We have been busy these last four days on campus. Bright and early on Monday morning we were greeted with a 100 species fish quiz. Some of us were a bit more prepared than others BUT everyone improved their score by Tuesday when we were quizzed with pictures of marine life that had been taken on prior trips.
We also spent time discussing the demographic and economic structure of the USVI and the catch-22 of a tourist economy. As we are focusing on environmental issues we discussed how the islands get freshwater, deal with sewage and solid waste, and get power. It is enlightening to study an island from this perspective as islands can serve as microcosms for the larger world and bring to light the real issues that our world faces. Finally we explored relevant biological issues of marine ecosystems and their resiliency in the face of global climate change and invasions of introduced species (e.g. lionfish). As we are going to be spending lots of time together – 24/7 for the next 12 days we did spend some time talking about group dynamics and learning to work together as a group. We developed and signed a group contract
We have committed ourselves to living up to these ideals as we move about on the island of St. John (which is the symbolic image we selected for our trip and binds are contract together in the picture above.
We spent time as a group trying to get a thin tent pole down to the ground. This sounds quite easy but it is quite challenging as everyone had to keep two fingers on the bottom of the pole at one time. An easy calm descended on our group as we were working on our task and surprisingly we achieved our goal in under 10 minutes! In between learning more specifics about the island and figuring out how to work together as a group, we all worked on developing our research projects. Our group has a total of 9 research projects which include: an examination of coral health in relationship to watershed development; coral health in relationship to habitat; the impact of urchins on coral ecosystems; population dynamics of queen conch; the impact of lionfish on fish biodiversity; responses of marine worms to environmental disturbance in relationship to group size; impact of habitat and activity on color patterns in snappers; population patterns in parrotfish; and an evaluation of tourist activities and their understanding of issues impacting St. John. Everyone is ready to begin our adventures! Stay tuned!