5/24/2016 – Kaetlyn Lee

Field Day #3

Today’s agenda started off a bit different as we finished up going through the coding of our data one full round. When we initially began the data entry, I was expecting it to be very straight-forward, giving every question and answer a variable and it would be as simple as that. However it isn’t as simple as that. While doing data entry, we’ve realized that many answers can overlap and that many answers depend on the previous answer. Therefore, while going through each survey, I found it helpful to not only think about the immediate responses you were reading but considering all variables and thinking of the survey in a holistic way. In addition to some morning coding to wake us up, I also taught Jakob how to cut a mango and we named our “favorite” rooster, Hannibal mostly because he’s been waking us up almost every morning at 3 AM.

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The rest of our day commenced as we continued to survey people on St. Croix. However this time, half of our group tried to target more tourists as half of us were stationed on the Christiansted Boardwalk. The other half of us wandered around a shopping plaza but we mostly encountered local consumers. Once meeting up for lunch, it was curious to see that we had begun talking about how we were continuously seeing similar people. It’s amazing to see that with only three full days of field research, we were already beginning to know the local people of the island. This is a true testament to really how small the island is!

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After lunch we headed back to our bungalows to do some more coding on our surveys. However on our way back, we didn’t have the best of luck as Paulita’s car got towed, Kate got a ticket, and a hanging branch cracked our windshield. In defense of the people in the front seat, Jason did “feel a disturbance in the canopy,” but as Dr. Yandle put it best, “he just wasn’t specific enough.”

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Our afternoon then consisted of us coding away along with several animals who kept us company. This included our good friend Hannibal as well as a lizard who wouldn’t quite leave us alone. And as you can see from the picture below, we were just fine with that.

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After getting a little rest from the sun, coding away in our bungalow, we ventured back out to do some more surveying! We also encountered some more wildlife on our way out! Maybe it was the heat that was making us delirious, but we took a lot of entertainment in making jokes of “why the chicken crossed the road” when it was actually crossing the road, stray horses, cows, a three-legged goat (I swear, there’s a picture for proof!), and the famous eagle house (a house surrounded by painted ceramic eagles) which we’ve been passing every time we go to Kate’s house.

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After dinner, we continued to survey for a little longer, finishing up one of our longer work days on the Christiansted Boardwalk! Being in the group that had been working in the shopping center earlier in the afternoon, it was interesting to finally see how a touristy area would be when surveying. I personally wasn’t expecting much as I didn’t expect any tourists to want to take a survey while on vacation and I also expected most of the locals to be working around these areas. However surprisingly, while surveying the area, I got many locals and after comparing results with some of my teammates, we found a lot of locals who were living right in the bay in their own boats! I continue to be surprised by the results we are getting. Before coming to the island, I had made a lot of hypotheses and assumptions about how the people would be but am continuously being surprised by people’s willingness and patience to help us with our research. I’m looking forward for tomorrow’s work day as I’m hoping we’ll be able to get more tourist surveys and also look forward to more surprises!

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5/23/2016 – Jeff Kraprayoon

Day 3: The Old Man and the Survey

The morning breeze awoke me from my cabin at Mount Victory Camp Eco-Lodge. It was another scorching day here at St. Croix, but there was no time to laze around in the shade. After a quick shower and a light meal, our team departed for two local supermarkets. No, we did not go shopping, nor did we go buy fresh fish. We had a greater task at hand.

As part of a field research team, we are tasked with collecting data on people’s seafood preferences at St. Croix, their willingness to pay for fish, and their knowledge and perception on lionfish. We collected data by conducting surveys on local shoppers and tourists. The ultimate aim of the research is to see if it is possible to create a local market for lionfish.

jeff 5Before we arrived at the supermarket, we stopped by a bakery to load up on snacks. The sweet donuts, however, were not the main source of attention. About 20 meters from our car was a massive iguana, casually sunbathing on a tree. Life in the USVI is as diverse as it gets. There are a plethora of creatures that you would never encounter back at Emory University. As an environmental scientist and biologist, it was truly amazing to see this Iguana camouflaged right next to a bakery.

Although the Pueblo La Reine Supermarket seemed relatively empty from the inside, there was still a constant stream of shoppers that walked in and out of the store. This allowed for us to survey a sufficient number of local consumers. Personally, I had quite a productive day, especially in the morning.

As we already know, lionfish are an invasive species in the Caribbean. We believe that consumption is a critical component of lionfish control programs. However, there are many barriers to creating this market. Thus, we are conducting these intercept surveys so that we can find out what these barriers are and if they can be overcome.

