SFS TURKS & CAICOS: MARINE RESOURCE STUDIES (SEMESTER)
- Terms: Fall, Spring
- Credits: 16 semester-hour credits
- Prerequisites: One semester of college-level ecology, biology, or environmental studies/science; 18 years of age
- Application Deadline: Rolling admissions. Early applications encouraged
- Financial Aid: All accepted students can apply for need-based scholarships, grants, and loans
On the island of South Caicos, spectacular marine ecosystems are still largely untouched by tourism and development. Spend a semester among the island’s incredible marine life as you conduct field exercises and research to study coral reefs, seagrass meadows, and mangroves. Evaluate fisheries resources and policies, meet with local residents, and analyze the impacts of climate change on the island ecosystems. Finish the semester by designing an in-depth research project and collecting data to help community members balance their rights and needs with the island’s conservation goals.
- Go snorkeling and diving in the clear waters around South Caicos to conduct marine species identification exercises and parrotfish surveys.
- Visit the Grotto and Shark Alley to see eagle rays up close, and study their behavior and population dynamics using photo tracking.
- Take an excursion to the islands of Middle Caicos, North Caicos, and Providenciales to explore the variety of ecosystems in the TCI, including caves and protected wetlands.
SFS students live and study at the Center for Marine Resource Studies. 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.
- Climate change and ocean acidification
- Tourism impacts
- Commercial fisheries
- Coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass ecosystems
- Marine protected areas
- Coral health assessment
- Marine species identification
- BRUVS surveys
- Underwater transects and quadrats
- Natural resource valuation
- Research design and implementation
- Data collection and analysis
- Research presentation
CONNECT WITH SFS
Visit the SFS website
Call the Admissions Hotline at 800.989.4418
Read updates from the field on the SFS Blog
Follow SFS on Instagram
Watch student videos on YouTube
The Center for Marine Resource Studies is exploring ways to improve the sustainability of exploited marine resources and the protection of the near pristine coral reef ecosystem at South Caicos. Our research monitors the stocks of lobster and conch, the condition of coral reefs and the populations of reef fish. Our goal is to provide the local community and tourism developers with advice that will help sustain the traditional fishing economy as well as minimize the environmental impacts of growing tourism on the terrestrial and marine environments
We are assisting the TCI government?s Department of Environment and Coastal Resources (DECR) and the National Park Service in their efforts to manage fisheries and conserve critical marine and terrestrial habitats. Our goal is to help sustain the economic, societal and ecological stability of South Caicos and its island community. With so many local residents dependent on marine resources for their livelihood, and the likelihood of increasing tourism, there is an immediate need to find viable options for managing fisheries and conserving critical habitats, including coral reefs.
Snorkeling and diving in waters surrounding South Caicos, students learn to identify a wide range of marine organisms and habitats, and learn about marine ecology and coastal ecosystems. Students confront the challenges of fisheries management and analyze the costs and benefits of potential new fisheries. Assessing the pros and cons of resource management and habitat conservation options, and the social and economic implications of these options brings students face to face with the real life dilemmas faced by the governmental regulators and the residents of South Caicos.
Recent research indicates that conch and lobster nursery areas in dense sea grass beds may be the most important sites in need of protection in order to promote stock enhancement and sustainability for these economically important resources. SFS students assist in researching the distribution and role of the sea grass habitats in the coastal environment of South Caicos. With the Admiral Cockburn Land and Sea National Park at their doorstep, students are able to evaluate the concept of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as a resource management option. Students help monitor the condition of the spectacular coral reefs, both inside and outside the MPAs, using the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) protocol. Based on their observations made in the field, students assess the validity of indicator species for reef health, the effects of diver tourism, marine species interactions, the impacts of coral diseases and many other issues related to marine natural resource harvesting, conservation and monitoring.
