Tuesday, April 25, 2017

UVI and the VI Sea Turtle Project Document Their 100th Turtle

Sometimes a number is just a number and sometimes, just sometimes, a number is a milestone. On April 19, 2017 the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Center for Marine and Environmental Science and the VI Sea Turtle Project (VISTP) documented their 100th sea turtle hitting a major milestone. 

Members of UVI Marine Science and the VI Sea Turtle Projet celebrate the 100th documented turtle.
 All work is conducted pursuant to a NMFS permit
"When we started tagging and documenting sea turtles in the fall of 2014, Dr. Paul Jobsis and I estimated the number of turtles using Brewer's Bay and Hawksbill Cove to be around 40-50 turtles, at most," Scott Eanes said. "The estimation was based off of previous research by Dr. Jobsis and Kemit Amon Lewis, but almost three years later, we were really wrong, and we couldn't be happier." 
Eanes, founder of VI Sea Turtle Project, is best known for naming the bay south of the runway, Hawksbill Cove. He and Dr. Jobsis started tagging turtles in 2014 as part of Scott's master of arts thesis and they haven't looked back. 
Scott and Kate Eanes from the VI Sea Turtle Project
with the first turtle documented back in September
2014. All work is conducted pursuant to a NMFS
"Every turtle we documented is measured , weighed,  receives a series of identification tags and a small genetic sample is taken," Dr. Jobsis said. "This allows us to know how fast our turtles are growing, how many we have, how they are using the bays, and possibly, where our turtles are from in the Caribbean." Jobsis continued, " It also means that when these turtles reach adulthood and leave the USVI they have a greater chance of being identified, wherever they go next."

The US Virgin Islands has two year-round resident sea turtles species that use the numerous bays and inlets: one is the threatened Green Sea turtle and the other is the critically endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtle. St. Croix has the bulk of nesting activity with St. Thomas and St. John recording very few nesting female turtles. This means the juvenile turtles most frequently seen by tourist, snorkelers and divers around St. Thomas and St. John more than likely originate from other Caribbean islands, Central America, Florida and possibly Brazil. One of the joint research project goals is to discover the origin of the turtles using Brewer's Bay and Hawksbill Cove.
"This has been a long difficult road only accomplished through a lot of hard work and teamwork. Scott's passion and commitment to understanding and protecting sea turtles has been crucial to our success."
- Dr. Paul Jobsis, UVI Center for Marine and Environmental Science

"We need to find out where our turtles are coming from because each week we are out there we see untagged turtles, and it would be great to know where our turtles come from so we can make sure they get a home to nest, ensuring the next generation of turtles in the USV," Eanes said. "And as we see more turtles we still haven't documented, it makes you wonder just how many turtles call these two bays home. If you love sea turtles this is really an exciting location to study."
The research team from UVI and the VI Sea Turtle Project would also like to remind the general public that this research is permitted through the National Marine Fisheries Services and it is against the law to harass, touch, or retain sea turtles without the required permits. UVI and the VISTP plan to continue their research through 2019.

Friday, March 24, 2017

The Caribbean Writer Remembers Derek Walcott

“The Caribbean Writer (TCW) mourns the passing of its esteemed founding editorial board member, Nobel Prize Winner, Playwright, Poet and Artist, Derek Walcott, who passed away earlier this morning," said, Alscess Lewis-Brown, editor of The Caribbean Writer, a refereed, international  journal published by the University of the Virgin Islands annually.  She added that “,Walcott’s meticulously woven metaphorical poems and plays captured the essence and spirit of Caribbean expressivity across a spectrum of Caribbean political and social consciousness. His support and insight helped to shape and guide “The Caribbean Writer’s” path over the pass thirty years.  For this, we are grateful. We will miss his abiding frank and witty manner.”

