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Divers In The Territory Helping Scientists Keep Track of Coral Reefs’ Health

CHRISTIANSTED — Divers in St. Croix, St. Thomas and St. John are helping monitor the diverse coral reefs offshore, giving scientists valuable data that would otherwise be expensive to collect.

Healthy coral reefs help the local economy in the territory, demonstrating how important it is to tourism that they stay healthy, according to John Liang, the news editor of Deeper Blue online.

Traditional scientific monitoring of those coral reef ecosystems usually requires collecting a lot of ecological and biological data, which can be tough to gather, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

However, a recent study by NOAA found that:

“Using participatory mapping, scientists with NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science and the University of Queensland gathered information from occupational divers across the U.S. Virgin Islands. Information gathered helped scientists understand the ecological conditions, threats, and uses of popular reefs in the region.

“Study findings indicate that participatory mapping holds promise as a cost-effective alternative or supplement to traditional monitoring programs. The information acquired from knowledgeable divers can help resource managers prioritize and direct investments for future monitoring and management activities.”

If you want to drill down to the truly geeky findings, check out NOAA’s Coastal Science web page at

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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