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Session II: Applied Marine Research Techniques

Turks and Caicos Islands

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Location South Caicos, Turks & Caicos Islands
Language English
Dates 2016: July 11 – August 10
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 I)
Even going out to the lobster condos to catch lobster and measure their carapaces turned out to be an amazing experience—getting to learn about their anatomy right in front of my eyes instead of in a textbook.        

—Caitlin McNally, University of San Diego, Summer ‘12



This course enables students to apply the scientific process in a field research project that addresses a local issue related to the management of tropical marine environments in TCI. Students learn how to develop a scientific approach to identify risks to the health of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove stands that surround the island. These risks 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.


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 I: Tropical Marine Ecosystems: Monitoring and Management (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.