Summer Program Recap

July 31, 2014

SFS staff, Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Management Studies

Name: Heidi Hertler, Ph.D.
Position: Center Director
Program: Marine Protected Areas: Management Techniques & Policies, Turks & Caicos Islands

The end of our Summer II program is quickly approaching, and students are busy working on their final research projects. Their questions will assess the performance of the East Harbour and Lobster Conch Reserve in protecting reef assemblages. Students collected data on fish and invertebrate abundance, species richness (fish and coral), reef structure and function. Study breaks are spent snorkeling off the dock, visiting with community members, and exploring the island.

Despite many of the community kids being off island for the summer, our Saturday Outreach program has been full and exciting. This week we made turtles from egg crates and learned about electricity and how it works. The SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies (CMRS) has seen a number of visitors this summer including Cardiff University scientists working with faculty on food safety issues in the TCI and Principal Bowen from the local high school who spoke to student about changing times on South Caicos. We even had a visit from HQ staff who joined students in the field capturing and measuring turtles and exploring our local reefs.

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Utter Majesty of the Wildlife in Tanzania

July 30, 2014

Kenya & Tanzania: Wildlife Management Studies, SFS students

Name: Mike Kowalski
School: Boston Univeristy
Major: Ecology and Conservation Biology
Program: Wildlife Management & Conservation, Tanzania

When I started typing the first words of my SFS application for a summer study abroad program, I did so with entirely selfish intentions.  For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had a dream of journeying to Africa. The end game was simple: get to Africa, experience everything the local culture had to offer, and document as much of the wildlife and their ecology as you can. It didn’t even matter how I was going to get there, but I was going to get there. There was something about the continent of Africa that I was always drawn to. The perpetual problem encumbering the realization of my aspirations was the pixelated message displayed on my bank’s ATM machine: insufficient funds to complete transaction. Likewise, I was in a state of eternal bliss when I was accepted to the SFS Tanzania summer program and even more thrilled when SFS and the Gilman International Scholarship Program combined to subsidize a large portion of the funds necessary to send me to Africa.

Well, Tanzania ended up being much more remarkable than I could have ever imagined. This is in part due to the utter majesty of the wildlife in the Tanzanian ecosystems, but also as a result of the integrity of the program that SFS has established. The summer program is essentially a victory lap of the northern circuit of Tanzania’s national parks: Lake Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro (Conservation Area), and Serengeti. Each of the parks is unique in it’s own right and boasts distinctive collections of species. The bottom line is that there is a limitless amount of field experience and practical knowledge incorporated into the summer sessions. Out of all of the phenomenal experiences, my favorite would have to be our 5-day expeditions to Serengeti National Park.

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Sharking on South

July 29, 2014

SFS students, Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Management Studies

Name: Mary Helen Moore
School: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Major: Journalism
Program: Marine Protected Areas: Management Techniques & Policies, Turks & Caicos Islands

“We got one!”

I shouted excitedly to my colleagues on the beach 100 meters away, keeping a flashlight and careful eye on the juvenile lemon shark thrashing in the net just inches away.

It was exactly what we were after – every week resident lecturer Dr. Aaron Henderson takes groups of students into the water to tag sharks. The data we collect is entered into a growing database that helps researchers understand their movements, habitat use, and population dynamics.

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People and Cane Toads and Trees, Oh My!

July 28, 2014

Australia: Tropical Rainforest Studies, SFS staff

Name: Joe Chaides
Position: Program Intern
Program: Techniques for Rainforest Research, Australia

“What do I want to study?” is a common question for SFS students to ask themselves. In this program, students get a chance to find their true passion, or try something different from their normal area of study.  The focus of the second summer session is to work on the methodology and data collection for scientific study, so the students looked at three different topics of study and how to collect data for each of them. We devoted a week to each topic, starting at the bottom of the food chain with plants, moving next to animals and ending with people.

The students started off cataloging trees in the new growth area on site at the Center for Rainforest Studies.  We were lucky to work with a former Natural Resource Management Lecturer, S.K. Florentine, continuing his research from 10 years ago.  Back in 2001, a plot of land on our site was replanted with different types of trees ranging from fast growing pioneer species to slower growing mature species.  Then in 2006, students went back to see how the area had changed.  They looked to see what species continued growing and if there were any new trees growing in the area.  Now we get the opportunity to continue this study 13 years in the making.  Students searched the plot identifying plants and checking the canopy density and ground cover.  Ultimately, students were able to track how the forest changes and how trees affect the species growing around it.

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Not Your Average Job

July 22, 2014

Costa Rica: Sustainable Development Studies, SFS alumni posts, SFS staff

Name: Emily Mikucki
Position: Program Intern
Program: Applied Research Techniques & Strategies Toward Sustainability, Costa Rica
SFS Alum: Tanzania Summer ’12

Being a SFS intern is not your average job. Here at the SFS Costa Rica Center in Atenas, every single day is different. If I’m not in my office analyzing our energy and waste consumption data for our Rainforest Alliance certification, I’m on the farm with the student chore group collecting oranges to make fresh juice for breakfast or in the greenhouses watering and weeding our student beds. Most days, you’ll find me with the rest of the group — out in the field making observations in national parks or ecological reserves, and coming up with our own questions for why nature does what it does.

The first week of Summer 2 was a busy one! During the first few days, students were introduced to our Center and the town of Atenas; they created and signed off on their sustainability contract (a document that states how they’ll personally lower their environmental impact while on campus); and they had their first classes on ecological diversity, and the socioeconomic situation and conservation systems of Costa Rica.

