October 20, 2020

CCMI Research May 28-June 12

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13441626_10101062326686028_350687040_o13446096_10101062326681038_2146534908_oFrom Central Caribbean Marine Institute (

CCMI recently welcomed a group of eight undergraduate students participating in a Research Experience for Undergraduates () program. This eight week long program is funded by the National Science Foundation, and gives select undergraduate students the opportunity to design and complete their own independent research project under the guidance of a mentor. REU mentors include CCMI research staff, guest scientists, and visiting Ph.D. candidates. The REU program is an exciting time that all of the CCMI staff look forward to. Students have the chance to grow as budding young scientists by learning valuable skills in the field and taking on the challenge of being responsible for the completion of a research project that interests them.

(Top) Students encounter a variety of marine life while conducting research underwater

The REU students hit the ground running their first two weeks on . They all participated in three organism identification lectures given by one of CCMI’s mentors, which taught them the basics of identifying different corals, fishes, and invertebrates they may encounter while in the water around Little Cayman. They also spent time snorkeling around the coral reef in front of the research station practicing the different methodologies they would need to collect their project data. Students worked closely with their mentors during the first week to formulate their research questions and design their study methods. At the conclusion of week one, all students submitted a formal project proposal and also gave a project presentation to their peers and the rest of the CCMI staff. Student projects span a broad range of topics including invasive lionfish behavior, coral reef benthic ecology, sea turtle grazing, parrotfish diet, and the geology of Little Cayman.

Data collection for student projects began immediately after project methods were finalized. Already there have been three research dives around the island on the CCMI dive vessel, Banana Wind. Study methodologies are as diverse as the study topics themselves. Students studying benthic ecology primarily use either transect lines or quadrats to sample the benthic composition of different sites. Students studying lionfish or parrotfish behavior carefully record their underwater observations on datasheets specific to their project.

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Students and mentors collect data on one of the research dives

During their stay here at CCMI, students are treated as members of the station team, and so they are involved in far more than just their individual projects. Students attend the weekly scientific lecture series hosted by CCMI at The Southern Cross resort. Additionally, all students have been involved in regularly monitoring the beaches around the CCMI research station for evidence of sea turtle nesting. As an added service to the community and the environment, students pick up beach trash while on their turtle walks. Moving into week three and beyond, students will continue to work on their independent projects and data collection. Friendships have quickly formed between the students and the remaining six weeks of the program will no doubt be just as successful as the first two.

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Students help clean Little Cayman’s beaches while keeping an eye out for sea turtle tracks

For more on this story go to: http://reefresearch.org/research/research-experience-for-undergraduates/weekly-life-during-the-2016-little-cayman-reu/week-1-and-2/

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