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Centralized, Available Environmental Data is Aim of Workshop

June 12, 2006 – Representatives from local businesses and government agencies brainstormed at a workshop Monday on St. Croix on how to centralize their research into one accessible database, in an effort to assist the Caribbean Regional Association to bring marine research and air quality data to the public.
Currently, there are several organizations doing research and collecting data, but the information collected is not always accessible to the public, or even to other agencies.
As an illustration of one of the possible safety benefits to accessing this data, Seaborne Airlines President Marvin L. Ruthenberg said that without knowledge of ash density from recent volcanic activity affecting the air quality around the territory, it is difficult to know when it might be unsafe to fly.
The CaRA organization works to address situations like this and bring them to the public's attention.
Yolanda Bryan, Department of Tourism communications specialist, said there also needs to be a source of information on water quality, sanitation and beach closures available for tourists.
Roy Watlington, University of the Virgin Islands professor and the sub-regional coordinator of CaRA, said the organization aims to help distribute accurate information, but asked, "How do we get this data to the public?"
A survey was taken at the workshop and most chose the Internet or a telephone hotline as the most accessible ways to give and receive the information.
CaRA is aiming for involvement and leadership from the public. The representatives at the workshop were invited to join an unofficial board of directors. "CaRA is presently not an organization in a legal sense, so it is up to its members to draft a charter," Watlington said.
The next workshop is Wednesday on St. John at the Nazareth Lutheran Church Parish Hall. The St. Thomas workshop is Friday at the Department of Parks and Natural Resources conference room on the second floor of the Cyril E. King Airport.
All workshops take place from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

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