A whole new group of excited and curious undergraduate students have arrived at the SFS Center for Marine Resources Studies (CMRS) on South Caicos, in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The first week is full of orientation, designed to prepare students for the academic activities, field exercises, and faculty-led research to come this semester. Each morning the students and staff gather together to review the schedule for the day, discussion announcements, reflect on our reasons for participating in this program, and engage in “get to know you” activities.
Schedule of activities for the first week. BUSY! Photo: Alex Kahn-Johnston
Photo: Alex Kahn-Johnston
Academics consists of four upper-level courses, including Marine Ecology, Principles of Marine Resource Management, Environmental Policy and Socioeconomic Values, and Directed Research. The academic program is designed so that students participate in lectures, discussions, identification exercise, field exercise, and much more. Prior to actively conducting research and learning research techniques, the students must familiarize themselves with the Center and the physical demands of the program. As with each program that is conducted at the CMRS, this includes swim tests, dive checkouts, open water lectures (for new divers), and much more. The students have taken the initiative to obtain more skills so that they can enjoy the program activities more fully.
Student preparing for SCUBA dive check-outs. Photos: Kathy Lockhart & Alex Kahn-Johnston
Spring 2016 Students working on Excel practical for data analysis. Photo: Alex Kahn-Johnston
These courses are not just theoretical but provide a “hands-on” approach to research. In the next few weeks the students will be participating in field identification of mangroves, sea grasses, invertebrates, and vertebrates for a more physical perspective that will be lead by Dr. Eliza Garfield. Students will be set out in the natural environment and given the opportunity to physically identify key species in the marine environment, as it is essential 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 potential projects and faculty-driven research projects. These projects include marine turtle tagging/measuring, BRUV (Baited Remote Underwater Visual) surveys, water quality, whale song monitoring, beach profiling, lionfish captures, and spiny lobster juvenile recruitment monitoring.
Other activities that will occur throughout the term include underwater visual surveys, dock catch monitoring, Coral Watch activities, mangrove and seagrass ground truthing, and coral reef biodiversity monitoring. There will and already have been many opportunities for the students to be as involved as possible in the marine environment. Additionally, CMRS will have guest lectures from community members to better describe, and answer questions about, local views of the surrounding community, island, and activities that can take place here.
Juvenile spiny lobster measurements from “condos”. Photo: Kathy Lockhart
Spring 2016 beach profiling. Photo: Lily Zhao
In other news, prior to student arrival, previous faculty member and Research Fellow Dr. Aaron Henderson visited the Center to continue his BRUV research. He was able to collect quite a bit of footage that will assist with the continued understanding of the sharks near South Caicos.
To sum up, the beginning of the semester is off to a great start and each student group that enters the program is excited and enthusiastic. Each time a new student group comes, previous semester students send messages that remark of how they miss the Center, activities, fellow classmates and the overall experience. This truly does provide one of the most amazing opportunities for future students, researchers, and affiliates to build their capacity, expand thinking, and create an amazing life-changing experience.