I hope you have all enjoyed these posts of the Grouper Education Program! The Grouper Moon Project has come to an end for the season. It has been a joy to be a part of this incredible project and to be able to work with excellent students such as yourselves, and to be able to work with an amazing group of professionals from REEF and the DOE. The following is a gallery of highlights and some “behind-the-scenes” photos. Take a look!!
Here we are at Cayman Prep playing a food web game illustrating the important role the Nassau plays in the coral reef ecosystem.
Dr. Scott Heppell getting ready to tag a fish!
Lucky was certainly one of the main highlights of the trip!
Dr. Brice and Ms. Redrup pose for a photo before heading out for a dive.
Year 4 students created paintings of Nassau Grouper utilizing a technique known as Pointillism.
The sunsets weren’t too shabby…
Students at Cayman Prep playing a game while learning about the grouper’s life cycle.
Year 4 students at Cayman Prep!!
Students from Spot Bay created a wonderful mural outside their classroom.
High school teacher Verity Redrup diving at the SPAG.
We saw many Jack’s at the aggregation site.
I got to dive at the SPAG!! Amazing!!
Heather and Sierra heading out to the Sea Keeper to check up on the grouper!
NOAA scientist Steve Gittings preparing for an evening dive.
James Gibb from the DOE.
Brice, Heather, and Christy getting ready for a dive.
Hydrophones were placed in several locations near the SPAG.
GOPRO cameras were used to help collect data.
Watching the Tarpon swim under the dock while waiting for the divers to return from the SPAG.
Sunset as we ride on the DOE boat, the Sea Keeper.
Brice gets ready to dive the aggregation with a Pegasus Thruster.
It has been a couple days since my last blog post and as I was thinking of what I would write about, I realized I haven’t shown you any video footage of the actual spawning!?! So, I asked the scientists for a montage of spawning bursts from the last two nights of spawning. It is pretty amazing! Take a look!
I got back to Seattle late last night after a long day of travel. Not surprisingly, it is cold and cloudy in here. I already miss Cayman! However, I heard from Dr. Christy Semmens earlier and she says that the aggregation site continued to be quite busy again last night!! They will be there for several more days observing and collecting data.
One of the new tools that was used during the project this year was a Pegasus Thruster. I remember watching old Jacques Cousteau films on PBS as a child and seeing them zoom around underwater with what was basically a propeller with handles. Well, this is a similar idea, however, it attaches to your air tank. I thought they were pretty cool. Watch Oregon State University’s Dr. Scott Heppell demonstrate:
We have had so many wonderful live Internet chats this year and today was certainly no different. We had the best time talking with Spot Bay Junior School on Cayman Brac. You guys were fantastic! Thank you for being such excellent and engaged students!
Naturally, one question that comes up every time is, “How many Nassau show up on the aggregation site?” This year’s estimate is still being determined by the researchers, however, we know it is somewhere in the ballpark of 3,000-5,000 fish. Either way, that is A LOT of fish! A lot of BIG fish. Having dived at the site myself, it is hard to put into words what several thousand Nassau Grouper amassed in a single location actually looks like. That said, the following video footage from two nights ago, shot by Josh Stewart, does a pretty good job. Take a look.
What an incredible day!! It began with a big rain storm, which the island certainly needed. It was what my dad would call, a frog strangler! We then quickly rallied the troops and pulled together all the gear we would need for another day of diving on the aggregation site and three more Internet chats with the wonderful students on Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman. It was a treat to get to talk with you all today. You had the absolute best questions!!
Tonight, however, things got even more exciting. Dr. Christy, Dr. Brice, and the rest of the team went out for the evening dive and within a just a few minutes the spawning began. Groups of anywhere between 5 to 40 fish began spiraling up into the water column releasing giant clouds of gametes. And while all this was happening, Dr. Brice happened to capture amazing footage of an opportunistic reef shark who tried (unsuccessfully) to grab a spawning grouper for dinner. Check out the video clip below and pay close attention!!
It was an incredible day here on the south side of Little Cayman! We had three wonderful internet sessions with students on both Grand and Cayman Brac. We had a blast talking with you all and answering your questions! I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did.
This evening I was able to go on my final dive at the aggregation site. The scientists will continue to dive three times a day, however, I will be flying back to Cayman Brac on Thursday morning and you are not allowed to dive within 24 hours flying. Does anyone know why??
Anyway, as I was saying, I went on my last dive with the grouper and they definitely saved the best for last. There appeared to be an endless number of fish. Exactly how many, I do not yet know as the scientists and researchers have not finished their count. That said, the rough estimate is somewhere between 4,000-5,000. That’s a lot of fish! And at one point as I was swimming among the fish it appeared as though there was an endless stream of them! Click on the link below to see a video of the fish filmed tonight by researcher, Josh Stewart.
(Check back for the link. The video was still uploading as we were going to bed. I should have it up for you all by the early morning!)–UPDATE: This footage is coming, however, we are having an uploading issue. It will be one more day. I will post it on tomorrow’s blog if all goes as planned.
And finally, the most talked about part of the day was the sighting of a Nassau we named, Lucky. Take a look at the picture below.
Lucky the Fish!
It appears that Lucky had a bite taken out of him (or her) by what we are guessing to be a reef shark. What is so amazing is that the wound is completely healed and Lucky continues thrive. WOW!
It was awesome to video chat with all my students back in Seattle today! You guys are wonderful! And I am really looking forward to having video chats with everyone on Grand and the Brac tomorrow! Exciting! For today’s blog I am posting a couple of video clips that were shot by Verity Redrup, marine sciences teacher at Cayman Prep High School. The first video shows a slow pan of just one section of the fish preparing to spawn here on Little Cayman. Take a look!
Good Evening Grouper Fans! It has been a big day here on Little Cayman! All of the scientists flew in this morning on the twin engine otter and quickly got to work preparing for our first dive on the aggregation … Continue reading →
Hello Friends! For today’s post, I am uploading a gallery of photos that my friend Elayne took while we were diving on Grand Cayman last year. The pictures are INCREDIBLE! I hope you enjoy them. This is also our Part … Continue reading →
Today I want to talk a bit about marine parks, which are areas in the ocean that are protected by law from fishing. The Cayman Islands has worked hard to create a number of protected marine parks as part of their conservation efforts. In fact, you cannot touch or take anything from these sites! One especially cool marine park off the coast of Grand Cayman has a shipwreck on it, the USS Kittiwake. The ship was purposefully sunk a few years ago to create an artificial reef, providing new habitat for marine life. Last year I was able to go diving IN the Kittiwake, with my good friend Elayne, who is a marine biologist from Oman. She took some wonderful photos of our adventure. Take a look!!
To find out more about the Kittiwake at: http://www.kittiwakecayman.com/
Also, this is Part 2 of our series, Fish Identification 101. Can you identify the fish in these pictures?
PS-Liam P. you were correct! There are Yellow Snapper in the picture I posted yesterday!! Good job!