Marine debris in the U.S. Virgin Islands is an ongoing (and gross) problem. We produce far too much trash at home, and lets face it, our trash collection system is dismal. Unfortunately, debris on beaches and coastal regions is common, particularly in our rainy season when runoff is high.
We are pleased therefore that researchers at the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) applied for and received more than $95,000 in funding for marine debris education and prevention from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The project is entitled Pride in Our Seas, Pride in Ourselves: Preventing Land-Based Sources of Marine Debris in the USVI through Educational Transformation and Community Engagement.
The project team, led by Dr. Kristin Wilson Grimes, Research Assistant Professor of Watershed Ecology at UVI, is dedicated to reducing land-based sources of marine debris through outreach and educational opportunities that engage schoolchildren and teachers in St. Thomas and St. Croix, and residents from across the three islands. Additionally, the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority (VIWMA) public relations and sanitation coordinators, and the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service (VIMAS) have partnered with UVI in this effort.
The 18-month project was kicked off with a Marine Debris Educator Workshop at UVI on October 4, 2016. With the STEM Institute, twenty-seven teachers from St. Thomas and St. Croix were introduced to Oregon Sea Grant's Marine Debris STEAMS curricula with the assistance of Oregon Sea Grant personnel. This curricula was adapted for the USVI by the project team, to include locally-relevant examples. Teachers will have the opportunity to provide feedback on the curricula and offer suggestions for its improvement over the project period.
The workshop helped enlighten educators to the prevalence and impact of marine debris and presented techniques and lessons they could then bring into the classroom. For example, "beach boxes" containing sand and debris collected from Brewers Bay Beach, St. Thomas, provided hands on examples of the variety and quantity of marine debris.
Moving forward, funding is made available to teachers who wish to partner with UVI MMES graduate students, VIMAS and VIWMA to explore creative ways to transfer information learned in the classroom to students and the island community. Some project ideas are student-created, upcycled art and installations, student-created public service announcements and informational displays at cultural events such as the St. Thomas/St. John Ag Fair, the St. Croix Ag Fair, Reef Fest and Carnival celebrations.
Currently, many students in the Virgin Islands know little about marine debris, its land-based sources, strategies for its prevention and how it matters to our ecosystems, communities and economy. Increased awareness of the direct impact of marine debris can help bring consciousness to behaviors that decrease land-based debris.
Join us on Thursday, December 8th for a Marine Debris Science Café event sponsored by VI-EPSCoR at the VI Children's Museum. Led by Dr. Grimes, the informational talk will be followed by holiday activities.