Monday, December 19, 2011

Winter break in the U.S. Virgin Islands? Yes, please.

What are you doing for winter break?

Six Randolph College spent finals week and the first part of the break on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. They conducted research that could be useful to people working to save the beautiful coral reefs there. (They soaked up rays in 80-degree December weather, too.)

This fall, they took an environmental forensics class taught by Kathy Schaefer, a biology professor, and Brad Bullock, a sociology professor. Then they went to St. John applying what they learned.

They tested water in the streams and bays around the island, looking for coliform bacteria, such as E. Coli. They hope to discover whether such bacteria are causing damage to the coral reefs.

The coral reefs are an important part of St. John’s ecology and economy, but they have experienced significant damage in recent years. Knowing whether coliform bacteria contributes to the damage could influence interventions designed to protect the reefs.

The research trip was funded partly by the Randolph Innovative Student Experience, a program that allows each student to apply for up to $2,000 to fund research projects, creative projects, and other projects and activities that give them hands-on experience and skills that apply what they learn in the classroom.

This research trip is one example of how Randolph students are gaining experience that is unique for undergrads. It also is a great reason to spend a couple of weeks travel to the Virgin Islands—in case you need an excuse to go there.
Much thanks to Danielle Robinson ’12 for sending the photos!