The hands-on learning is so incredible. Each day we learn key field skills, but we also learn key life skills at the same time. SFS is making us into better researchers and better people, and that is what makes this program so great!
It’s impossible to say what the best part of being at SFS is. The views and people are incredible and we get to spend day after day in the water studying the ocean that we love so much. The communities both inside and out of the field station are amazing and so are the dogs. Even with all the tough competition, the endless opportunities for hands-on learning rings in at the top of my list. At SFS, we have field exercises, or FEXs, where we learn basic skills that we all will need going forward. The preparation for real life field work is incredibly thorough and helpful and the staff foster ownership and responsibility in each of us.
This week, we had two separate FEXs. The first was a Photo Annotation Workshop. We spent our field days snorkeling in various locations looking for eagle rays and sea turtles to photograph. We then learned how to manage our data effectively and compare the photos we took to identify individuals. We also got to name our rays and turtles! Afterwards, we made catalogues of the individuals that people can now refer to when they see rays and turtles while exploring the marine environment around Long Cay in South Caicos.
The second FEX was split between two topics: octopuses and sharks (two equally thrilling organisms – it was so hard to choose a project). I was placed on a team looking at sharks in a mangrove ecosystem. Our project used BRUVs, or Baited Remote Underwater Videos. We had a special set up for the shallow water and learned how to put together different PVC pipes to create our BRUV masterpiece. Once all of our prep was done, we kayaked out to three locations along the mangroves, focusing on spots by the airport and dump to see if pollutants were impacting the shark behavior. The first day was quite an adventure, complete with a three-mile, windy paddle, a slightly leaky kayak, and the sweet scent of defrosted barracuda accompanying us wherever we went. The first day’s footage only caught some curious fish – no sharks yet – but we are all so excited to get back out into the mangroves and complete our next two days of BRUVing!
Like I said before, the hands-on learning is so incredible. Each day we learn key field skills, but we also learn key life skills at the same time. SFS is making us into better researchers and better people, and that is what makes this program so great!
The Red Mangroves where the BRUV Team went kayaking and placed cameras. Photo by Morgan Karns.
The Reef Team placing a BRUV. Photo by Katrina Orthmann.
Curious to learn a bit more about the SFS Turks & Caicos Islands Center? Click here to read about why we’re based there, our environmental research focus, how we connect and support the local community, and even take a tour of the Center.