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I was now much more comfortable with surveying (as compared to yesterday) and I think that played a large part in my successes today. I had rehearsed my survey introduction well and I always approached the consumers with a smile. Furthermore, I respected all their answers and decisions, whatever they may be.

Most importantly, I learned to start enjoying my role as a surveyor. I had fun conversing with the local shoppers. It was interesting to hear their stories and to see their viewpoints, like how lionfish would “certainly put you in the graveyard” if you ate it.

My dad always taught me that if you do what you like, you’d do it well. That’s what I tried to do and I believe that that made the biggest difference. I was less tense and I was more approachable. As a result, I completed a higher number of surveys than I did yesterday, I had zero incomplete surveys, and I probably had a lower rejection rate as well.     Believe it or not, a single old man managed to change my perception about surveying completely. Beforehand, I always viewed surveying as a burden to people’s lives. We’re taking 15 minutes of their precious time and we’re not giving them any compensation whatsoever. There is a solid chance that these people won’t even know where and how their answers to our survey questions are being put to use and how it will benefit their community in the end. I felt a bit guilty for that.

However, this one old man made me feel ten thousand times better about surveying. After completing my survey, I asked him if he had any questions. He said, “No, I just want to say thank you for interviewing me. I old and I haven’t talked to a young person in such a long time”. He then gave me a fist bump. Those words put the biggest smile on my face. I started to feel as if I was not a burden to the consumers anymore. I was actually kind of doing them a favor, both in the short-run and in the long-run (the research).

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After surveying, we were rewarded with the most relaxing swim at the beach. With our energy somewhat replenished, we made our way to Kate’s (a graduate student’s) rental home. We were given time to work on our journals and blogs before we began the daunting task of coding our own surveys. Despite the little progress made on coding, dinner was finally served. We finished the day off on a high by celebrating Jakob’s 21st birthday!

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5/22/2016 – Paige Crowl

Field Day #2: Sunday, May 22, 2016

Hello, St. Croix!

Well, welcome to our first full day of field work here on beautiful St. Croix! We arrived yesterday afternoon, but the real work started this morning at 7:30 sharp. We piled into our long-suffering group van and trundled off down the mountain to our very first fieldwork locations: Plaza Extra and Stop & Shop, both grocery stores.

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Grocery store field work: one large step for mankind, one small step for delicious fieldwork snacks.

The Deets

In case the mechanics of our fieldwork hasn’t been detailed here yet, I’ll give you the lowdown. This Maymester class is running intercept consumer surveys, as part of a larger research project looking at the possibility of creating a market for lionfish in the USVI. If you’ve read some of the earlier blog posts, you’ll know how important it is that we find a good strategy to deal with the lionfish problem, and creating a commercial fishery/market for lionfish could be that solution we’ve been looking for. We think it sounds like a good idea, but we really don’t have any idea at all unless we come down to the islands and talk to the people who would be creating and participating in such a market. Would fishermen be willing to catch enough lionfish? Would consumers be willing to buy it? These are the kinds of questions we need answered to figure out if a market for lionfish will work.

Another team is talking to the fishers here on St. Croix (shout out to Kate, Paulita, and the awesome grad students from University of Florida!), so we’ve been tasked with talking to the consumers. Which brings me back to the intercept consumer surveys we carried out today, which is really just a fancy way of saying that we walk up to people and ask if we can talk to them about seafood. If they agree, we give them our preferences survey, and listen to what they have to say.

The Dats (Data)

So let’s talk surveys! It was an interesting challenge to create a survey that gets at lots of topics and opinions, but isn’t overly long. I’m sure you’ll remember how long we spent practicing it and honing the questions before we actually brought it out into the field! We ended up using a variety of question styles and techniques, which made for a pretty interesting survey.

It starts with a general “grand tour” question: we ask about seafood in St. Croix, which allows the surveyee (Is that a word? It’s far too awesome to let go in either case) to just tell us anything they have to say about the seafood scene before we move on. It’s designed to help both the surveyor and the surveyee relax and chat a bit before we get down into the nitty gritty. Next we move on to some statements, for example “Frozen fish is just as good as freshly caught fish” and the surveyee states how much they agree with that statement based on a four-point scale. Here we have a card to give the surveyee so they have a visual distinction between the options.

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The four-point scale: the surveyor’s friend since time immemorial (or at least since this morning).

After the statements, we ask the surveyee when, where, and how they most recently caught raw fish to cook at home and cooked fish in restaurants. To aid with this question, we have a handy dandy map for people to show us where they purchased fish most recently. This helps us to create a dynamic image of the currently existing market for fish on the island.

