Phoebe Shuylor, Emma Ward, and Rachael Alberts head to the creeks with Rachel and Grace from the sea turtle conservation team to do sea turtle abundance surveys.Earlier this May, we welcomed the very FIRST group of female students to ever visit CEI from Tandem Friends School in Charlottesville, Virginia.  This trip was planned as part of their school’s Emphasis Week, a time where students have an opportunity to travel and immerse themselves in learning experiences outside of the classroom, and they couldn’t have picked a better place!  The group spent a week exploring the reefs and creeks around South Eleuthera, adapting to living sustainably, and doing things that they might not be able to anywhere else in the world!

Admiring a lionfish's gape during a dissection with the sustainable fisheries team. Left to right- Kate Bollinger, Susan Wheeler, Emma Ward, Alanna Waldman, Rachael Alberts

Before Tandem Friends arrived, they had 3 things on their marine creature checklist- sharks, turtles, and sea stars.  Guess what?!  We managed to see all three!  After getting settled into dorms, everyone came down to dip their feet into the Bahamian waters.  Sure enough, the water was so calm and clear we spotted some sea stars from shore!  We spent much of the first full day out helping the turtle conservation team do abundance surveys and came across a few turtles in their natural habitat.  The next morning while snorkeling we came across the tiniest juvenile nurse shark hiding out in the wreck just off the beach!

A lot of the week spent in the water.  The girls learned about  all sorts of other marine life, whether they were snorkeling around coral reefs, floating through the mangroves, or wading in the shallows at night.  Everyone was even able to watch the stingray team capture and tag a Southern Stingray during a visit to learn about ooid geology at the sandbar!  The lionfish dissection with the sustainable fisheries team was another favorite- after learning about invasive species the girls got a chance to get their hands dirty and were even able to taste lionfish during dinner out at Sharil’s!  On the last full day we spent the afternoon on the picturesque Cotton Bay beach for some relaxation and reflection time.  What a perfect ending to a fun-filled week!!