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SFS: Turks & Caicos: Marine Resource Studies
South Caicos, Turks and Caicos Islands (Education Abroad Programs Program)
Program Terms: Fall Semester,
Spring Semester
Homepage: Click to visit
Program Sponsor: The School for Field Studies (SFS) 
Dates / Deadlines:
Term Year App Deadline Decision Date Start Date End Date
Spring Semester 2019 01-NOV-2018
Rolling Admission TBA TBA
Fall Semester 2019 01-APR-2019 ** Rolling Admission TBA TBA

** Indicates rolling admission application process. Applicants will be immediately notified of acceptance into this program and be able to complete post-decision materials prior to the term's application deadline.

Indicates that deadline has passed
Fact Sheet:
Class Status:
1st year, 2nd year, 3rd year, 4th year, Graduate student Minimum GPA Requirement: 2.8
Language Requirement:
Open to Non-UVa Students:
Housing: University dormitory Language Courses Offered: No
Language of Instruction: English
Credit Type:
Transfer Credit
Program Type:
Field Study/ Experiential
Tuition Payments Made To:
Program Provider
Education Abroad Advisor:
Martha Sadler
Application Fee:
Study Abroad Administrative Fee:
Subject Area:
Anthropology, Biology, Cultural Studies, Economics, Environmental Sciences, Foreign Affairs, Geography, Geology, Sociology
Program Description:




  • 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


Snorkeling and scuba diving in the waters surrounding South Caicos, students learn field research and monitoring techniques to identify and assess the health of a wide range of marine organisms and habitats. Students learn observe the behavior of marine species, assess coastal and marine habitats, quantify fisheries resources, and analyze implications of fishery policies. In the community, students consider the challenges of assessing the rights and needs of local stakeholders and reconciling those with conservation goals—real-life dilemmas faced by governmental regulators and the residents of South Caicos.


  • Marine ecology and conservation
  • Environmental impact assessment and monitoring
  • Traditional livelihoods
  • Marine Protected Areas assessment and management strategies
  • Sustainable tourism practices
  • Sustainable fishery practices
  • Small nation governance of resources
  • Valuation of natural resources


  • Scuba diving and snorkeling for fish, coral, seagrass, and mangrove identification exercises
  • Excursion to neighboring Providenciales, Middle Caicos, and North Caicos, explore the caves and bat colonies, absorb local ecological knowledge of bush medicines and foods
  • Tagging sharks and sea turtles to collect morphological data and gain an understanding of population dynamics
  • Lectures by Department of the Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA) officials on the government’s fisheries regulations and enforcement
  • In-water coral bleaching exercise to collect data on coral health  


Through Directed Research (DR)—as opposed to basic, applied, or independent research—students conduct research on a specific topic that is part of the SFS Center’s long-term strategic research plan, which has been developed in partnership with local community stakeholders and clients.

The course, taught by resident SFS faculty, provides students with the opportunity to apply the scientific process in a mentored field research project that addresses a local environmental issue. Through the DR project, students contribute to a growing body of scientific research that informs local conservation and resource management decisions.




Our 25th Anniversary

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.

Courses offered:

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:

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 Program:

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 Program:

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.

Research interests:

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.