summer and early fall, stopping over during migration or overwintering in The Bahamas, and return during late spring.  The majority of their annual cycle is spent at overwintering sites. These long distance migrations are energetically expensive and shorebirds often arrive at stopover or wintering sites with depleted fat reserves.  They need of high quality food and foraging habitat to survive the winter and replenish fat reserves that will fuel spring migration.  Identifying the sites that support shorebirds during migration and winter is important to implementing successful conservation strategies.  Overall, overwintering sites for high-priority shorebird species in The Bahamas, species such as piping plovers and red knots, is poorly understood.   In 2011 and 2012, we conducted thorough shorebird surveys in the Joulter Cays and Berry Islands. These surveys resulted in the identification of previously unknown and significant wintering areas for piping plovers, red knots, and other shorebirds.

Golf course fertilizer runoff causes nutrient enrichment leading to harmful algae blooms on a Bahamian coral reef
Thomas J. Goreau1 James Cervino2 & Troy Albury3
Global Coral Reef Alliance, Cambridge MA 0239, USA, 2Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA 02543, USA, 3Guana Cay Reef, Guana Cay, Abaco, The Bahamas

Golf courses overlooking the sea are popular tourist attractions. There are no studies on effects of golf course fertilizer runoff on coral reefs, although many environmental impact assessments deny deterioration would occur. We studied changes in coastal algae, algae nutrient contents, and health of adjacent coral reefs, before and after construction of Bakers Bay Golf Course on Guana Cay, Abaco. After construction new algae blooms appeared along shores nearest to golf course greens, smothering corals in adjacent reefs, along with sharply increased coral diseases. Bakers Bay claimed there was no link between algae blooms and fertilizer use, that blooms were natural, caused by hurricanes, or due to septic tank leakage from remote areas. We measured coastal algae nitrogen and phosphorus contents around Guana Cay in dry and rainy seasons. Guana Cay waters are phosphorus limited. The highest abundance of harmful algae is in waters next to the golf course, and they contain higher nitrogen than algae from any other part of the island. Algae nitrogen/phosphorus ratios were higher in the rainy season and phosphorus contents lower. The nutrient source triggering algae blooms appears to be nitrogen leaching from golf course fertilizer into the sea via groundwater seepage. We believe similar results could be found in any golf course overlooking tropical shores, however this study is the first to document such impacts. Much stronger water quality standards, monitoring, and enforcement, better fertilizer management, and planning controls on siting are needed to protect coral reef environments from golf course fertilizer-caused eutrophication.

Suppressing invasive lionfish populations prevents declines in coral reef fish
Stephanie J. Green1, Annabelle Brooks2, Lad Akins3, Skylar Miller2,4, Jocelyn Curtis-Quick2 & Isabelle M. Côté1
1Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC Canada, 2Cape Eleuthera Institute, Eleuthera Island, Bahamas, 750 S.W. 34th Street, Suite 111, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33315, 3Reef Environmental Education Foundation, 98300 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, FL, USA 33037, 4Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados, BB 11000

Originating in the Indo-Pacific, predatory lionfish first appeared in Bahamian waters in 2004 and are now ubiquitous within our local marine environment. The invasion is causing a range of negative impacts to ecosystems, including depletion of many native fish species. To combat these effects, we develop and tested targets for the control of lionfish with the goal of suppressing lionfish densities below levels that cause declines in the native Atlantic fishes they consume on invaded coral reefs.
Our field experiment took place on 24 natural coral patch reefs in Rock Sound, Eleuthera Island, which contains very important nursery habitat for coral reef fishes that are both economically and ecologically valuable. Our study within this area reveals that reducing invasive lionfish below densities at which they are predicted to over-consume prey can protect native fish communities from predation impacts, since the recovery of fish biomass achieved on these reefs was similar that achieved by complete invader removal. This study suggests that for broadly distributed and highly abundant invaders, such as lionfish, expending limited management resources to suppress invaders below densities that cause environmental harm can be as ecologically effective and more cost-effective than striving for complete removal of invaders.

Lionfish derbies as a tool for building capacity and affecting control
Stephanie J. Green1, Lad Akins*2, Keri Kenning2 & Elizabeth Underwood2,3
Department of Biological Sciences, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive, Burnaby, BC Canada, 2 Reef Environmental Education Foundation, 98300 Overseas Highway, Key Largo, FL, USA 33037, 3Cape Eleuthera Institute, Eleuthera Island, Bahamas, 750 S.W. 34th Street, Suite 111, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33315

Indo-Pacific lionfish (
Pterois volitans and P. miles) have rapidly established dense populations throughout the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and US Atlantic coast, and are now producing a marine invasion that is among the most destructive in history. Managers across the region are now devising strategies to suppress lionfish populations that make best use of limited resources. A strategy that is proving effective at increasing local capacity to combat the invasion is the creation of lionfish derbies or tournaments, but whether derby events are an effective means to control local lionfish populations, and the area over which they may affect control, remain unknown. We evaluated the magnitude and scale of lionfish population suppression achieved during the Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, Lionfish Derby on June 16, 2012, using a combination of pre- and post-derby in-water assessments of lionfish density, measurements of derby catch, and surveys of derby participant fishing effort and location. Derby participants removed 770 lionfish during the single day event, resulting in a 69% reduction in the lionfish population within the derby area, compared with pre-derby levels. Crucially, population suppression was isolated to the area in which the derby occurred. Our work is the first to estimate the viability of this approach to lionfish control, and indicates that these single day events can be an effective strategy for suppressing the invasion at a local scale. The results of this effort may be used to better inform resource managers and lionfish control programs throughout the region.

Movements and habitat use of smalltooth sawfish in Florida and the Bahamas: an investigation of population connectivity in a critically endangered species
R. Dean Grubbs1 & John K. Carlson2
1Florida State University Coastal and Marine Lab 2NOAA/National Marine Fisheries Service, Southeast Fisheries Science Center – Panama City Laboratory

Worldwide, there are five extant species of sawfishes and all are listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Redlist of Threatened species. The smalltooth sawfish (
Pristis pectinata) is the only domestic marine fish listed under the United States’ Endangered Species Act. The U.S. population of smalltooth sawfish declined dramatically due to overfishing in net fisheries and recreational harvest for the rostra. Habitat loss from urban development, agriculture, and freshwater diversion exacerbated population decline and is likely the greatest hindrance to recovery. The range of smalltooth sawfish in the United States contracted dramatically and is now primarily restricted to southwest Florida (the only known nurseries) and the Florida Keys. A critical determinant of recovery likelihood is the rate of mixing between U.S. and adjacent population segments. Smalltooth sawfish occur throughout the Bahamas, but pupping has not been documented and it is unknown if the Bahamas and U.S. population segments are distinct. Sawfish have also declined in the Bahamas due to recreational harvest and habitat degradation; however, adults are not rare in specific areas, especially the west side of Andros. As a companion to our large-scale sawfish research project in southwest Florida, we are studying movements and habitat use of sawfish in the Bahamas. We conducted two expeditions to Andros to tag smalltooth sawfish using archival satellite tags and collect tissue for population genetic analyses. We will present preliminary results and discuss the potential role of the Bahamas in recovery of this globally endangered species.

20 years of research on the lemon shark (Negaprion brevirostris) in Bimini, Bahamas
T.L. Guttridge1-3, K. Feldheim4, D.D. Chapman5, B. Franks6, S.T. Newman7, J.D. Dibattista8, S.T. Kessel9 & S.H. Gruber1,2
1Bimini Biological Field Station, South Bimini, Bahamas, 2School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3XQ, UK., 3Division of Marine Biology and Fisheries, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA, 4Field Museum, Pritzker Laboratory for Molecular Systematics and Evolution, Chicago, IL, USA, 5School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, Stony Brook University, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook, NY 11794, 6Department of Biology, Rollins College, Winter Park Florida 32789, USA, 7School of Marine Science and Technology, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, UK, 8King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, KAUST Innovation Cluster, Unity Boulevard, Thuwal Saudi Arabia, 9Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research, Windsor University, 401 Sunset Avenue, Windsor, ON N9B 3P4, Canada.

Here we present research highlights from 20 years of extensive field and laboratory experiments conducted on lemon sharks (
Negaprion brevirostris) in Bimini, Bahamas. Our projects focussed on various aspects of shark biology including: mating systems, life history traits, space and habitat use, dietary preferences, population dynamics and effects of anthropogenic development. Such a broad range of biological research questions have required a variety of molecular, behavioural and ecological tools and analyses. Shark movement and habitat use were monitored through static and active ultrasonic acoustic technology, diet preference assessed through non-lethal stomach eversions (n = 642) and survival and growth rates through mark-recapture studies. We have also taken genetic samples from >3500 individual lemon sharks and used pedigree reconstruction and kinship analysis to determine heritability of and / or selection on morphological traits. Our results showed reproductive females display strong philopatry to Bimini, returning every other year to give birth. Litters were sired by multiple males indicative of a polyandrous mating system. Due to the longevity of our study, we also documented the first evidence of natal philopatry in any elasmobranch with two females born in Bimini returning to give birth themselves. Lemon sharks born in Bimini displayed a slow growth rate relative to other sites in their first 3 years (~5-7cm per yr), high first year mortality (38 – 65 %), small home ranges and prey preferences that changed through ontogeny. These findings have revolutionised our understanding of shark biology and have important implications for fisheries management and conservation. We conclude by emphasising the importance of establishing the boundaries for Bimini’s marine protected area to ensure the future of the Bahamas elasmobranch fauna.

Early life history of bonefish in Eleuthera, The Bahamas
Christopher R. Haak1,2 & Andy J. Danylchuk1,2
Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, USA
2School of Marine Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst, MA, USA

Bonefish (
Albula vulpes) are important components of shallow-water ecosystems throughout the Bahamas archipelago, where they support a profitable catch-and-release fishery. Despite their considerable value, efforts to manage and conserve bonefish stocks have been hindered by a lack of information on their early life history. While adult bonefish are generally considered inhabitants of tidal flats and mangrove creek systems, the coastal areas occupied by juvenile bonefish before recruitment to the fishery remain largely unknown. The results of a two-year study assessing the abundance of juvenile bonefish across a range of coastal habitats in Eleuthera suggest that juvenile A. vulpes inhabit shallow waters along the shorelines of highly sheltered coastal embayments. Juvenile bonefish were consistently collected in the company of greater numbers of like-sized mojarras (Eucinostomus spp.), displaying similar dorsal and lateral coloration not apparent in adult conspecifics, possibly indicative of protective mimicry. Furthermore, while both species share a common feeding mechanism, stirring up bottom sediments to prey upon benthic invertebrates, gut contents of bonefish and mojarras collected together exhibited little overlap, potentially signaling a non-competitive foraging association or positive partnership.

The use of Earthwatch volunteers and island school students to understand the role of patch reefs and mangrove creeks as nursery habitats in Eleuthera
Alastair R. Harborne1, Annabelle Brooks2, Andrew B. Gill3, Danielle Owen2, Katherine A. Sloman4 & Rod W. Wilson5
1School of Biological Sciences, Goddard Building, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld 4072, Australia, 2Cape Eleuthera Institute, PO Box 29, Rock Sound, Eleuthera, The Bahamas, 3University of Cranfield, Natural Resources Department Building 37, Cranfield, Bedfordshire MK45 4DT, UK, 4School of Science, University of West Scotland, Paisley Campus, Paisley, PA1 2BE, UK, 5Biosciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter, EX4 4PS, UK

Coral reef fishes provide ecosystem services, such as provision of seafood, that are vital to local communities, and also key biological services. For example, parrotfishes are critical for maintaining reef resilience through grazing on macroalgae that are detrimental to corals. A key factor maintaining populations of many fish species is the sequential use of mangroves and patch reef nursery areas by juveniles. However, nurseries are being impacted by fishing, climate change, and coastal development. To conserve these habitats, and therefore fishes, we need a better ecological understanding of nurseries and the effects of threats to them. The project described here, based at the Cape Eleuethera Institute, trains and uses volunteers recruited by the Earthwatch Institute and Island School students to study multiple mangrove creeks and patch reefs in Eleuthera. The aim is to provide novel insights into which areas are the most critical nurseries for protection. Furthermore, the study will span a spectrum of healthy and disturbed patch reefs and mangroves, establishing the effects of: (1) reduced habitat quality on patch reefs (e.g. following coral bleaching events driven by climate change); (2) increased fish predation because of fishing of top predators which increases feeding by 'middle-ranking' mesopredators; and (3) human disturbance of mangroves. The project will improve coastal managers’ abilities to (1) prioritise nursery areas for inclusion in conservation initiatives and (2) understand how direct and sub-lethal effects change the population dynamics of parrotfish and fishery species, and hence the ecosystem services provided by tropical seascapes.

