A dedication ceremony marked the official opening on March 26 of this year, on the University of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas Campus. UVI's President, Dr. David Hall and Vice Provost for Research and Public Service, Dr. Henry Smith welcomed a gathering of researchers, instructors, students and government officials who came to participate in the official opening, and to tour the facility. Plans to create 5,000 sq. ft. laboratory were initiated through VI-EPSCoR's Territorial program which is funded by a Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) grant from the National Science Foundation.

A former university Business Center building was chosen for renovation. A prep room, an instrument room, and water resource/microbiology lab were included in the plan. The VI-EPSCoR funding also provided for staffing in the form of a lab director and lab supervisor. VI-EPSCoR Senior Scientist, Dr. Richard Nemeth, said visiting researchers will have access to the analysis lab. The lab is designed to improve the capacity of Virgin Islands scientists and students to conduct more rigorous and highly complex laboratory-based research, thereby raising the standard of research across the Territory. It will provide an unprecedented level of support for UVI, Territorial, regional and national agencies, organizations and collaborations. In doing so it will help VI-EPSCoR meet an important goal - helping resource managers and policy makers better use and integrate scientific information into their decision making processes. Some of the agencies poised to benefit from this opportunity include the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Interest in the opportunities created by the lab's opening even came from the St. Croix Educational Complex High School. School teacher and former Science Department Chairman Ann Marie Gibbs traveled to the opening ceremony, along with three students from her school. These students had taken part in the VI Department of Education's Mathematics, Environmental Science Academy (MESA) during the summer of 2011, and gave a presentation on their research at the Environmental Analysis Lab's opening ceremony. "It's a great benefit to us because we've been doing a summer research program for six years," Gibbs said. "We're so elated to know that this lab is available to do scientific analysis and data. After the dedication she expressed support for VI-EPSCoR's goal of strengthening the STEM pipeline in the Virgin Islands. "It should be a normal part of education and development to conduct scientific research," she said.

Lab developers also sought help from UVI's Small Business Development Center to advance another EPSCoR mandate – to promote economic development through research based enterprise. In May 2011, faculty and staff worked with SBDC advisors to complete a draft business plan. The plan outlined potential opportunities for this new facility to attract business and the monthly income necessary to operate sustainably. It also examined some of the challenges they could expect to face while working towards those goals.