It has been three weeks since 35 almost complete strangers were brought together for a semester-long marine-based experience here on South Caicos. We wake up early to the sunlight reflecting off of the ocean and fall asleep to the sound of waves beating against the rocks. I am still amazed and happily surprised every time I find a hermit crab or a small lizard wandering around the center and we are adapting to the heat, mosquitoes (with the help of an amazing bug zapper), the lack of freshwater, and the other comforts of home.
We have accomplished a lot in these first three weeks. The open water diving students finished up their course and they, along with the rest of the dive groups, can now happily compare the variety of marine organisms we see on dives and snorkels. Some of the highlights include turtles, sharks, eels, lion fish, stingrays, a dolphin, as well as the many amazing fish and corals we see during our dive times every Saturday and Wednesday. We have also had groups start “turtling” and “sharking” to help contribute to the SFS TCI 5-Year Research Plan.
Our class material is also starting to pick up. In our Marine Ecology class we recently turned in presentations that identify the taxonomy of different organisms we observed (and photographed) on snorkeling trips. These presentations included identifying the common and scientific names of corals, fishes, sponges, marine birds, macro algae, crustaceans, echinoderms, mangroves, sea grasses and mollusks. This was an awesome experience because it was truly a connection between what we saw in the field and what we are leaning in the classroom. It is remarkable to see how much life and diversity exists below the water’s surface!
We continue to do outreach every week on Wednesday and Saturday and have enjoyed both connecting to the children that come and spend time with us at the Center, and going out into the community with a family outreach project that pairs up students with community members. The community has been very welcoming and many are very eager to talk about their lives and experiences with us.
There is always a lot to do at the Center and whether we are “norkeling” (our term for night snorkeling), playing card games, practicing volleyball, reading, volunteering, singing, or studying; being here is definitely an adventure and it is exciting to see what each new day brings.