Posted: February 12, 2015
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Students arrive despite winter’s attempt to keep them away…

Turks and Caicos Islands

Finally, everyone is here! Snow on the east coast wreaked havoc on the arrival schedule; but, after much delay and some interesting juggling, everyone is here (with their bags) and we are catching up quickly. It didn’t take long for this group to appreciate our location… The historical walking tour of Cockburn Harbour ended with whales breaching just off shore. Waterfront is in full swing, the first dive of the Open Water SCUBA class is scheduled for tomorrow. Everyone has done a night snorkel and looking forward to turtle tagging trips.

On the academic front led by Dr. Aaron Henderson, the Marine Ecology course focuses on habitats that dominate tropical coastal areas, i.e. mangrove forests, seagrass meadows, and coral reefs. The taxonomy exercise is underway. Students are observing and documenting marine organisms in the field, then determine their taxonomic status. Later in this course, they will also investigate positive and negative anthropogenic impacts on the ecology of marine organisms.

Many students have already tried conch in the local restaurant either fried, blanched or in a fritter. Later this semester in Kathy Lockhart’s Principles of Resource Management, students will conduct a queen conch assessment. Conch is listed as endangered under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). To export this product, TCI must demonstrate good management practices which include a visual assessment of the local stock. During the conch assessment exercise, students work in groups to employ survey methods to collect data on size and age structure of the populations in a variety of habitats.

This semester we are very excited to welcome Dr. Liam Carr (SFS Alum, TCI ‘97) as our Environmental Policy lecturer. Dr. Carr has worked on fishery and marine science issues in Washington D.C., southeast United States, U.S. Caribbean, Mexico, Belize, and the Cayman Islands. His course introduces the students to the complex policy world that is central to determining how well our marine and coastal resources are managed both today and for the future. This semester, students will look at how we can encourage sustainable human-environment relationships.

Prior to student’s arrivals, Research Fellow Dr. Charlotte de Fontaubert visited the Center to work with Waterfront Staff to identify climate change impacts on turtle nesting beaches as part of a project funded in part by the Curtis and Edith Munson Foundation. Sea-level rise, elevated sea surface and beach temperatures, change in currents, and extreme weather conditions can dramatically affect the survival and reproductive success of marine turtles in the Turks and Caicos Islands, all species of which have been designated as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In other news… We are very pleased to welcome Josh Zeigler, Site Manager, to our team. Emily Stokes, Waterfront Intern and SFS Fall ’12 alum, submitted and had accepted an article to The Times of the Island about our ongoing benthic assessment of South Caicos coral reefs. Aubrey Ellertson (SFS TCI ’10 alum) and Benjamin Church from the NOAA Fisheries Observer Program visited South Caicos and discussed their role in Northeast fisheries management.

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