Fall is progressing in Vermont. The peak colors are past, we’ve had our first snow on Mount Mansfield and frost in the Champlain Valley, and the leaves have been falling from the trees. But it’s still sunny and warm down at the School for Field Studies field station on South Caicos Island, where SMC Bio major Emma Fox has been enjoying her fall semester abroad studying marine biology.
I’ll let Emma speak for herself - “The SFS Center for Marine Resource Management Studies is located on South Caicos, TCI. Our building is the old (modest) Admiral's Arms hotel, which looks out onto Long Cay and the most beautiful turquoise water I've ever seen! The local flora and fauna convince me that this is nowhere near Vermont...little anole lizards and hermit crabs crawl all over grass and plants in the Center. We're in the water every single day, whether we're out identifying corals, mangroves, and assorted fish species or doing a conch assessment exercise in the Marine Protected Area just offshore.
I love the hands-on approach here; it's one thing to be told, "This is the Pseudopterogorgia americana." It's whole other experience to then duck-dive down five feet and feel the base of the coral where it attaches to a rock--it's the only slimy Pseudopterogorgia species. Our classroom is, quite literally, the ocean. I'm learning all about fish biology, mangrove ecology, and conch ecology; and that's only my Marine Ecology class! In our Environmental Policy course, we recently wrote group proposals for solving the trash problem on South Caicos. Trash is a pretty obvious issue here--it's everywhere. There are few public trash cans on the street, and no recycling at all. So, people just throw their empty cans, bottles, and plastic containers onto the street. It's a pretty stark contrast to what looks like pristine water.
As you can probably tell, I'm really enjoying myself here. I still can't believe I'm in such a beautiful place. I have to keep pinching myself to make sure that this is my reality!”
There are many other study abroad opportunities through Saint Michael's College, and many can be used to customize your own approach to our Biology major. Saint Michael's College is an affiliate member of the School for Field Studies, which offers a variety of ecologically focused study abroad opportunities, including the programs in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
(*... with apologies to J. Buffett)