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Conference Aims to Build V.I. Economy Through Research

Sept. 21, 2005 — An initiative to get more Virgin Islanders engaged in scientific research while also promoting science and technology as tools to build the local economy will be the focus during a two-day conference this Friday and Saturday on St. Thomas. The public is invited to attend the free conference, scheduled for Friday, Sept. 23 at the Marriott Frenchman's Reef Resort and Saturday, Sept. 24 at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center.
Funded by the National Science Foundation, the EPSCoR program — short for Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research — is aimed at strengthening research and development capacity and competitiveness among participating states and territories.
The VI-EPSCoR program is a partnership between the National Science Foundation and the higher education, government, and business communities of the U. S. Virgin Islands.
Day one of the conference will give the public a chance to hear from some of the leading researchers already at work in the VI-EPSCoR program. Day two moves the conference venue to the UVI Sports and Fitness Center, where researchers and student researchers take center stage.
Hosted by the University of the Virgin Islands on behalf of the V.I. government, VI-EPSCoR receives its guidance from a governing committee that includes representatives of the territory's public and private sectors.
And because of UVI's growing reputation as a top school in marine science, the research focus of VI-EPSCoR is on studies of the territory's coastal resources, particularly its coral reefs.
On Friday, researchers are expected to take part in panel discussions describing the vast diversity of life beneath the sea and to take a look at current thought on how best to manage marine resources. There is also a panel discussion planned on predicting local weather and seas. Friday's activities will be held in the Harbour Room of Marriott Frenchman's Reef Resort starting at 8 a.m., with an opening ceremony and remarks by officials from UVI, the National Science Foundation, the V.I. Economic Development Authority and the V.I. government.
The keynote speaker for Friday is Dr. Peter Sale, a coral reef ecologist currently on the faculty at the University of Windsor in Canada. Sale is the author of several books and has published close to 100 scientific papers on corals and coral reef life.
On Saturday beginning at noon, researchers and student researchers are expected to present details of various projects they have taken part in, including work done through UVI's Summer Science Enrichment Academy. UVI undergraduate students will present their work at the Fall Research Symposium, and VI-EPSCoR researchers will be on hand with demonstrations and displays.
Saturday's keynote speaker is Dr. Cecil Jennings. A native Virgin Islander, Jennings began his career at the Division of Fish and Wildlife on St. Thomas. He now heads the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, which is part of the Warnell School of Forest Resources at the University of Georgia.
Conference organizers believe the information shared on these two days will be a source of inspiration for educators, students, businesses and government leaders, and will help VI-EPSCoR to more effectively respond to the economic development challenges facing the Virgin Islands.
For additional information, contact VI-EPSCoR at 693-1380 or via e-mail.
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