Magens Bay Arboretum Gets Some Help From UVI Masters Students
University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) Masters of Marine & Environmental Studies (MMES) students focused their attention on the Magens Bay Arboretum this week to gather data for their capstone project. The capstone is a semester-long research project in which the students apply the information they learn in their first-year courses by conducting extensive, independent research on a topic that has territorial relevance. At the end of the semester, they present their findings in traditional scientific formats (e.g., research paper, poster) as well as less formal communication formats (e.g., videos, infographics) to share results with the general public.
The Magens Bay watershed Preserve & Arboretum
The Magens Bay Watershed Preserve is a 319 acre preserve, protecting one of only a few large tracts of forest on St. Thomas. Magens Bay Arboretum is part of the Preserve and was gifted to the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands by philanthropist Arthur S. Fairchild in 1946. Fairchild planted the Arboretum’s five acres with native and non-native species from all around the world and because of this, the Arboretum contains many exotic and rare plants, including the federally-endangered Egger’s Cockspur, the territorially-endangered Bulletwood and nine species of palms. In September 2017, the Arboretum suffered extensive damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria and the Magens Bay Authority, who manages the Arboretum, approached UVI for help to determine the best course of action for cleanup and restoration.
The Capstone Project
This year’s capstone project will investigate how the Arboretum changed in response to the hurricanes of 2017 and will assess their resilience. What factors allow some species in the area to recover or regrow following major storms, like Hurricanes Irma and Maria? To accomplish this, the students are surveying the Arboretum and noting which species are still standing, which fell and perished, and which species fell and sprouted anew. They are also investigating the differences in response between native, non-native, and invasive tree species. In addition to UVI faculty (Dr. Renata Platenberg, Dr. Lori Buckley, Dr. Tyler Smith, Dr. Marilyn Brandt, and Dr. Kristin Wilson Grimes), students have also been assisted by territorial plant experts including ecologist Dr. Gary Ray, UVI Cooperative Extension agent Toni Thomas, and arborist, Clay Jones.
All photos courtesy of Dr. Kristin Wilson Grimes