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An as-yet-unmarked map to the best fish on the island.

This is it, team. The big one. The one we’ve all been waiting for! The rest of our question deals with lionfish: what do people know about it, have they ever eaten it, and another set of “how much do you agree” statements. The star of this section, though, is our willingness to pay question. Here, we give consumers a set of figures for lionfish to purchase, either to cook at home or as an entrée from a restaurant (depending what they expressed interest in), and ask them if they would be willing to pay. The importance of this willingness to pay (WTP) question cannot be overstated! These consumer answers tell us a lot about whether a lionfish market is viable on St. Croix, because if the consumer is unwilling to pay for lionfish, the fishers won’t be willing to go fish for it. This data is critical towards finding the tipping point at which consumers would or would not be willing to buy a lionfish and help fuel a (delicious) lionfish market. We finish up the survey with a few demographic questions, and our helpful consumer goes on their way, having made their invaluable contribution to science!

The Strats

Now that we’ve talked about the surveys, I’ll just take a brief moment to talk about our strategy in giving these surveys. I mentioned at the beginning that we went to grocery stores today, which seemed like a good place to talk to food consumers. We split up into two groups to double our coverage and reach people in slightly different areas of the island. Today we focused on the area close to Frederiksted, which is on the western side of the island, but tomorrow we’ll be heading over towards Christiansted and the eastern side to talk to consumers over there. To help our team look more official, we donned team shirts, which look very snazzy in a group arrangement.

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Stylin’, science-style.

We want to make sure to talk to a wide array of people, so we’ll be going to a variety of local markets, grocery stores, hotels, and beaches and talking to as many people as we possibly can. Today, we managed to get over 80 surveys between the two teams, which is incredibly encouraging! We weren’t expecting to be so productive, but we’re hoping we can continue the trend. Cheers to the team – great work today, everybody. I’m proud to be working with all of you and with all the wonderful people we meet here on the USVI!

5/21/2016 – Jason Boss

Arrival in St. Croix – “That will shave fifteen minutes off of my morning prep time”

Today we ventured from Atlanta to Christiansted.  Security was light, and we breezed through in minimal time.  Everyone showed up, and no one got lost.  We had some breakfast at the food court in the airport and boarded the plan uneventfully.

The flight arrived close to on time and with the exception of some turbulence and failing to provision enough sodas, was uneventful.  I napped, dreaming of providing the survey for the celebrities of Love and Hip Hop, speculating if Joselyn – “The Puerto Rican Princess” Hernandez would be willing to host an exhibition of Lionfish products.  After all, combining environmental awareness, economic potential, fine dining (Lionfish of course) and maybe fashion (Lionfish jewelry) #loveandhiphopatl.  When I awoke I read some about the geographic history of the USVI and learned that, in general, St. Croix swiftly recedes up from the shore to high elevations.

The point at which we deplaned my expectations were challenged.  The airport was tiny and crumbling, and we walked off the plane, down the stairs and on to the tarmac.

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I had expected more infrastructure with tourism, but wasn’t let down by what I found.  As we exited the airport a greeter of sorts welcomed us to St. Croix and we found a rum stand immediately outside of the airport and heard the Calypso music coming from the luggage claim area.

We departed for the grocery store to provision supplies for the coming week, passing the famous Cruzan Distillery.  The store wasn’t significantly different from any supermarket in the US.  Jeffery and I tried a local baker’s pastries and found them so good we had to share with the group.  As it turns out, we will be working in that area tomorrow.  I hope the pastry chef remembers us positively.

From there, we travelled to where we are staying – Mount Victory Camp.  Passing through Fredricksted, we passed dozens of buildings in bad shape, some with active businesses, some abandoned.

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I was aware that poverty might be an issue here, but this was worse than I had expected.  The journey took us past the beaches, with ominous signs saying swim at your own risk.  Despite this many happy families were out enjoying the ocean.  The Caribbean beach was breath taking and our students all wanted to go for a swim, but it was a cruel taunt as our path lay not beach-ward, but instead inland.

jason 3Up and up the mountain we went, weaving and turning up the twisty road, with some precipitous curves.  This one-lane road definitely inspired some concern, but we made it to MVC intact.  We were greeted by the call of a close relative of the mourning dove and our hostess, Carmen.


She showed us to our cabins and where the communal amenities are.  She also showed us where the Tortoise Reserve was!

Everyone seemed to like them, and I got to jump into the reserve first.  They are housed in the ruin of an 1830s Dutch monastery and they are friendly.  When I jumped in they came to me quickly, so much so that I was a little concerned for their safety.  Everything worked out and Paige had the honor of being the first to successfully feed the torti.  I also noticed lots of lizards springing around the reserve.  We also encountered some chickens roaming freely on the camp grounds.

