Excitement and enthusiasm has erupted at the SFS Center for Marine Resources Studies (CMRS) in South Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands. Each student group that arrives enter the Center with high expectations and dreams for a life-changing experience, and that is indeed what they obtain here. With the students settling in, the group is excited to get started, but enjoys getting to know each other at the start of the program. At the start of each day, the students and staff gather together for morning meeting where we play “get to know you” games and review the schedule.
The program itself is designed for each student to participate in lectures, discussions, identification exercise, field exercises, and much more. However, the start of each session is where the students have to familiarize themselves with the Center and the physical demands of the program. This includes swim tests, dive checkouts, and much more. Once students have adapted and found their “groove”, they are able to fully participate in the program activities.
The program consists of four courses, including Marine Ecology, Principles of Resource Management, Socioeconomic Values & Environmental Policy, and Directed Research. Each of first three courses builds upon each other to fully encompass what the CMRS program is all about in the theoretical perspective. In the next few weeks, the students will be participating in field identification of mangrove, sea grass, invertebrates and vertebrates for a more physical perspective that will be lead by Dr. Eliza Garfield. Through snorkeling, students will be given the opportunity to physically identify key species in the marine environment, as it is essential for the students to be able to identify these species for future Directed Research projects that will take place later in the semester.
Students have already been inquisitive about the local seafood dishes as the spiny lobster season is open and queen conch is open for local consumption. In order to encourage students to fully understand the local fishery and cuisine, students will be trained on how to conduct viable scientific research through visual surveys, how to record the data, analyze and report the finding through various field exercises including the “Conch Assessment.” It is here that the students will conduct visual transects both inside and outside a Marine Protected Area (MPA) and write a report of the findings. This project will allow students to better understand a species that is listed under Appendix II of the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). These types of exercises will provide hands-on training for undergraduate students with perhaps their very first scientific research project.
This semester continues with more excitement, as Dr. Andrea Murray, faculty for Environmental Policy, will be addressing how anthropology and environmental policy plays a role in the marine resources that are currently managed in the TCI.
In other news, prior to student arrival, former faculty Dr. Aaron Henderson conducted a “Shark Week” in South Caicos with SFS alumni at CMRS. They were able to tag and release several sharks. Also, Research Fellow Dr. Charlotte de Fontaubert returned to study climate change impacts on turtle nesting beaches as part of a project funded in part by the Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation. During this time, we were able to find a nest that hatched some time ago and discovered three poor souls that were not quite able to make it out of the nest. However, this is a great sign that many more did survive and that the turtles continue to nest in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Photo: Dr. Charlotte de Fontaubert. Hawksbill turtle hatchlings from Bush Cay.
To sum up, the semester is off to a great start and each student group that enters the program is able to obtain different stories and set goals. SFS CMRS provides this amazing opportunity for future students, researchers, and affiliates to get their hands dirty, expand thinking, and create unlimited opportunities.