The reefs located on the northeastern coast of Toco, Trinidad show a conspicuous cnidarian distribution and zonation of scleractinian and zoantharian species. Other cnidarian species seem to be distributed along various zones on the intertidal reef flat, where abiotic factors, such as water temperature, salinity, and turbidity may correlate to species abundance and biodiversity. Other reef biota, such as fishes, algae, mollusks, echinoderms, and crustacea provide important consumables and income to the local fishing village at Toco, Trinidad. In recent years, selected beaches of the northeastern coast of Trinidad have become integral breeding sites for endangered turtles. Students will engage with local volunteers to gain knowledge on current issues in turtle conservation.
Most of the communities’ population may be unaware of the potential negative impact of anthropogenic activities. This presents a unique opportunity for undergraduate students to assist with collecting, understanding, and sharing coral reef monitoring data. Additionally, interaction with local members of the community can form valuable relationships, as this also is an important aspect of environmental stewardship.
For molecular analyses, students learn the technique to extract DNA from polyps using an E.Z.N.A. tissue extraction kit (Omega-BioTek Model no. D 3396-01 Norcross, GA, USA). Two specific genetic markers: COI and 16S are used depending on the species, such as sea urchins or zoantharians. DNA barcoding techniques assist with species identification, and is a vital asset to biodiversity studies.