PROGRAM DESCRIPTIONThe School for Field Studies (SFS) Applied Marine Research Techniques summer program provides students with the opportunity to apply the scientific process in a field research project addressing a local issue related to the management of tropical marine environments in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), specifically on the island of South Caicos.
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.
This course enables students to apply the scientific process in a field research project addressing a local issue related to the management of tropical marine environments in the TCI. Students learn how to develop a scientific approach to identify key problems affecting the health of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove stands that surround the island. These problems include both local phenomena such as overfishing and increased coastal development, as well as global issues like climate change and ocean acidification.
Students engage in the steps of the research process by:
- Identifying relevant problems with the ecological and socioeconomic situation in the Caribbean region and how these relate to client needs in the TCI
- Participating in a field research project that is designed to satisfy the identified needs.
- Research teams engage together in field data collection, and each student will analyze a subset of the group data and base a paper and oral presentation on their specific topic.
- Presenting results to local stakeholders and members of the scientific community
Issues to be examined include: status of coral reef, mangrove, and seagrass ecosystems; impacts of climate change and ocean acidification; economic value of marine ecosystem services; effectiveness of marine protected areas; health of coral reef fisheries; impact of tourism and fishing on local humpback whale, sea turtle, shark and eagle ray populations.
In the research projects students will incorporate concepts and methodologies learned in class, field lectures, and field exercises.
FIELD RESEARCH, LECTURES, AND EXERCISES
The spectacular reefs, turquoise waters, and island community of South Caicos serve as the laboratory for 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 stakeholder engagement techniques to examine policy questions. Potential research sites, field exercises, and excursions in these summer programs include:
- Exploring coral reefs in the island’s marine parks, fringe and island mangrove ecosystems, and extensive and varied seagrass meadows
- Tours of current coastal development projects and seafood processing plants
- Skills workshops, including stakeholder engagement techniques and science dissemination practice
- Examining anthropogenic impacts to nearshore ecosystems
- Identifying critical ecosystems around South Caicos
- Valuing ecosystems of the Turks and Caicos for coastal planning decisions
BENEFITS OF TAKING BOTH COURSES
This summer course can be taken individually or in combination with Tropical Marine Ecosystems: Monitoring and Management in Turks & Caicos in Session I.
- Students participating in both sessions are eligible for a $1,000 discount.
- Students earn 8 credits
- Home school financial aid may be applied toward the program. Earning 8 credits likely will allow students to qualify for federal financial aid, depending on their particular situation.
- There is a five-day break between components for independent travel
- There are no prerequisites
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.