An understanding of ocean and coastal processes is critical for predicting the effects of natural and anthropogenic stressors on marine resources, and for protecting the lives and livelihoods within coastal and island communities. Land-sea interactions, larval connectivity, and climate change, cannot be understood without a firm grasp on ocean and coastal processes. This research area lays the physical foundation for interpreting biological processes within Virgin Islands ecosystems through cutting edge field observations and ocean modeling. This research area has a critical impact on guiding management with respect to coastal development and to setting meaningful boundaries of marine protected areas. Work in this area is producing predictive models of ocean current patterns as well as hard data to test these models. Studies also focus on the influence of nearshore environments on marine ecosystems.
Distribution, connectivity, and health of endangered Acroporid corals (Dr. Nasseer Idrisi)
Current patterns may play an important role in maintaining coral reef integrity yet understanding of small scale nearshore current patterns in the USVI has been hampered by lack of data. We are developing a high resolution general circulation isopycnal model (HYCOM) of St. Thomas and St. John to determine how current regimes may influence the health of A. palmata populations and to what degree ecological connectivity among coral populations is influenced by coastal current patterns.
Connectivity of fish populations within the Virgin Islands (Dr. Rick Nemeth)
Marine population connectivity in the USVI and E. Caribbean (Dr. Rick Nemeth)
Fine scale modeling of coastal current patterns (Dr. Nasseer Idrisi)
Land-Sea interactions and the health of reef building corals (Dr. Tyler Smith; PDF)
In nearshore environments the anthropogenic stresses that are among the most important to reef degradation and most amenable to management action are the influence of land-based sources of eroded sediments, nutrients, toxins, and microbes. We are combining spatial data on watershed processes with oceanographic and sediment monitoring to take a holistic landscape and seascape approach to better understand how land-use patterns affect coastal ecosystems.