Name: Annemarie Kramer, Ph.D.
Position: Lecturer in Marine Ecology
Program: Marine Resource Management Studies, Turks & Caicos
Learning here at the SFS in South Caicos takes place partly in the classroom, even more though in the water. In order to be able to identify the organisms in the surrounding sea, we began identifying organisms which belong to mangrove and seagrass habitats and studying coral reef fishes. The identification exams for those classes take place in the water as well: students are shown a random selection of organisms and asked to write down their scientific names on underwater slates.
At the moment we are studying corals and coral reef invertebrates. We started with a lecture on coral biology and ecology followed by a slideshow presenting the most common corals and reef invertebrates around South Caicos and how to identify them in the field. The students are in the water every day and thereby have acquired amazing snorkeling skills which help them get a good look at details of coral polyps and anatomical structures which define certain genera and species. Even though corals do not move around, as do fishes, their identification requires some training and a good eye for details.
Our snorkel sessions not only allow learning by looking at live animals, but also remind us of their vulnerability: some corals show symptoms of bleaching or diseases which we will be documenting and evaluating in a research project.