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Session I: Tropical Marine Ecosystems: Monitoring and Management

Turks and Caicos Islands

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Location South Caicos, Turks & Caicos Islands
Language English
Dates 2016: June 6 – July 6
Rolling admissions.
Program Cost
Click here for program costs. Program cost includes all tuition, room, board, local travel. Excludes airfare.
Financial Aid Click here for more information about need-based scholarships, loans, and travel grants.
Prerequisites No academic prerequisites; 18 years of age
Credits 4 credits (8 credits if taken with Session II)

During my four weeks abroad, I learned an incredible amount about the surrounding marine ecosystems, the sustainability of the local fishers' livelihoods, and about myself. This study abroad program was an opportunity that exceeded my wildest dreams.        

—Hailey Shepherd, Dixie State University, Summer ‘14



Students explore the ecological and socioeconomic aspects of various tropical marine ecosystems, learning how to assess and maintain their health. This includes understanding key factors, such as the need to conserve biodiversity and critical habitats; the nature of sustainable management for important fisheries species, such as queen conch and spiny lobster; and the importance of ensuring that environmental management objectives are cognizant of community livelihood goals. Students will engage in several field exercises identifying and studying coastal ecosystems and their species, including mangroves, coral reefs, and seagrass beds. Students also consider how climate change and ocean acidification may impact TCI’s marine ecosystems.

Students also take part in field exercises and workshops that allow them to live the stakeholder experience, cast as the TCI Marine Police in a mock fisheries enforcement exercise, as policy-makers, and as fishers, developers, or politicians in stakeholder workshops and presentations. The course helps prepare students to conduct marine research while working with local clients and stakeholders.


The spectacular reefs, turquoise waters, and island community of South Caicos serve as the laboratories for studies and field work. Research sites, field exercises, and excursions in these summer courses include:

  • Exploring coral reefs, fringe and island mangrove ecosystems, and extensive seagrass meadows
  • Touring current coastal development projects and seafood processing plants
  • Attending skills workshops, including stakeholder engagement and science communication
  • Examining anthropogenic impacts to nearshore ecosystems
  • Valuing ecosystems of TCI for coastal planning decisions


This summer course can be taken individually (4 credits) or in combination with Session II: Applied Marine Research Technies (8 credits). The combined summer program provides a thorough introduction to tropical marine ecology and environmental management, as well as field research techniques for addressing conservation questions. Students participating in both sessions receive a $1,000 discount.


The Center for Marine Resource Studies offers PADI Open Water Diver certification to Session I students. The course is taught by the Center’s Dive Safety Officer and assisted by PADI Divemasters. The PADI Advanced Open Water Diver course is offered to certified divers during Session II.

Note: It is not necessary to use SCUBA to participate in the program; many students choose to snorkel only. Divers and snorkelers must bring their own SCUBA and snorkeling equipment, and the certification courses are offered at an additional cost. Weights and tanks are provided on-site at no cost. Please contact the SFS Admissions Office if you have any questions.


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 1,200 residents. Our self- contained field station sits 40 feet above the water looking directly out to sea. Within a three-mile radius are coral reefs, barrier islands, mangroves, seagrass beds, and carbonate platform flats offering abundant snorkel and dive sites. The facility has a dining area, kitchen, classroom, computer room, and a veranda with spectacular island and ocean views. Students share living quarters in two residence wings. We are fully equipped for marine operations with access to docks, motorboats, an air compressor, and plenty of tanks and weights for SCUBA diving.