KU Law School's Biodiversity Law class arrived in the Virgin Islands late last night. The first day of the fieldtrip was a revelation to the students. Here is their first nightly eyewitness report:
We awoke to a breathtaking view of Saint Thomas and the Caribbean Sea, probably one of the most spectacular views in the Virgin Islands. We were privileged to attend the inauguration and swearing-in ceremony of the 28th Legislature of the United States Virgin Islands ("USVI") as the invited guests of Senate President, Senator Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg. It was interesting to see the Islanders' pride in their government and their culture. It was also fascinating to see Senator Donastorg, a politician who has championed many biodiversity (and other environmental) issues in the islands.
During the afternoon we visited Dr. Renata Platenberg, a biologist at the USVI Fish and Wildlife Service ("FWS"). She told us about some of the problems the FWS has enforcing biodiversity laws, and showed us a Virgin Islands Tree Boa, a snake whose plight is especially interesting and important to the Virgin Islands. We also learned about Magen's Bay, a gorgeous bay, beach, and watershed that is well managed by a publicly-owned authority, though operated independently from the USVI government. In addition to housing rare mangrove flats and lowland wetlands, Magen's Bay possesses a gorgeous, white sandy beach that is consistently ranked as one of the ten most beautiful in the world.
Adjoining Magen's Bay is a large section of land containing a large diversity of tropical forest trees, other plants, animals, and other organisms. The habitat ranges from mature, native seasonal rainforest species to invasive Royal Palms (originally planted to be part of a botanical garden featuring trees from around the world). This land is protected by a conservation easement held by the Nature Conservancy. Later this week we will have an opportunity to hike through this uniquely diverse, and fortunately protected, habitat.
Tomorrow is our first marine biodiversity survey. Snorkling - WOOO!
Stay tuned for another report tomorrow evening.