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Biology Expedition To Cuba

Following the success of 2012’s Madagascar expedition the decision was made to undertake another. This time to the Isle of Youth (Isla de la Juventud) in Cuba. The first 5 days involved a reef ecology course and PADI open water dive training for those requiring it. This familiarised divers with the skills required to identify reef species in preparation for the underwater fieldwork in the second week. The fieldwork undertaken was from the “Felipe Poey”, a research vessel owned by the University of Havana, and named after Cuba’s most celebrated zoologist. All data collected was to be assimilated into various projects being run by the University to help protect the biodiversity within the Punta Frances nature reserve. The three days and nights on the “Poey” involved...

  • A shark tagging operation (we didn’t manage to catch any unfortunately, but did come close as illustrated by a chewed line).
  • Stereo video transects of the reef.
  • Interrupted belt transects of corals across the reef.
  • Control of predatory lionfish (through spearfishing)

Following the return to “dry land” we gathered further data of fish populations in the bay by netting from the beach. This also involved dissecting the fish to measure, weigh, sex, age and look at their diets. Then followed analysis of our video transects and a day long boat ride through the mangroves to attempt to catch manatees. Once caught, the manatees were to be radio-tagged to study migratory behaviour and a biopsy taken for genetic fingerprinting, should the same creature be snared twice. Our group were the first schools group to catch one, only to be foiled by a hole in the net!

Before the flight home we spent a day enjoying the sights of Havana and a night at the Jazz Café there. A job well done.

Take a look at our photos of the trip on the slideshow below.