Turks & Caicos Islands

The SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies

Turks & Caicos Islands

The Turks and Caicos Islands are home to vibrant coral reefs, dramatic sea walls, and a deep ocean trench, which together sustain a stunning diversity of sea life. Spotted eagle rays, lemon sharks, sea turtles, humpback whales, and dozens of fish species thrive among the sandy shoals, seagrass beds, mangrove forests, and coral reefs surrounding the Islands.

These marine ecosystems are critical to the fisheries-driven local economy, but they are under enormous pressure from coastal development, a rising demand for seafood, and the impacts of climate change. Our research plays an important role in supporting island residents and government authorities as they work to balance economic need with the preservation of irreplaceable natural resources.



Marine Resource Studies

Spend a semester on the island of South Caicos, where spectacular marine ecosystems are largely untouched by tourism and development – for now. Don your wetsuit and conduct research on coral reefs, seagrass meadows, underwater mangroves, and a host of marine life. Evaluate fisheries resources and policies while collecting data that helps community members balance their rights and needs with the island’s conservation goals.
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15 Weeks
16 Credits
Fall 2019

Sep 2 - Dec 11


Spring 2020

Jan 27 - May 6


summer session I

Fundamentals of Marine Conservation

The spectacular reefs and turquoise waters of South Caicos serve as laboratories for field lectures and underwater expeditions in this summer session. Snorkel and/or dive among these incredible marine ecosystems, learn about the environmental issues and policies affecting them, and gain the skills needed to conduct research in collaboration with members of the community.
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04 Weeks
04 Credits
Summer 2019

Jun 3 - Jul 3

In The Field

Summer 2020

Jun 1 - Jul 1


summer session II

Marine Megafauna

Spend your summer studying sharks, whales, turtles, and rays in the waters surrounding South Caicos. Learn about the ecology and conservation of these and other ‘marine megafauna’ through field lectures, snorkel and/or dive sessions, and capture-tag-track exercises.
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04 Weeks
04 Credits
Summer 2019

Jul 8 - Aug 7


Summer 2020

Jul 6 - Aug 5


Life In The Field

The Center is a small converted hotel overlooking the crystalline waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Spectacular sunsets, open-air facilities, warm sunshine, and a refreshing ocean breeze define this marine field station. A 5-minute walk brings you to the small, historic town of Cockburn Harbour, where students and faculty frequently engage in community activities.

  • Dorm living in 4-6 person bunkrooms
  • Main building includes student lounge and study/work spaces
  • Classroom building with staff offices
  • Large kitchen, open-air dining space, on-site cooking staff
  • Dock, dive shack, and small fleet of research boats
  • Volleyball, hammocks, and swimming pool overlooking the ocean
Click here to read stories from students, staff and faculty in the field

My choice to study abroad in the Turks and Caicos Islands has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I never thought I would have such incredible experiences doing research, but here the ocean is our lab and it’s truly surreal.

Kayla Anderson
University of Richmond


Research at the SFS Center for Marine Resource Studies focuses on the health of marine habitats, natural resource conservation, and local livelihoods. Students and faculty engage with the local community as they explore the impacts of environmental threats, commercial fisheries, and increased tourism on the area ecosystems and the small island’s economy.

Our research focuses primarily on the following themes:

  • Climate change & ocean acidification
  • Tourism impacts
  • Commercial fisheries
  • Coral health and resilience
  • Marine protected areas
  • Environmental education

Environmental Issues

Our Centers are strategically located in regions facing critical environmental issues. Students and faculty study these issues and collect data to help facilitate sustainable responses. In the Turks & Caicos Islands, we’re currently investigating the following issues:

Climate Change
Biodiversity Conservation
Community Resource Management
Tourism Impacts
Environmental Policy
Fisheries Management
Learn More About the Issues


The Local Community

SFS is an active member of the South Island community and has been based here for more than 25 years. During the program, students become a part of the Caribbean culture and island lifestyle and participate in community activities like tutoring and mentoring local children, providing swimming and snorkeling lessons, leading a ‘research club’ to teach marine biology, and play sports with the locals. SFS research data is shared with the community, local NGOs, and the government of the Turks & Caicos Islands.

Meet Our Team

Franziska Elmer, Ph.D.

Resident Lecturer in Tropical Marine Ecology
Meet Franziska

Ewa Krzyszczyk, Ph.D.

Resident Lecturer in Principles of Resource Management
Meet Ewa

Courtney Pickett, M.P.A.

Resident Lecturer in Environmental Policy and Socioeconomic Values
Meet Courtney

Clarence Stringer

Marine Operations Coordinator
Meet Clarence

Katie Carr

Student Affairs Manager
Meet Katie

Willy Bolivard

Assistant Site Manager
Meet Willy

Nick Segel

Dive Safety Officer
Meet Nick

John DeBuysser

Waterfront Assistant Intern
Meet John

Megan Maloney

Waterfront Assistant Intern
Meet Megan

Erin Bowman

Waterfront Assistant Intern
Meet Erin

Hannah Hall

Waterfront Assistant Intern
Meet Hannah