“The Climb” to the SharkLab


On Sunday, before Dr. Dudzinski said goodbye, she fixed Colleen’s water bottle! Then we said goodbye and headed to South Bimini. While waiting for the water taxi, the one rain cloud in the sky opened up over our heads! In this heat, we dried pretty quickly and enjoyed our water taxi ride, chatting with the ferry driver. Our tour began with Bimini Sands’ Nature Trail where there were a lot of bugs! There were also lots of hermit crabs and lizards, including the biggest crab our guide had ever seen! We searched for snakes in vain as we came upon the “Conch House,” built by an Australian. We learned about the local plants, including the gumbo limbo and kinky berry. The berry is used for medicinal purposes, not eating. Though there is no longer a Bimini Boa in the pen, the hermit crabs had moved in! We saw a poisonwood tree – right in the middle of our path! Our guide was very personable and we hope folks keep going to the Nature Trail so she can continue to get more experience.  


Next up was the SharkLab, and on the way we had a sing-a-long! At the lab, we met lots of dogs – oh, and sharks! We saw young nurse and lemon sharks during this more hands on tour. Our guide was impressive as she spoke to us about the research methods at the Lab. They collect sharks for work-ups (taking measurements and DNA samples), tagging and tracking. They have done some amazing long-term research, catching an individual shark 20 years apart! They also have behavioral projects; right now a PhD student is working on a personality project related to how sharks react to novel objects being introduced into their pen. (After our tour, Nicole told us even more about this study. It is so cool!) Though we heard some stories about some sharks being a bit too curious about the Lab’s GoPros, we also learned that there have been no reported shark attacks in Bimini. Phew! We mostly stayed outside during the tour because the researchers and volunteers were all sleeping after their long PIT program. It was interesting to hear about the Lab’s interaction with the media: Dirty Jobs, Myth Busters and Shark Week, among others.  We also learned about the importance of Bimini’s mangroves, particularly in the context of a lemon shark nursery. Not only are the mangroves important for the young sharks in general, but specifically the Lab has learned that female lemon sharks born in Bimini’s mangroves will return to Bimini’s mangroves to have their own pups. What will happen if they come back and there are no mangroves left? Thinking about the big resort development on Bimini sure is complicated! 


Our return ride to the water taxi was in a school bus painted at the Bahamian flag! With jellyfish stings and bug & horsefly bites, we returned to North Bimini. We had lunch and then the silver lining to our weather day was a free afternoon to explore the island! Some of us rented golf carts and explored all the way into the big resort – what a difference. It is like two different worlds. We also saw the local goats and more potcakes. Others went snorkeling and saw more rays and another octopus. The octopus even changed color! We tried new food (cracked conch, conch fritters and more) at Big Game, Goombay Punch and met Mr. Ashley Saunders and saw the Dolphin House. Mr. Saunders showed us his garden (with a cotton tree), sharing his aloe with our sunburned backs. He gave us advice on cleaning conch shells. Along the island, there are islands of conch shells and we saw a land crab enclosure as we found our way past Charlie’s Bread and Edith’s Pizza (yum).  


After dinner, we had another wifi party and met local ladies’ man Gary. He sang to us, chatted a few minutes and continued on his way. Others went to the beach and saw bioluminescent creatures washed up on the sand. It was sooooo cool! We are optimistic for calmer seas and dolphins tomorrow! 


Until then,

Colonel Potcakes (EKU 2015)