Research at tobacco caye marine station

TCMS is a research and education centre conducting monitoring within the South Water Caye Marine Reserve. Find out how you could use Tobacco Caye as a base for conducting your own research and find out more about our ongoing research projects below. 

Research Projects at Tobacco Caye Marine Station

Invasive lionfish


One of our key research projects is studying the invasive lionfish here in Belize. In the past 4 years we have culled over 3500 lionfish. For our research we weigh, measure, identify gender and dissect every single one of them. 

How do we collect lionfish?


TCMS brings a Zookeeper containment unit and pole spear on every snorkel or dive so that we can catch and contain lionfish if we see them. We also run a bounty campaign where we pay local fishermen $12BZD/lb of whole lionfish. We also run an annual tournament and offer prizes for teams who catch the most lionfish, most lbs, smallest and biggest lionfish.
Check out our blog on the 2021 tournament! 


Tobacco Caye Marine Station Intern Courses
Tobacco Caye Marine Station Coral Watch

Reef Survey Project 

TCMS has been running the Coral Watch project since 2019 to record bleaching in our surrounding reefs. In recent years, we have also recorded coral disease outbreaks such as Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) in boulder corals and White Band disease in branching Acropora’s. We continue to record and report disease sightings to AGGRA. As well as now monitoring reef sites for fish biodiversity and count surveys. 

Marine debris collection and repurposing project.  

This project has been a passion of ours since 2019 and has undergone changes and evolutions over the years. We take study abroad groups out to the reef crest where ocean trash is washing in from all over the world. The students then record each piece of trash that is picked up and that data is shared with the Marine Debris Tracker by National Geographic. The trash that is collected is then sorted by the students into categories that can be shredded by our plastic shredder called PAM, which is then used in ecobricks or reused or has to go to landfill.  

Check out our annual TCMS research reports here:










Interested to conduct your own research? 

Use Tobacco Caye as a base to conduct research

Tobacco Caye is a remote island with direct access to coral, mangrove and seagrass ecosystems. During your stay you’ll be located at one of the lodges enjoying the island experience.

Support from TCMS 

Be supported by the staff at TCMS through the whole process and be granted access to our facilities such as classroom and scientific equipment, as well as our educational snorkel excursions.  

Access to biomes 

Easy access to over 50 species of fish directly off of the island. Explore soft and stony coral colonies, immerse yourself in turtle and manatee seagrass communities and visit red mangroves on the adjacent reef crest without using a boat.

This could be you! 

Teagan Miller used Tobacco Caye Marine Station as a base to collect data for her Master’s dissertation. She attends the University of Gibraltar and her dissertation title is Marine Debris and Fauna Interactions on Tobacco Caye, Belize.  Teagan spent 5 weeks at Tobacco Caye collecting data for her Master’s dissertation focusing on marine debris at several locations adjacent to Tobacco Caye. Her dissertation objective is Assessing habitat vulnerability to marine debris on Tobacco Caye, Belize. She used her time on the island to snorkel in different areas around Tobacco Caye and collect marine debris, comparing the type and amount of debris in the different areas. TCMS assisted Teagan by participating on video calls with her and her Head of School, provided any additional equipment needed to collect the debris, helping to collect debris when needed and answering any questions that Teagan had regarding fish and invertebrate ID. See Teagan’s infographic below detailing her findings. 

Teagan was enrolled at the University of Gibraltar and these are the details of her course:

Head of School: Dr Awantha Dissanayake
Programme: MSc Marine Science & Climate Change
University of Gibraltar School page: