It’s summer on Big South and strangely quiet around town. Once the local schools close for their summer break, many of the island’s children go to Providenciales or Grand Turk to spend their vacation with extended family. But, it’s business as usual at the SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies (CMRS), and our students are busy learning about the local marine ecosystems, natural resources and the Marine Protected Areas that are in place to safeguard them. Or, that’s the theory, at least.

Marine Protected Areas can be very successful tools in both conservation and fishery management, but they require appropriate planning, enforcement and assessment, and these things are not easily achieved, as case studies from the Caribbean and beyond show. So, our students don’t just learn about the theoretical benefits of Marine Protected Areas, they get exposed to real-world examples and hopefully come away with a realistic view of what it takes to establish a successful MPA.

Although the summer students at CMRS aren’t here for long enough to undertake a full research project, they still spend plenty of time in the field learning organism identifications and surveying our local marine habitats. They also have the opportunity to participate in ongoing research at the Center. Whether it’s helping to catch and tag sharks or turtles, assist with the deployment of beach temperature probes, or assist in the collection of local oceanographic data, there are plenty of chances for students to immerse themselves in fieldwork. But it’s not all work, work, work. Our current students recently enjoyed their first recreational dives off South Caicos and, weather permitting, they’ll have made a few more entries in their log books by the time they leave here in early August.

Although the summer days can be hot on South Caicos, it always cools down in the evenings, providing the perfect opportunity to chill out and reflect on the day’s activities, chat with new-found friends in the local community, or prepare for the following day. Of course, students who prefer more action in their life can grab their mask and fins, and go straight back into the water!