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Caribbean Coral Reef Ecosystems Program

Banded Coral Shrimp

Banded Coral Shrimp Stenopus hispidus. Photo: J.A. Baeza

Aerial Photo of Island

The Carrie Bow Cay Field Station is located on a small island on the Meso-American Barrier Reef. Located fifteen miles offshore on a small island, Smithsonian scientists and their collaborators travel there to conduct research on the biology, ecology, and geology of coral reef ecosystems.

The location of Carrie Bow Cay allows immediate access to reef environments, seagrass habitats, and mangrove islands. Visitors have access to vessels, diving facilities, seawater tables, and laboratory space along with housing and meals.

Island Amenities


  • Housing for up to six scientists and staff
  • Station manager on duty for operations, scuba tanks, general assistance
  • Staffed kitchen with meals provided
  • Hot showers
  • Electricity generated by a combination of solar panels and 5 kw diesel generator
  • Library

  • title title Carrie Bow Cay Field Station's visitor housing. The building on the left is known as the "Cottage" and the building on the right is affectionately referred to as "The Longhouse."
  • "The Longhouse" features three roooms.
  • The "Cottage" can house three people in a dormitory-style setting.
  • A well-supplied and well-staffed kitchen provides three meals per day.
  • The island runs on an efficient photovoltaic system supplemented by a diesel generator.



Scientific Facilities


  • Flow-through seawater lab
  • Wet lab downstairs
  • Dry lab upstairs
  • Stereo and compound microscopes
  • Lab equipment, chemicals, glass and plastic supplies
  • 3 small boats with outboard motors - up to 10 km range
  • Scuba facilities: tanks, compressor, oxygen kits
  • Rain collection system for freshwater (drinking water is brought in)
  • Satellite Internet connection

  • The main laboratory building houses the seawater lab, the wet lab, and the dry lab.
  • A seawater lab is supplied with water straight from the back reef. Water is pumped on demand to a cistern in the building. Ample fixtures and table space afford flexibility to a variety of needs.
  • A number of seawater fixtures allow built-in flexibility.
  • Two lab spaces are in building, one dry lab upstairs and one wet lab downstairs (shown here). Both rooms have ample bench space to accomodate a variety of needs.
  • The laboratory is equipped with high-quality stereo and compound microscopes.
  • The Carrie Bow Cay fleet of vessels include two larger skiffs capable of limited offshore work and a small skiff for inshore work.
  • The station operates a dive compressor in house to meet the needs of rigorous research diving.
  • Two researchers tie up after a trip to the reef.
  • Back in the water!


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