Spend a semester on the island of South Caicos, where spectacular marine ecosystems are still largely untouched by tourism and development. Don your wetsuit and get to know a host of marine life while conducting research on coral reefs, seagrass meadows, and mangroves. Evaluate fisheries resources and policies while collecting data that helps community members balance their rights and needs with the island’s conservation goals.
Explore hidden beaches and one of the Caribbean’s largest cave systems on a multi-day expedition to Middle and North Caicos. Tour an old cotton plantation and learn about Indigenous histories on the islands.
PADI SCUBA certifications are available on this program. Learn more here.
Program Costs & Financial Aid
SFS provides a comprehensive study abroad experience during a 6-day/week program schedule. SFS delivers the highest level of support and an unparalleled academic experience.
All students are welcome to apply for our need-based financial aid. Students who exhibit financial need for their program will be offered SFS financial aid. SFS aid is offered through a combination of scholarships, grants and loans.
Pell Grant Match
SFS matches Federal Pell Grant funding for students applying to an SFS semester program.
Many SFS students receive aid through their home institutions or other outside sources, so check with your financial aid office to see what aid may apply to an SFS program.
Itinerary varies from term to term and is subject to change. Program activities take place 6 days a week with one day free.
Week 1: Welcome to South Caicos! Move into dorms, meet roommates, and attend program orientation. Tour the island. Classes begin with lectures on marine biodiversity and intro to resource management. In-water field exercise to observe common marine life in tide pools next to the center. PADI Open Water (OW) class begins (optional class, pre-program sign-up required). Recreational dive at the Admiral Cockburn Land and Sea National Park (ACLSNP) and rec snorkel at the East Harbor Lobster and Conch Reserve (EHLCR). Community beach clean-up.
Week 2: Lectures on mangrove ecology, biology of lobster, conch, and grouper, sustainable fisheries, and the history and culture of the TCI. Underwater species ID exercise in a mangrove and seagrass ecosystem at Moxy Bush. South Caicos historical scavenger hunt. Species group poster assignment. OW class continues at the Spanish Chain; non-OW students go snorkeling in Shark Alley. Science class and swim lessons with local kids.
Week 3: Lectures on marine species population dynamics and stock assessments, seagrass communities, fisheries resources through a social science lens, and basic data analysis and statistics. Behind-the-scenes field trip to a fish processing plant. Underwater species IDs exercise on coral reefs and mangrove and seagrass organisms ID test. Fisheries stock assessment field exercise. OW final exam. Community soccer games.
Week 4: Lectures on ecosystem services, coral reef formation, invasive species, and the seafood industry. Underwater species ID exercise in a coral reef ecosystem at Admiral’s Aquarium. Economic valuation field exercise at East Bay Beach. Rec dive at Troy’s Dream and rec snorkel at Shark Alley. Swim lessons and snorkel club with local kids.
Week 5: Introduction to Directed Research (DR). Lectures on ecotourism, environmental policy, reef fish, aquaculture, and in-water data collection techniques. In-water data collection for biodiversity exercise in seagrass beds and coral reefs. Invasive lionfish abundance survey at the Plane and Huey Dewey Louie (HDL). PADI Advanced Open Water (AOW) class begins (optional class, pre-program sign-up required). Rec dive at the Arch and rec snorkel at Admiral’s Aquarium. Swim lessons and art classes with local kids.
Week 6: Midterm exams for Environmental Policy and Socioeconomic Values, Tropical Marine Ecology, and Principles of Resource Management. Develop DR project proposal and begin literature review. AOW night dive at the Plane. Rec snorkel at Tucker’s Reef. Community activities for Education Week.
Week 7: Lectures on social science research, conch, and environmental policy. Underwater conch abundance survey, with data analysis and write-up. Data analysis and write up of biodiversity data collection. AOW class continues at the Warhead. Rec snorkel at HDL. Community beach clean-up.
Week 8: Multi-day expedition to Middle and North Caicos ending in Providenciales: Explore hidden beaches and one of the Caribbean’s largest cave systems, tour an old cotton plantation, and learn about Indigenous histories on the islands. Design and conduct a survey on perceptions of tourism in Provo. 5-day mid-semester break – independent student travel. Provo primary school outreach activities.
Week 9: Return to South Caicos Island. Lectures on marine protected areas, external global impacts to the TCI, fisheries management, zoning and regulation, and marine ecology experimental design. Guest lecture and mock scenarios with local conservation enforcement officer. DR data collection practice run. Literature reviews due. Rec dive at the Grotto and rec snorkel at Shark Alley. Community soccer games.
Week 10: DR data collection begins in the field. Lectures on climate change, hurricanes and natural disasters, ocean pollution, and symbiosis and fish behavior on coral reefs. Nature documentary filming begins. Design and present a zoning plan for marine resource management in the local area. AOW class wraps up. Trivia night at the Center. Rec dive at the Spanish Chain and rec snorkel at HDL. Swim lessons and science experiments with local kids.
