Carter Brown ’15 was one of only six shark research and conservation interns working at the Cape Eleuthera Institute (CEI) in the Bahamas over the summer. Brown, along with a broader team of scientists and research interns, participated in a number of projects, varying from examining bonefish and flats ecology; shark, conch and lionfish research; and reef habitat structure and sustainability.
During the internship, Brown served on the CEI shark research team, which conducted a respirometry study of lemon sharks, carried out a stingray feeding study of the common yellow ray, and a pursued a deep-water trapping study of isopods, which are peracarid crustaceans extremely old to the Earth. Brown is a double major in environmental studies and biology.
“The coolest part about working there hands down is the people, whether it’s the grounds crew that is comprised of Haitians and local Bahamians, a high school student participating in the summer term, a fellow intern or a Ph.D. candidate leading their own independent research project, everyone wants to be here and everyone is very passionate in what they are working on or studying,” Brown said. “Something about this place attracts an adventurous and outgoing type of person that has made every time I come here absolutely amazing.”
For one of his team’s projects, Carter said four small lemon sharks were caught and brought back to the lab. The sharks were then loaded into respirometry equipment, where their rate of oxygen use and energy output was measured and quantified. The sharks were then released unharmed.
During the internship, Brown also went free diving for sting rays. The project caught the rays by net and were examined for the content of their stomachs in order to better understand eating patterns. Brown said the team then compared the ray stomach contents to the sediment samples they acquire from the same areas where the rays had been caught. If there was a significant difference in the content, Brown said that gave researchers an understanding where they had been feeding.
Another project that Brown worked on involved dropping ocean traps 1,000 meters deep, which then soaked for 24 hours. The traps’ contents were then brought back to the laboratory for analysis and identification.
“The deep water project has discovered three new species of isopods, and are currently determining whether or not they have found a fourth new species as well,” Brown said. Brown said that DNA samples of marine life collected in the traps was taken and processed in laboratories.
Brown said the best part about working at CEI is that there is something different to work on each day.
“There is a saying at The Island School and CEI that ‘nothing is planned until it happens,'” he said. “If a day goes exactly according to the original plan, that is the most unexpected thing.”
The CEI summer internship is not Brown’s first link to the organization. In 2009, he attended a semester abroad program at The Island School, which is a sister institution to his current CEI. At The Island School, Brown participated in an archaeology project working on uncovering some of the artifacts of the Lucayan Indians that were native to the Bahamas up until the time of Christopher Columbus’s arrival.
After graduating high school, Brown then returned to CEI for an internship with the bonefish and flats ecology team. The school’s versatility and availability of research is exemplified with Brown’s being back at CEI this summer, this time working with the Shark team along with six other interns and four fulltime staff members. This past winter break, he traveled to the Island School at Eleuthera in the Bahamas, helping to construct a window made of recycled bottles as part of a larger sustainable building project.
For the summer internship, Brown received a grant from the Salisbury Center for Career, Professional and Experiential Education, which allowed him to pursue such an adventurously educational summer.
For students hoping to acquire a similar internship, Brown says: “Start with Career Services. If you put in the time with them, they can help you find a position just about anywhere.”