Last Monday, the 29th of October, our students had their first day of directed research (DR). The weather was perfect and we were welcomed by a rainbow and crystal clear water in the morning. This means a great start for our different groups to try out their methods in the field and see if they need to adapt or change any strategy of how to sample their data.
Our social science group traveled to East Caicos, which is a neighbor island of South Caicos and investigated the potential of future tourism on this island. This group also interviewed locals on South Caicos and tried to find out their opinion regarding a future tourism on East Caicos.
Our conch research team leaves the dock early each day and heads out into the conch and lobster reserve to estimate the population size and most dominant habitat type within and outside the reserve
The seagrass team definitely had their work cut out for them! The frames in the picture below were all prepared before the first DR day. Here, students installed fake sargassum cover over seagrass meadows to investigate how growth and health of the seagrass is influenced by shading. Sargassum is becoming more and more common here in TCI. Great amounts are floating close to shore and influence the light penetration. The second picture shows one of the students diving down and recording seagrass data.
Are the coral reefs on South Caicos in a healthy state? This is what our last research team wants to find out. This group is focusing on reef growth and the topographic structure of coral reefs in our marine protected area (MPA). To accomplish this difficult research question, dry runs have been done as you can see in the picture below. Here students tried to optimize their time during the dive because underwater every minute counts to collect as much data possible.
As for the rest, the flamingos are back on South! Flamingos use South Caicos as a resting place during their migration route. To keep our minds focused we need to take breaks and enjoy what the island has to offer. Therefore walks are a good way to escape the study time and clear the mind. One of the favorites spots here to do so is at the historical site called the boiling hole, in the middle of the salinas. This is where we see the flamingos standing calmly in the shallow waters.
Photo courtesy of Chloe Carothers-Liske