Life in the Cay

Palm tree and water in the Bahamas. © Jennifer Snyder
Jen Snyder working on a poster.One thing that impresses me most about Conservation International is our work with hundreds of partner organizations around the globe.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit one of these partners, the Perry Institute for Marine Science, as a volunteer at their tropical research center on Lee Stocking Island, in the Bahamas’ Exuma Cays.

The island is as far away from the steel drum-lined ports of Nassau or Freeport as you can get. From CI’s headquarters in Arlington, VA, I took three flights (including a 19-seater plane with no bathroom), an airport taxi, and finally, an open boat across a channel to get from “town” to the island’s research facilities.

“The island is as far away from the steel drum-lined ports of Nassau or Freeport as you can get.” View of the island from an airplane. © Jennifer Snyder

Once I arrived, I quickly settled into the beautiful surroundings and relaxed atmosphere of this wild, largely uninhabited island. As a volunteer, I worked with staff to prepare for an upcoming environmental education summit in nearby George Town on Great Exuma. With the support of the Institute, more than 200 Bahamian students in 4th-6th grade would come together from all over the islands to spend three days learning about issues affecting their marine environment.View of the Perry Institute research center and dock. © Jennifer Snyder

I helped create posters and presentations about marine life and threats including marine debris, pollutants and invasive species. I also spent time talking with research scientists about their work, visiting the “Lobster Lab” to see their projects and discussing issues affecting their research, ranging from the impact of local fishermen on study sites to the presence of invasive lionfish (family Scorpaenidae) and the impact on native fish populations and reef ecosystems.

Sign for Perry's Peak. © Jennifer SnyderI also had time to explore the island’s deserted, pristine beaches. From the main dock, a 30-minute walk through forested overgrowth brought me to beautiful Coconut Beach – a long stretch of half-moon-shaped beach and white sand without another soul in sight. From there, it was only a 10-minute hike to Perry’s Peak – at 123 feet, the highest peak on the Exuma Cays.

To find out more about volunteer opportunities in this amazing place, and to see a virtual fly-over of the island, visit the Institute’s website:

To learn more about how lionfish are threatening Bahamian reefs, including an animated map of the 1993-2009 lionfish invasion, please visit the NPR story,
Spreading Lionfish Invasion Threatens Bahamas

Jennifer Snyder is the Senior Science Development Manager at Conservation International


  1. nash ebbinge says

    i used to live their with my parents because my mom worked at the research center. i even had my own pet lionfish it was fun until the place closed and everyone was laid off. a real shame.

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