Pride in Our Seas, Pride in Ourselves: Preventing Land-Based Sources of Marine Debris in the U.S. Virgin Islands
The University of the Virgin Islands teamed up with the NOAA Marine Debris Program to reduce land-based sources of marine debris in the U.S. Virgin Islands through a targeted ridge-to-reef and watershed educational and outreach program that engages partners, territorial educators, school children, and graduate students.
Type of Project: Marine Debris Prevention Grant
Region: Florida & the Caribbean
Project Dates: August 2016 - December 2018
Who is involved?
The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), with the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach grant and in partnership with Oregon Sea Grant, Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service, and the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority, helped to reduce land-based sources of marine debris on the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix through a targeted education and outreach program.
What is the project and why is it important?
Approximately 80% of marine debris comes from land-based sources, including items like food and beverage packaging, glass bottles, metal cans, and cigarette butts. This debris enters the marine environment in a number of ways such as through ineffective or improper waste management, lack of recycling options, intentional or accidental littering, illegal dumping, or through streams and stormwater runoff. In the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), there is a large amount of marine debris produced by residents and tourists. Unfortunately, once in the marine environment, marine debris is not just an eyesore, but can damage habitats, harm wildlife through entanglement and ingestion, and have negative economic impacts on coastal communities.
What were the project results?
This project aimed to reduce marine debris coming from land-based sources on the islands of St. Thomas and St. Croix through a targeted education and outreach program. With the help of Oregon Sea Grant, the project team adapted portions of an existing curriculum from Oregon to make it more locally-relevant to the USVI, a resource that was currently absent from USVI schools. The adapted curriculum included local examples to make the concepts more engaging and relevant for students. As part of this in-depth marine debris curriculum, UVI also partnered with teachers to transform beach and shoreline cleanups into opportunities for hands-on learning.
UVI connected participating classrooms with UVI Masters in Marine & Environmental Science students, the Virgin Islands Marine Advisory Service, and the Virgin Islands Waste Management Authority and explored creative ways to transfer information learned in the classroom to the broader community. The transfer projects focused on creative messaging to reduce marine debris coming from land-based sources and incorporate locally-important themes that identify with the culture and history of the USVI. The impact of these projects was measured through formal and informal assessments.
Two marine debris educator workshops were held to develop the U.S. Virgin Islands’ (USVI) marine debris curriculum. As a result, 15 new lessons were created and seven community projects were completed where UVI Masters students partnered with local organizations, teachers, and students to creatively share ways to reduce land-based sources of marine debris. In addition to the lesson plans, several beach cleanups occured and over 5,596 pounds of debris was removed from local shorelines.