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Noted Oceanographer Looking at Sea Changes Here

Feb. 18, 2005 –– Acclaimed oceanographer Sylvia Earle will be on St. Thomas and St. John to help the Ocean Conservancy showcase its environmental efforts and launch its new publication, "State of the Reefs of the U.S. Virgin Islands."
Her visit begins March 10 with a 30-minute trip aboard the Submarine Atlantis. She and Ocean Conservancy president Roger Rufe will discuss with government officials the current health of the reefs around the Virgin Islands, how things have changed, and how to leave the next generation a healthier, more resilient marine environment.
On March 11, Earle will visit the Tektite II site in St. John's Lameshur Bay. She headed a team of woman divers on the project 35 years ago.
Additionally, she'll be at Coral World that day to launch "State of the Reefs of the U.S. Virgin Islands" and unveil Coral World's new exhibit created in conjunction with the Ocean Conservancy.
"The display addresses the past, present and future," Nick Drayton, Ocean Conservancy project manager in the Virgin Islands, said Thursday.
He said the exhibit establishes a base that indicates how the ocean looked to previous generations, how it looks now and how it will look in the future. Drayton said, hopefully, the public will not allow the standard to slide further.
Coral World manager Trudie Prior said Friday that when visitors walk by the exhibit, the picture shifts as the viewing angle changes.
She said that the collaboration with the Ocean Conservancy allowed Coral World to mount a new exhibit, an important factor since budget constraints prohibit changing the exhibits on a regular basis.
"And part of our mission is to entertain but also to educate people about the environment," Prior said.
The 54-page "State of the Reefs of the Virgin Islands" was several years in the making. It points up the deteriorating condition of the territory's reefs.
Drayton said the Ocean Conservancy wants to bring attention to the book and its message by hosting these events.
"We don't want to just do the book and have it stay on the shelf," he said.
The Tektite II project on St. John was one of two programs using the Tektite underwater habitat. The U.S. Navy sponsored them both.
The Tektite habitat spent a brief spell on St. Croix before heading to a California scrap yard.
However, the base camp remains and is now owned by the University of the Virgin Islands and operated as V.I. Environmental Resource Station by Clean Islands International.
On Earle's return visit, she will scuba dive to evaluate how the ocean life has changed since she first saw it.
Drayton said her observations will be interesting because the area is one of the few on St. John with no development on the hillsides above.
"It's pretty isolated," Drayton said.
He said Earle has not returned to St. John for more than 30 years.
Earle went on to have a distinguished career as an oceanographer that included more than 60 expeditions around the world.
She currently serves as chairman of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, a company she founded in 1992 to design, operate, support and consult on manned and robotic submarine systems. She is also explorer in residence at the National Geographic Society.
Earle holds a bachelor's degree from Florida State University and masters and doctorate degrees from Duke University.
She is also the author of numerous books about the ocean.
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