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'Ocean Doctor' Is First Celebrity for New Program at UVI

Acclaimed ocean conservationist Dr. David Guggenheim, also known as the Ocean Doctor, will be the first scientist to tour the territory's schools as part of a new Celebrity Scientists Tour set to begin this month. Well-known local, national and international scientists will make their way to schools across the territory in hopes of increasing students' interest in the sciences through the new program by VI-EPSCoR. A major goal of VI-EPSCoR is to increase the number of Virgin Islands students entering into the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines, by strengthening their interest, research skills and intellectual development. Dr. Guggenheim will also give a special public presentation at Coral World on St. Thomas at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 23. Space is limited.

Dr. Guggenheim is president of 1planet1ocean, a project of The Ocean Foundation, and a former vice president for conservation policy at The Ocean Conservancy. He has almost 25 years of multidisciplinary experience in environmental research, policy analysis, advocacy and environmental education. He is currently conducting the "50 years - 50 States - 50 Speeches Expedition," a journey of outreach and education to schools in all states and territories. Through his presentations Dr. Guggenheim shares firsthand accounts, stories, humor, passion and important lessons about the oceans and their conservation. His presentations cover the seven essential principles of ocean literacy as defined by the Ocean Literacy Network, including the facts that the ocean and humans are inextricably linked and that the ocean is largely unexplored. The expedition is hoped to create a wave or renewed interest in the oceans by its next generation of explorers, scientists and stewards.

VI-EPSCoR's Program Coordinator Nicolas Drayton said the Celebrity Scientists Tour will enthuse and challenge students. "Hopefully this Celebrity Scientists Tour will inspire students who are still considering options in terms of careers in the science disciplines," Drayton said. The visiting scientists are experts in their field and each has committed to mentoring at least two students who show particular interest and potential in the scientists' area of expertise. The scientists will provide networking opportunities, academic guidance, and information on workshops and conferences to their protégés.

"I feel very gratified because this initiative is coming at a time when there is increased concern about the recruitment and retention of Virgin Islanders in the science disciplines," Drayton said. "We have an exciting line-up of celebrity scientists from local, national and international arenas. The list is still being finalized," he added. Along with having more students interested in the sciences, the program should also help students to improve their grades in the sciences as they are motivated to apply themselves more.

The first phase of the 12-month Celebrity Scientists Tour will be held from April 20 to May 21.

VI-EPSCoR is the Virgin Islands Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research, a territorial program housed at UVI, which builds the territory's capacity for scientific research and education. VI-EPSCoR is funded by a five-year $11.5 million Research Infrastructure Improvement grant from the National Science Foundation.

For more information about the Celebrity Scientists Tour, Dr. Guggenheim's public presentation, or to get a school involved in the tour contact Nicolas Drayton at 340-693-1239 or ndrayto@uvi.edu.