International university student interns from the insular land grant colleges and universities on Wednesday collected fecal samples from lambs to count parasite eggs at the Agricultural Experiment Sheep Research Facility at the University of the Virgin campus on St. Croix.
The interns are participating in the Agricultural Experiment Station research program. Eight students from the University of Puerto Rico, the University of Guam, American Samoa Community College, the College of the Marshall Islands and the College of the Federated States of Micronesia are studying agriculture on St. Croix.
Bob Godfrey, director of agriculture and professor of animal science at UVI, said everything the interns are doing research on is relevant to their home. “They have the same conditions,” Godfrey said. “The same plants, terrain and weather. This is something they will take back home and share at their universities.” The type of sheep studied at UVI are a Dorper St. Croix cross.
He said this is the sixth year UVI has taken part and the participating universities host the program on a rotating basis.
The students were evaluating the number of parasites in lambs that were weaned at 60, 90 and 120 days. Research showed the ones weaned later were better off and that it is cost efficient to wean the lambs later rather than buy them food. The students took blood samples and learned to check for anemia by looking at the lower eyelid of the sheep.
Jonathan Diaz from Puerto Rico said he witnessed a tissue culture technique he had never seen before that he was taking home to share and implement in his studies. He said he was pleased he had the opportunity to experience the research program on St. Croix. He said to get into the program he had to be interviewed and go through applications and a selection process.
Mine Lilomaiava from American Samoa said what she learned was especially important to help improve the conditions of what little livestock they have on the island. She said almost everything on St. Croix is identical to American Samoa. She said she experienced and learned a lot of interesting things. Lilomaiava added she really liked the people she met.
The AES research program activities included visits to local farms and agriculture related businesses, and tours of local cultural exhibits and facilities.
They toured Sejah Farm, Ridge to Reef sustainable farm and the Department of Agriculture. They toured the labs at Diageo and they are going to the UVI cattle ranch in Estate Longford on the South Shore. They went to Whim Museum and even had the opportunity to see a turtle nesting on Sandy Point Nature Reserve. On Monday the interns did research on local vegetable crops at UVI.
The students arrived June 1 and will depart June 20. On June 19 the students will give individual presentations on the research they conducted.
Godfrey said the program is supported by a U.S. Department of Agriculture – National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant for resident instruction in the insular areas. Tom Zimmerman, UVI assistant professor of biotechnology and agro-forestry, was the coordinator of the research program.