“He was a great advocate for the Caribbean,” said Lewis-Brown. She added that in an interview with Walcott in 2014, from his home in St. Lucia, in response to her question about “his thoughts on what might be considered idealism in the notion of pulling the fragments of the Caribbean together,” 

Walcott had this to say:

“Everywhere has division in all countries. I don’t know what the division comes from, but of course there is a difference in things: difference in pronunciation, accent, and stuff like that. Even in little St. Croix there is a division between Christiansted and Frederiksted. Each island has different qualities assigned to it by other islands. However, I think that regionally we are coming together through the products of our creative imagination. The Caribbean Writer is a good example of that effort. So, no. I don’t think we are being idealistic when we talk about pulling the fragments of the Caribbean together. Poets are doing it”.

UVI Professor and The Caribbean Writer Editorial Board Member Dr. Vincent Cooper, fondly recalls that during the 1970s Derek Walcott either directed or provided advice on the staging of several of his plays in the Virgin Islands. Between 1973 and 1978, he directed scenes from “Dream on Monkey Mountain”, “The Charlatan”, and “Franklyn”, on St. Croix, and later that year on St. Thomas. In 1974, he directed Ti Jean and his Brothers on St. Croix, as well as on St. Thomas, as well as on Tortola. In April 1977, he directed Remembrance on both islands. During the Fall of 1978, he directed Pantomime on both islands. Throughout the Fall of 1979, Walcott taught a seminar on Tirso de Molina’s The Trickster of Seville (El Burlador de Sevilla) and Walcott’s adaptation of Molina’s play, “The Joker of Seville”. Walcott also spent part of the summer of 1979 revising his new play, “Marie Laveau”, while residing at the University of the Virgin Islands ( then known as  CVI) campus.  Tirso de Molina’s The Trickster of Seville and Derek Walcott’s adaptation, “The Joker of Seville”, as well as Walcott’s musical, “Marie Laveau” were first produced at the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Thomas, in November 1979.

Author and Poet Edgar Lake another TCW editorial board member recalls his presence at a Walcott poetry reading in New York Public Library in a poem entitled, “Walcott Reads to Brodsky’s God Mother” published in Calabash, a journal of Caribbean arts and letters in  2007.   The following is an excerpt from Lake’s poem:

“ …He reaches for his poems, curled in a coat-pocket – and begins to read, the lady shifts her weight, and clamps her feet about her bags, Walcott caught his breath and leapfrogs to another page. He’s accustomed to this silence, pigeons caught in eaves some simile, once winged, and now fretting for the rhyme Walcott, litany-voiced, free-verses about sea-grapes…”

“Walcott has had a long history with the University of the Virgin Islands and The Caribbean Writer,” said Emily A. Williams, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.  “Our writers and scholars have been enriched by their drinks at his intellectual and artistic font. May the spirit of his creative genius continue to inspire us all.”

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Researchers Poised to Uncover Secrets of the Universe

UVI Astronomers Gain Access to Gemini Telescopes in Chile and Hawaii

The Gemini Telescope (Photo Credit: gemini.edu)

Astronomers at the University of the Virgin Islands received an early Christmas present in 2016: acceptance of their proposal to the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) granting access to two of the world’s largest telescopes in Chile and Hawaii. UVI scientists, collaborators and students will now be better able to study gamma-ray bursts (GRB), explosive phenomena generated by exploding stars 30 to 100 times larger than our sun. These may be the first generation of stars ever to have formed in the universe, which makes their analysis critical to our deepening understanding of the formation of the universe.

Alexander Fortenberry, Physics Student, working
at the Etelman Observatory
“We are entering a great era in the history of UVI astronomy,” said Dr. Antonino Cucchiara, assistant professor of Physics in the College of Science and Mathematics. “Because our students will be able to participate in cutting-edge research that is a top priority of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the University of the Virgin Islands will take on a significant role within the worldwide spectrum of top astronomy research institutions.”

The Gemini Observatory consists of two 8 meter telescopes that collectively provide access to the entire sky from strategic mountaintop locations, and are capable of providing nuanced information about astronomical events that is not visible through smaller telescopes. The UVI team was granted four hours of use on the southern Chilean telescope, and ranked in the top quartile for the Northern telescope in Hawaii. Meanwhile, a smaller but faster robotic telescope is coming online at the Etelman Observatory (the Virgin Islands Robotic Telescope, VIRT), which will be able to identify gamma-ray bursts (GRB’s) a few minutes after they have been discovered by satellites. With access to both technologies in different parts of the world, UVI researchers will be among the first to obtain and analyze GRB data as it becomes available.