James Bond and the mysteries of bird taxonomy: newly recognized bird species in the Bahamas and conservation implications
William K. Hayes
Department of Earth and Biological Sciences, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA 92350, USA

Unbeknownst to many, the namesake for James Bond–the spy character invented by novelist Ian Fleming–was a prominent ornithologist (and a one-woman man) of the mid-20th century who specialized in West Indies birds. His prolific studies of the region's avifauna established the taxonomic status of many bird species recognized to this day. Thus, for many decades only three endemic bird species (found nowhere else) were recognized in the Bahamas. However, recent studies examining morphological, plumage, vocal, and molecular variation have identified previously unrecognized diversity. Newly recognized species which were formerly considered geographical variants or subspecies include the Bahama Oriole (
Icterus northropi, formerly lumped with three other species as the Greater Antillean Oriole) and the Bahama Warbler (Setophaga flavescens, split from the Yellow-throated Warbler, S. dominica). Evidence also suggests that the two Bahamas subspecies of the Cuban Parrot (Abaco Parrot, Amazona leucocephala abacoensis, and Inagua Parrot, A. l. inaguaensis) are distinct species, and that the Bahama Nuthatch (Sitta pusilla insularis) could be split from the Brown-headed Nuthatch. Several additional species consist of differentiated populations that might also warrant elevation to full species, including several Bahamas subspecies of the West Indian Woodpecker (Melanerpes superciliaris). In each of these cases, elevation of the taxon to full species also elevates its conservation status, especially since the new and candidate species are island endemics with small, highly vulnerable populations. Thus, our emerging view of avian biodiversity in the Bahamas invites reassessment of conservation priorities for the nation.

Biodiversity of amphibians, reptiles, and birds in the Bahamas: hotspots, prioritization, and protection
William K. Hayes & Ricardo A. Escobar III
Department of Earth and Biological Sciences, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA 92350, USA

As a part of the Caribbean biodiversity hotspot, the Bahamas host substantial species richness and endemism. However, like archipelagos elsewhere, and largely because of anthropogenic impacts, many of these species and the habitats they require are threatened. Biodiversity hotspots have become prominent in conservation biology, but their delineation, prioritization, and protection can be elusive. In an effort to address these issues in the Bahamas, we identified biodiversity hotspots for terrestrial amphibians and reptiles (collectively) and for birds based on three indices (species richness, endemism, and threat) and two taxonomic levels (species and subspecies). Diversity lists were constructed from the literature for each of 19 islands or island groups. Within each of the six categories (three indices x two taxonomic levels), the two most diverse islands (10%) were deemed hotspots. Our analyses often revealed poor congruence in identifying hotspots among the three indices and sometimes between the two taxonomic levels. Habitat protection in the form of National Parks exists for some identified hotspots, but is lacking for many endangered and endemic species. Our approach provides an objective basis for hotspot prioritization and for decisions regarding management and protection of biodiversity. It also underscores two urgent needs: 1) to address species limits using modern systematics methods and concepts, and 2) to assess the current population status of many taxa. These needs are especially important for the 37-plus species and 87-plus subspecies of native terrestrial amphibians and reptiles whose taxonomic and population status remain largely unknown.

Behavioral ecology and conservation of the rock iguana Cyclura rileyi
William K. Hayes, Ricardo A. Escobar III, & Ronald L. Carter
Department of Earth and Biological Sciences, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA 92350, USA

Three subspecies of the rock iguana
Cyclura rileyi are currently recognized, including the San Salvador Iguana (C. r. rileyi), the Acklins Bight Iguana (C. r. nuchalis), and the Sandy = White Cay Iguana (C. r. cristata of the southern Exumas). Population and threat assessments indicate that all three taxa remain vulnerable to extinction. Threats identified include habitat degradation (from catastrophic storms and an introduced cactus-eating moth), feral mammals (particularly rats, but also a raccoon), disease, population fragmentation, ecotourism and smuggling, and habitat inundation by rising sea levels. Dietary diversity of these near-exclusive vegetarians appears to be highly constrained on some cays. Home range size seems similar for males and females but varies somewhat between populations. Females attain sexual maturity at approximately 20 cm SVL and 300 g. Mating occurs from late‑May to mid‑June. Both males and females seek multiple copulations, suggesting a polygamous mating system. Egg‑laying in burrows occurs mainly during July, with clutch size corresponding to female body size and nest defense by females varying with nesting density. Hatching occurs late-September to mid-October. Adults occasionally cannibalize young. Habitat restoration efforts (invasive mammal and Casuarina eradication, nest substrate replenishment) on several cays has yielded mixed results. Two translocation projects to establish repatriated populations of C. r. rileyi on San Salvador failed, in one case most likely because of rats (Rattus rattus). A captive headstarting facility established in 2012 at the Gerace Research Centre of San Salvador will supplement natural populations, enhance environmental education, and promote habitat protection.

Mapping forest height, foliage height profiles, and disturbance type and age with satellite imagery to characterize Kirtland’s Warbler habitat on southern Eleuthera, The Bahamas.
Eileen H. Helmer1, T.S. Ruzycki2, J.M. Wunderle, Jr.1, C. Kwit3, D.N. Ewert4, S.M. Voggesser2 & T.J. Brandeis5
International Institute of Tropical Forestry, USDA Forest Service, San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA, 2Center for Environmental Management of Military Lands, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO, USA, 3Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, USA, 4The Nature Conservancy, Lansing, MI, USA, 5Southern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Knoxville, TN, USA

We mapped canopy height and foliage height profiles of coppice habitats with a time series of Landsat and Advanced Land Imager (ALI) imagery on south Eleuthera, substituting time for vertical canopy space. Forest disturbance type and age were simultaneously mapped to characterize the winter habitat for an endangered Nearctic-Neotropical migrant bird, the Kirtland's Warbler (
Setophaga kirtlandii). We also documented relationships between forest vertical structure, disturbance type, and counts of forage species important to the warbler. The ALI imagery and the Landsat time series showed a strong relationship of forest height with disturbance type and time since disturbance. Forest disturbance rates changed in south Eleuthera from 1984 to 2005. Disturbance rates tended to be largest for agriculture associated with bulldozing before the year 2000, averaging 107 ha/year over four intervals before the year 2000. Forest disturbance for agriculture with bulldozing increased to an average of 207 ha/year over three intervals since 2000. However, fire became the largest source of forest disturbance after 2000, increasing 9-fold from an average of 65 ha/year before then to an average of 579 ha/year after. Four hurricanes brushed or hit Eleuthera from 1999 to 2004, suggesting that the increase in area disturbed by fire may result from increased fuel loadings caused by hurricane disturbance, though the concurrent increase in forest clearing for agriculture is probably also important. Forest clearing for goat grazing increased slightly after around 2001. The disturbances documented here indicate that the Kirtland’s Warblers are found in early successional habitats on Eleuthera.

Natural diet of Northern Bahamian rock iguanas (Cyclura cychlura) in the Exuma Islands of The Bahamas
Kirsten Hines 260 Crandon Blvd, Ste 32-190, Key Biscayne, FL 33149, USA

Northern Bahamian Rock Iguanas (
Cyclura cychlura) are endemic to The Bahamas and are found on islands throughout the Exumas. They are the largest native, terrestrial vertebrate in the area and are considered to be primarily herbivorous. There has been limited detailing of their native diet other than in contrast to situations where iguanas are fed by people (Hines 2011, Herpetological Conservation and Biology 6(2):250-259). The purpose of the present study is to fully document their natural diet. This paper presents preliminary data on the diet of the largest iguana populations located on 13 islands in the Exumas. Diet was determined by analysis of scat, supplemented by additional observations. Sampling was conducted over multiple years and in different seasons to reflect the full complement of food items being consumed. The Rock Iguanas’ diet is primarily but not entirely herbivorous, predominantly composed of seeds and leaves of over 25 species of native plants.

Lionfish invasion: Fact vs. fantasy
Mark A. Hixon
Department of Biology, University of Hawai’i, Honolulu, Hawai’I, USA

The invasion of tropical Western Atlantic and Caribbean coral reefs by Pacific red lionfish (
Pterois volitans) is particularly intense in the Bahamas, where the highest abundances in the world have been recorded. There is much misinformation circulating about lionfish and their ecological effects. For example, lionfish are not toxic (poisonous via ciguatoxin or other toxins) in the Bahamas, and the venom in their spines is denatured by cooking, so lionfish are safe to eat (and are quite delicious) if one can avoid being poked. Lionfish do not attack swimmers or divers. However, lionfish are voracious predators of native reef fishes, capable of reducing the abundance of small fish (both small species and the babies of large species) by over 90%, as well as reducing the number of native fish species on invaded reefs. Thus, lionfish are not ecological equivalents of overfished grouper, and indeed, there is evidence that lionfish outcompete ecologically similar native grouper. Fish parasites do not infect invasive lionfish substantially, and native sharks and grouper do not eat healthy lionfish to any level that can control lionfish abundance. However, large moray eels do occasionally attack lionfish, and large abundances of Nassau grouper on a reef can interfere with the hunting behavior of lionfish. Therefore, the best approach for reducing the effects of the invasion are (1) direct removals by humans and (2) marine reserves that foster high abundances of groupers and other large predators. In any case, the lionfish is here to stay – complete eradication is impossible.

Utilization of Bahamian shark sanctuary by the oceanic whitetip shark – Refuge from what lies beyond
Lucy Howey-Jordan¹, Edd Brooks², Annabelle Brooks², Debra Abercrombie³, Sean Williams4, Emily Gospodarczyk¹, Lance Jordan¹ & Demian Chapman5
¹Microwave Telemetry, Inc., ²Shark Research and Conservation Program, Cape Eleuthera Institute, The Bahamas, ³Abercrombie and Fish,
4Stuart Cove’s Tiger Beach Seafaris, 5Stony Brook University

Once considered among the most abundant pelagic predators, the oceanic whitetip shark (
Carcharhinus longimanus) has drastically declined in the last 25 years due to overexploitation. This species is especially impacted in the western Atlantic Ocean, where it is currently listed as “Critically Endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). After banning longline fishing in the mid-1990s, The Commonwealth of The Bahamas recently prohibited commercial shark fishing in its 630,000 km² Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Given that this area may provide a fishing refuge for this species, the goals of our study were to: 1) quantify the time sharks spend within this EEZ, 2) determine long-term movements of individuals as they moved away from aggregation sites in The Bahamas, and 3) characterize the vertical and thermal habitat use of this understudied pelagic species. We deployed pop-up satellite archival tags on 11 adult female sharks at an aggregation site near Cat Island, The Bahamas in May 2011 as a pilot effort to achieve these goals. Another female shark was opportunistically tagged 420 km south of Cape Hatteras, USA. Eleven tags reported, collecting a total of 1,563 days of tracking data. Four tags were physically recovered, adding greater resolution to an already robust dataset – 1,146,959 depth and temperature records combined. Mean depth utilized by tracked sharks was 43.9 m (± 10.34 SD) and the mean temperature encountered was 26.1 °C (± 0.55 SD). The deepest dive observed was 1081.9 m and the coolest temperature was 7.75 °C. Preliminary reconstructed tracks revealed that tagged individuals spent substantial amounts of time (approximately 58 % of days tracked) within the Bahamian EEZ. It therefore appears likely that the Bahamas longline ban and newly implemented shark sanctuary could provide a significant refuge from fishing pressure the oceanic whitetip shark is exposed to outside of this area.

The endangered Allen Cays Iguana: What three decades of research in the Exumas have revealed
John B. Iverson
Department of Biology, Earlham College, Richmond, Indiana 47374 USA;

The Allen Cays Iguana, Cyclura cychlura inornata, is endemic to the Allen Cays in the Exuma Islands of the Bahamas and is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List. Nearly extirpated in the early 1900s. it occurs today naturally on only three small islands in the Allen Cays (total area 14 ha; total population ca. 1000). Another 250 individuals also now exist on additional small islands due to human translocations. Assisted by students, alumni, and faculty of Earlham College, I have been studying these iguanas since 1980, and we have now accumulated over 6800 captures during 30 research trips totaling over 40 weeks on the islands. Standard mark-release-recapture methods have provided data on growth (1-2 mm body length per year), reproduction (maturity after 12 years; usually 3-7 eggs laid from mid June to mid July), behavior (arboreality, nest defense), demography (ca. 90% annual survivorship), changes in sex ratio (from two males per female to equality), and longevity (at least 40 years), and together these data have allowed us to produce the only life table available for any Bahamian lizard. I will summarize these long-term findings, and detail our efforts to address the latest assault on this iguana - the introduction of house mice to Allen Cay.

Disturbance and its effect on avian populations on New Providence Island, Bahamas
Scott Johnson
Bahamas Nation Trust, Nassau, Bahamas & Puerto Rican Conservation Foundation, San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA.

