Posted: December 8, 2011

Name: Allison Candelmo
Position: Lecturer in Marine Resource Management
Location: The SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies, Turks and Caicos Islands

Directed Research data collection wrapped up last Friday, and the students have completed their final reports and are working on their presentations. The students and staff of the lionfish distribution project clocked over 300 hours of surveying in the water to capture and dissect 104 fish in the shallow and deep reef marine habitats of South Caicos. The dock landing project group continued to build on the important long-term data set of the fin fisheries, measuring over 600 individual fish and building strong relationships with the fishers and plant owners. The dock monitoring culminated with the encouraged release of a 400lb breeding female green turtle. She had been caught by two fishers in the community and instead of butchering her, they agreed to allow us to flipper and pit tag her, take samples, and release her, understanding the importance of these larger breeding individuals to the health of the population.

The students in the Environmental Policy Directed Research project enhanced community relations by interviewing locals, including fishermen, students, and business owners, about their opinions on the status of the fisheries, aquaculture, and their knowledge of the ecology and environmental issues of the island. The staff and students of the Marine Ecology Directed Research project monitored the corals of South Caicos for bleaching and disease, and made enormous strides in cataloging the eagle ray population, using digital images to identify individuals. This fall, the eagle rays put on quite a show, circling divers and snorkelers often in groups of more than 30 rays!!

The staff and students combined forces to create an all-star Thanksgiving feast with all the fixings. The first SFS-sponsored Lionfish Day was a success, and we shared dishes created with the lionfish the DR project and fishers have been collecting this month including lionfish pizza and fishcakes. Many community members tried the dishes and the fish after being assured that it was not poisonous. There were games, crafts, posters and videos created by staff and students supporting the cause of utilizing lionfish as a food resource to keep the populations in check on the reefs. Next week, we will be partnering with the the Turks and Caicos Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Animals (TCSPCA) to help run a clinic for local dogs and cats to get spayed/neutered.

The semester is coming to a close now on South Caicos, and the staff is sad to see this group of students leave us. This group has made an extremely positive impact on the center and the community.