Week 11: DR data collection continues. Lectures on data analysis programs and methods. Mock negotiations on the politics of marine management. Nature documentary filming, editing and screening. Talent show at the Center. Rec dive at Troy’s Dream and rec snorkel at Admiral’s Aquarium. Community art project. Trash clean-up in town.
Week 12: DR data collection continues. Final exams for Environmental Policy and Socioeconomic Values, Tropical Marine Ecology, and Principles of Resource Management. Rec dive at the Plane and rec snorkel at Shark Alley. Community soccer games.
Week 13: Final week of data collection in the field for DR project. Marine science careers panel. Rec dive at the Arch and rec snorkel at Tucker’s Reef. Swim lessons and snorkel club with local kids.
Week 14: DR data analysis: organize, analyze, and write up your results. Lectures on science communication. Final DR papers due. Prep for research presentations. Volleyball tournament at the Center. Rec dive at the Grotto and rec snorkel at HDL.
Week 15: DR presentation and video due. Present to SFS students, staff, and members of the community. Trip to Long Cay to see nesting iguanas. Re-entry exercises and room cleanup. Closing activities. Head home.
This academically rigorous program follows a six-day/week schedule. The interdisciplinary curriculum is designed to help students actively discover and understand the complexities of environmental, social, and economic issues in the Turks & Caicos Islands. Read more about the SFS program model.
Major academic themes include:
Marine ecology and conservation
Climate change and ocean acidification
Approaches to sustainable tourism and fisheries
Marine resource management
Traditional island livelihoods
Coral health and resilience
Marine protected areas
On the Marine Resource Studies program, you will take three 4-credit disciplinary courses and a 4-credit capstone Directed Research course. Courses are participatory in nature and are designed to foster inquiry and active learning. Each course combines lectures, field exercises, assignments, tests, and research. All courses are taught in English.
Click on each course to view a description and download the syllabus
This course provides insight into the broad social context surrounding natural resources to determine effective approaches to resource management. Students explore the sociocultural context of resource management including: hierarchies and power structures; formal and informal decision-making processes; value systems relevant to natural resources, including religious factors and environmental ethics; past and present uses of natural resources; economic factors (local, regional, external); ownership patterns; attitudes and other factors that effect change and their historical basis; and legal basis for enforcement of environmental policy. Students are also introduced to major constituencies that effect conservation (NGO conservation groups, economic interests, etc.) and their underlying philosophies.
This course discusses the interactions that determine the distribution and abundance patterns of tropical marine organisms, with emphasis on the ecology of nearshore areas. Students explore basic principles of ecology and gain an understanding of the sea as a habitat for life. We discuss physical, chemical, and geological oceanography. Students examine major groups of dominant marine organisms of the region, and major nearshore marine habitats—along with their associated biotic communities— are observed in the field. We emphasize coral reef ecosystems to illustrate basic concepts. Students also discuss applications to the management of indigenous marine resources.
is designed to examine the connection between society and natural resources, and how application of management tools can lead to biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihoods. This course introduces underlying concepts and practical tools used in addressing complex environmental problems, including protected area planning and management, guidelines for ecologically sustainable development, and environmental impact assessment. Students examine local case studies using the theory and practice learned in this course.
SFS 4910 Directed Research - Turks & Caicos (4 credits)
This course prepares students to distinguish hidden assumptions in scientific approaches and separate fact from interpretation, cause from correlation, and advocacy from objectivity. Students learn specific tools including: experimental design; field techniques; basic descriptive statistics; and parametric and non-parametric quantitative analysis. Emphasis is placed on succinct scientific writing, graphic and tabular presentation of results, and effective delivery of oral presentations.
You will gain practical skills in the field such as: coral health assessment, marine species identification, underwater transects and quadrats, video and photo tracking, marine survey techniques, habitat and biodiversity assessment, ecosystem services valuation, research design and implementation, quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis, research presentation, and PADI Open Water Diver certification (offered at an additional cost, upon request).
You will visit different ecosystems and communities which may include coral reefs, mangrove islands, seagrass beds, fishing communities, carbonate platform flats, beaches, marine protected areas, numerous shallow-water snorkeling sites, protected wetlands, caves on Middle Caicos Island, a historical plantation on North, and the tourist hub of Providenciales.
In the Directed Research course, each student completes a field research project under the mentorship of a faculty member – beginning with data collection and analysis and concluding with a research paper and presentation. Project subject areas span ecology, natural resource management, conservation science, environmental ethics, and socioeconomics.
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 five-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
Small, open campus with direct access to the ocean
Air-conditioned classroom and computer lab
Open-air dining space, and on-site cooking staff
Dock, dive shack, and small fleet of research boats
Volleyball, hammocks, and swimming pool overlooking the ocean
Click on the icons below to learn more about our Center in the Turks and Caicos Islands.