November 15, 2009

Welcome Back Hixon Group!

Photo Credit: Maine Maritime Academy

In mid-November, PIMS welcomed back Oregon State University researchers Mark Albins and Tim Pusack, who returned to Lee Stocking Island to continue their studies focusing on the invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish. Also known by its common name red lionfish (Pterois volitans), this invasive fish species was first spotted in the Exumas by in 2005; since then, the population has increased exponentially. The beautiful lionfish is a popular aquarium species, and it is thought that their introduction to Atlantic waters originated through the release of aquarium specimens in south Florida during Hurricane Andrew in 1992. 

Early experiments have found that lionfish are voracious eaters of native fishes, reducing new recruit populations on certain study sites by up to 85% over a five-week period. With few if any natural predators (there have been occasional sightings of lionfish being eaten by large groupers), there is widespread concern that the rapidly expanding lionfish population will dramatically reduce native fish populations in the coming years, including the juveniles of grouper, snapper and other commercially important species in the Bahamas.

Photo Credit:

Mark and Tim work under the direction of Dr. Mark Hixon of Oregon State University. For more information about their recent lionfish research, see the NOAA spotlight article Lionfish Invasion: Super Predator Threatens Caribbean Coral Reefs as well as the NPR article Spreading Lionfish Invasion Threatens Bahamas.

Also, OSU research assistant Emily Pickering detailed her experience living and working on LSI last summer with the team of researchers as an undergraduate marine biology student. You can view her stories and photos at "A Chronicle of the Invasion.

For more information about the Perry Institute for Marine Science's research programs, visit:

November 13, 2009

Anglican Teachers’ Workshop

Sixteen teachers from St. Andrew’s Anglican Schools arrived on Lee Stocking Island on November 13, 2009, for a three-day teacher workshop focused on the marine habitats of the Bahamas. This workshop followed the success of a previous workshop attended by St. Andrews Anglican School teachers in Exuma.

PIMS provided an overview of introductory marine topics and the means by which they can be applied to teaching programs in the primary schools. Dr. Hector Cruz-Lopez from the Florida Wildlife Commission gave lectures on marine resources and concerns in the Bahamas. Guest lecturers touched on coral reef ecosystems, marine forensics, shipwreck archaeology, and the research conducted at the PIMS research center.

The teachers then had some hands-on time where they were able to explore labs and equipment, a freshwater cave, mangroves, seagrass beds, coral reefs and the native iguanas. Every participant was engaged, asking many questions that led to prosperous discussions and discovery in the field. Overall, the teachers learned valuable information that can be taken back to their classrooms and communities.

A feature moment during the workshop occurred during the first day. After the teachers were fitted for masks and snorkels, they were offered an optional snorkel to the coral head off the main dock. All but two of the teachers braved the water. Ms. Maria Hamilton was determined to face her fear. Two-thirds of the way to the coral head, Maria stopped and clung to a rocky sea wall. A member of the PIMS’ safety team offered to swim her back to the dock, but she refused, remarking, “I have not reached my destination.” Through her visible panic and fear, Maria finally reached the coral head. All that managed to escape her was praise and joy. “This is so beautiful!” she repeated. Maria set the precedent for the remainder of the workshop, inspiring not only the teachers but the staff and volunteers as well.

For more information about the Perry Institute for Marine Science’s Educational Programs, please visit: