Every third winter since the early 2000s, Tabor students have had the opportunity to learn about the history, culture, and unique ocean ecology of the Caribbean through our R.E.E.F. (Research & Environmental Education Focus) Program (formerly Caribbean Studies). Seven groups of 15 students flew to the Virgin Islands for eight days using the SSV Tabor Boy
as a floating laboratory from which they surveyed the condition of the reefs in collaboration with the National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Department of the Interior. This long-term study on the health of the Elkhorn coral and the waters in and around Virgin Islands National Park not only allowed our students to help put Elkhorn coral on the endangered species list, but provided a unique opportunity to combine history, cultural, and scientific studies from the classroom with hands-on investigation, research techniques, and skills into the fullest possible educational experience.In 2019, REEF took a different tack!
Students traveled to the Gerace Research Centre
in San Salvador, Bahamas, to survey the reefs in several bays and identify the corals there, while also creating coral fragment trees to grow out healthy coral in hopes of "outcropping" them to areas of decimated reefs in the area over time. This is an exciting progression of our work and we hope you will read more about our first effort building a coral reef nursery
. The facility at Gerace is land-based, providing dormitories and support services, opening the opportunity for hands-on research to more students, potentially annually.Daily Schedule at Gerace Research Centre
Day 1: Arrival and orientation
Day 2: Research methods instruction, snorkel French Bay for population analysis of new coral growth
Day 3: Snorkel Long Bay, survey coral, gather fragments, continue work in French Bay
Day 4: Continue work in Long Bay, visit Sandy Beach
Day 5: Fragment tree construction and deployment
Day 6: Coral fragment collection and attachment to trees
Day 7: Assess and adjust work on fragment trees, swimming at Grotto Beach
Day 8: Clean up and departure
In the future, we hope to alternate between our projects in the Bahamas and USVI so we can continue to learn about the challenges the reef colonies face in various locations, as well as how we might be able to rebuild them.