The South Caicos locals greet each other in the evening with a “good night,” instead of using the phrase for a closing to a conversation. The subtle initial differences in culture have started to make their presence. For example, high school kids were wearing socks, no spikes or shoes, in their track meet this past Wednesday on a dirt field about a ten minute walk away from the Center (well, actually everything is within a ten minute walk from the Center). Some girls were wearing tutus and dresses, while others appeared to have worn what they wore to school that day. A couple teams appeared to have uniforms but actually the uniforms were their team’s cheerleading outfits. As a runner for Gonzaga University, witnessing a track event South Caicos-style was a treat. Half the town gathered for this event. The younger kids held races of their own (including piggy back ride races on the backs of SFS students), and the parents sat by the announcer or outside the wall partition.
Wednesday is our outreach and dive day. In the picture, you will see Olivia and I at about 50 ft depth. We searched the sea bed of the Spanish Chain for fascinating organisms, and saw a stingray the width of our boat at about 500-700 pounds!
Thursday brought us an (underwater) ID exam, and we had to identify the Latin names of the organisms in the ecosystems we were learning, including phylum and class. This week, the focus was the different corals on the reefs surrounding the cays by South Caicos. The wind was holding at about 19 knots, so writing neatly on an underwater slate became difficult.
On Friday, our Resource Management class held a conch stock assessment exercise. We practiced measuring the live conch in 5 meter transects from a point on the seabed, which includes measuring turbidity, temperature, weight and size of the conch, Strombus gigas. Stock assessment of the Strombus gigas is important because South Caicos’ economy primarily relies on the fishing industry. I love the program’s integrative approach in mixing local knowledge with the scientific efforts to sustain the resources on this beautiful island. Not only are we learning about the ecosystems, but also the impressions that the local people have on the work done here by the “School for Fields”, as they say, and their view of environmental sustainability.
Whenever we get the chance to go in town, the community members are always welcoming and love to play rounds of pool or dominoes with us. Life on South has been an incredible experience so far, and we cannot wait for more to come!
Peace, love, and sea.