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SCIENTISTS ON ST. JOHN OFFER FREE GUIDED TOURS

Nov. 4, 2003 – As a research center, the V.I. Environmental Resource Station on St. John attracts many visiting scientists interested in sharing their knowledge, and that works to the advantage of the local public, Randy Brown, VIERS administrator, says.
The week beginning Thursday and running through Nov. 14 is a case in point.
Researchers at VIERS, which lies within the V.I. National Park, will be guiding tours at no charge and at various times during those eight days. Most of the excursions, by experts in bird watching, plant identification, marine ecology and mangrove management, will be scheduled on the basis of demand, Brown said.
Several school teachers have already scheduled field trips, and other groups and individuals are encouraged to make arrangements, he said. Most excursions take an hour and a half to two hours and can be booked anytime between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Peter Verdurmood, who's from The Netherlands and has several years of birdwatching experience on St. John, is available to lead treks along trails to several observation points all eight mornings. His tours are the only ones scheduled for a specific time — departing the VIERS station at 7 a.m.
David Hamada, who is with the St. George Village Botanical Garden on St. Croix, will lead several plant identification classes on Saturday and Sunday only, at times to be arranged.
Dragan Popov, who's from The Bahamas, is director of Island Expedition's School at Sea and host of The Discovery Channel's "Sail Away" program. He'll be available to lead marine ecology classes each day. These will be shoreline wading expeditions, and participants should wear shoes appropriate for walking in the water.
Scientists from the University of the Virgin Islands who are conducting research in mangrove preservation at VIERS will be conducting guided walk-through tours to discuss their studies. Here, too, participants need to wear suitable wading shoes.
In most cases, specific times will depend on requests received, Brown said. "If three or four persons want to go at a certain time, we'll accommodate them, and if someone else calls, they'll be able to join in," he said.
While there is no charge for the workshops, those wishing to participate must register at least 24 hours in advance — and more notice would be better, Brown said. Participants should wear comfortable clothing and shoes and bring sun protection. Mosquitoes are unlikely to be a problem, since the tours are during the day, he said. There's potable water at VIERS and visitors are welcome to fill their drinking bottles.
Those traveling from St. Thomas have the choice of taking the ferry and arranging land transportation on St. John or transporting their own vehicle by barge. Those taking the ferry can then take public transportation to the salt pond and make a 25-minute walk to VIERS, or take a taxi all the way to the complex.
On Saturday only, the public is invited to stay overnight at VIERS. Accommodations for V.I. residents are $40 for those age 13 and older and $34 for those 12 and younger. Reservations are required.
To obtain more information, schedule participation, or learn the best way to get to the VIERS complex, call Brown at 776-6721.

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