August 29, 2004 – With help from a national science grant, Virgin Islanders can learn how well a plan to preserve local fishing grounds is working. This is just one topic a new lecture series at the University of the Virgin Islands will cover.
The series is designed to help the territory's leaders look at science and technology in new ways. The series is being funded partly by a $4.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation. It was awarded to support the Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research.
"This grant will assist the U.S. Virgin Islands in adding value to its existing science and technology capability and help to move the territory away from sole dependence on a fragile tourist economy," said UVI Vice Provost Henry Smith, when the grant was awarded at the start of the year.
Dr. Rick Nemeth, one of close to a dozen UVI researchers who are participating, started the series on Friday.
His talk was about protected fishing areas. "The grant that I'm working on is to look at different types of management -specifically how marine protected areas, both seasonal and permanent might influence or improve the local fishery."
Nemeth chose the red hind, a valuable food fish, to illustrate his study. Local fishermen prize red hinds, but under the Caribbean Fisheries Management Plan two red hinds spawning areas were placed on seasonal limitations for fishing.
Friday's lecture presented an opportunity for local fishermen, who voted to approve the fisheries plan several years ago, to see how well it's working. "They want to know the status and progress of some of those fisheries to see if giving up some of their fishing area will actually improve their livelihood in the future," he said.
Several other presentations, between now and Nov. 19, relate to the ocean. Upcoming lectures are on Caribbean oceanography, the way reef fish stray away for their spawning areas and form new colonies, how to tell one species of coral from another using molecular markers and how to set up undersea video monitors to keep track for coral reef studies.
Other sea creatures sharing the program's spotlight along with the coral reef include lobsters and their neural circuits, the chemical similarities between human beings and sea sponges and how far the offspring of a spiny sea urchin will wander through the ocean before it settles down.
For those whose sense of intrigue lies above sea level, there's a lecture on weather modeling, a topic that draws considerable interest in the midst of hurricane season.
And once the storms have passed and dropped their rain, the series offers a lecture on earth box farming.
Teachers of students from elementary through the undergraduate level may want to pop in on some of these talks, Nemeth said, because they can find material suitable for the classroom. "Teachers who are trying to broaden their background in reef science will be exposed to a great diversity of topics," he said.
A statement from UVI's public relations office credited the school's unique position as the only historically black college or university in the United States with a recognized strength in marine science.
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