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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, June 20, 2024
HomeNewsLocal newsJoin the Conversation: Ecosystems Survey with Dijani Laplace

Join the Conversation: Ecosystems Survey with Dijani Laplace

Dijani Laplace conducting surveys at Brewers Bay on St. Thomas in March. (Submitted photo)

Dijani Laplace, a University of the Virgin Islands alumni and current graduate student at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, is exploring community perceptions regarding ecosystems in his aptly titled thesis “Community Perceptions of Ecosystems in the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Laplace’s journey into this topic began during his time at UVI, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in biology. His curiosity was piqued while working with VI-EPSCoR, first as an intern in 2020 and later as an employee in 2022, on the Hazard Mitigation and Resilience Plan. In 2021, he collaborated with the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies on an ecosystem services assessment for the territory.

“I’ve always liked science and studying the environment from a young age… I can’t really pinpoint a driver for that since it’s been that way since I remember,” shared Laplace. “I guess (emphasis on guess) you could potentially point to the hurricanes as an indirect driver of the path I am currently on since the work I’ve done in the past has been in relation to them.”

In his study, Laplace identifies seven ecosystems in St. Thomas for analysis: forests (referred to locally as “bush”), guts mangroves, beaches, salt ponds/salt flats, coral reefs, and seagrass beds. He believes that understanding these perceptions is crucial for effective ecosystem management. By documenting how communities use and perceive their natural environment, he hopes to gain insights into their views on the welfare and future outlook of local ecosystems.

“One of the things I found interesting was that much of what was known or what residents thought of our ecosystems in the USVI was either local knowledge by experts or anecdotal experiences that weren’t documented in the literature I had access to at the time,” said Laplace. “I thought it was important to collect that in a formal way, hence, it was one of the drivers of my thesis research.”

Residents of St. Thomas who are 18 years or older are encouraged to participate in Laplace’s research by completing an easy 10-minute survey online. Those interested in learning more about the project can contact Dijani Laplace at dlaplace@islander.tamucc.edu or visit his profile on the Harte Research Institute’s website. To participate in the survey click here.

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