Virgin Islands Robotic Telescope (VIRT)
GRB’s are usually identified by a rapid “flash” of very energetic gamma rays that only lasts a few seconds. NASA’s Swift satellite, launched in 2004 to study these phenomena, detects 100 GRB’s a year. Once the gamma-ray emission is detected, the satellite communicates the coordinates of the GRB explosions to scientists and computers around the world via email and text messages. Within a few minutes after the explosion, the UVI team is able to point the VIRT and other facilities at its disposal, such as the Gemini telescope, to collect data immediately. To rapidly receive these data from distant facilities, astronomers like Dr. Cucchiara and the Etelman Observatory staff can communicate with the astronomers in Chile to obtain critical data in real time. This data is analyzed at UVI and the results are shared with the astronomical community via the GRB Circular Network, which is a specialized mailing-listed based at NASA, within a few hours after the GRB explosion

According to Dr. Cucchiara, who spearheaded the initiative, one factor that contributed to the proposal’s success was the physical location of the Etelman Observatory. Because UVI has the easternmost astronomical observatory in the United States, VIRT will be the first in line after Europe to pick up satellite detections of gamma-ray explosions. From these images, Cucchiara and his team will be able to determine whether or not an explosion is worth a more detailed look. If it is, UVI researchers are now authorized to tell Gemini South technicians in Chile to drop whatever it is they are doing and point at the explosion. They can also tell the technicians how to point, in an effort to collect maximum useable data from the massive telescope about the distance and chemical composition of the bursts.

“We are essentially filling a gap between observatories in Europe and Arizona,” said Cucchiara. “By adjusting the strategy for exploration of the bursts based on what we see, we will be able to share resources with a worldwide network of astronomers. Analyzing these astronomical events will help to explain how the universe evolved. It will also function as part of a knowledge base for a wide variety of climate change studies involving water, wind speed and weather analysis in general.

Dr. David Morris
Dr. Cucchiara and his colleague, Dr. David Morris – assistant professor of Physics and director of the Etelman Observatory – are excited about the incredible opportunities that are opening up to do top level science at UVI through remote access to sophisticated technology at other facilities and institutions. But they are also eager to raise awareness about local astronomy developments with an eye toward fortifying their own facility. According to Dr. Cucchiara, UVI’s astronomy program and observatory are strong, but additional support is still needed for supplemental equipment, a past-due overhaul of the observatory’s computer system, and more volunteers.

“We will certainly be applying for grants,” said Dr. Cucchiara. “And we’re hopeful about that because our goal is to become more of a resource for scientists from all over the world.” Cucchiara continued, “The more we can engage with the worldwide network of astronomers, the more able we will become to give our students incredible opportunities to continue their education in astronomy and physics. The experience they gain at UVI will also catapult them to the forefront of research experiences at other institutions such as NASA, the Space Telescope Science Institute or Harvard.”

To learn more about supporting the Etelman Observatory as a donor, partner or volunteer, visit http://observatory.uvi.edu/ or contact antonino.cucchiara@uvi.edu.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Golden Key Honor Society Wins ‘SPARK a Change’ Award

St. Croix Chapter Impacts UVI & VI...

The St. Croix Chapter of the University of the Virgin Islands’ Golden Key International Honor Society received the 2016 “Spark a Change” award. From month-long initiatives to campaigns with a specific purpose, Golden Key members have been committed to making a difference. Last fall the group volunteered at UVI’s Open House, Red Ribbon Week at Ricardo Richards Elementary School, and hosted the Virgin Islands Senatorial Forum held at the University. The award is for the Golden Key International Honor Society’s service project “Spark a Change for Children.” The St. Croix Chapter won third place in 2016 and was awarded second place in 2015 at the international competition.

