The fall semester started with the unprecedented impact of two hurricanes, Irma and Maria, to South Caicos in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), where our Center for Marine Resource Studies is based. In anticipation of the first storm, we safely evacuated all students and staff. Following the reports of severe damage from Hurricane Irma, we made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the Fall 2017 TCI program. Many students opted to transfer to our Center for Tropical Island Biodiversity Studies in Bocas del Toro, Panama to continue their studies. We are grateful for the support and resilience of our students, faculty, and staff during this challenging and unexpected transition.
On September 21st, TCI was affected by a second hurricane, Hurricane Maria. Both the SFS Center and the local community on South Caicos sustained additional damage. Relief efforts by aid organizations are underway and the community is receiving food and clean water. Assessments are ongoing on the timeline for rebuilding our Center and needs within the local community. We are very thankful there was no loss of life or significant injury throughout TCI during both of these storms.
The Center for Marine Resource Studies has been based on South Caicos for 27 years and we are committed to continuing to be part of the local community and ecosystem in which we have been privileged to study and conduct research. We are sensitive to the time the community needs to rebuild and do not want to impose an additional burden on resources during this recovery period. For these reasons along with the time necessary to repair our Center, we felt compelled to cancel our Spring 2018 semester program in TCI.
Work is already underway to rebuild the Center and SFS will resume operations with our 2018 Summer 1 and Summer 2 sessions. Given our long-term presence on South Caicos, we hope to contribute to understanding how these storm systems may have impacted marine ecosystems, resources, and the community that depends on them.
SFS and the South Caicos community are receiving an outpouring of support. SFS has established two funds – one dedicated to the support of recovery efforts in the community and one dedicated to the rebuilding efforts of the SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies. Learn more about supporting these recovery efforts.
We look forward to being in the South Caicos community and the vibrant, marine classroom it provides our students, for many years to come.