As the semester draws to a close, it is inspiring to look back at where we started and where we are today. Just 3 months ago, 36 wide-eye students arrived on South for an adventure which they will carry with them through their lives. They have experienced and learned about reefs, caught and tagged turtles, listened to fishermen’s stories, and grown close to a community which depends on their data collection.
Over the past few weeks as part of their Directed Research (DR) course, students have studied impacts of climate change, species interactions and habitat conditions, local fishers, and ecological knowledge. Results were presented to a community audience of government officials, processing plant owners and operators, local fishermen, island visitors and children – all of whom played an intricate part in the research process.
This semester I was again fortunate to advise five students on their DR. Individual projects included identifying correlations between coral recruitment and benthic composition (John BeBuysser, Whitman College) and species richness (Grace Dodillet, Northwestern University); a survey of the Diadema antillarum (long-spined sea urchin) population (Evanne Sager, Gonzaga University); assessment of local coral bleaching (Emma Scalisi, Wellesley College); and identifying relationships between live coral and herbivorous fish (Elisa Walters, University of Redlands). Results are part of a long-term program to assess local changes in our reef systems with respect to anthropogenic factors.
In addition to their hard academic work, students and staff worked together to provide a successful outreach program this semester which included swimming lessons, snorkel club, beach clean ups, hands-on science, and research trips to collect water quality data. I have watched amazing friendships develop in a group supportive of each other both in the classroom and the field. Today I see a group departing who have grown to know and love the marine resources and people of South Caicos.
We wish everyone the best of luck and hope you come back to visit!