“This is quite an accomplishment for our small island university chapter, but very indicative of the dedication of our members and officers to service,” says Patricia Towal, Golden Key chapter advisor. “Golden Key rests on three pillars: Service, Academics, and Leadership. This chapter embodies all of the Golden Key Pillars.”

“I believe the Golden Key impact is being felt beyond UVI's Campus, from our ‘Back to School Supply Drive,’ to our ‘Nurturing Young Minds to Become Golden Students Mentoring Initiatives,’ and our Virgin Islands Senatorial Forum,” says St. Croix Chapter president, Kevin Dixon. “I see Golden Key as an organization that can serve as a change agent, thus, with a focus on our service pillar, we plan to continue to fill voids in our community.” Dixon, a UVI alumnus, is currently earning his master’s in business administration and is working towards careers in higher education and public policy. 

In fall 2016, Golden Key hosted the Career Pathway and Graduate School Panel, where honorary Golden Key members presented to the Virgin Islands Department of Labor Investing for Tomorrow (LIFT) Program interns and UVI students. Panelists included former Commissioner and Entrepreneur Albert Bryan Jr., Cardiologist Dr. Dante P Galiber, UVI Professor Dr. Barbara Flemming and Attorney Genevieve Whitaker. The panel discussed their own career pathways and the importance of graduate school.

With the restoration of classes for the 2016-2017 school year, Golden Key held a back-to-school drive, which enabled the organization to donate more than $1,000 worth of school supplies to the Queen Louise Home for the Children. The chapter received generous donations from UVI’s Research and Technology Park, Optimal Printing, Plaza Extra East, Cost-U-Less, Honorary Member Michelle Albany and University Bound.

“After helping the community, it makes me feel really good about myself, knowing that I am involved in making someone feel special and giving them hope," says Lennoxea Thompson, UVI graduate student and the organization’s webmaster. Thompson is currently pursuing her masters of business administration degree. She aspires to open a small management firm in hopes of aiding those who would like to start their own small business.

As part of the “SPARK a Change,” initiative, which lasted for the whole month of October, the organization launched “Nurturing Young Minds to Become Golden Students” at the Alexander Henderson Elementary School. Golden Key members worked alongside, Anhya Lord-Jerris, UVI St. Croix Career Services coordinator and Golden Key member, to deliver presentations on careers, the importance of working hard in school and the importance of volunteering in their community. UVI’s Roots Poetry, a new organization dedicated to making positive changes in the community through creative writing and performance arts, discussed creative writing and provided the students the opportunity to express themselves through words. 

“Knowing that I am trying to help someone who is less fortunate than I am gives me the drive to be active with Golden Key,” adds Lennoxea, who also loves providing awareness of the organization. People may know of the Golden Key, but they don’t know exactly what we do, she says.

“I like being a part of an organization when the main purpose is to give back to the community," says Rosan Walters – Mulley, the chapter’s public relations officer. “Being a part of Golden Key gives me the opportunity to offer individuals a sense of hope, and a reminder that there is still good people around. I get a sense of purpose, and become happy to see the appreciation in the eyes of those whom we were able to assist.”

Rosan is currently obtaining her master’s in business administration. Ultimately, she aspires to be an entrepreneur and financial consultant, with a possibility of working in the retail industry.

Earlier in the semester, the chapter was recognized for maintaining the Gold Standard. A gold level standing usually means that a chapter has achieved the highest possible reporting standard in the organization through active implementation and participation in events, service projects and more.

The St. Croix Chapter has also attained their third “Key Chapter” award, which carries a monetary prize and is the top award given to only a select group of chapters which go beyond the Gold Standard.

Planning for spring 2017 began in the fall. “One major initiative we will be focusing on during the spring semester, is to host a scholarship gala in order to raise funds for scholarships for the betterment of Golden Key members,” Dixon says. “We believe it’s important for our students to not only get to college, but through college, thus we want to provide resources to our members to ensure college completion.”

Golden Key accepts members who maintain a 3.33 grade point average, or higher, and have earned at least 60 credits. The organization is currently accepting new member applications for the Spring 2017 semester. For more information see this link: Golden Key International Honour Society