The project partners include:
The Joint Institute for Caribbean Marine Research (JICMS) is proposed as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization to function as a research foundation and operate the MREC in partnership with the National Park Service.
The JICMS was formed in 1997 to address concerns over the future of coral reef ecosystems in the Caribbean, including:
- Population growth and its negative impact on the region's limited resources,
- Living resources that have been heavily affected by over-fishing and habitat destruction,
- Declining coral reef ecosystems,
- Limited marine education programs.
Although more than 4.2 million acres of coral reef submerged lands are under U.S. jurisdiction, few have been properly studied to assess their overall health, and evidence is overwhelming that coral reefs and associated ecosystems are deteriorating at a rapid rate throughout the world. In response to these concerns, the JICMS seeks to:
- Foster understanding and proper management of coral reef and other tropical and sub-tropical marine ecosystems by initiating a comprehensive long-term research and education program in the U. S. Virgin Islands;
- Foster public awareness of the importance of coral reefs and other marine ecosystems from economic, esthetic and global health standpoints though educational programs for students and the general public;
- Share information and research and to form partnerships with other nations within the Caribbean and adjacent regions with common interests and problems in the marine environment;
- Support and expand research capacity within St. Croix and the USVI in archeology, anthropology, human ecology, history, Caribbean studies and other fields.
The University of the Virgin Islands (UVI) was chartered as a not-for-profit educational institution in 1962, opening its first campus on St. Thomas in 1963 and a second on St. Croix in 1964. UVI has a combined enrollment of approximately 2,500 full-time, part-time and graduate students.
The University of North Carolina Wilmington, North Carolina's coastal university, is dedicated to learning through the integration of teaching and mentoring with research and service. The university's powerful academic experience stimulates creative inquiry, critical thinking, thoughtful expression and responsible citizenship in an array of high-quality programs at the baccalaureate and master's levels, and in doctoral programs in marine biology and educational leadership.
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is a leading national public research university and the state's preeminent, comprehensive public institution of higher education. Rutgers is dedicated to teaching that meets the highest standards of excellence; to conducting research that breaks new ground; and to turning knowledge into solutions for local, national, and global communities.
The University of South Carolina (USC), chartered in 1801, is the flagship comprehensive research university in South Carolina. The university's eight campuses have a student population of 41,518 (undergraduate and graduate). More than 350 programs lead to baccalaureate, masters, professional, and doctoral degrees.
Federal and Territorial Partners
The Office of Insular Affairs has played an important role in supporting the partnership. OIA and the National Park Service are sister units of the Department of Interior, and OIA works directly with U.S. territories, including GVI, to improve local management of critical resource areas, which the universities can support through their education and research efforts.
OIA's mission is to improve the standard of living for island residents and promote the economic development and self-sufficiency of the insular areas. OIA's Coral Reef Initiative further recognizes that healthy coral reef resources are an integral part of the economy and culture of island communities. The MREC will significantly raise the USVI's educational and resource management capacities, as well as provide economic opportunities for local residents. It will also serve as a model of sustainable development for the insular areas, particularly as it relates to energy use and development in environmentally-sensitive habitats.
Since 1916, the American people have entrusted the National Park Service with the care of their national parks. With the help of volunteers and park partners, NPS manages 400 parks that attract more than 275 million visitors each year. The National Park Service is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Interior and is led by a Director nominated by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
The MREC is an initiative of the Salt River Bay National Historic Park and Ecological Preserve (SARI), created in 1992 as part of the National Park System. NPS and the Government of the United States Virgin Islands jointly manage this 1,015-acre park. The area's blend of sea and land holds some of the largest remaining mangrove forests in the Virgin Islands, as well as coral reefs and a submarine canyon.
By working together, NPS, JICMS, OIA and GVI will create a unique facility that will provide significant benefits to the St. Croix park units, enable the parks to meet their research and resource management goals for coral reef and coastal restoration needs, and create a capacity to expand research and education in the USVI in the long-term, generating benefits that can be measured in the future as jobs, educational opportunities, and creation of future stewards in the USVI.