The readjustment from being back from spring break ended and we already have completed our first few days of Directed Research (DR) projects in combination with our already packed academic schedule. I think I can speak for all of us in that our first days of DR contained learning curves, patience, and interesting experiences that will always provide us memories. To name a few for me: my conch DR has been brainstorming a creative team name, started “filming” our mockumentary Deadliest Conch, strayed from the boat while diving due to a loose anchor, and a few moments of sea sickness. That’s all just from our first two days!

My conch DR project is being used to help the TCI Department of Environmental and Maritime Affairs (DEMA) better understand queen conch (Strombus gigas) abundance, location, and sizes around South Caicos. It is crucial for the community and the country to better understand how fishing for this highly-demanded species is affecting the species’ population and the country’s economy. My specific research topic is trying to determine if there is a difference in abundance between Providenciales, the main tourist island, and South Caicos, the main fishing island. By understanding this difference in abundance we can have a better understanding of what habitats the queen conch are living in and determine from previous data if this is changing. This in turn helps set regulations for fishing limits to sustain a healthy population of fishable queen conch in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Through the SCUBA diving work done with the four other members of my DR, we really have a chance to make a difference amongst the community of South, the queen conch fishery policies of TCI, and the queen conch’s continued prosperity and growth in one of the last remaining healthy fisheries in the Caribbean.

Directed Research will, I’m certain, not only provide us more memories and experiences here on South, but will also truly show us the many sides to research: data collection, new research methods (like learning to “knock” a conch), and communication via writing or speech. Whether it is writing literature reviews and ultimately our project paper, being in the field collecting data, analyzing the data, adjusting our nap schedule, remembering to wear sunscreen, or practicing flexibility with our schedules, we sure have already learned a lot. The coming weeks will test our time management with the combination of DR, recreational time, class time, as well as exams just two weeks away (!). I know that the knowledge gained from both inside and outside the classroom has already greatly changed my life and mind set.

I often find myself sitting and getting lost in the beautiful hues of blue of the ocean that lays out straight before the Center, as I know many of us do. It’s remarkable how different we are from the first few days we had here on South and what the stunning blues have taught us. Yet, I have only scratched the surface in my education and growth. South has given me the ability to find and strengthen my voice on what I believe in and am passionate about. Not only that, but this place has taught me countless life lessons already, and I am certain it will teach me so many more. As cliché as it may be, the best lessons this experience has taught me thus far, is to live in the moment, take every adventure to its fullest potential, and to appreciate. Appreciate friendships, the ocean, quiet time, class time, everything. While those may all be simple and easy to say, they can be some of the hardest things to accomplish. Whether your adventure may be small or big: take it.

We arrived back here on South from spring break in Provo a little under two weeks ago. I sat thinking on the plane how great it felt to be going home. I shocked myself with the thought, but it is the truth; I now view South and the Center as one of my homes. I am surrounded by an amazing group of intelligent, witty, and extraordinary individuals that came here all for different and unique reasons. These unique reasons are what have made and are making this experience so overwhelmingly amazing. It is impossible for me to convey how special this place is to me and as we near only one more month left here, I find myself cherishing each sunset, dive, and even class a little bit more because I know that this experience I have here is as unique as the person it is helping me become.