Our field station, located just steps from our ocean laboratory, is adjacent to Cockburn Harbor, a town of about 1000 residents. The field station sits on elevated land about 40 feet above the water and looks directly out over the sea. Within a three-mile radius are coral reefs, mangrove islands, sea grass beds, carbonate platform flats and deep water diving. The main facility has a dining area, kitchen, classroom, library/computer room and a veranda with spectacular ocean views. Students share living quarters in two residence wings. We are fully equipped for marine operations with access to docks, motor boats, a commercial compressor and plenty of tanks and weights for SCUBA diving and snorkeling.
SFS offers a 5 course -18 credit semester program each fall and semester and a 4 credit summer program twice each summer (see below).Community Interaction:
Students quickly become involved with the community spending time with local residents, fishermen and resource managers. Community activities may include:
- Weekly soccer and basketball matches, which attract enthusiastic crowds, as SFS teams challenge local teams (usually unsuccessfully) for the coveted tournament trophy.
- School volunteer projects such as tutoring, working with high school Science and Math Club.
- Hosting SEA DAY at our field station to introduce elementary students to the marine environment.
Recent Center Contributions
- Lobster, conch and finfish stock levels assessment, which have provided important information for government agencies.
- Natural resource workshop with the DECR and the National Park Service to provide TCI government workers with educational training about coral reefs, lobster biology, marine fishes and turtles, sharks, whales and navigation.
- Working with the DECR, National Park Service and local businesses to develop a protocol for coral reef monitoring and to share data about queen conch distribution.
- Hosting or supporting public forums and activities attended by government officials and community members to facilitate communal problem-solving.
- Applying baseline data collected with the AGRRA protocol survey to examine reef health trends, species interactions and impacts of coral diseases.
Semester students are registered in five academic courses accredited through Boston University:
BI/EE (NS) 373 Tropical Marine Ecology (4 credits)
EE (NS) 374 Principles of Resource Management (4 credits)
EE (SS) 302 Environmental Policy & Socioeconomic Values (4 credits)
EE 491 or 492 Directed Research (4 credits)
SS 205E British West Indies Culture and Society (2 credits)
Semester Program Applicants must be at least 18 years of age, in good academic standing and have completed at least one college-level ecology or biology course, and at least one semester of college prior to the start of the program
Research interests (student projects):
- Herbivorous reef fish: a comprehensive evaluation of density and biomass.
- AGRRA for reefs inside and outside Admiral Cockburn Land and Sea National Park.
- Population size assessment of potentially commercial finfish species around South Caicos.
- Best practices zonations and utilization of National Parks? resources in TCI.
- Queen Conch dispersal from nursery grounds: implications for designing no-take fishing reserves.
- Bonefish protection on the Caicos Bank in Bell Sound Nature Reserve.
- Spiny lobster assessment within the Caicos Bank.
Field Trips, Excursions and Lectures:
- Visual assessment of Queen Conch populations
- Visual assessment of coral reef fish populations
- Fish, seagrass and mangrove identification
- Zoning for multiple use in a marine protected area
- Using GIS to assess habitat types for policy making
Summer students are registered in a 4 credit course accredited through Boston University:
EE (NS) 351 Marine Parks Management
Summer Program Applicants must be at least 16 years of age, in good academic standing and have completed at least the junior year of high school prior to the start of the program.
Students will explore the effectiveness of marine parks in protecting biodiversity and critical habitats, enhancing stocks of queen conch, spiny lobster, and other commercially important species, and contributing effectively to the socio-economic sustainability of the local community. We will interact with and support the work of our clients and stakeholders, who range from local fishermen to members of key government agencies. Our goal is to collect data from the field, which may lead to policy recommendations, marine parks management plans and community projects.
Field Trips, Excursions and Lectures:
The spectacular reefs and waters of South Caicos will serve as the laboratory for most of our field work. Students will snorkel or SCUBA, and gain valuable experience in the use of transects, techniques for population sampling and statistical analysis. Potential research sites and trips include: East Harbour Lobster and Conch Reserve (EHLCR); Bell Sound Nature Reserve; Fish Cay; Tucker's Point Reef Shark Alley; Long Cay; Dove Cay; The Point of Admirals Aquarium and a mangrove Island.