Over the past several weeks, students and staff have been collecting and analyzing data from around South Caicos as part of their Directed Research (DR) projects. The SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies (CMRS) DR projects are designed to address resource management questions developed with local stakeholders.

This semester, projects included quantitative and qualitative observation of the bird population on South Caicos; a look at fishers’ knowledge to note spatial and socioeconomic changes in the local fisheries; the use of photovoice to determine local citizens’ views of their terrestrial and marine ecosystems; a benthic assessment and installation of lobster casitas in partnership with local fishermen and DEMA; an assessment of the finfish industry; coral reef assessment for local anthropogenic and long-term climate change impacts; and the use of both Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and remote underwater video to assess our local elasmobranch population.

At our Open House, community members learned about new projects and were updated on continuing projects (and then we ate cake). Our local marine resources are under continuous pressure. Data collected by our staff and students is increasingly important as the TCI Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA) proposes new fishing restrictions designed to promote sustainable harvesting of the resources.

The semester is quickly coming to an end, in fact everyone leaves tomorrow. Students are packing and saying their goodbyes to the community they have grown to know and love over the past three months. On a final note, Fall 2014 will be staff members Edd Hind’s and Rob Dake’s last group – for now. CMRS wishes them the very best of luck.

Students use a rapid reef assessment to determine the status of reef communities inside the Admiral Cockburn Land and Sea National Park (ACLSNP). Methods include fish surveys, coral bleaching assessment using CoralWatch, and a benthic assessment using photography. Already we have identified interesting trends in reef community with respect to depth and location within the ACLSNP.