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@Work: Writing About Wildlife on St. John

June 14, 2005 – St. John resident Gail Karlsson has come out with a must-read for anybody who lives in the tropics. "The Wild Life in an Island House" tells all about the creatures you're likely to encounter. While you might expect to meet up with mosquitoes and a spider or two, were you expecting scorpions and bats? They're all here, and more.
Virgin Islands residents will relate to many of her stories.
"One of our wildest times was the night the termites flew up," she wrote.
She goes on to talk about the strong thunderstorm that preceded the termites' flying, the power going off and on, and then the thousands of termites drifting down on her family.
"It felt like the night of the living dead," she wrote.
Karlsson goes on to explain the science of why this happens. She said that the termites fly as part of a planned dispersal so new nests can be formed. Some pair off, drop their flimsy wings and begin mating. She said it usually happens after the first heavy rain in the fall.
Then there was the time she found a scorpion on the netting over her baby's crib. And then there's the role of mosquitoes – to provide food for lots of creatures like lizards that are more pleasant to have around.
Karlsson got the idea to write the book after she had done similar pieces for the "St. John Times." She said she normally writes more weighty pieces in her role as a consultant the United Nations Development Programme.
"I'm teaching an online course for the staff in environmental policy," she said.
She sees that her United Nations work in sustainable development has a link to "The Wild Life in an Island House." She wrote that she particularly likes the way ants, birds and fruit rats help her dispose of organic garbage so they don't have to be shipped to the landfill on St. Thomas.
"I really think we have some environmental and political interests in common," she wrote.
Karlsson, 52, who lives with her husband, Edward Oldfield, and their two children, Kevin, 17, and Brian, 14, in Fish Bay, still travels back to New York for assignments.
She was born in Manhattan but spent summers on the Maine Coast, a place she said is, in many ways, similar to St. John.
After graduating from high school, she got a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Vassar College, a master's degree in philosophy from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin.
She went to work at the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., before working for a New York City law firm for eight years.
A family trip to St. John convinced her husband that he could do his computer programming job long distance. They moved back and forth between St. John and New York for several years because Karlsson found living in Fish Bay too isolating.
With the advent of the Internet and e-mail, she said she now can stay in touch. The family finally is settled on St. John for good, although Karlsson still spends at lot of time traveling.
"The Wild Life in an Island House" is available at www.Amazon.com and at bookstores around the islands.

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