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On Island Profile: Randy Fish

Randy Fish.Randy Fish loves remote places, isolation and solitude, qualities he puts to good use as V.I. Environmental Resource Station manager.

The University of the Virgin Islands station is located at Lameshur Bay, about as far from the bright lights of Cruz Bay as you can get and still be on St. John.

“It’s definitely challenging being this far out of Cruz Bay,” Fish said.

Fish, 29, took over from former manager, Jamie Irving, in July 2011, and since then he’s been busy gaining experience in managing a remote facility.

VIERS, which occupies the site once used by Tektite underwater habitat crews, now serves as base camp for academic groups as well the location for weekend and summer camps for local school groups.

Over the years, VIERS has ironed out issues like food delivery and the rather rainy winter means that he hasn’t had to buy water, but Fish said it has been difficult to develop a social life. He goes to yoga classes at nearby Estate Concordia Preserve, belongs to St. John Rescue and plans to join the St. John’s chapter of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.

“I’ve never been a boater. I’m really excited to learn more about boating,” he said.

On the managerial front, Fish said he’s learned a lot. This is his first post-college job, and he hopes to put what he learns to good use in the future. He said he hopes to open a health and wellness retreat.

At VIERS, his job mainly consists of managing the coterie of volunteers who come for a few weeks or months on the facility’s four-hour work program. They work four hours at a variety of tasks in exchange for a cottage at VIERS and all meals.

“The volunteers run the place. I just help,” he said, laughing as several volunteers headed out the door for their morning jobs.

VIERS administrator Randy Brown said Fish starts each day with enthusiasm.

“The job can be challenging and he has been a natural fit,” Brown said. “His interest in sustainable agriculture is great for VIERS development as a community resource.”

Fish has many plans for the facility, but said he’s taking it slow as he gets to know the island and its people. But for starters he’s planted a slew of gardens with bananas, guava and other tropical fruits that are doing well.

“There’s so much that can be done here,” he said.

Fish also said he’d like to increase VIERS offerings to include a scheduled seminar series as well as artistic and sustainability workshops.

“And I want to increase our college groups. They’re our bread and butter,” he said.

After growing up in Walnut Creek, Calif., Fish headed to California State University at Chico to get a bachelor’s degree in environmental geography. A master’s degree from Michigan Technological University in ground water studies followed.

Fish had offshore experience before heading to VIERS. He spent a stint in Costa Rica between undergraduate and graduate school, and did two years in Tanzania as a Peace Corps volunteer as part of his master’s program.

He was in Nicaragua when Irving, a friend from his Costa Rica days, contacted him to let him know the VIERS job was available.

In addition to settling in to the job, Fish makes time for all the environment around VIERS has to offer.

“I snorkel, hike and dive,” he said.

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