Natural disturbances, such as hurricanes, and human disturbances, such as bulldozing forest habitats, can have different effects on wildlife and ecosystems. In my study, I hypothesized that human disturbance has had greater effects on the bird populations of New Providence Island, Bahamas than have hurricanes. I used Christmas Bird Count data for New Providence from 1995-2010 to determine if there were significant changes in bird populations during these years, and I used information from land development agencies and data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (
NOAA), to investigate changes in land development and storm frequency. My results revealed that of the 180 species investigated, 26 species have had significant population change during the 15 years of study. Of these 26 species, the population sizes of 13 species increased (eight residents and five migrants), 10 species decreased (eight residents and two migrants) and three species were extirpated (two residents and one unknown). My analysis also found that there was no significant effect of storms on bird population sizes, suggesting that human activity was the main reason for their change in population numbers. My data also revealed that most of the birds that showed an increase in population size (61.5%) were resident, non-migratory birds adapted to urban areas whereas most of the birds that decreased in population size (80%) were resident birds that preferred natural and early successional habitats. This indicates that human disturbance and urbanization on New Providence may be selecting for species more adapted to human dominated areas.

Introduction to the Kirtland's Warbler research and training project
Scott Johnson1, 4, Dave N. Ewert2, Joseph M. Wunderle3, Jennifer D. White3, 4,
Dave Currie
3, 4 & Genie Fleming3, 4.
1Bahamas Nation Trust, Nassau, Bahamas, 2The Nature Conservancy, Lansing, MI, USA, 3International Institute of Tropical Forestry, USDA Forest Service, San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA, 4Puerto Rican Conservation Foundation, San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA

As one of North America's most endangered songbirds, the Kirtland's Warbler (KW,
Setophaga kirtlandii) has been the focus of an intensive recovery effort on its breeding grounds located primarily in Michigan, but with smaller colonies in Wisconsin and Ontario. So far, breeding ground conservation efforts have been success as evidenced by an increase of approximately 330 warblers in the 1970s to 4,200 warblers in 2012. Despite intensive study and conservation efforts on the KW’s breeding grounds, however, little was known about the species on its wintering grounds, where it is confined to the Bahamas archipelago. It was recognized that events on the winter grounds could compromise breeding ground conservation efforts and thus there was a need to determine the KW’s winter habitat and conservation requirements, while also building the capacity of Bahamians to undertake conservation actions for the warbler. Therefore, the Kirtland's Warbler Research and Training Project was initiated in 2002 with the objective of building the capacity of nationals to undertake conservation activities in the Bahamas through the training of Bahamian students in field research, while also studying the KW's winter requirements. The field research occurs primarily on Eleuthera. Results suggest that the KW winters mostly on anthropogenically-disturbed early successional sites with an abundance of fruit and arthropods. In addition to determining the warbler’s habitat requirements the project is determining how the habitat is produced and how it might be managed for conservation of the species in The Bahamas.

Conservation value of exhibiting Giant Manta Rays (Manta birostris) at Atlantis, Paradise Island, Bahamas
Todd Kemp, Dave Wert, Michelle Liu & Keisha Russell
Atlantis Paradise Island, One Casino Drive, Paradise Island, New Providence, The Bahamas

Giant Manta Rays (
Manta birostris) are the largest of the rays and are found throughout the tropical waters of the world. Although they are widely distributed, there is still little known about these animals. Since 2000, Atlantis, Paradise Island has acquired and displayed 11 Giant Manta Rays. This has enabled our facility the unique opportunity to collect biological data, observe and study how mantas behave, feed and interact with each other. In 2005, Atlantis created a satellite tagging program to gain a better understanding of the migratory patterns of mantas in the wild. Popup Archival Tags (PAT) were placed on 4 animals released from the facility, which revealed migratory patterns, depth and temperature ranges. These results will help us learn more about this uncommon animal and should contribute to decisions for successful conservation and management practices for this species.

Effects of local geology on the fire regime and vegetation structure of Andros Island, Bahamas
Eric Kjellmark, Kelsey Dunn, Kiefer Fortunato, Jordan Hutar, Rachel Lichter, Ashley Schiffmacher, Katherine Thousand & Elizabeth Webb
Florida Southern College
, Lakeland, FL 33801, USA

In the northern Bahamas the most widespread vegetation type is fire-maintained pinewoods dominated by Bahamian pine (
Pinus caribbaea var. bahamensis) with an understory of tropical hardwoods. Many of the hardwoods can become canopy trees, but they are kept in a low, shrub state as they are top-killed by fires. We studied the pinewoods on the eastern side of Andros Island, Bahamas. The fire frequency here is high and many areas burn annually. Embedded within the pine forest are stands of mature tropical hardwood trees that have persisted for over 40 years despite the high fire frequency. We developed three possible explanations for the persistence of these stands. First, the hardwood trees have reached a size that makes them resistant to fires. Second, the leaf litter from the hardwood trees does not carry fire well. Third, natural fire breaks, such as sinkholes, are acting to prevent fires from overrunning the stands. We collected vegetation data and mapped and measured sinkholes, if present, in 6 tropical hardwood stands along with nearby pinewoods. We used our maps to estimate the effects of fire breaks on fire behavior. Our results show that even large hardwood trees were top-killed by fires that penetrated the edges of the hardwood stands. While less combustible fuel may play a role, fire breaks in the form of numerous karst sinkholes appear to be the primary factor protecting the embedded hardwood stands from fire.

Physiological impacts of tourism and food supplementation on endangered insular iguanas
Charles R. Knapp1, Kirsten N. Hines2, Trevor Zachariah3, C. LeAnn White4, John B. Iverson5, Sandra D. Buckner6, L. Michael Romero7 & Christine R. Lattin7
1Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research, John G. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, IL 60605, USA; 2260 Crandon Blvd, Ste 32 #190, Key Biscayne, FL 33149, USA; 3University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine, Chicago Zoological and Aquatic Animal Residency Program, Urbana, IL 61802, USA; 4USGS National Wildlife Health Center, Madison, WI 53711, USA; 5Department of Biology, Earlham College, Richmond, IN 47374, USA; 6P.O. Box N-8893, Villa Capulet, Montague Foreshore, Nassau, The Bahamas; 7Department of Biology, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA

Physiological responses caused by wildlife-tourism interactions can be pronounced in free-ranging species. Tourism companies in The Bahamas are increasingly marketing rock iguana (genus
Cyclura) feeding as part of their activity packages. This type of tourism is likely to expand, and therefore the effects of these human-wildlife interactions should be monitored, understood, and managed effectively. Using multiple populations of Bahamian rock iguanas (C. cychlura figginsi and C. c. inornata), we investigated sex-specific responses to both human-visitation pressure, and associated food provisioning with semi-natural and unnatural food items. Our response variables included body condition, physiological stress, and multiple hematological and biochemical parameters. For both sexes, body condition and physiological stress (baseline corticosterone levels) did not differ between visited and non-visited sites, suggesting that rock iguanas on islands visited by tourists are not chronically stressed. We did record hematological and biochemical differences between visited and non-visited sites in response to being food provisioned. For both sexes, rock iguanas from visited sites had higher packed cell volume, higher uric acid and lower potassium. In addition, females from visited sites had higher glucose and iron. Males from visited sites displayed higher calcium, cholesterol, cobalt, copper, and selenium, but lower molybdenum. We conclude that differences between visited and non-visited sites are likely due to unnatural food items offered by tourists and the consequential foraging modifications of rock iguanas from visited sites. These effects may potentially have consequences under adverse environmental conditions, over time in this long-lived species.

A timeless resource: the value of museum bird collections
Andrew W. Kratter & David W. Steadman
Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611 USA

In this day of ever increasing technologies for advancing scientific exploration and discovery, the practice of adding bird specimens to natural history museums may seem to be a quaint tradition left over from the Victorian Era. Today’s natural history museums, however, are key resources that are the foundation for studying natural history and biodiversity. Modern preparation techniques, expanded data collection methods, and extensive data networks have revolutionized how museum science is conducted, and have substantially increased the value of each specimen for both research and education. This is especially true in well-curated and globally accessible collections, like the Florida Museum of Natural History, where the specimens include not only traditional skins, but also tissue samples for molecular analyses, and skeletal specimens used in paleontological research. Regional collections of specimens, such as the bird collection at the Bahamas National Trust, also play important roles in education. We very much appreciate the efforts of the BNT and private citizens in salvaging birds that will enhance our understanding of Bahamian birdlife.

Plant use by
Megachile alleni Mitchell (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) on San Salvador, Bahamas
Carol L. Landry1 & Nancy B. Elliott2
1Department of Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology, The Ohio State University, Mansfield OH 44906, USA, 2Department of Biology, Siena College, Loudonville, NY 12211, USA

Megachile alleni is a common bee in The Bahamas, and the females are frequent visitors to flowering plants. Their visits may have one or more of three objectives. As is the case with most bees, adult females use floral nectar for nourishment. They also collect pollen to provision nest cells for the developing larvae. The ventral surface of the abdomen contains a mat of stiff hairs (scopae), which pick up pollen to be stored in nest cells when rubbed over the flower’s anthers. As the common name of the genus implies, female leaf-cutter bees also cut pieces from leaves of selected plant species and use the pieces to build nest cells; one egg is laid in each nest cell, which contains all the resources needed for the developing larva. We have observed Megachile alleni females visiting 21 plant species from 13 families on San Salvador, collected bees for identification of the pollen they carry on the scopae, and dissected their nest cells to determine the structure and composition. At least three plant species are sources of leaves used for nest construction. The behavior of individuals making floral visits provides evidence of the purpose of each visit. When bees rub their abdomens across anthers that are exerted from the floral cup, they are collecting pollen used to provision the nests. In contrast, when bees probe flowers face-first, inserting their mouthparts, they are collecting nectar that may be used in nest provisioning, but is probably primarily for nourishment of the adult bee.

Economically and ecologically sustainable harvest of the blue land crab (Cardisoma guanhumi Latreille) in The Bahamas: a conservation genetics perspective
Tami L. LaPilusa & Jeffrey S. Heilveil
Biology Department, The State University of New York, College at Oneonta, Oneonta, NY 13820, USA

Understanding the genetic diversity of artisanal fishery species is becoming exceedingly important as habitat fragmentation and harvesting pressure increase. These species, including the blue land crab (Cardisoma guanhumi Latreille), provide not only food, but also a substantial supplement to the annual economy of The Bahamas. Andros Island is believed to have the largest metapopulation of land crabs in The Bahamas, providing generations of Androsians with income derived from the bountiful harvest during the spawning migrations. Locals have reported having to travel further from their settlements to collect adequate numbers of crabs to send to market, due to increased harvesting pressure. The large, near-commercial, harvesting of this artisanal fishery species puts both the local economy and the sustainability of the metapopulation at risk. We assessed the genetic diversity of the blue land crab population on Andros Island to identify discrete populations of C. guanhumi and to quantify the extent of its genetic diversity across the island. These data may aid in the development of a conservation plan to assist in managing the continued harvest of the blue land crab at a level that will maintain quality of life while leaving a sustainable population of crabs to harvest into the future.

Bonefish ecology and conservation in The Islands of the Bahamas
Justin Lewis, Chris Haak, Luke Griffin & Jim Williams
St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, Cape Eleuthera Institute, University of Massachusetts, Bonefish and Tarpon Trust.

The common bonefish (
Albula vulpes) is one of the most sought after sport fish in the world. Bonefish attract anglers from all over the world to the flats ecosystem of The Bahamas in their quest for these elusive fish. Bonefish are an important resource to The Bahamian economy. These fish are important to Bahamians both as a symbol and a food source. There is very little known about bonefish and most of the scientific research that has been done has focused on the mature and the larval life stages, with little to nothing being known about the juvenile stage of the bonefish’s life history. The research that I took part in this past summer at the Cape Eleuthera Institute was to identify the habitat(s) that juvenile bonefish utilize post settlement. Our research depended on the collection and utilization of traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) related to the flats ecosystems. The involvement of local fishermen and bonefishing guides in The Bahamas is very important when it comes to understanding flats environments and conservation planning. The identification of bonefish habitat(s) is very important for determining conservation methods for bonefish as well as for a variety of other flora and fauna that inhabit the flats ecosystem.

