Luiz Rocha has been studying lionfish for many years, but in the Caymans, his team dove as deep as 400 feet to collect them. By analyzing stomach contents, Rocha and colleagues will be able to determine what the invaders are feeding on (i.e. what local populations may need increased protections), and by observation, they were able to begin to asses whether local culling programs are successfully holding local lionfish populations at bay—or whether the species is escaping the cull by going deep. Though data is still being analyzed, the team was quick to note they saw more lionfish, even at great depths, than expected.
The researchers also brought lionfish DNA samples back to their labs for a population genomics study. Determining how groups of lionfish differ from island to island in the Caribbean may provide new insights into how resources can be better used to control populations. With 40 pounds of lionfish culled during 20 hours underwater, they've got a lot of material to work with.