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Saint Thomas Mount, Virgin Islands - US

The University of the Virgin Islands is a public university located in the United States Virgin Islands. The university is a member-school of Thurgood Marshall College Fund. UVI's President Hall announced on October 22nd, 2014, UVI currently has the highest Alumni giving rate among Historical Black Colleges and Universities at 52.49% for the fiscal year of 2014, in October 2014 Wikipedia.


Pittman S.J.,National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration | Pittman S.J.,University of the Virgin Islands | Brown K.A.,Kingston University
PLoS ONE | Year: 2011

Two of the major limitations to effective management of coral reef ecosystems are a lack of information on the spatial distribution of marine species and a paucity of data on the interacting environmental variables that drive distributional patterns. Advances in marine remote sensing, together with the novel integration of landscape ecology and advanced niche modelling techniques provide an unprecedented opportunity to reliably model and map marine species distributions across many kilometres of coral reef ecosystems. We developed a multi-scale approach using three-dimensional seafloor morphology and across-shelf location to predict spatial distributions for five common Caribbean fish species. Seascape topography was quantified from high resolution bathymetry at five spatial scales (5-300 m radii) surrounding fish survey sites. Model performance and map accuracy was assessed for two high performing machine-learning algorithms: Boosted Regression Trees (BRT) and Maximum Entropy Species Distribution Modelling (MaxEnt). The three most important predictors were geographical location across the shelf, followed by a measure of topographic complexity. Predictor contribution differed among species, yet rarely changed across spatial scales. BRT provided 'outstanding' model predictions (AUC = >0.9) for three of five fish species. MaxEnt provided 'outstanding' model predictions for two of five species, with the remaining three models considered 'excellent' (AUC = 0.8-0.9). In contrast, MaxEnt spatial predictions were markedly more accurate (92% map accuracy) than BRT (68% map accuracy). We demonstrate that reliable spatial predictions for a range of key fish species can be achieved by modelling the interaction between the geographical location across the shelf and the topographic heterogeneity of seafloor structure. This multi-scale, analytic approach is an important new cost-effective tool to accurately delineate essential fish habitat and support conservation prioritization in marine protected area design, zoning in marine spatial planning, and ecosystem-based fisheries management. © 2011 Pittman, Brown.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 1.00M | Year: 2011

Proposal Number: EPS-1108076

Proposal Title: United States Virgin Islands EPSCoR RII Program: Intercampus and Intra-campus Connectivity

Institution: University of The Virgin Islands (UVI)

This Research Infrastructure Improvement project seeks to build on the Territory?s investments in cyberinfrastructure by providing the broadband connectivity needed to accelerate discovery and learning at the University of The Virgin Islands (UVI), an Historically Black University. This connectivity will allow UVI?s faculty and staff to be more fully integrated into nationwide interdisciplinary research collaborations though access to Internet2 and the National Lambda Rail (NLR). Through proposed curricular expansions, enhanced graduate research experiences, and high-performance computing training, UVI?s students will be better positioned for graduate school and life-long careers in marine science, mathematics, and computer science.


Intellectual Merit
By providing a high-bandwidth network interconnection from the St. Croix submarine landing station to UVI?s St. Croix campus, this project will connect UVI researchers, collaborators, and mentors across the Territory to each other and to others across the nation. The project aims to connect the St. Croix campus to the AMPATH International Exchange Point which would provide access to networks such as Internet2 and National Lambda Rail (NLR). The enhanced cyber-infrastructure environment will support collaborative research projects underway at UVI in the broad area of marine science. Specifically, these projects focus on determination of factors that enhance or reduce a coral reef?s tolerance to environmental stress and resistance to transitions to alternate ecological states (ecological resilience). These projects also include robust field experiments, utilizing sophisticated environmental analysis techniques and developing high-resolution oceanographic models, to increase the understanding of how ecological patterns and processes are influenced by natural and anthropogenic disturbances. Understanding these complex relationships is of paramount importance to managing them, especially considering that over the last three to five years the corals within the USVI experienced 30% to 40% mortality due to climate-induced stress (i.e. warm-water bleaching) and disease. The proposed infrastructure enhancements will ensure that research and educational activities have the collaborative bandwidth support needed for a reliable research and engineering network connection to key national and international collaborators.

