By: Christian Kiffner, PhD

Posted: April 5, 2017
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Faculty Post

The Life of an Intern in TCI

Turks and Caicos Islands

Fresh off of mid-semester break, we as interns are excited to dive right in to the second half of the semester. With DR starting up this week and deadlines quickly approaching, research is about to be in full swing here at the Center. This semester, our students will be studying some of the local fisheries, monitoring shark populations, and evaluating the impact of tourism in the TCI.

Helping students with their field identification skills

Helping out with these projects isn’t all that we will be doing, however. As Waterfront Assistants, we are also responsible for data collection for long term monitoring projects, from taking monthly water quality samples to recording the songs of migrating humpback whales.

Monitoring the extent of coral bleaching is important to understanding the health of the reef that is so vital to the livelihoods of many people on the islands. To do this, we spend quite a bit of time under the water. We dive along transects at various depths and identify the different types of coral we see, the extent of bleaching, and take photos to analyze later in the lab.

Rolling up a transect after completing a coral bleaching and benthic assessment

When we aren’t below the water, we are probably above it trying to find sharks. We frequently help out with Dr. Aaron Henderson’s shark tagging projects, and we also deploy Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV) stations to see what kinds of sharks and rays are around the islands.

Dr. Aaron Henderson teaching students about a tagged tiger shark

Next week, we will be visiting a number of Cays- small, mostly uninhabited islands – to see how certain beaches have changed over the years and how those changes will impact sea turtles trying to nest there. Contributing to over 5 years of existing data, we look at the steepness of the beach and the distance from the water’s edge to suitable nesting areas.

It isn’t all hard work all the time, however. We take every opportunity we get to stop and appreciate this experience and our beautiful island home!

Interns and the Dive Safety Officer exploring the island on a day off

We are looking forward to the busyness that is to come. Everyone’s hard work pays off in the end, when we see how far our students have progressed as scientists, conservationists, and individuals. We are just lucky that we get to be a small part of this incredible experience.

→ Marine Resource Studies in the Turks & Caicos Islands

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