Two new interns support the Darwin Plus and Fisheries Research in the TCI

Dr Ed Butler, Jerqual Smith & Sakilé Garland

The DPLUS153 project entitled conserving tropical marine ecosystems through science-based fisheries management has been extremely fortunate to have the support of two excellent interns, Jerquel and Sakilé, who have been eagerly and actively involved in project field and lab work over the past few months!

We asked them to share a little bit of their experience with us; here is what they had to say…

Jerqual Smith – 1st year Bioscience student, Nova Southeastern University, Florida
Jerqual Smith was an amazing help setting and sectioning hundreds of fish otoliths.
I had the pleasure of interning at the DECR and working in the newly opened Clifford Leroy Brooks Fisheries and Marine Laboratory, during the summer (June - July 2023) and it was such a great experience. I got the opportunity to work alongside Jessly Robinson and Destiny Missick on some occasions, headed by Dr. Ed Butler, where we went out and collected otoliths from different types of fish commonly seen around the Turks and Caicos Islands, including White Margate and Yellow-tail snapper. 
The otoliths are the ear bones of the fish; specifically, a pair can be found in each fish, varying in sizes. These otoliths can be used to determine the age of the fish it was collected from by the counting of the rings.
The otoliths were placed in a compact resin block and given a special code that was also logged into a database.
The resin block was later cut by a special machine, so that the nucleus and the rings can be clearly seen under the microscope, after being bonded to a slide using a few drops more of resin.
I also assisted in the process of taking photos of the otoliths slide seen under the microscope, to be aged. The fisheries lab worked with other parts of the fish as well including the gonads which was extracted from the fish and placed in formalin for preservation. Using the gonads, the sex of the fish could be determined as well as the stage of development. This is important so that the reproduction of certain species of fish can be monitored and studied. I am honored to have been part of one of the only marine/fisheries labs regionally, that is performing fish aging using their otoliths.
Sakilé Garland – Biotechnology graduate, University of the West Indies, Mona
In being an apprentice over the past month at the Fisheries lab, I've had the remarkable opportunity to immerse myself in a captivating research project centered around the fascinating world of local fish. The work has revolved around studying otoliths and reproductive samples collected from those fish, and it's been an eye-opening journey. From collecting samples and capturing stunning photographs to venturing into the field to snorkel and dive while we set our handmade fish traps at various locations across the island, every moment has been an adventure. The study focuses on a diverse array of species, including gray, schoolmaster and lane snappers, and white grunts, each with their own unique features.
Sakilé Garland and Project Officer Jessly Robinson analysing gray snapper otoliths.
Through this project, I've not only gained valuable hands-on experience but also come to appreciate the intricate web of life beneath the waves. Working alongside Dr. Ed Butler and Jessly Robinson has been delightful as they never cease to disperse their knowledge and share expertise with me. I have gained a lot of skills and learned new techniques that were otherwise unfamiliar to me prior to my commencement of this apprenticeship. With that being said, I’m enthusiastic to see the final outcome of this study and the impact it will have on the management and monitoring of marine life in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Newly constructed juvenile-fish traps ready to be deployed.
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