Broader Impacts
Through UVI?s improved connection to AMPATH via the new fiber, underrepresented undergraduate students will have access to enhanced research and educational opportunities, which will better prepare them for success in graduate school and result in improvements in the Territory?s workforce. The project team aims to leverage the VI-EPSCoR marine science program at the University?s Center of Excellence in Marine and Environmental Studies called the Integrated Caribbean Coastal Ecosystems to develop scientific and technical services to support local decision-makers in natural resources management and spatial planning. The project will support training in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines for students, who are underrepresented minorities and women, at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The enhancements in this project will ensure continued broadband access and competitive options for the Territory. Data and results from studies conducted on the islands will be made far more accessible to distant collaborators and dissemination to stakeholders will be significantly improved.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: HIST BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIV | Award Amount: 194.04K | Year: 2015

The Historically Black Colleges and Universities-Undergraduate Program (HBCU-UP) Research Initiation Awards (RIAs) provide support to STEM faculty at HBCUs including junior faculty who are starting to build a research program and mid-career faculty returning to the faculty ranks after holding an administrative post or who need to redirect and rebuild a research program. Faculty members may pursue research at their home institution, at an NSF-funded Center, at a research intensive institution or at a national laboratory. The RIA projects are expected to help further the faculty members research capability and effectiveness, to improve research and teaching at his or her home institution, and to involve undergraduate students in research experiences. With support from the National Science Foundation, the University of The Virgin Islands (UVI) will conduct research and enhance its Physical Chemistry curriculum, which will aid in enhancing UVIs research capabilities and the educational experiences of undergraduates. The goal of the project is to increase the retention and graduation rates of undergraduate students in STEM at UVI by involving them in world-class, pioneering scientific research. The combined research and educational efforts are expected to expand the participation of groups underrepresented in STEM and support the nations efforts in building a robust STEM workforce.

The goal of this project is to study transition metal-ethylene cations of the form TM(C2H4)n+ using infrared photo-dissociation spectroscopy and computational chemistry. Findings from this project will provide insight into the bonding, structure, coordination and reactivity of TM(C2H4)n+ complexes. These species are key intermediates and products in reactions that are important to both the chemical industry and fundamental science. This knowledge can facilitate the exposition of reaction mechanisms and provide the first spectroscopic evidence for cyclization and oligomerization reactions of these species in the gas phase. This project will offer early immersion in innovative scientific research for undergraduate students. Research will be conducted at the University of Georgia during the summer and continue at UVI during the school year.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Continuing grant | Program: | Phase: HIST BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIV | Award Amount: 2.03M | Year: 2011

The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) HBCU-UP project is designed to increase retention and persistence in STEM and strengthen student preparation for graduate school and the workforce. The project intends to build a strong foundation for incoming UVI STEM students through activities to increase pass rate in developmental courses and to increase student preparedness for Calculus by a Math Behind the Science Summer Bridge Program including course-taking in computer programming and mentoring and training of students to understand the expectations for success in STEM education and careers. Strategies selected to achieve these objectives resulted from a thorough literature review of evidenced-based practices and tailored for the specific context of the institution. Peer Led Team Learning (PLTL) will be employed as a strategy to increase pass rate in developmental courses. The project has specific targets for STEM retention and graduation rate increases. A comprehensive set of strategies to achieve the retention and graduation rate goals include creation and/or delivery of 1. A special STEM freshman development course, 2. Summer Sophomore Research Institute (SSRI), 3. Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE), 4. Academic year HBCU-UP Research Scholar (AHRS), 5. Faculty professional development in STEM student advising and mentoring, and 6. A STEM Resource Center.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Cooperative Agreement | Program: | Phase: RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROV | Award Amount: 8.38M | Year: 2014

Non-technical Description

The project Mare Nostrum Caribbean (Our Caribbean Sea) implements coral reef science in service to ecological stewardship, with the goal of understanding how best to improve coral reef sustainability in a region threatened by overfishing, marine pollution, sedimentation, invasive species, and climate change. High-resolution coastal oceanographic models are being developed to increase understanding of how ecological patterns and processes are influenced by natural and anthropogenic disturbances. These efforts are creating a comprehensive understanding of the effects of climate change on coral reefs and associated ecosystems, and assisting in the development of potential climate change mitigation strategies.

The project is increasing the intellectual involvement of Virgin Islanders with coral reef ecosystems and the stewardship of natural resources. The Virgin Islands Institute for STEM Education Research and Practice uses five strategies to understand and develop best practices for formal and informal science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in the Territory.

Technical Description

The research will investigate factors that enhance or reduce a coral reef?s tolerance to environmental stress and its resistance to transitions to alternate ecological states (i.e., ecological resilience). Understanding these complex relationships is of paramount importance, especially considering that within the last decade corals in the U.S. Virgin Islands have experienced nearly 50% mortality due to climate-induced stress from warm-water bleaching and disease. Reef degradation increases the risk of coastal flooding, reduces fishery resources for local communities, is linked to reduced human health, and represents a tremendous loss of yet-undiscovered biological diversity. Studies integrate ecological, oceanographic, environmental, and socio-economic factors to investigate the complex relationships found within coral reef ecosystems.

The U.S. Virgin Islands ability to enhance environmental stewardship and implement economic change relies on an informed public, trained workforce and improved educational system. Specific broader impacts include an increase in 1) the numbers of K-12 through graduate students in STEM research activities and educational advancement; 2) underrepresented minorities in STEM fields; 3) opportunities to improve STEM teaching at all levels; and 4) the knowledge of and participation in coral reef science by the general public and students of all levels.

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