Seabirds of the Cay Sal Bank, The Bahamas: Report from an expedition in May 2012
William A. Mackin & Lisa F. Eggert
13913 Sterling Ridge Ln, Durham, NC 27707, USA, 2G27 Lehotsky Hall, Clemson University, Clemson, SC 29634, USA

From May 25-June 1, 2012, we led an expedition to the Cay Sal Bank to document seabirds and other wildlife. Throughout the daylight hours, our team surveyed seabirds within 300 m of the vessel. We visited the six largest islands on the Bank: Anguilla, Cotton, Elbow, North and South Double-headed Shot, and Cay Sal Cays. We found small seabird populations (tens to hundreds of breeding pairs) at Anguilla and Cotton Cays in the southeast of the Bank. There were populations of approximately 100 pairs each of Royal Terns (
Sterna maxima), Sandwich Terns (Sterna sandvichensis), and Roseate Terns (Sterna dougalli) on Cotton Cay. We found a very large Brown Racer (Alsophis vudii picticeps) at Anguilla Cay, representing a new species for the Cay Sal Bank. At Elbow Cay, the populations of terns and shearwaters required the use of estimation techniques. Using circular plots, we estimated the populations of Sooty Terns (Sterna fuscata; 7,100 – 15,000 pairs), Bridled Terns (Sterna anaethetus; 80-360 pairs), Brown Noddies (Anous stolidus; 680-3,500 pairs), and Audubon’s Shearwaters (Puffinus lherminieri; 3,500-6,400 pairs). At the Double-headed Shot Cays, tens to hundreds of pairs of Laughing Gulls (Larus atricilla), Royal Terns, Sooty Terns, Bridled Terns, and Brown Noddies were detected. The population of shearwaters at Elbow cay is the largest in the Caribbean, with more than half the known population.

BAhamas: a Coral reef Hope spot (BACH)
Carlotta Mazzoldi, Maria B. Rasotto
Department of Biology, University of Padova, Italy

Coral reef ecosystems are in serious decline from multiple threats, putting in jeopardy the services that these ecosystems provide to people. In 2000, the Bahamian government initiated the process of developing a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) with the goal of setting aside about 20% of their coastal marine environment. Recent studies demonstrated that marine communities of Bahamas MPAs are healthy, being able to contrast the invasion of invasive ambush predators. This project aims to increase the public awareness on the need to preserve coral reefs, indicating how the insightful policy of Bahamas government in establish a network of MPAs is actually making of the Bahamas reefs a worldwide model, an
hope spot for marine biodiversity. By recording the presence, abundance and behavior of two fish species, one of which affected by alien species invasion in unprotected areas, we intend to set an easy tool to advertise the healthy status of Bahamas marine environments. Non-professional scientists, such as university students, diving centers, tourists will be involved in snorkel surveys. In 2013 the information will be collected in the most successful Bahamas MPA, the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park, by a marine biologist of the University of Padova with the support of two university students, from Italy and Bahamas. In the following years, in accordance with the Bahamas institution in charge of marine conservation and tourism development, additional surveys could be conducted in both protected and unprotected areas, involving local diving centers, schools, and tourists. The results will be presented in popular conferences, popular articles, tourism brochure, schools, as well as the advertising media of television, radio, and internet.

Botanical conservation and research in TCI: Challenges and opportunities
B Naqqi Manco*, Junel Blaise, Kathleen M Wood & Eric F. Salamanca
Department of Environment & Maritime Affairs, Turks & Caicos Islands Government

Since 2010 the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI) Department of Environment & Maritime Affairs (DEMA) has been intensely involved in botanical conservation and research work with several internationally recognised institutions. Botanical conservation in TCI is challenging due to fast-paced development and low perceived value of native plant ecosystems, and due to TCI’s status as a United Kingdom Overseas Territory, which severely limits the archipelago’s access and eligibility to conservation funding. Key projects towards this work include: Rescue & Collection of Endangered & Endemic Plants Project, to successfully protected and propagated over 80 TCI, Lucayan Archipelago, and Caribbean endemic and CITES and IUCN endangered species; Caicos Pine Recovery Project, to save the National Tree of TCI
Pinus caribaea var. bahamensis from extinction due to invasive alien insect pests; TCI Seed Collection Project, to bank seeds of all TCI plant species which bear orthodox seeds; Terrestrial Habitat Mapping Project, to classify and map TCI’s terrestrial plant communities; and Eradication of invasive plant species
DEMA has embarked on a number of firsts for TCI, including the introduction of controlled burning in pine rocklands, propagation of endemic plant species never before grown in cultivation, and rediscovery of an endemic plant lost to science for 37 years. DEMA has also continued innovative work on the propagation of our National tree, micropropagation of native orchids, and mapping of populations of endemic plants. Work continues on the conservation and research of TCI’s native vegetation and plant ecosystems for long-term understanding and protection.

Rescue and collection of endemic and endangered plants project: Turks & Caicos Islands
B Naqqi Manco, Junel Blaise, Eric F. Salamanca & Kathleen Wood
Department of Environment & Maritime Affairs, Turks & Caicos Islands Government

The Turks & Caicos Islands Department of Environment & Maritime Affairs (DEMA) was awarded two funding contributions by the United Kingdom government’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee for the Rescue & Collection of Endemic & Endangered Plants Project in 2011. The project funding supports efforts to remove globally threatened plants (endemic to TCI, the Bahama Archipelago, or the Caribbean Basin; or endangered by IUCN or CITES classification) from development land, and research in propagation techniques in DEMA’s Native Plant Biodiversity Conservation Nurseries. The project’s original aims for 10 then 20 species have been far surpassed, with over 105 endemic or endangered species now grown in the nurseries and propagation protocols written for 84 of these species. Work is supported by training and in-kind assistance from Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the TCI Environmental Club. Rescued plants have been planted in community gardens by DEMA, schools, and NGOs. Work continues with the aim to get all nine of TCI’s endemic plants into cultivation in the nurseries.

Botanical research and conservation work in the Turks & Caicos Islands
B Naqqi Manco, Eric F Salamanca, Kathleen Wood & Junel Blaise
Department of Environment & Maritime Affairs, Turks & Caicos Islands Government

As a United Kingdom Overseas Territory, TCI is politically fragmented from the Bahama Archipelago. Botanical research and conservation has been largely driven by local botanists and ecologists and supported by a number of international NGOs and other institutions. The Caicos Pine Recovery Project, a species survival project for the National Tree of TCI
Pinus caribaea var. bahamensis; the Rescue & Collection of Endemic & Endangered Plants Project; and the Seed Collection Project are funded and supported by UK Government Programmes and UK NGOs, with partnerships from other institutions. Terrestrial vegetative habitat mapping has also been completed with support from the UK Government. The establishment of Native Plant Nurseries and Gardens has been a continuing effort, as has mangrove habitat restoration through planting events. Red-listing of TCIs plants is another ongoing initiative with Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Work continues on botanical research and conservation as an increasingly high priority within TCI Government departments.

Andros: Living off the Land and Sea
Directed by Matthew McCoy
Loggerhead Productions, General Delivery, Hope Town, Abaco. The Bahamas

Living Off the Land & Sea explores the natural resources of largest island in The Bahamas. It is a land of great contrasts and beauty. Andros is known as the major source of fresh water for The Bahamas capital of Nassau and is famous for its bonefishing. But it is also home to land crabs, tarpon, turtles, iguanas, birds and the third largest barrier reef in the world, giving it the potential to become an international eco tourism mecca. However, its future is yet to be written. Meet the people who live there and learn about the issues they face.

Managing habitat for Kirtland’s Warbler conservation in The Bahamas
Zeko McKenzie1,2, Genie Fleming2,3, Eileen H. Helmer3, Claire C. Larkin4, Charles Kwit4, Montara T. K. Roberts5, Joseph M. Wunderle, Jr.3 & David N. Ewert6.
1College of the Bahamas, Freeport, Grand Bahama, The Bahamas, 2Puerto Rican Conservation Foundation, San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA, 3International Institute of Tropical Forestry, USDA Forest Service, San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA, 4Department of Biology, Miami University of Ohio, OH, USA, 5University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN, USA, 6The Nature Conservancy, Lansing, MI, USA.

Habitat disturbance by bulldozing and goat grazing were found to produce Kirtland’s Warbler (KW;
Setophaga kirtlandii) winter habitats on Eleuthera, The Bahamas by favoring some of the early successional plants that produce fruits used by the warbler (e.g., black torch, Erithalis fruticosa; wild sage, Lantana involucrata). Our experimental work focuses on encouraging KW fruit plants on sites requiring re-occurring disturbance such as fuel breaks and utility or highway rights of way. Though primarily required to control brush and prevent tree growth, the need for re-occurring disturbances could be tailored for the warbler’s benefit by both public and private sectors, especially if costs are minimal and/or part of ongoing management. Thus our conservation strategy focuses on identifying cost-effective ways in which re-occurring human habitat disturbances can be harnessed for the benefit of the warbler, which do not compromise the primary purpose of the original management objective.

The Perry Institute for Marine Science: A retrospective look at 40 years of marine research on Lee Stocking Island, Bahamas
Roger McManus1, Craig Dahlgren1 & John Marr1,2
1Perry Institute for Marine Science, P.O. Box 30812, Tucson, Arizona 85751, USA, Georgia Sea Turtle Center, 214 Stable Road, Jekyll Island, Georgia 31527, USA

The Perry Institute for Marine Science (PIMS) was founded in 1970 by John H. Perry, Jr. PIMS has operated the internationally recognized marine laboratory at Lee Stocking Island for over 40 years. Over that time, PIMS Scientists and visitors from around the world have conducted ground-breaking research in marine science, covering a diversity of fields from marine technology, aquaculture, fisheries biology, reef ecology, marine protected areas, and climate change. For much of its existence, Lee Stocking Island was the Caribbean region’s leading research lab, supporting more research dives and scientific publications than any other research station. PIMS also supported local and international students, providing support for Bahamians to participate in internships and receive PhD and MS degrees in marine science. In 2012, PIMS closed its field station on Lee Stocking Island, bringing an end to an era of research in The Bahamas. In 2013, PIMS is locating to a new home and is on the brink of beginning a new era of marine research in The Bahamas, with a vision in working with governmental agencies and conservation organizations to achieve a new vision for The Bahamas that includes the establishment of a national marine laboratory and a more robust marine research and stewardship program for The Bahamas to best manage its coastal and marine resources and to build on its rightful place as an international leader in research and stewardship of marine resources.

Biodiversity and biogeography of the Lepidoptera in the Bahamas: Past, present and future
J. Y. Miller 1, D. L. Matthews1, M. J. Simon1 & G. Goss 2
McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, University of Florida, P. O. Box 112710, Gainesville, FL 32611-2710, USA, 2 Biology Department, Palm Beach Atlantic University, P. O. Box 24708, West Pam Beach, FL 33416

Lepidoptera play a significant role in studies of biodiversity since they are excellent bioindicators of particular habitats, are associated with specialized larval hostplants, and are also involved in pollination. Nearly 83 butterfly species (102 taxa) have been recorded in the Bahamas of the more than 238 species represented in the West Indies. The current distribution patterns are reflected in the geological history of the Caribbean basin, but due to these insular habitats and other unpredictable environmental factors, species abundance and turnover is altered each year. Such fluctuations may also be indicative of climate change and adaptation. Although our surveys have focused on butterflies in the past, we have begun to review and study the entire lepidopteran fauna in recent years. Our knowledge of the moths, especially the Microlepidoptera, is woefully incomplete. Hampson (1901, 1904) originally recorded 297 moths from Bonhote’s and Chamberlain’s collections in Nassau and on Andros, but based on our knowledge for all Lepidoptera recorded in Florida and Cuba, we estimate that biodiversity of Lepidoptera throughout the Bahamas should include about 2,000-2,500 taxa. Our ultimate objective will be to complete biodiversity surveys for the islands, identify endemic invasive species, provide additional information for education, conservation management, and ecotourism, and complete a comparative biogeographic analysis of the Lepidoptera distributed among Florida, the Bahamas, and Cuba.

Bahamas Marine EcoCentre: Education, research and art fostering environmental stewardship
Erich Mueller, Barbara Thompson & R. Pamela Reid
Bahamas Marine EcoCentre, PO Box SS-6206, Nassau Bahamas

Bahamas Marine EcoCentre (BME), is a non-profit organization promoting awareness and respect for unique Bahamian landscapes and seascapes through creative activities fostering environmental stewardship. Operated in collaboration with University of Miami, BME programs focus on education, research and scientifically-based art. Educational activities supported by BME include field courses and science camps for university and high school students. Initially, the Young Bahamian Marine Scientist program was developed, which later evolved to an independent organization, Young Marine Explorers. BME also provides student scholarships and has funded three Bahamian internships at the Kennedy Space Centre. BME’s research activities are focused at the Darby Island Research Station, Exuma. The Station facilitates diverse research projects including geomicrobiological studies of microbial populations, metabolic processes and mineral products forming microbialites; exploration of deep reefs using novel deep diving techniques; investigations of uranium isotopes in marine calcareous algae as possible paleo-redox proxies; studies of Pleistocene sea level variability; and the biochemistry of marine microeukaryotes. BME fills a special niche in the world of art, promoting scientifically-based art that inspires and educates the public about Bahamian ecosystems. Our book “Islands of the Sun”, published in collaboration with BNT and TNC, is a fusion of science and art that tours the reader through the habitats of the Exuma Cays. In continuing efforts to promote artistic endeavors focused on native flora and fauna, BME is developing an artist-in -residence program. Education, research and art opportunities afforded by BME are a resource for local and international students, scientists and the general public.

