This is the beginning of our fourth week on South Caicos. What an amazing place! I am finally realizing my dream of living next to the ocean. And wow — what wonderful opportunities come with living by the sea! I will focus mainly on our water activities, although we have had great opportunities to explore and get to know the community of South Caicos.
As part of our Marine Ecology class, we have identified and memorized the scientific names for about 75 marine associated species. As part of this assignment, we go snorkeling with an instructor to review the species. On one of our snorkels, when we were supposed to be learning corals and algae, we were all so awestruck by the beautiful creatures swimming around us, that it was hard to only focus on the coral! There were eagle rays and barracudas left and right, with an octopus (see photo) as the main attraction. What a great way to spend a class period! We have also been able to snorkel and dive recreationally. I had very little prior diving experience, but with the help of our staff and interns, I already feel so much more comfortable and relaxed. I can appreciate the feeling of swimming in the underwater world in a way that I could not experience any other way.
I have also had the opportunity to go “sharking,” meaning I help set up a 30m net, hang out with my friends in a boat for four hours while waiting to catch a shark. Luckily, we were successful! A meter long male lemon shark swam into our net. We took measurements of his weight and length, tagged him, and released him. How exciting it is to be so close to a shark!
We spent a class period out on the water for our Environmental Policy class. We made an assessment of a sea grass bed and mangroves for total economic valuation (assigning a monetary value to the ecosystems). We darned our masks and snorkels, and using a GPS, measured the area of the sea grass bed and mangroves. We are finishing our assessment this week in the form of a paper, which will compare the ecosystem services of the sea grass bed and mangroves to others that have pre-determined values to determine the total economic value of the specific measured ecosystems.
I have also spent free time playing in the water! My friends and I go on afternoon swims in the swim zone (a protected area by the dock). We also had an evening of water polo, which I must say was so much fun and also probably the most strenuous water activity yet!