Tiger Grouper Cleaning Station

Hello Everyone,

On yesterday’s underwater video conference, we talked about how Nassau Grouper use cleaning stations on the reef.  Cleaning stations are like a carwash, underwater, where bigger fish are cleaned by much smaller fish.  Nassau’s are not the only ones who use cleaning stations.  In the video below, you will see a pregnant Tiger Grouper getting cleaned.  Notice how the grouper opens it’s mouth and gill covers to get a thorough cleaning.  In any other situation, the Grouper would likely eat these fish, but not on the cleaning station.  Isn’t that amazing?!

Tiger Grouper Cleaning Station-14t5qib

Young Nassau Grouper

Hello Everyone!

Throughout the week, scientists have reported seeing a number of young Nassau Groupers on the reef.  Take a look at this beautiful fish, who is likely 2-3 years old.  What do you think it means, in terms of the recovering Nassau population, that we are seeing so many of these young fish?


A Trip Highlight!

Hi Everyone!

On Monday’s live video feed, you have the opportunity to meet Anna DeLoach, an incredible underwater videographer.  One of the highlights this year for me has been the opportunity to go on a dive with her and her husband, REEF co-founder, Ned DeLoach. While on the dive, Anna spotted one of my all-time favorite fish, a juvenile Spotted Drum.  I think they look like underwater angels.  Click the link below to take a look. Let me know what you think?  Aren’t they incredible?!

Juvenile Spotted Drum – Little Cayman 720-unmlf3

Communicating With Color

Hello Everyone!

As many of you have noted in our live video conferences, the Nassau Grouper on the spawning aggregation have a variety of color phases.  Nassau’s are actually able to change their color quickly, often times to communicate with each other.  Below is a photo showing these different color phases.  Take a look.  What other animals use color to communicate?

Color Phases!

We named him, Lucky.

Hello Everyone,

On both of the video conferences we have had this week, you’ve asked about the Nassau Grouper’s predators, so I thought I would share this picture with you.  We named him, Lucky.  He has been spotted on the aggregation a couple times.  Clearly he has had a run-in with a predator, but it just shows how resilient this fish is.  I think its amazing!  What do you think?

Operation: Grouper Rescue!!

Hello Everyone!

It was so great to talk with you today on the live video feed and share some of the work happening here on Little Cayman.  During our discussion today, the question was asked, “Who are the Nassau Grouper’s predators?” Sharks are certainly one of their main predators on the aggregation.  Below is a story from a few years ago about a fish we found that had been attacked by a shark. Take a look!

Here you go:

While eating lunch yesterday, we got a phone call from one of the local dive shops here on Little Cayman (there are 4).  Apparently, they had gone out on a morning dive near the grouper’s aggregation site and found a badly injured, adult Nassau floating at the surface of the water and a Caribbean Reef Shark circling the fish.  The dive boat scared the shark away, so one of the dive masters collected the grouper and brought it back to shore.  The divers wanted to know if we could possibly help.  So, we rushed over and found the fish in a large container filled with sea water.  It had two big gashes, one on it’s head and another near its tail.  Also, it’s swim bladder was distended and filled with air, which happens if a fish ascends to the surface quickly.  Dr. Brice Semmens, a lead scientist on the project, quickly assessed the situation.   He decided to first use a syringe to release the air from it’s bladder.

You can see the big gash on the back of it's head.

You can see the big gash on the back of it’s head.

You can see that the grouper's belly is distended. It is actually the fish's swim bladder filled with air.

You can see that the grouper’s belly is distended. It is actually the fish’s swim bladder filled with air.

Here you can see Dr. Semmens using a syringe to release the air from the fish's bladder.

Here you can see Dr. Semmens using a syringe to release the air from the fish’s bladder.

Next, it was decided that we would take a blood sample from the fish, to be used in the Grouper Moon Project’s genetics study of the local Nassau.

This blood sample will be used to help in the Grouper Moon Project's genetic study of the local grouper.

This blood sample will be used to help in the Grouper Moon Project’s genetic study of the local grouper.

Blood Sample
The grouper was still quite alive though badly injured. We decided that if we could get it back into the water, and it was able to still swim, it could possibly hunker down in a safe place in the shallow waters near shore and recover. So, we released him back into the water close to the dock.

Getting ready to release the grouper.

Getting ready to release the grouper.

Almost there!

Dr. Semmens releases the Nassau back into the water!

Dr. Semmens releases the Nassau back into the water!

The large, beautiful grouper quickly swam to the bottom and then off it went under the dock. It looked a bit wobbly and we have no idea if the grouper will be able to survive or not but we sure hope so!! What do you think?

Fish Faces!

Hello Everyone!

During today’s video conference, Dr. Semmens talked about a new element to this year’s Grouper Moon Project.  Researchers have noticed that each Nassau has a unique pattern on their face (just like us!). So, this year we are taking video of individual fish faces of the Nassau grouper on the aggregation.  They will then use facial recognition software to identify the different fish.  This new approach will allow scientists to track individual fish from one year to the next, which is pretty cool! Below are two different fish faces.  Can you tell the difference between the two?

Leapin’ Lizards!!

In the Cayman Islands, iguanas are a pretty common sight.  But where I teach, in the Pacific Northwest, one would have to visit a zoo or pet store to see a real iguana.  So, this post is for my students back home who requested pictures of some iguanas.  Here are a few big ones living just a few hundred yards from where we are staying on Little Cayman! Enjoy!