Coral Reef Monitoring, Youth Education in the Turks and Caicos Islands

Photo by Scott Strong (copyright, use with permission)  

In 2008, my colleague, Dr. Scott Strong, and I established a coral reef monitoring program off the shores of Providenciales, in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI).  On an annual basis, together with KSC students and Provo residents, we collect data on habitat quality, measures of the physical environment, and invertebrate and fish diversity along a linear 100M transect on a small patch reef in Grace Bay.  We use the protocols of Reefcheck International and each year we submit our data to the Reefcheck International database, an Open Dataset available to the public. The data that we collect is also submitted to and used locally by the TCI Department of Environmental and Maritime Affairs.  Over the years, we have established strong relationships with many individuals on Provo including business owners/operators, government officials, teachers and school administrators.  I serve as the Reef Check Team Coordinator for the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Integral to our project, we also run a small-scale Reef Education Program (REP) with resident students affiliated with the Gartland Youth Centre on Providenciales (Provo).  This program is designed to help youth develop an understanding of the marine environment and emphasizes that sustainable practices can ensure not just the health of TCI’s reefs, but lead to healthier and more equitable living for its people. REP participants (14 to 17-yr-olds) are recruited primarily from Clement Howell High School, which has approximately 350 students including local Turks Islanders (Belongers), and expatriates primarily from Haiti, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic.  Participants learn snorkeling, marine life identification, behavior, diversity and ecology of coral reefs.  We also focus on issues central to reef conservation. Keene State College Tropical Marine Biology students continue to play an important role as instructors in this Reef Education program.  Our program has been very successful in contributing to increased environmental awareness, internships, jobs, university admission and other opportunities for our Turks Islander REP participants.

TCI Reef Education Facebook page:  TCI REP facebook

Cangialosi, K.R. 2012. Keeping an Eye on the Future. Times of the Islands S2012, 98: 30-32.

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