Despite all odds, coral reefs are thriving at depths of 100 – 300 feet right here in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Recent discoveries by scientists at the University of the Virgin Islands have shown that there are a great number of magnificent deep coral reefs in the area, particularly at the south side of St. Thomas on the Grammanik Bank and reaching out toward Culebra. It is estimated these reefs cover between 100 – 230 square kilometers and are home to over two hundred million corals!
Great Salt Pond Bay on St. Croix’s south-east coast is a salt pond located within the St. Croix East End Marine Park, and one of just a few mangrove ecosystems on the island. Alarmingly, it supports the only remaining juvenile fish mangrove habitat on the south side of the island! While all mangrove nurseries are essential, St. Croix’s remote location makes this one particularly important.
As an NSF funded program designed to stimulate research within the US Virgin Islands Territory, VI-EPSCoR provided funding for five mini-grants in 2017. The current VI-EPSCoR program, Mare Nostrum Caribbean: Stewardship through Strategic Research and Workforce Development, funds research within the USVI that fosters collaborative ties among researchers from UVI, territorial and federal agencies and local businesses. Projects considered for funding were in the following Mare Nostrum research focus areas (1) Coral Reef and Fish Ecology (demographics, disease and dynamics); (2) Coastal Oceanography (3) Watershed Processes, and (4) Human Dimensions. Favored proposals included interdisciplinary research and links with the Brewer’s Bay Ecosystem Analysis Project.
One woman's research into the macroalgae Dictyota spp. may help save coral reefs in the Territory.
One of VI-EPSCoR’s primary goals is to grow a USVI community that is scientifically and mathematically literate and engaged in issues that are scientific and environmental in nature. Our goal is realized when local scientists are able to stay in the USVI and work in their field because the employment opportunities exist.
Dr. Sennai Habtes, Research Assistant Professor of Biological Oceanography at The University of the Virgin Islands is an accidental role model and success story of VI-EPSCoR’s efforts.
Our Annual Conference is VI-EPSCoR's premier event where we showcase to the community recent strides made toward accomplishing our Mare Nostrum Caribbean goals. We hope you can join us! There is no cost to attend, please RSVP today.
All sea turtles species found in the US Virgin Islands are protected under the Endangered Species Act. It is illegal to touch or harass them at any time. This encounter was possible under an exclusive research NMFS permit. What a wonderful and unique opportunity for the community to get up close and personal.