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Summer on Big South

July 21, 2014

SFS faculty posts, Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Management Studies

Name: Aaron Henderson, Ph.D.
Position: Resident Lecturer in Tropical Marine Ecology
Program: Marine Protected Areas: Management Techniques & Policies, Turks & Caicos Islands

It’s summer on Big South and strangely quiet around town. Once the local schools close for their summer break, many of the island’s children go to Providenciales or Grand Turk to spend their vacation with extended family. But, it’s business as usual at the SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies (CMRS), and our students are busy learning about the local marine ecosystems, natural resources and the Marine Protected Areas that are in place to safeguard them. Or, that’s the theory, at least.

Marine Protected Areas can be very successful tools in both conservation and fishery management, but they require appropriate planning, enforcement and assessment, and these things are not easily achieved, as case studies from the Caribbean and beyond show. So, our students don’t just learn about the theoretical benefits of Marine Protected Areas, they get exposed to real-world examples and hopefully come away with a realistic view of what it takes to establish a successful MPA.

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Poco Sol, Demasiado Lluvia, y Nuevas Amigas!

July 18, 2014

Costa Rica: Sustainable Development Studies, SFS students

by Casey Kelahan (McDaniel College)
and Kate Liebow (Franklin & Marshall College)

Our first week in Costa Rica for Summer Session II has been full of adventure, laughter, and crazy weather! After the first few days of getting-to-know-you and orientation at the Center, we took off on our first field excursion to Poco Sol research station. With our all-important snack sandwiches packed in our bags, we got on a bus for a three hour drive to the Children’s Eternal Rainforest. The view was spectacular the entire way there — Costa Rica is incredibly green and there are mountains everywhere you turn! After reaching the road to the station, we hiked up to where we would be staying (which looked mostly like a large and very nice tree house) and got settled in to our temporary home.

It didn’t take us long to figure out where Poco Sol gets its name — we soon had to break out our rain gear for our orientation hike through the trails surrounding the station, and even with that most of us ended up pretty wet! We learned all about different plants in the forest and were given a rundown of what the expectations were for our first field exercise, which was to formulate our own field studies in small groups based on observations we made on the hike.

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Fully Immersed in the Rainforest

July 18, 2014

Australia: Tropical Rainforest Studies, SFS students

Name: Dianne DuBois
School: Westfield State University
Major: Biological Sciences
Program: Techniques for Rainforest Research, Australia

I had come to Australia two weeks early to travel and cross a few things off my bucket list. After seeing a dance performance at the Opera House in Sydney, doing a marine biology SCUBA and snorkel tour of the Great Barrier Reef, and making countless friends from all over the world in hostels, I was beyond excited to head into the rainforest with SFS. I met everyone at the airport and had the unique experience of watching all of my soon-to-be close friends see Australia for the first time. They pointed out the mountains, birds, vegetation, the feeling of driving on the opposite side of the road, the Kit-Kats (which apparently have better chocolate than at home), and the pictures that they had all taken of the funny signs on the toilets in the airport.

Turning onto the access road to the center was exactly what I expected based on my experiences of staying in field stations in Costa Rica, but everyone else seemed pleasantly surprised by the fact that we were not only going to be learning about the rainforest, but rather being fully immersed in it. For example, we learned about bandicoots and observing wildlife behavior in lecture, then we saw one walking by while we were playing cards that night. Being fully immersed in the rainforest and living in this remote area has been a bonding experience for us all. One of my favorite parts about being here is being disconnected. I was starting to get frustrated at home noticing that everyone is constantly on their cell phones and social media. Living as simply and modestly as we do at the Center is a refreshing reminder of what is really important.

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Welcoming Ceremony

July 17, 2014

Kenya: Public Health and Environment, SFS students

Name: Jacqueline Cardoza
School: University of Vermont
Major: Environmental Studies
Program: Public Health and Environment, Kenya

Today began with a delicious breakfast, a class on public health principles, and then the traditional program welcoming ceremony of a goat roast bash! Taking a step back from the festivities to absorb the surreal moment that was developing right before me, I realized just how incredible this place and program is.

Outlined by the rays of the setting sun, Maasai warriors performed their traditional ritual dance as their way to welcome us to their land. Their movements made with such vigorous elegance captivated me. Their hand-made jewelry, worn from their head to their toes, swung upward with every jump which made my eyes veer to the background where the steep shape of Mt. Kilimanjaro could be seen. The place-based learning of the Maasai culture, the Kenyan climate, and geographic features were presented all in one moment.

Having this once in a life time opportunity to be truly immersed in this culture has made my classes that much more significant. I seek to collect every bit of information so I can better help in making the community healthier.  This community and all people have the right to clean water and adequate healthcare. By participating in this program, you will take a leadership role in making a positive impact on the world, but also a positive impact on yourself as exploration into other cultures expands your mind promoting self-reflection and self-growth.

First Impressions of South Caicos

July 16, 2014

SFS students, Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Management Studies

Name: Maribeth Landfield
School: St. Mary’s College of Maryland
Major: Sociology
Program: Marine Protected Areas: Management Techniques & Policies, Turks & Caicos Islands

Goodnight from the “beautiful by nature” island of South Caicos! Using “goodnight” as a greeting is just one of the many new cultural customs we have begun to learn here in the TCI. As a sociology major, I have already been able to apply my curiosity to many of the experiences we’ve had since arriving just one week ago.

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