PROGRAM DESCRIPTIONThe School for Field Studies (SFS) Turks & Caicos: Marine Protected Areas: Management Techniques and Policies Summer program provides students with the opportunity to explore the effectiveness of marine protected areas (MPAs) in maintaining biodiversity and critical habitats, enhancing stocks of queen conch and spiny lobster, and contributing effectively to the socioeconomic sustainability of the local community.
OVERVIEWThe turquoise waters of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) are abundant with marine life and provide the perfect laboratory for marine studies. The relatively healthy marine and coastal ecosystems support much of the community on the island of South Caicos, with fisheries providing the primary source of livelihood. The small island community embraces the challenge of balancing economic development with environmental conservation. Having a sound understanding the ecology of key fisheries species and their habitats provides the foundation for achieving this balance through resource management and conservation.
The environment is changing, however, as pollution, climate change, and the unsustainable extraction of precious marine resources, coupled with a growing tourism industry, will likely threaten the island’s fragile ecosystems. Depletion of key resources would also have a dramatic impact on the social systems of South Caicos by putting pressure on food security and employment prospects. Developing sustainable fisheries is essential if this resource-dependent coastal community is to thrive.
Students explore the effectiveness of marine protected areas (MPAs) in maintaining biodiversity and critical habitats, enhancing stocks of queen conch and spiny lobster, and contributing effectively to the socioeconomic sustainability of the local community. They also consider how climate change may impact the ecosystems, and what the implications are and may be for the social and economic systems. Students support the work of our clients and stakeholders, from local fishers to members of key government agencies. Our goal is to conduct relevant field research that can be used to develop effective environmental policies, MPA management plans, and community projects.
FIELD RESEARCH, LECTURES, AND EXERCISES
The spectacular reefs, turquoise waters, and island community of South Caicos serve as the laboratory for our studies and field work. Students snorkel or SCUBA, gaining valuable field experience using transects and other techniques for population sampling and long-term monitoring, and learn interview and other stakeholder engagement techniques to examine social questions. Potential research sites, field exercises, and trips in our summer programs include:
- Protected areas, including East Harbour Lobster and Conch Reserve, Bell Sound Nature Reserve, and Admiral Cockburn Land and Sea National Park
- Fringe and island mangrove ecosystems
- Tours of current coastal development projects, including high-end residential sites and tourist accommodations
- Tours of seafood processing plants
- Fisheries enforcement exercise, casting students as “marine police”
- Face-to-face cultural and knowledge-exchange encounters with marine resource managers, local fishers, and tourism workers
- Skills workshops, including stakeholder facilitation techniques and science dissemination practice
COMMUNITY FOCUSOur program in South Caicos is oriented toward helping the community conserve its natural resources and develop sustainably. With our field station located within the community of South Caicos, SFS students enjoy a warm welcome into the community. There are opportunities to interview fishermen and other residents during academic projects, learn about the local culture, and participate in sporting events and community service projects.
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.