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Student Research Projects

Some examples of research that students have conducted in the past are listed below. Interesting and moderately sophisticated studies can be performed with simple equipment. Only a few hours of data collection can produce meaningful data, which is ideal given the length of time your group will be here.

Coral Abundance and Distribution

This project involves the ability to identify coral species. Students survey coral species at a particular depth using the belt transect method. This sampling method allows us to characterize an area for the types of corals that dominate it. We have an excellent coral specimen collection to aid students in becoming proficient at coral identification.

Substrate Cover Monitoring

Utilizing several different ecological sampling methods, students can analyze coral cover and reef composition. Experience is gained laying transect lines and quadrants. This  is also an excellent opportunity to exercise calculations of diversity, abundance and community similarity indices to give students experience in ecological quantification techniques.

Coral Health

Students may observe and record incidences of coral disease and bleaching at different sites. Underwater ID cards of the different diseases affecting coral are available to help students with this project. Findings can be compared from year to year to determine if the incidence of disease is increasing.

Fish Surveys

Students may utilize several survey methods to measure the species diversity and abundance of fish populations. Students with limited fish identification skills can perform surveys concentrating on counting “indicator” fish species. Students with advanced knowledge of fish species can utilize roving diver, belt transects, or stationary sampling techniques and record all fish species observed as well as their relative abundances.


This project enables students to identify and classify the major floral and faunal components associated with the reef. Students will be assigned a specific taxonomic group (i.e. Algae, Coral, Invertebrates, Fish) and will be responsible for identifying the organisms in their respective groups. By rotating students with different taxonomic groups at the same site, students will be able to build up their familiarity of the area.

Dolphin Research Projects

Under the supervision of our senior dolphin staff, students may engage in several behavioral studies that examine the patterns of association observed in the population of the dolphins that reside at our Bailey’s Key facility. Dolphin research projects may not be possible at certain times of the year so please check prior to your arrival.

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