Natural selection: A comparison of tourism models between The Bahamas and Galapagos
Sarah Mui
Young Marine Explorers, CB 13179 Nassau, The Bahamas

: Despite economic uncertainties global tourism continues to increase, reaching close to one billion international travelers in 2012 according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). Often overlooked for its impact on the world economy, tourism is a critical market for both The Bahamas and Galapagos. Tourism in The Bahamas accounts for 60% of the GDP as well as about half of the jobs in the workforce. For the Galapagos, with the park entrance fee included, tourism accounts for 88% of the total revenue generated on the islands (Epler 2007). With such a vital part of the economy in tourism it is critical to have proper management plans that provide sustainable development and mitigate the effects of tourism. The Bahamas and Galapagos provide a unique comparison of how islands with limited resources manage their tourism economies. This poster aims to evaluate the tourism models in The Bahamas and Galapagos with an emphasis on sustainability. Great emphasis is placed on the unspoiled nature; a poorly managed tourism industry could therefore have devastating impacts environmentally and economically. Practices must be green and sustainable in order to ensure longevity.

Bonefish (Albula vulpes) movement patterns and energetics – knowledge gained from acoustic telemetry studies in Eleuthera, The Bahamas
Karen J. Murchie1,2,3, Steven J. Cooke2,34, Andy J. Danylchuk2,35, Sascha E. Danylchuk2, Tony L. Goldberg2,6, Cory D. Suski2,7 & David P. Philipp2,7,8
1School of Chemistry, Environmental and Life Sciences, Department of Biology, College of The Bahamas, Freeport, Grand Bahama, The Bahamas, 2Flats Ecology and Conservation Program, Cape Eleuthera Institute, Eleuthera, The Bahamas c/o Cape Eleuthera Institute, 498 SW 34th St, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, 33315, USA, 3Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory, Department of Biology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 5B6, Canada, 4Institute of Environmental Science, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 5B6, Canada, 5Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 160 Holdsworth Way, Amherst, Massachusetts, 01003, USA, 6Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin, 1656 Linden Drive, Madison, Wisconsin, 53706, USA, 7Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1102 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana, Illinois, 61801, USA, 8Illinois Natural History Survey, Institute for Natural Resource Sustainability, 1816 S. Oak Street, Champaign, Illinois, 61820, USA

Knowledge of the spatial distribution of animals is fundamental to the basic understanding of ecological functioning within an ecosystem because the movement of organisms promotes energy flow and connectivity between habitats. Bonefish (Albula spp.) are a group of fish that not only demonstrate the interconnectedness of habitats within tropical tidal flats and tidal creeks, but also the connectivity of the flats with other marine ecosystems. Bonefish also carry the distinction of being a highly prized sportfish. Despite these important ecological and economic roles, there are large gaps in the knowledge of bonefish biology. Using an acoustic telemetry array with >50 autonomous receivers we examined the seasonal movement patterns and distribution of bonefish (Albula vulpes) in tidal creeks and nearshore areas within Eleuthera, The Bahamas. We also used transmitters equipped with accelerometers and depth sensors to estimate the field activity and energetics of free-swimming bonefish. Telemetry data were linked to environmental variables such as tides and water temperature and the results complemented laboratory physiology and metabolic studies. Management strategies, including the development of marine protected areas, will benefit greatly from fundamental information on the spatial ecology and natural history of bonefish.

Long-term climate change and biotic response from two blue holes in The Bahamas
Lisa Park Boush1, Amy Myrbo2, Mary Jane Berman3, Perry Gnivecki4, Andrew Michelson5 & Kristina Brady2
1The National Science Foundation, 4201 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22230, USA, 2LacCore / Limnological Research Center, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, 500 Pillsbury Dr SE, 672 Civil Engineering Building Minneapolis MN 55455, USA, 3Center for American and World Cultures, 105 MacMillan Hall, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056, USA, 4Department of Anthropology, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056, USA, 5The Department of Geosciences, The University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325, USA,

Understanding the dynamics of biotic-climate interactions over millennial timescales is important for characterizing long-term sustainability for at-risk ecosystems. Sediment cores were extracted from two lakes (Watling’s Blue Hole and Blue Hole Five) on San Salvador Island, as part of a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. Students used the cores to reconstruct the region’s past environment over thousands of years, and investigate the impacts of climate and human impacts on the biota within the lakes. Cores were collected from three sites (deep to shallow) in each lake. Lithological core description, loss on ignition (LOI), x-ray fluorescence (XRF), and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) show that sediments from Watling’s Blue Hole and Blue Hole Five varied with respect to each other. LOI data confirmed that the majority of the sediment of both blue holes was carbonate, with varying amounts of terrestrial and aquatic organic material and very low, occasional siliciclastic pulses, probably a record of distal dust inputs. Diagenetic pyrite is present in both lakes. XRF data indicates differences in elemental analysis of cores from the blue holes. The sediments from both blue holes contained abundant ostracodes and mollusks. Ostracode assemblages changed over time in response to salinity, with climate changes broadly synchronous between the two blue holes. Initial core descriptions showed that the concentration of mollusks in Blue Hole Five cores was significantly greater than that of Watling's Blue Hole cores. Further analysis of mollusks found in Blue Hole Five found four species: abundant
Cerithidea costata and Anomalocardia auberiana, with lesser, but significant abundances of Acteocina sp. and Polymesoda maritima. The distribution and diversity of mollusks within these lakes through time likely are related to sea level fluctuations. Further studies are needed to assess the taphonomic controls in these lakes to determine the relative impacts of natural versus anthropogenic change.

Reconstructing Lucayan lifeways - A paleodemography of the pre-Columbian Bahamas
Michael P. Pateman
Antiquities, Monuments and Museum Corporation. P.O. Box EE-15082, Nassau, The Bahamas

Archaeological studies in The Bahamas have focused mainly on the cultural adaptations of the prehistoric peoples, the Lucayans (600 – 1500 AD) to their environment. Few studies have taken place concerning the biological development and adaptations to The Bahamian environment. The Lucayans appear to have buried their dead in the limestone cave systems of the archipelago. These caves exist in two forms, wet (including blue holes and caves with a direct connection to the water table) and dry caves. This study compares the demography, health and diet of individuals buried within wet caves to dry caves. Pathology is present in the following categories; trauma, nutritional defects, dental disease and occupational markers. These conditions are described in detail and interpreted in the archaeological context of the prehistoric Bahamas. Additionally, bone collegen, bone apatite and tooth enamel were prepared and studied using stable isotopic mass spectrometry to specifically investigate the diet. The isotopic results will be analyzed and interpreted into their archaeological context of the prehistoric Bahamas. Temporal patterning will also be used to access shifts over time.

Supporting collaboration, inspiring conservation
Olivia M. Patterson1, Kristin Williams1, David Knowles2, Brian Kakuk3, Nancy Albury4, Paul Pinder5 & Craig Layman6
1Friends of the Environment. P.O. Box AB-20755, Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas, 2Bahamas National Trust. P.O. Box N-4105, The Retreat, Village Road, Nassau, Bahamas, 3Bahamas Caves Research Foundation. Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas, 4National Museum of The Bahamas/Antiquities Monuments and Museums Corporation. P.O. Box AB-20755, Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas, 5Abaco Fly Fishing Guides Association. Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas, 6Florida International University. Marine Sciences Program, Department of Biological Sciences, Florida International University, 3000 NE 151st Street, North Miami, Florida, USA

In an effort to preserve some of the most important species and ecosystems of The Bahamas, we are striving to gain protection status for three critical areas of Abaco. This effort is part of the Caribbean Challenge (an effort to protect 20% of all marine and coastal habitats by 2020), and is a partnership among the Bahamian Government, community members, local and national NGOs, and scientists. Development of the proposals would not have been possible without the important collaborations among partners. The three areas currently under consideration are: (1) East Abaco Creeks (as a National Park), (2) South Abaco Blue Holes (as a National Park) and (3) Cross Harbour (as a Conservation Zone under the Forestry Act). Each of these areas has unique characteristics, and deserves protection status for particular reasons. The East Abaco creeks system is one of the most important nursery sites (e.g., for conch and Nassau Grouper) in the region. The South Abaco area contains numerous important blue holes, features that are revealing detailed insight into Bahamian ecological and geological history. Cross Harbour may be host to the largest bonefish spawning aggregation in the region. All of the proposals aim to provide structure for management, while still allowing cultural and recreational use of the areas.

The reproductive ecology of bonefish (Albula vulpes) and its implications for conservation strategies in The Bahamas
David P. Philipp1,2,3, Karen J. Murchie1,4,5, Steven J. Cooke,1,5,6, Andy J. Danylchuk1,2,7, Sascha E. Danylchuk1, Tony L. Goldberg1,8, Cory D. Suski1,2,9, Chris Haak1,2,7 & Aaron Shultz1,9
1Flats Ecology and Conservation Program, Cape Eleuthera Institute, Eleuthera, The Bahamas c/o Cape Eleuthera Institute, 498 SW 34th St, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, USA, 33315, 2Fisheries Conservation Foundation, 1816 S. Oak Street, Champaign, Illinois, USA, 61820, 3Illinois Natural History Survey, Institute for Natural Resource Sustainability, 1816 S. Oak Street, Champaign, Illinois, USA, 61820, 4School of Chemistry, Environmental and Life Sciences, Department of Biology, College of The Bahamas, Freeport, Grand Bahama, The Bahamas, 5Fish Ecology and Conservation Physiology Laboratory, Department of Biology, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1S 5B6, 6Institute of Environmental Science, Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1S 5B6, 7Department of Environmental Conservation, University of Massachusetts Amherst, 160 Holdsworth Way, Amherst, Massachusetts, USA, 01003-9285, 8Pathobiological Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin, 1656 Linden Drive, Madison, Wisconsin, USA, 53706, 9Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1102 S. Goodwin Ave., Urbana, Illinois, USA, 61801

Research at the Cape Eleuthera Institute using acoustic telemetry revealed a complex set of behaviors that bonefish (Albula vulpes) use for reproduction in Eleuthera, Bahamas. Triggered by the lunar cycle, large numbers of adult bonefish migrated up to 15 miles in a single day to a near-shore pre-spawning aggregation site near the drop-off to deep water. At night, at the peak of the high tide these fish moved to deep water (>1000ft) to spawn, using the ebbing tide to carry their fertilized eggs into the deep water of the Exuma Sound. This spawning activity lasted for several nights and was repeated twice a month. We proposed that this reproductive behavior was typical for bonefish across The Bahamas. To test this hypothesis, V. Haley demonstrated that in Andros, adult bonefish migrated 45 miles or more from the west side of the island through the bights to the east side to spawn on the edge of the Tongue of the Ocean. In Abaco, A. Adams, Z. Jud, and C. Layman demonstrated that adult bonefish migrated up to 70 miles to spawn in deep water to the south. To develop effective conservation strategies for this species, however, we need to know how many spawning locations there are and which of them are the most effective at producing the next generations of adult bonefish. A conceptual model for bonefish recruitment will be presented to illustrate how source-sink dynamics and ocean currents may play a major role in determining recruitment dynamics, and hence, conservation strategies.

Behavior, ecology, and conservation of the critically endangered Bahama Oriole (Icterus northropi)
Melissa R. Price, Valerie A. Lee, & William K. Hayes
Department of Earth and Biological Sciences, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA 92350 USA

Recent elevation of the critically endangered Bahama Oriole (
Icterus northropi) to species status prompted us to evaluate its population status, habitat dependence, breeding ecology, population genetics, and vocalization behaviors. From surveys, we estimated that 90-162, 24-44, and 27-48 individuals remain on North Andros, Mangrove Cay, and South Andros, respectively. Orioles mostly used anthropogenic habitat (residential and agricultural land) during the breeding season, though home ranges included nearby pine forest and coppice (dry broadleaf forest). Most nests observed were constructed in nonnative Coconut Palm (Cocos nucifera). Trees selected for nesting were significantly taller, less likely to have shrubs underneath, farther from cover, and had more palm trees nearby than randomly available palm trees in the area. Three of eight nests with known contents were parasitized by Shiny Cowbirds (Molothrus bonariensis), a brood parasite that became established in the 1990s without subsequent population increases. Lethal yellowing disease recently devastated Coconut Palms and reduced local breeding oriole density on North Andros, but palms on Mangrove Cay and South Andros remained healthy. Molecular analyses indicated minor differences in genetic variation among the three populations. Vocalization analyses suggested that the Bahama Oriole more closely resembles tropical oriole species (monochromatic, both sexes sing, frequent male-female duetting) than temperate species (dichromatic, males primarily sing). The juxtaposition of anthropogenic habitat to suitable native habitats may be essential in meeting the oriole's life history needs. Conservation of coppice habitat, at high risk for agricultural and residential development, is crucial for survival of this critically endangered synanthropic species.

