PROGRAM DESCRIPTIONThe School for Field Studies (SFS) Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Management Studies Semester program provides students with the opportunity to conduct field research that is helps to provide the local government, community, and tourism developers with recommendations that will help sustain the economic, social, and ecological stability of South Caicos.
OVERVIEWSFS is working with the Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI) Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA) and the National Park Service to develop management strategies to help conserve marine biodiversity and provide economic opportunities for island residents. With so many local residents dependent upon marine resources for their livelihood, along with increasing resource consumption by tourists, finding viable options for managing fisheries and conserving critical habitats, including coral reefs, is crucial.
Snorkeling and SCUBA diving in waters surrounding South Caicos, students in this semester study abroad program in the Turks and Caicos learn field research techniques to identify a wide range of marine organisms and habitats, and learn about marine ecology and coastal ecosystems. Students grapple with the challenges of balancing the economic needs of the fishing community with fisheries management and analyze the costs and benefits of potential new fisheries. Assessing the pros and cons of resource management and habitat conservation options, and their associated social and economic implications, brings students face-to-face with the real-life dilemmas for governmental regulators and the residents of South Caicos.
TCI has an extensive network of 33 protected areas, but little is known about their function and effectiveness. With the Admiral Cockburn Land and Sea National Park and East Harbour Lobster and Conch Reserve on their doorstep, students evaluate the concept and practice of marine protected areas (MPAs) as a resource management tool.
Students help monitor the condition of the spectacular coral reefs, both inside and outside the MPAs, using scientifically rigorous monitoring techniques. Through field exercises and research, students:
- Study essential marine habitats
- Assess the status and level of local fishing efforts
- Monitor the effects of tourism and habitat destruction
- Study marine species interactions; and investigate the feasibility of recycling programs along with other issues related to marine natural resource management and local livelihood
FIELD RESEARCH, LECTURES, AND EXERCISES
- SCUBA or snorkeling for field research and species identification exercises
- Fish, coral, sea grass, and mangrove identification
- Ecosystem functioning and anthropogenic impacts
- Habitat enhancement and restoration
- Lecture from DECR on the TCI government fisheries regulations and enforcement
- Lecture and site tour from local tourism developer on plans for constructing a resort
FIELD RESEARCH SKILLS DEVELOPMENT
- Marine organism behavioral observations
- Biodiversity assessment
- Survey design and interviewing techniques
- Environmental impact assessment, MPA assessment
- Data collection and analysis, scientific writing, and oral presentation
- Peer evaluation and review
- Snorkel and SCUBA skills
- Cost/benefit analysis
- Valuation methods
- Habitat assessment and mapping, species identification, habitat enhancement and restoration
SAMPLE DIRECTED RESEARCH
- Population assessment of potentially commercial finfish species around South Caicos
- Finfish dock landing.
- Coral reef ecology, including growth, survival, and recruitment
- Baseline biodiversity surveys in critical habitats
- Interactions between mangrove and sea grass faunal communities
- Ecology of Nassau grouper
- Local perceptions of tourism and fishing industries
- Feasibility studies for recycling programs on South Caicos and the TCI
- Habitat enhancement and restoration
COMMUNITY FOCUSWe are dedicated to helping the community conserve its natural resources and develop sustainably. Students become involved with the community, learning about the Caribbean culture and the challenges they face. Community activities may include:
- Providing swimming lessons and environmental education for local children
- Reading, tutoring, and volunteer projects at the local library at the local library and grade school
- Teaching English to Haitians and Dominicans to help their integration into the community
- Creating public service announcement films and beach cleanups to raise environmental awareness
The SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies, located just steps from a crystal clear ocean laboratory, is adjacent to Cockburn Harbour, a town of about 1,100 residents. Our field station sits on elevated land about 40 feet above the water and looks directly out over the sea. Within a three-mile radius are coral reefs, mangrove islands, sea grass beds, carbonate platform flats, and deep-water diving. The main facility has a dining area, kitchen, classroom, computer room, and a veranda with spectacular ocean views. Students share living quarters in two residence wings. We are fully equipped for marine operations with access to docks, motor boats, a compressor, and plenty of tanks and weights for SCUBA diving.