Since its creation in 1985, a main objective of the Vieques Conservation and Historical Trust's (VCHT) mission has been the preservation and study of the bioluminescent bays found on the island. In 2016, the Trust entered into a Co-management Agreement with the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER).
Link to the Co-management document here
In the Agreement, the Trust is specifically tasked with the responsibility to promote and facilitate scientific research. This includes plankton counts, water quality monitoring, field work support for scientific researchers, monitoring of light pollution levels and education initiatives for light pollution control, maintaining a database of studies conducted in the bay, and many other ongoing responsibilities. The Agreement is in force for 10 years. The Trust reports annually to the DNER on studies and data produced. Recently, we provided them with a summary report of our many actions for conservation and sustainable restoration, research and educational activities and other contributions over the first five years of co-management.
You can read that report here
Over the years the VCHT has sponsored, encouraged, assisted or collaborated in a large number of scientific investigations in Puerto Mosquito and, on occasion, has provided support for other bioluminescent bays. Since the 1980's, studies of the bay have been conducted with the purpose of establishing a scientific regimen and inviting scientific interest.
A 2014 pilot study, funded by the Trust and developed as a collaboration between the Trust, the DNER and the Scripps Oceanographic Institution of the University of California, San Diego, was completed to establish methodologies and generate baseline information for the purpose of creating an ongoing, long-term program of scientific research in Puerto Mosquito. The VCHT established a program for research and count plankton populations in the bay, especially Pyrodinium bahamense, that since FY 2014-2015 has been funded by the Special Joint Commission of Legislative Funds for Community Impact.
As part of this project, a regimen of weekly plankton counts at the VCHT Elizabeth C. Langhorne Laboratory and water quality sampling, was established to create a database on the abundance and analysis of the plankton community in the bioluminescent Puerto Mosquito Bay which is still ongoing.
This project is now entering its seventh year and has produced an extensive database on conditions in the bay. The data generated by this research program provides a better understanding of the cycles of this and possibly other bioluminescent bays and covers a diversity of extreme periods that allow us to understand the resilience of the system. As part of the project we have documented events such as: the impact of Hurricane Maria, events of declining abundance of bioluminescent dinoflagellates, periods of closure of the Reserve related to the Covid-19 pandemic and other events.
Recently, the Trust acquired a high quality, precision instrument for water quality monitoring in the Reserve. The instrument, a YSI EXO 2 Sonde field unit, is comparable to units used by the DNER and USGS in their scientific investigations in other natural areas of Puerto Rico and the United States.
This latest technological advancement in data collection was made possible by a generous donation from one of our members, as part of our commitment as co-manager, and for the purpose of increasing the scientific capacity of our
field and laboratory equipment.
We are grateful to to all our members and our community. You are the ones that make it possible for the Trust to continue fulfilling our mission for the preservation and study our island's unique and important natural resource.
The Trust is YOU!