The Mangrove Restoration Project is a citizen science-rooted effort to 1) Aid in the restoration of mangrove forests, 2) Improve growth and survival rates of transplanted mangroves, and 3) Collect and utilize scientific data to aid in the protection of this important natural
resource. Started back in 2015, this project has grown immensely and is supported by research
faculty and staff within the Center for Marine and Environmental Studies as well as the Virgin Islands Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research. See how you can get involved to support our restoration efforts!
Tour Our Mangrove Restoration Process
With our current Department of Fish and Wildlife permit (DFW20002U), our team collects
red mangrove seedlings that have not yet rooted from various locations around the
U.S. Virgin Islands. These seedlings are then reared in our sea water tables until
they are ready for planting. Seedlings are clumped during this stage as this will
help to acclimate seedlings to conditions post planting.
Planted red mangroves at Range Cay, St. Thomas. At this site, mangroves are clumped
during the planting process which helps to improve their survival rates. The tags
you may see attached to the mangroves help our team to record health data on each
clump during their early development.
After several years of growth, many of the empty spaces have now been filled in. At
our Range Cay location, there are at least 150 red mangroves planted that continue
to provide habitat and shelter for a variety animals.
These prop roots are the ideal hiding spot for baby fish looking for shelter. You
may see an occasional crab or snail passing through as this is the fastest route to
their favorite food... red mangrove leaves!
Our team uses a series of cameras to better document the variety of life living in
and around the red mangroves. On a good day, above the water, we could see crabs,
snails, egrets, herons and pelicans. Under the water, a combination of baitfish, schoolmaster
snappers, damselfish, gobies, pufferfish, and mojaras could be seen swimming near
the prop roots. Volunteers can help us either in the field or through our Mangrove
SPY USVI project with better documenting/recording what types of wildlife are living
in these mangroves at that time.
Red mangrove propagules (left and right). These slender pods, which are heaviest at
the bottom (brown portion) and lightest at the top (green portion) are what will eventually
become a red mangrove tree. They will naturally fall from their parent tree and drift
along the water's surface until rooting in the nearby substrate (soil / sand).
The Mangrove SPY USVI project is a Citizen Science project that relies on community
support to better understand what types of animals inhaibt our mangrove sites. This
measure of biodiversity is one metric that our team uses to get a snapshot of our
Watch any of the video clips and be sure to pay attention to the different types
of animals you see in the video. You don't have to be an expert on animal identification;
be sure to review our Field Guide below to familiarize yourself with commonly found
fish at these sites.
Either during or after the video, open our Mangrove SPY USVI animal tracker to
document your findings. Every observation of a type of fish you saw during the video(s)
is helpful to our team towards better understanding how healthy our mangrove ecosytems
Our team analyzes the data you submit to better understand the biodiversity of
animals using our mangrove sites. This approach helps us to get a snapshot of an ecosystem's
health which establishes benchmarks for success.
Mangrove SPY USVI Field Guide
Use this fieldguide to assist you in learning more about the types of fish found in
our mangrove sites as well as distinguishing features of each that will help you to
make accurate identifications.
Barracuda are a slender bodied, silver-colored fish that have sharp teeth, often giving
them a very menacing appearance. As juveniles (babies), they have brown spots on their
body which they lose as they mature. They can often be seen by themselves in the background
waiting for unsuspecting prey to swim by.
Damselffish have an oval-shaped body and are considered to be somewhat territorial;
defending their patches of algae. In the USVI, we have several species of damselfsh
which do change colors as they mature; some species are mostly brown in color whereas
some have a bi-color appearance like the one shown in the image.
French grunts are a common fish found in Caribbean waters that are earn their name
from the iconin grunting noise they make. Juvenile or baby french grunts have several
dark stripes that run across the lenth of their body; as they mature, they lose these
stripes and develop a more pronounced yellow color with some blue speckles.
Gobies are slendered bodied fish that are often found resting on the sea floor or
on the surfaces of rocks. They may sometimes have the appearance as though they are
walking on the sea floor with the use of their fins.
There are many different species of mullet, some found in both fresh and salt water
environments. Mullet seen in our mangrove sites are typically silver in color and
usually tend to form small schools in the shallow water where they reside.
Checkered pufferfish are often seen in segrass beds as well as in areas with mangroves.
A checkered pattern can be seen on their dorsal (top) surface. These fish may be solitary
or in a pair and feed primarily on snails and other shelled marine animals which they
can pry open with their beak.
Schoolmaster snapper have a pointed snout and large mouths. In their juvenile phase,
they have several vertical colored bars that run the length of their body; these bars
usually disappear as they mature.
Sergeant majors are a species of damselfish which have a signature oval-shaped body
with a yellow highlight on their upper body with sveral black vertical bars, extending
from mid-body to the length of its tail. They can often be seen in groups