Bahamian “Love Teas”: Story of an etic fail
Logan Randolph
Polk State College, 999 Avenue H NE, Winter Haven, FL 33881, USA

Cultural anthropologists often use the terms etic view and emic view, though there is quite a deal of debate about how to exactly define and apply these terms. For this discussion, the emic view is the worldview of someone from within a culture and an etic view is the worldview of someone from outside the culture. As a non-Bahamian, my own cultural past obviously shapes my view of Bahamian culture, even though I try to suppress those influences and strive to see things from a more emic view. Of course these viewpoints influence the understanding of traditional medicinal systems (“bush medicine”) as they impact studying any aspect of natural resource use. A frequent component of bush medicine that has intrigued researches is “love tea” which is generally described as an aphrodisiac tea. Numerous recipes for love tea abound in the Bahamas, though the same core elements are usually found in most recipes. During the summer of 1996 I was teaching a field course entitled “Ethnobiology of the Bahamas” on Andros Island, Bahamas. Students in the course were divided into teams, with each team studying some aspect of Androsian ethnobiology, by interviewing householders in several Androsian settlements. One team investigated Cassava cultivation, another team investigated land crab harvesting. The third team investigated the difference between the “bush tea” consumed in the morning and the aphrodisiac “love tea,” with some surprising results.

Using ecological and evolutionary data to understand the effects of climate change on bats in The Bahamas
David L. Reed1, Angelo Soto-Centeno1, Kelly Speer1 & Nancy Albury2
1Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA 32611
2Antiquities, Monuments and Museums Corporation, The National Museum of The Bahamas, P.O. Box AB20755, Marsh Harbour, Abaco, Bahamas

Climate change has dramatically altered island size and the distance between islands in The Bahamas over the last two million years. This has effectively isolated and reconnected some species of plants and animals over and over again. Bats, for example, have had periods of isolation and reconnection as land masses dramatically changed. These periods of isolation and reconnection can cause the permanent extinction of species as well as localized extinctions (extirpations from certain islands). Our research uses various methods to reconstruct the effect of climate change on bats in the Caribbean and especially in The Bahamas. We use ecological data to generate estimates of precisely where certain bat species occur (a process known as ecological niche modeling) and we project those models into the past to ask where did bat species occur say 22,000 years ago when land masses in the Bahamas were largest? We then check to see if these models are performing well by checking to see if fossil bats found in The Bahamas seem to match the model's predictions. Further, we use DNA sequences from the bats to reconstruct their past to determine which islands share bat populations and which islands are effectively isolated from one another. I will briefly report our findings which demonstrate that past climate change has certainly had an effect on the movement of bats between islands, and that climate change will likely play a role in the future health of bat populations in The Bahamas.

Long term changes on Andros Island coral reefs
Patricia Richards1, Kramer, Philip Kramer2, Judith Lang3, and Ken Marks3.
1Perigee Environmental, 2The Nature Conservancy, 3Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) Program

The Andros Coral Reef System extends for over 217 km and is unique in the western Atlantic for its large size, low adjacent human population, and vast surrounding shallow banks that restrict oceanic circulation and limit the fetch of storm waves. Recent declines in coral reefs in the wider Caribbean are well documented, particularly in areas where local stressors such as overfishing, coastal development and pollutants are significant. Less understood are the condition and subsequent recovery of coral reefs in more remote areas where direct human influences may be lower, but where regional impacts caused by bleaching, diseases and hurricanes have been proportionally more significant. Beginning in 1997, the condition of the coral reefs along central Andros Island have been surveyed biannually using AGRRA-based methods forming one of the most comprehensive and long-term coral monitoring data sets in the Bahamas. Significant declines in coral were observed during the 1998 major bleaching and to a lesser extent during moderate to minor bleaching episodes in 2005 and 2007, respectively. Recovery from these disturbances has been limited to shallow patch reefs and reef crests and is significantly lower in high relief fore reef habitats. Total fish biomass has generally increased over the years; however, the outbreak of lionfish documented in 2007, and their continued prevalence, may impact Andros fish populations in the future. This talk will: (1) review the large-scale changes on Andros Island’s coral reefs over the past 10 years; (2) quantify changes in key fish communities such as herbivores, commercially significant fishes, and invasive lionfishes; and (3)present an easy to understand reef health index useful for managers to track reef condition overtime.

Resilience of endemic parrot populations on Great Abaco and Great Inagua, Bahamas
1Frank F. Rivera-Milán, 2Caroline Stahala & 3Fernando Simal
1United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Laurel, Maryland, USA, 2Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida, USA, 3STINAPA Bonaire, Bonaire, Dutch Caribbean.

Geographic isolation puts endemic parrot populations at risk of extinction due to environmental disturbances. We studied the resilience (i.e., resistance and recovery) of endemic parrot populations on Great Abaco and Great Inagua, Bahamas, using count data corrected for changes in detection probability to estimate density, abundance, and rate of change in abundance before-after environmental disturbances. Great Abaco was struck by moderate Category 3 hurricanes in 2004 and 2011; and extensive wildfires were frequent during 20032012. Cat removal was conducted at parrot nest sites in southern Abaco during 20092012. A strong Category 4 hurricane struck Great Inagua in 2008; and severe droughts occurred in 2004 and 20082009. The Great Abaco parrot population resisted environmental disturbances, and responded quickly to cat removal with increases in breeding pair productivity, female survival, and population density in 2012. Food abundance was higher and less clumped on Great Abaco than on the much drier Great Inagua. The hurricane and drought limited food supply on Great Inagua during 20082009, causing a 63% decline in the parrot population. Recovery time was estimated to be 24 years for parrots on Great Inagua, and therefore we expect population density to rebound to pre-hurricane levels in 2013. Long-term research and monitoring allowed us to better understand the response of isolated parrot populations to environmental disturbances and targeted management actions seeking to increase reproductive success and the survival of nesting females.

Ecosystem restoration on Allen Cay: Removing invasive mice
Cameron Saunders1, Aurora Alifano2, Tamica Rahming1, Richard Griffiths2 &
William A. Mackin
1Bahamas National Trust P.O. Box N 4105 Nassau, The Bahamas, 2Island Conservation, 100 Shaffer Road, Santa Cruz CA 95060 USA, 33913 Sterling Ridge Ln, Durham, NC 27707 USA

Invasive species are one of the leading threats to native wildlife. Despite considerable investment into the Bahamas National Park System, critical nesting and breeding areas of endangered and endemic biota remain threatened by invasive species. In May 2012, The Bahamas National Trust together with Island Conservation undertook an operation to remove introduced House Mice (
Mus musculus) from Allen Cay, Exuma Islands, Bahamas. The removal of mice was a necessary step in the restoration of the native environment of the cay, an important breeding and nesting site for Audubon’s Shearwater (Puffinus lherminieri) and the endemic Allen Cay Rock Iguana (Cyclura cychlura inornata). The removal of mice as a food source was expected to limit the presence of Barn Owls (Tyto alba) on Allen Cay, and subsequently reduce shearwater mortality attributed to owl predation. Iguanas were removed from the cay prior to the eradication, and will be relocated after the operation has been confirmed successful and breeding habitat has been enhanced. Monitoring of iguanas, shearwater census plots and banded individuals will continue to assess the benefits of removing mice from Allen Cay by measuring population changes and survivorship. Bahamas National Trust staff gained hands on exposure to eradication techniques, a capacity that will assist the organization to take on similar restoration projects in the future. Future implementation of recommended biosecurity measures will reduce the threat of re-invasion by invasive species and improve conservation impacts, both at Allen Cay and throughout the Bahamas. This project was undertaken in close collaboration with Predensa Moore, Scott Johnson, Arlington Johnson, David Cooper, John Iverson, Wes Jolley, and Kirsty Swinnerton.

Developing environmental stewardship in The Bahamas through song, story, and art
Ruth Schowalter1 & Sandra Voegeli2
1Language Institute Georgia Tech University, Atlanta, 30332, USA, UC Berkeley Hastings Natural History Reservation, Carmel Valley, CA 93924 USA; Georgia College and State University (GCSU) Maymester Study Abroad, Ecology and Community Ecology, Bahamas & San Salvador Living Jewels (SSLJ); San Salvador, Bahamas

Let’s inspire children to be caretakers of their environments by celebrating the living jewels of the land, sky, and sea! Songs, stories, and art are three viable ways of inviting children into lively discussions about their role in conservation, while also educating them about Bahamian plants, animals, and environments. We will introduce and demonstrate activities developed from a newly published Bahamian animal-conservation story, The Misadventures of Maria the Hutia, which can be used in elementary or secondary school classrooms or at home to teach Bahamian children about these topics. Among the activities we propose using are a song, Living Jewels of the Land, Sky, and Sea, which has a clear conservation message about many animals native to the Bahamas. This song was later expanded into the book, The Misadventures of Maria the Hutia, which focuses on the main character from the song, Maria, who is a Bahamian hutia (Geocapromys ingrahmi). Artwork developed for the book engages children in learning more about the life and habitats of marine and terrestrial environments of the Bahamas, including a map of the Bahamas that shows Maria’s journey. Some of the black-and-white illustrations of Bahamian animals from the book were used for coloring activities at the 2012 Sea Camp on San Salvador, and we plan to provide more of these illustrations in a supplementary coloring/activities book. A combination of song, story, and art can thus help lead Bahamian children to be in awe of their environment and build the foundation for their stewardship.

Cultivating the appreciation of Bahamian Biological diversity through Citizen Science
Nikita Shiel-Rolle
Young Marine Explorers Rugby Drive Nassau The Bahamas P.O Box CB-13179

The biological diversity of The Bahamas is largely un-described and thus under-appreciated. The value of biological diversity, its role in critical ecosystem services and need to conserve and manage natural resources is not a national priority. Historically, visiting foreign scientists have carried out scientific research within The Bahamas; as a result information describing the ecology and biology of The Bahamas is not easily accessible to most Bahamians, especially students. With the increasing population, and need for a healthy environment to support tourism, fisheries and needs of Bahamian citizens there are several steps that can be taken to improve the communication of scientific knowledge amongst Bahamians. First, organizations like Young Marine Explorers (YME) that engage Bahamians in citizen science encourages a deeper understanding about local environmental issues and the importance of a healthy environment that supports The Bahamian economy, human health and wellbeing. Engaging non-professional scientist in research also promotes the feasibility of long-term research projects that provide temporal perspective, which under other circumstances may not be possible. A second approach addresses the need to develop a national Natural Community Classification system, which can be used to help track large units of biodiversity through natural habitats. Utilizing CMECS as an example of what could be applied throughout The Bahamas a test map of a local ecosystem illustrates the effectiveness of such a classification system.

The blood-chemistry response of mangrove fishes to acute climate change stressors across seasons.
Aaron Shultz1,2, Zach Zuckerman1,2, David Philipp3,2 & Cory Suski1,2
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois, 1102 S. Goodwin Ave., MC 047, Urbana, IL 61801, 2Flats Ecology and Conservation Program, Cape Eleuthera Institute, Eleuthera, The Bahamas, 3 Illinois Natural History Survey, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois, 1816 S. Oak Street, MC-652, Champaign, IL 61820

Anthropogenic disturbances since the industrial revolution, such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, have resulted in an increase in carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere to a level that exceeds concentrations over the past 650,000 years, resulting in changes to the global climate. In addition to causing warmer air and ocean temperatures, climate change also alters the evaporation/precipitation cycle and elevates CO2 concentrations, which, in turn, will increase ocean salinity and reduce ocean pH. The ability of fish to respond to their abiotic environment relies on the coordination of internal components (e.g., cells, organelles, and tissues) and processes (e.g., intra and extracellular acid-base chemistry) to maintain homeostasis. A disruption in one of these components or processes sets the physiological limits for the whole organism. The objective of this experiment was to quantify the blood-based physiological response of bonefish, checkered puffers, and yellowfin mojarra exposed to an acute increase in salinity, acidity, temperature, and temperature plus acidity, and to assess how these responses differ in summer versus winter. Abiotic conditions were manipulated by gradually adjusting ambient seawater in the direction of change that exceeds predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Blood samples were taken from each fish and analyzed for indicators of stress (cortisol, glucose), anaerobic metabolism (lactate), and osmotic/ionic changes (Na+, K+, Cl-, Ca2+). Results from this experiment will be key in predicting how performance (e.g., growth, survival, reproduction) and ultimately fitness of these species will change under future climate scenarios.

