WRITTEN BY SARAH INNAMORATO

A group of SFC students received the great opportunity to study abroad in the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park this past winter as a part of the Partners in the Parks program.

This was the seventh time a group from St. Francis traveled to the Virgin Islands Environmental Resource Station (VIERS). The group consisted of St. Francis students along with students from six other colleges. They were taught by St. Francis biology professor Dr. Kathleen Nolan and psychology professor Dr. Kristy Biolsi.

The students participated in numerous, experiential learning activities including hiking and snorkeling. They learned about coral reef ecology, fish biology, and plant adaptions to a dry tropical climate. They created species lists that included the various insects, frogs, and sea urchins they observed. They also learned about medicinal plants and how native crafts were developed. They witnessed the handiwork of yellow-bellied sapsuckers boring into trees along the Reef Bat trial and bats being released from mist nests. They learned about the importance of national parks as well as the pros and cons of ecotourism. They toured sugar cane and rum facilities that enhanced their learning about the history of slavery on the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The students even got to swim near sea turtles, parrotfish, barracudas and stingrays. A student from SFC who participated in this awesome experience, junior Moncia Murray, said, “Actually living and breathing in the U.S. Virgin Islands through snorkeling and hiking makes the biology come alive!”