Feb. 14, 2006 – Caroline Rogers is a one-woman cheering squad for the territory's beleaguered reefs. "There is a lot of gloom and doom, but there is also a lot of hope," she said.
Rogers, a marine ecologist who heads the U.S. Geological Survey's small staff on St. John, said that while the reefs have suffered from bleaching and other diseases, she sees some signs of recovery.
Because her work focuses on long-term monitoring of the area's reefs, she can see the changes that have occurred over time.
She said that while long-term monitoring may not be as glamorous as other types of research, it provides valuable data.
"We have the best data on bleaching," she said.
Born in 1950 in Newport, R.I., Rogers grew up in South Hamilton, Mass. and Middletown, R.I.
Rogers then went off to Smith College in Northampton, Mass., later transferring to Stanford University to complete her bachelor's degree in biology.
She went on the University of Florida to get a doctorate in ecology. While studying, she went to Puerto Rico to work on the effects of sedimentation on coral reefs. She then moved to St. Croix for postdoctoral studies at the long defunct West Indies lab.
That led to a job on St. Croix with what is now called the V.I. Planning and Natural Resources Department.
In 1984 she moved to St. John to become the biologist at V.I. National Park. In 1993 that job came under the umbrella of the National Biological Survey, an agency absorbed by the Geological Survey in 1996.
While the name of her agency changed a few times, she's still works under the park's roof. Her office moved a few times in the 21 years she's been on St. John, including a stint at the park's Red Hook facility on St. Thomas.
She now works out of an office at the park's Biosphere Reserve facility at Lind Point.
Rogers said she works closely with park staff. "I enjoy being able to play a role in helping with the challenges at the park service," she said.
She said she also enjoys working with her staff of two – Erinn Muller and Tony Spitzack.
Working with talented people, the island's natural beauty and the chance to make a quick drive to places like Waterlemon Cay for a couple of hours of snorkeling on a Saturday morning keep her firmly tied to St. John.
"I feel fortunate to live here. I'm still really fascinated by working on coral reefs," she said.
She said while stateside researchers scramble to find funding so they can do research in the Virgin Islands, she only has to look out her office window to see coral reefs.
Rogers said she makes frequent trips to places like Miami, Washington, D.C., and even Hawaii for work, which gives her a chance to get off St. John.
When she's not at work, Rogers said she reads, goes snorkeling and improves her underwater photography skills.
"I'm really enjoying that right now," she said.
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