The Bahamas lionfish control project: Its origin and current status
Nicola S. Smith
Department of Marine Resources, Ministry of Agriculture & Marine Resources, East Bay Street, P.O. Box N-3028, Nassau, Bahamas

The Bahamas Lionfish Control Project is part of a regional invasive species initiative entitled, “Mitigating the Threats of Invasive Alien Species in the Insular Caribbean” (MTIASIC). The MTIASIC project includes five Caribbean nations and is funded by the Global Environment Facility. Under the MTIASIC project, each participating country is responsible for identifying a high priority invasive species and developing, where applicable, early detection and rapid response, control, eradication or preventative measures. In 2009 as part of the MTIASIC project, The Bahamas selected to develop control measures for Pacific red lionfish,
Pterois volitans, using a local and regional research, training and management approach. The Bahamas Department of Marine Resources is the national implementing agency for the project and works in collaboration with several local and international organizations. The project is of four years duration and focuses on five thematic areas: (1) a lionfish population control experiment; (2) professional training; (3) promotion of lionfish research in priority areas; (4) invasive species policy and legislation review and reform; and, (5) invasive species outreach and educational initiatives. Here, I summarize the history of lionfish in the western Atlantic and trace the series of events that led to the development of The Bahamas Lionfish Control Project. I also give an overview of the project’s goals, objectives and preliminary results with particular emphasis on the lionfish population control experiment.

Bahamas catch reconstruction: Fisheries trends in a tourism-driven economy (1950-2010)
Nicola S. Smith1 & Dirk Zeller2
Department of Marine Resources, Ministry of Agriculture & Marine Resources, East Bay St., P.O. Box N-3028, Nassau, Bahamas, 2Sea Around Us Project, Fisheries Centre, University of British Columbia, 2202 Main Mall, Vancouver, B.C., V6T 1Z4, Canada

Fish is a source of protein for Bahamian residents and tourists, and both groups expect to catch and eat local fish. However, demand for local fish by a burgeoning tourism industry in combination with similar demands from a growing resident population raises an important question: Can domestic fisheries satisfy current fishing and seafood consumption patterns of both sectors in the long-term? To answer this question, we need to know among other things, total fisheries removals as well as patterns of fisheries demand by tourists versus residents in the past and present. Using a globally established catch reconstruction approach, we provide a more comprehensive accounting of Bahamian fisheries catches from commercial and non-commercial sectors from 1950-2010. This is in marked contrast to national data and those that are supplied to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which represent only commercial catch. Additionally, we quantify demand for local fish by tourists. We found that total reconstructed catch over 1950-2010 was 2.6 times larger than official data presented by the FAO on behalf of The Bahamas. This discrepancy was due to unreported catch from the sport and subsistence fisheries as well as the systematic under-reporting of commercial catches. Furthermore, 75% of total reconstructed catch from 1950-2010 was attributed to demand by tourism. This study provides a preliminary baseline for historic fisheries catches and estimates tourism demand for local fish over the past half century. Nevertheless, field investigations are needed to improve upon these data and the trends they represent.

Mammal conservation in altered landscapes
Sandra Sneckenberger
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Florida Ecological Services Office. 1339 20th Street, Vero Beach, Florida  32962, USA

Pythons, feral cats, tegus, and Gambian pouch rats have changed the way biologists and scientists approach endangered species recovery in south Florida.  The challenges these invasive species present and current techniques employed to manage them will be discussed.   The influx of invasive, non-native species has also affected the native mammals of the Bahamas.  Connections and correlations will be made between the current issues and strategies applied in south Florida and the Bahamas.   

Occurrence and impacts of chronic and acute coastal hypoxia in The Bahamas: macro algal indicators of eutrophication and benthic community impacts
Kathleen Sullivan Sealey
1, Vanessa Nero McDonough1, 2 & Kathleen Semon Lunz1, 3
1 Coastal Ecology laboratory, Department of biology, University of Miami, P.O. Box 249118, Coral Gables, Florida 33124, USA, 2 Biscayne National Park, Homestead, Florida, USA, 3 Fish and Wildlife Research Institute, Fish And Wildlife Commission, St. Petersburg, Florida 33701, USA

A 10-year project to characterize, then assess, the health of coastal environments across the Bahamian archipelago documented near shore water quality to map the occurrence of acute (post-hurricane) and chronic hypoxic events. The Bahamas are very vulnerable to coastal eutrophication, primarily from land use change on small islands. Eutrophication is defined as “increase in the rate of supply of organic matter to an ecosystem” (Nixon 1995). Eutrophication or nutrient pollution has been called the number-one global threat to coastal marine biodiversity. This study mapped hypoxia occurrences by identifying both “hot spots” for chronic eutrophication, and areas impacted by acute eutrophication after major storms or hurricanes. Over 170 sites on 10 different islands were surveyed seasonally over one-year periods, and 27 sites surveyed over multiple years to document the occurrence of coastal hypoxia, and the impacts on benthic algal species assemblages. The results show widespread hypoxic events throughout the archipelago, even on islands with low human populations and development (e.g. Long Island) and documented shifts in benthic macro-algal species assemblages after storms, and over years following land-use change. Eutrophication thresholds for each system are unique: differing with geomorphology, climate, and ecology. Benthic algal communities are also unique to coastal geomorphology and ecology; but were observed to rapidly change with changes in nutrients and run-off. Algal assemblages are key indicators for nutrient pollution. Results were used to determine limits for nutrient loading in The Bahamas as well as identify candidate locations for coastal restoration and management.

Aggregated nesting of Bahama Parrots (Amazona leucocephala bahamensis) in South Abaco
Caroline Stahala
Florida State University, Department of Biological Sciences, 319 Stadium Dr., Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA

Parrots are known to be one of the more social animals, made evident when seen in large foraging flocks, nightly roosts and bonded pair. Therefore, the idea that parrots exhibit social behavior during the nesting season is not surprising. However, why does this behavior exist and does it need to be taken into account when management decisions are being made? These questions were addressed by looking at the nesting distribution of the Bahama parrot (
Amazona leucocephala bahamensis) on Abaco Island. The nesting by this parrot population is aggregated and limited to the southern portion of the Island. Nearest Neighbors were measured to focal nests during the breeding seasons of 2010 – 1012. Cavity density, vegetation measures, behavioral data, nest success and DNA were collected for parrots at focal nests, neighboring nests and random sites to determine potential reasons for this nest distribution. Parrots do not appear to be selecting nesting areas that have a higher number of cavities, therefore they are not distributing themselves in relation to available cavities. Although having a close neighbor seemed to be an advantage during some years the trend was not consistent. Nesting behavior should be considered when making management decisions. Cavity density may not affect distribution it does affect suitability of area as a nest site.

Results of South Abaco predator management on the Bahama Parrot (Amazona leucocephala bahamensis)
Caroline Stahala
Florida State University, Department of Biological Sciences, 319 Stadium Dr., Tallahassee, FL 32306, USA

The Bahama parrot’s use of underground limestone cavities as nesting sites on Abaco Island makes this parrot population particularly vulnerable to predators. Our previous studies have indicated that the Abaco parrot population could not remain viable under the level of predation pressures introduced mammals presented. Using this information as a guide, the Bahamas National Trust implemented a predator control program during the 2010 parrot breeding season and successive years. Survival of breeding parrots and parrot nest success were measured in years prior to management and in the three parrot breeding seasons since management implementation. The yearly nesting season results indicate that predator control measures are having a significant positive effect on the parrot population based on increased adult survival, nest success and number of chicks fledged. This positive effect on the parrot population is also evident in population estimates measured before and after management implementation. Predator control has been demonstrated as a successful management strategy to reduce the effects of predators on breeding adult parrot survival and breeding productivity. All efforts should be made to continue this program to protect the parrot population.

Conserving Caribbean Islands: Removing invasive animals to protect biodiversity.
K.J. Swinnerton*
1, N. Holmes1, B. Fabres2 , G. Gerber3, M. García4 & Kelly Newton5, Shyama Pagad6
1Island Conservation, 100 Shaffer Rd, Santa Cruz, CA 95060, USA, 2Island Conservation, 650 East Bay Street, Suite # 2, Nassau, New Providence, The Bahamas, 3Institute for Conservation Research, San Diego Zoo Global, 15600 San Pasqual Valley Road Escondido, CA 92027, USA; 4Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, Bureau of Fisheries and Wildlife, P.O. Box 366147, San Juan Puerto Rico 00936, USA, 5Coastal and Conservation Action Laboratory, University of California at Santa Cruz, 100 Shaffer Rd., Santa Cruz, CA 95060 USA, 6IUCN Invasive Species Specialist Group, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland New Zealand
Although islands make up less than 5% of the earth’s land area, 80% of known species extinctions since the 1500s have taken place on islands; and 40% of IUCN Critically Endangered species currently inhabit them. Invasive Alien Vertebrates have been a primary cause of insular extinctions and are recognized as a key risk to today’s threatened species. There have been over 1100 successful eradications of invasive vertebrates from islands worldwide, including 51 in the Caribbean, representing practical and effective conservation interventions to prevent extinctions and protect biodiversity. Using data from the Database of Islands and Invasive Species Eradications (DIISE ) and the Threatened Island Biodiversity database (TIB ), we present case studies of previous invasive vertebrate eradication, demonstrate priority Caribbean islands and archipelagos based on presence of IUCN Threatened species, and highlight the applicability of this conservation tool to Caribbean Rock Iguanas (Cyclura spp.). Caribbean Rock Iguanas are amongst the most threatened taxa in the world, with 14 of the 16 species and subspecies reported as Critically Endangered or Endangered on the IUCN Red List. In the Insular Caribbean, 86 discrete small island subpopulations of 14 Cyclura species and subspecies breed in seven Caribbean Nations; 53% of these island populations co-occur with feral cats, ungulates and rats. Combined with other conservation tools such as translocation, invasive vertebrate removal programs offer an effective opportunity to down-list several Cyclura species, and provide sustainable iguana populations free from invasive species impacts.

Late Holocene bird communities from The Bahamas and Hispaniola: Comparing the chronology of orehistoric extinction in the West Indies
Oona M. Takano & David W. Steadman
Florida Museum of Natural History, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611, USA.

We compare the rapidly growing fossil record of birds from Abaco, The Bahamas, with that from Trouing Jean Paul (TJP), a high-elevation limestone sinkhole in the Massif de la Selle, Haiti. Our comparisons will be restricted to non-passerine fossils from the Late Holocene (the past several thousand years). The Haitian fossils represent the prey remains of two extant owls, the widespread Tyto alba and the Hispaniolan endemic T. glaucops, whereas the Bahamian fossils represent prey remains of T. alba as well as natural trap activity. Among 23 species of birds from TJP (4800+ identified fossils), only one is extinct (a woodcock, Scolopax new sp.). The TJP deposit does not include fossils of the extinct vertebrates found in older Holocene sites on Hispaniola (tortoise, four species of sloths, two monkeys, four rodents, a caracara, flightless rail, and giant barn-owl). The TJP fossils instead portray a Late Holocene bird community that already had experienced four or more millennia of Amerindian presence, but had not yet been influenced by the activities of European or African peoples over the past 500 years. Among the 19 Late Holocene species of birds from Abaco (200+ identified fossils), six are extinct (a hawk, caracara, crane, rail, thick-knee, and owl). We attribute the much higher proportion of extinct forms from Abaco (32%) than Haiti (4%) to the fact that humans colonized Abaco only ca. 1000 years ago, and therefore many of the Abaconian fossils were deposited during the last millennium or two before people arrived.

The story of sharks
Brendan Talwar & Ian Rossiter
Cape Eleuthera Institute, The Island School,
Rock Sound Eleuthera, The Bahamas

This film, through humor, simplicity, and scientific theory, describes our predicament with a drastically declining shark population worldwide, and offers a new perspective on how to view the most feared fish on our planet. Through stop motion, we tell the story of our ocean’s greatest predators by focusing on the vital role they play in our economies, ecosystems, and cultures. It is the story of our decision between an ocean with, or without, them. It is the story of how we only have one logical choice left. It is the story of sharks.
History and Awards: Blue Ocean Film Festival Finalist, 2012, Festival Mondial de l’Image Sous Marine Finalist, 2012, Festival Mondial de l’Image Sous Marine: French Federation of Film and Video Special Jury Award, Friends of the Environment Film Festival Finalist, 2013l; Link to trailer:;
Link to video (can download it here):; Password: Beneaththewaves

Queen conch populations in the context of seagrass community metrics
Alexander Tewfik
Daniel P. Haerther Center for Conservation and Research, John G. Shedd Aquarium, Chicago, IL 60605, USA

Queen conch (
Strombus gigas) are broadly distributed and significant primary consumers in shallow coastal habitats of the tropical central western Atlantic region as well as serving as prey to numerous higher-order predators. Queen conch have been traditionally harvested throughout the region for centuries, including the Bahamian archipelago, and now represent a major economic activity supplying the demands of local people, tourism and export markets. As a critical and naturally abundant living component of soft sediment ecosystems the continued exploitation of Queen conch has the potential to contribute to negative changes in biodiversity, architectural complexity and trophic connections leading to continued losses in fisheries production and associated livelihoods. This study begins the documentation of populations of Queen conch relative to metrics of seagrass habitat structure (i.e. biomass, cover, detritus) and consumer functional groups (e.g. specialists, deposit feeders, predators) at a number of sites across the archipelago. Low densities of adult Queen conch (< 25/ha) were observed across all sites while juvenile densities ranged widely (0 – 375/ha) given the possible location of some recruitment areas near tidal channels. Observations also indicated positive correlations between abundance of Queen conch and seagrass cover, seagrass biomass, predators and overall benthic consumer diversity. The enumeration and understanding of such patterns is critical as were strive toward the long-term sustainable conservation of invertebrate fisheries resources, supporting habitats and local livelihoods.

