Updates from South Caicos

Posted: September 24, 2014

The Center for Marine Resource Studies (CMRS) is thrilled to welcome back Kathy Lockhart (SFS Alum ’93) to our TCI team as the Resource Management lecturer.  Having worked for the TCI Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA) for nearly 10 years, Kathy brings to CMRS a tremendous knowledge of local fisheries – conch, lobster and finfish.  Kathy will lead CMRS staff and students, DEMA officers, and fishermen on a pilot project to determine the effectiveness of lobster casitas (artificial structures that support lobsters at various stages in their life) on the Caicos Banks. As part the Resource Management course, students will also assess the conch population inside vs. outside one of the fourteen Marine Protected Areas in the TCI. Data collected by CMRS staff and students is provided to DEMA and often used in management decisions.

We also welcome five new Waterfront Interns (Emily Stokes, Travis Gomez-Phillips, Anela Akiona, Jess Bechohofer, and Connor Burke – all CMRS alumni). This semester, the interns and I will lead students on projects that monitor long term climate change impacts on our local environment. SFS believes in the importance of studying the impacts of climate change on local ecosystems and has included this research in both the Center’s program and research components. Marine turtles are dependent on many habitats, making them idea for studying the impacts of climate change on coastal ecosystems.

The waters of the TCI support regionally significant foraging aggregations of green (Chelonia mydas) and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricate) turtles, and, to a lesser extent, loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta). We will visit beaches used by turtles for nesting. Beach profiles are measured to monitor changes in beach area and erosion and accretion patterns over time.  On our last trip, Lucy Tomb (Bowdoin College) shared with us that she had used similar methods to map the Maine rocky intertidal zone. Temperature loggers are installed near nesting sites to monitor changes in temperature annually. This project has been funded through the Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation and CMRS has partnered with DEMA, who is interested in changing profiles with respect to development.

In other news…  Aaron Henderson hopes to use a new Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) to identify and track lemon sharks’ (Negaprion brevirostris) use of habitats around South Caicos, and Edward Hind was joined by several alumni students and staff at the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress in Glasgow, Scotland, where he organized a symposium on marine research collaborations in small island developing states and co-presented a poster with Sophia Wasserman on tourist perceptions of dolphin captivity.

As part of our ongoing community outreach program, several groups of students participated International Coastal Clean-Up Day and helped with our new Snorkel Club, a program for older boys and girls to improve snorkeling skills and increase awareness of our marine resources.