Having just finished my first term teaching for the Center for Marine Resources Studies, I consider myself fortunate to have worked with the Directed Research (DR) students that I was assigned. The students produced high-caliber work that is relevant to the local resource management agency through the projects’ insights into the current status of several key species. Additionally, they distinguished themselves through hard work, team-manship, intellectual curiosity, and good humor in the field. Those groups who encountered intellectual, mental, and physical challenges coped gracefully.
The fin fisheries DR team valiantly revitalised the school’s archival commercial fisheries data set (no mean feat) before using current landings data they had collected under adverse conditions to identify patterns in condition factor for key finfish species.
Trends in abundance and habitat use in relation to depth and survey time of day were identified for the invasive Pterois volitans/miles (lionfish) species complex by the lionfish DR team. This team also produced a retrospective analysis of abundance and distribution by depth to identify possible changes in this species’ impact on native reef fish assemblages.
The conch DR team, in addition to assessing local conch population structure and habitat use in terms of protection status, were in the lucky position of being able to participate in a Caribbean-wide assessment of the species’ population connectivity, a study being conducted in partnership with the Smithsonian. They also assessed a possible new technique for sizing and aging landed conch, which involved the use of operculum metrics. By the end of their DRs, participants had progressed from somewhat nervous students to confident field researchers able to produce relevant work that contributes to an understanding of key components of the South Caicos Bank.