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On Island Profile: Jeff Miller

Sept. 8, 2006 – Jeff Miller calls his post with the National Park Service a dream job. "I work outdoors and I get cerebrally challenged," he said.
Miller, 45, who has his office on St. John, works with the Park Service's seven-park inventory-monitoring system that includes V.I. National Park on St. John, as well as Buck Island Reef National Monument and Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve on St. Croix.
The roster also includes Biscayne National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and Everglades National Park — all in Florida.
"I get to study the status of a number of different types of ecosystems," he said.
For his efforts in studying the coral bleaching problem that currently plagues V.I. parks, in a few weeks he'll receive the Director's Award for Professional Excellence in Natural Resources Management. Miller said this is a Park Service-wide honor.
He also received the Keeper of the Live Oak award for resource management professionals in the Park Service's southeast region for the same work.
Miller said it's been hard to watch the corals die.
"We've seen corals that have been around here for a hundred years die in six months," he said.
He said scientists have seen an average mortality rate of 48 percent in the past year at five different monitoring sites around St. John.
"It's been an incredibly depressing year," he said.
The New Carlyle, Ohio, native got a bachelor's degree in oceanography from the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne. After working as a dive instructor for four years in the Cayman Islands, he volunteered with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment on a coral bleaching and grouper spawning project.
In 1988 he moved to St. Croix to serve as dive supervisor at the long-closed West Indies Laboratory.
"Hugo came along, but we kept it open for another one and a half years," Miller said.
After a brief stint at V.I. Divers on St. Croix, he went to work for the Department of Planning and Natural Resources' Environmental Protection Division, working on water-pollution control.
Five years later, he signed on with the U.S. Geological Survey, which is based at V.I. National Park on St. John. He worked on developing protocols for the inventory-monitoring program. That job segued into a job with the park on its inventory-monitoring program. Eventually the Park Service absorbed the job and Miller went with it.
Miller is often in the news, as staff from various government agencies speak out regarding the reasons behind the coral bleaching problem hitting the territory's reefs.
However, he is quick to credit scientists from other agencies based in the Virgin Islands for their work on the problem.
"I have a really great group of people around me," he said.
Miller's office is at the Biosphere Reserve, a cluster of buildings on park property at Lind Point, just a short drive uphill from the park's Visitor's Center in Cruz Bay. The park and the Geological Survey occupy adjacent spaces.
He said this proximity promotes collaboration among the scientists.
And he said that while it's not exactly in his job description, he puts effort into outreach education in efforts to help protect the reefs from further degradation.
"This is stuff that I think is very important to do," he said.
You might also find him Tuesday nights from October to May at Maho Bay Camps giving his slideshow on coral reef ecology.
Miller is one busy man, with little time for leisure activities. However, he and his wife, Jude Woodcock, are regulars at the island's triathlete and running events. In fact, he finished fourth at the Sept. 3 Love City Triathlon.
While he said he has no plans to slow down any time soon since he loves his job, he said he would like a slightly less hectic pace.
"I'm looking forward to things being a little more relaxed," he said.

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