The status of queen conch (Strombus gigas) populations off South Eleuthera, The Bahamas
Claire Thomas1, Steve Auscavitch2, Erin Cash3 & Annabelle Brooks1
1Cape Eleuthera Institute, Eleuthera, The Bahamas, 2Darling Marine Center, University of Maine, 193 Clarks Cove Road Walpole, ME 04573, USA, 3Auburn University, 203 Swingle Hall, Auburn, AL 36849, USA. 

Queen conch (Strombus gigas) are economically and culturally important throughout the Caribbean. A decline in queen conch abundance has been documented throughout their range, particularly in populations surrounding several out-islands of The Bahamas, where queen conch is the second largest fishery. The Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI) conducted a comparative study between 2003 and 2011 in shallow-water sites off Cape Eleuthera. The results show a trend toward decline, with an observed 80% decrease in population density. In addition, population surveys were conducted between March-May 2012 and September-November 2012. Utilizing towed snorkel surveys, densities of adult, sub-adult, and juvenile individuals were counted to determine the current population size structure of queen conch in the waters off Cape Eleuthera. The results of these surveys show a mean density of 10.6 adults ha-1, well below the minimum threshold density of 50 adults ha-1 required for mating to occur, and a mean density of 13.5 juveniles ha-1. This assessment can assist in structuring a management plan for the Bahamian conch fishery that will allow the populations to recover and remain a viable source of income for Bahamian fishing communities. It can also provide insight as to best placement of a Marine Protected Area (MPA) or a network of MPAs to protect crucial habitat for queen conch, though further assessment of the stocks are needed to make informed management decisions.

Benthic macroinvertebrate communities of mangroves and adjacent flats
John A. Tiedemann
Monmouth University, Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy Program
400 Cedar Ave., W. Long Branch, NJ. 07764. USA

Mangroves and associated flats environments support biodiversity and maintain important ecological services such as nutrient export to adjacent marine ecosystems and carbon sequestration. These areas also provide critical nursery and foraging habitat for commercially and recreationally valuable fish and shellfish species. In The Bahamas, mangroves and shallow flats ecosystems support one of the most productive bonefish (
Albula vulpes) fisheries in the world. As adults, bonefish forage intensely on the macrobenthos of mangroves and adjacent flats. Unfortunately, these areas also tend to be the focal point of coastal development which often entails clearing sites of vegetation, altering shorelines, and dredging to accommodate marinas, harbors, and residential or resort development. Given their ecological and economic importance, the conservation and protection of mangroves and nearshore flats ecosystems is imperative to the future of The Bahamas. Because mangroves are tightly linked with adjacent ecosystems managing them in isolation is unsustainable. However, despite the importance of the linkages between mangroves, flats, benthic invertebrates and fish species, the composition and ecology of mangrove macrobenthic communities in The Bahamas is not well described and poorly known. The purpose of this project is to begin to quantify the distribution and abundance of benthic macroinvertebrates in mangroves and adjacent flats ecosystems in Eleuthera. Over time, these data will allow us to develop a comprehensive inventory of important macrobenthos associated with mangroves and flats in Cape Eleuthera, develop estimates of species diversity at the selected survey sites, and begin to understand inter- and intra- site variability within the benthic community.

Introduced taxa in the flora of the Bahamian Archipelago
Michael A. Vincent & R. James Hickey
Department of Botany, Miami University, Oxford, OH 45056 USA

In Corrells’
Flora of the Bahama Archipelago, 1371 taxa are recognized in 663 genera in 144 families (including pteridophytes). Using data from the flora, statistics were generated about the percentage of the flora that is introduced. We use “introduced” in this context to imply introduction post-1492. Of species listed in the Flora, approximately 280 species (about 20%) are likely introduced. Of these, some were introduced accidentally, some intentionally as cultivated plants for food or ornament, and some by “natural” means without human assistance. Several families (as circumscribed in the Flora) are entirely introduced (Bombacaceae, Caricaceae, Cochlospermaceae, Crassulaceae, Pedaliaceae, Plantaginaceae s.str., Pontederiaceae, Punicaceae, and Tamaricaceae), whereas many others contain no introductions. The highest numbers of introduced species within a family are found in the Fabaceae (35), Poaceae (32), Asteraceae (17), Euphorbiaceae (13), and Solanaceae (9). Some introductions have become pernicious invasives, such as Casuarina spp., Leucaena leucocephala, Scaevola taccada, and Wedelia trilobata, while others remain casual introductions. The status of selected introduced plant species in the flora will be discussed, and an updated look at species introduced since the publication of the Flora will be presented.

Will a diver pay $20 for Conservation?
Sandra Voegeli1 & Melanie DeVore2
UC Berkeley Hastings Natural History Reservation, Carmel Valley, CA 93924 USA; Georgia College and State University (GCSU) Maymester Study Abroad, Ecology and Community Ecology, Bahamas & San Salvador Living Jewels (SSLJ); San Salvador, Bahamas, 2Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, Georgia College, CB 01, Milledgeville, GA 2106, USA

The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism estimated that 5.7 million tourists elected to take vacations in the Bahamas in 2012. One of the most appealing draws to the Bahamas is “underwater travel”. This segment of the tourism industry dedicated not only to dive operations, but also to accommodating thousands of snorkeling experiences for cruise line customers visiting marine habitats with healthy reefs. Maintaining those healthy reefs requires one of two things: 1) the use of "managed" marine areas for diving and tourism experiences; and 2) practices by underwater travel companies that maintain healthy reefs visited by numerous divers and snorkelers. Neither of these objectives can be met without financial resources. Divers spend $1000 for airline tickets, $300 for a regulator, $200 for a BC, $100 for a mask… will a diver pay $20 for conservation? In this presentation we will discuss the current status of the dive tag program established by the San Salvador Living Jewels Foundation with the guidance and support of the BNT. Unlike some regions of the Caribbean, the Bahamas are in a prime position to maintain a successful dive tag program because of the role the BNT plays in working with communities and entities responsible for maintaining marine parks. The potential to use the dive tag program as a springboard for developing other best practices for reef management will also be discussed.

Importance of winter dry season rainfall and other abiotic factors in affecting abundance of fruits consumed by the Kirtland’s Warbler and other bird species on Eleuthera, The Bahamas
Jennifer D. White1, 2, 4, J.M. Wunderle, Jr.2 & D.N. Ewert.3
1Puerto Rico Conservation Foundation, San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA, 2International Institute of Tropical Forestry USDA Forest Service, Luquillo, Puerto Rico, USA, 3The Nature Conservancy, Lansing, MI, USA, 4Current Address: Biology Dept., University of Northern Iowa, IA, USA

Birds in Bahamian terrestrial habitats may be stressed by droughts, which for wintering nearctic/neotropical migrants may be especially challenging when they occur in March and April prior to vernal migration when energy demands are high. This appears to be the case for the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler (KW,
Setophaga kirtlandii), which tracks dry season (winter) fruit and arthropod abundance. Given the likely importance of rainfall on fruit abundance we examined its effects relative to other abiotic factors that may contribute to variation in fruit abundance in winter (October-April). Winter fruit production was studied in shrub species (snowberry, Chiococca alba; black torch, Erithalis fruticosa; Bahamas sage, Lantana bahamensis; wild sage, L. involucrata) that produced small fleshy fruits consumed by the KW and other bird species. Chiococca alba and E. fruticosa showed seasonal patterns and interannual variation in fruit production, but neither Lantana species showed seasonal patterns or marked variation over three winters. Using an information theoretic approach we evaluated abiotic factors that influenced fruit abundance. A temporal model had the most support for all fruit abundance model sets and a winter rainfall model had the most support among the reduced model sets. Thus winter rainfall had a positive effect on the KW’s fruit supply and body condition, which is consistent with recent findings by Sarah Rockwell et al. (2012) indicating that KWs arrive earlier and in better condition on their temperate zone breeding grounds after wet winters in The Bahamas.

Environmental Ambassadors: Inspiring leaders that shape communities and conserve the environment
Shaquille Wilson
Young Marine Explorers, Rugby Drive, Nassau, The Bahamas P.O Box CB-13179

There are serious environmental and educational problems that need to be addressed in the Bahamas as the environment is not a national priority and the current national GPA is a D. The solution to this problem is through the education and empowerment of youth done through programs such as The Environmental Ambassadors program created by Young Marine Explorers facilitated youth connections to the environment and emphasized the need for similar programs that will inspire students to better themselves and their community while conserving the environment. This pilot program exposed nine local children from Central Andros to a year long leadership, character and teamwork building program. Certifying students as P.A.D.I scuba divers and engaging them in community outreach projects and scientific research these students developed an appreciation for the environment and gained confidence through the leadership activities.

Fluid boundaries: A social science perspective of marine protected area conservation in The Bahamas
Sarah Wise
MARUM / GLOMAR, Bremen International Graduate School for Marine Sciences ARTEC, Research Center for Sustainability Studies University of Bremen, Germany

In response to growing global concerns over declining fisheries and vulnerability of small island nations, The Bahamas Government has implemented a series of protected areas throughout the archipelago. Based on research that was conducted from 2003 to 2010 in Abaco, Andros, The Biminis, Eleuthera, and New Providence, this work examines the process of creating protected areas, as well as the social effects of protected area conservation from the perspective of conservationists, Bahamian residents, scientists, and resource users. People claim rights of access to resources and space in many ways. In The Bahamas, ownership claims are managed though multilayered tenure institutions including formal law and orally transmitted custom. This research finds that personal and social attributes such as social and economic status influence: 1) people’s perception of the environment and protected area conservation; 2) the impacts of protected areas on surrounding communities; and 3) how people negotiate spatial and social boundaries including property claims, knowledge claims, resource access rights, and “rightful” belonging. How people think about “rightful” claims of ownership is not fixed, but reflects fluid social positioning. Ignoring the divergence in how people make claims can lead to disparities in the effects of protection as well as a lack of compliance with conservation efforts and a mismatch in resource management strategies.

Challenges for Kirtland’s Warblers overwintering in early-successional habitats on Eleuthera, The Bahamas
Joseph M. Wunderle, Jr.1, David N. Ewert2, Jennifer D. White1,3, Dave Currie1,3,
& Patricia K. Lebow
1International Institute of Tropical Forestry, USDA Forest Service, San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA, 2The Nature Conservancy, Lansing, MI, USA, 3Puerto Rican Conservation Foundation, San Juan, Puerto Rico, USA, 4Forest Products Laboratory, USDA Forest Service, Madison, WI, USA.

We predicted that differences in site fidelity, movements, and population density would correspond with variation in food abundance in wintering Kirtland’s Warblers (KW, Setophaga kirtlandii), on Eleuthera, Bahamas. In addition, site fidelity and resource tracking were expected to vary by sex and age due to competition and experience, contributing to differences in body condition. We found that KW food resources (fruit and arthropods) typically declined during a winter, but not always consistently due to yearly variation both within and between study sites. As predicted, site fidelity within and between winters varied between the sex (males > females) and age classes (adults > juveniles). However, 53% of the variation in overwinter site fidelity was explained by age class and ripe fruit abundance. Individuals that shifted study sites moved to sites with higher ripe fruit abundance. This resource tracking resulted in late winter warbler densities that were positively correlated with ripe fruit and ground arthropod biomass. Both fruit abundance and late winter body condition were positively affected by rainfall in the prior month. Late winter body condition differed by sex and age corresponding with sex and age differences in site fidelity. These sex and age differences in wintering KWs are indicative of intraspecific competition, which in drought years may have consequences that carry over to the breeding grounds. Thus early successional sites that retain moisture and the KW’s preferred fruits in late winter are important for conservation of the warbler’s winter habitat in the Bahamas.