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From there we gathered up and went out to dinner.  On the road down the mountain, we saw our first invasive species – a mongoose!  Dinner was pleasant, though somewhat touristy.  I had the jerk pork and it was tasty.  During dinner we discussed the day to come – realizing that Sunday may not, in fact, be a good early day.  I inquired about the expected professional appearance and whether the males had to be clean-shaven to which we learned we did not need to be so.  I replied, “That will shave fifteen minutes off of my morning prep time”.  After this, Tracy issued the challenge to catch the best pun of the day for the blog and today that one was the winner.

jason 5After some minor issues upon our return, the men retired to the mens cabin to the drumbeats of the Reggae festival of the other camp.  We discovered that those supercool lizards from the preserve wanted to hang out with us, by surprise, but we didn’t like that, so mighty Jakob chased the lizards from our cabin.  All hail Jakob the lizard banisher!

That about wraps it up.

Thank you,

Jason Boss

5/20/2016 – Han Yang

The Last Day of Class

We are now less than 24 hours from St. Croix! Start packing and prepare for the vacation field research!

Today we had our last reading talking specifically about researching on St. Croix Island. The author lived in St. Croix for 20 month and provides her close observation and explains her concerns and methodology of doing the research. Although we only plan to stay for a week and surveying only local consumers and tourists, her experience on the island helps to prepare us better for the upcoming research. Since we are actually making people talk to us in an even shorter period.

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The fishery management in USVI has been a contentious topic. From previous readings we have already learned that fishermen’s knowledge are important for understanding the fishing community in order to achieve regulation of higher efficiency. However, McCaskey gives an example of how the fishermen’s voice is ignored. In 2008 the USVI government, under the pressure from environmental NGOs, ignored the fishermen’s proposal of partial use and decided to completely ban the use of gill and trammel nets that are used by some commercial fisher in St. Croix. It seems that the participation of fishermen in reality is impeded by other stakeholder groups. Therefore, it is not surprising that fishermen has a widespread mistrust of fishery managers and unwilling to give their opinions. But as far as what we have learned from Dr. Tookes, people on the island are generally nice and straightforward and our interviews should be totally feasible.

Living in the community made the local fisher used to McCaskey and she did informal interviews and participant observations before the semi-structured formal interviews. The concept of participant observation has been discussed in previous blogs. It allows us to better observe, analyze and understand the behaviors of the community. Therefore these methods we can adopt as we are doing surveys in the local community.

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Participant, and observation…huh?

The methods McCaskey used include purposive and snowball sampling. Purposive sampling, by name, is picking on the sample for certain purpose and snowball sampling is asking the interviewee for the next sample. Both are non-probability methods. Since she divided her interviewees by stakeholder groups and needed specific information from each group and the number of individuals in each group is so small, there is no need and no way to randomize her sampling. For us, we are only focusing on the consumer groups and are evaluating the willingness of consumers to pay for lionfish as a food source, and we would have a larger amount of target than she had. Therefore for unbiased data we need to randomize our pick, do random sampling and see how it works.

From the demographic information of interviewees McCaskey provides, all of the fisher participants are male and generally over 80% of the interviewees are male. This percentage should not be surprising for us since from previous readings we have learned the dominant role of male on boats. But along with the overwhelming proportion of male as fisher is the high percentage of female assisting in processing, selling and other relevant procedures, which is also notified in the reading. The average stay of these fishing industry related people on St. Croix is greater than 15 years, which reminds us again of the previous reading about the importance of understanding the structure of fishing community. Additionally, almost 100% of the fish caught at St. Croix is consumed locally. The sale of fish then forms a circulation of money that stabilizes the local economy, and that the fishing industry has both direct and indirect impacts the whole island not only economically but also socially and culturally. Therefore, local residents would be the largest and foremost group of consumers of lionfish. In this way we can better see the reason of surveying local residents about their preferences and acceptability of lionfish since we are seeking for the market approach to solve the lionfish problem.

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Please say lionfish are evil and yummy! No, not pretty…

The practice today we paired up in groups of two to interview people in Starbucks. Pairs generally make us feel better and maybe the interviewees too, especially we tell them that we are just practicing for our class. It also allows the recorder to write down the answers better and the interviewer to focus to make the conversation more fluent.  But it also cut our labor in half and the improvement in eye contact and efficiency is not as much as expected for the interviewer still need to look at their survey to keep track and read off the general statement. However, pair could be a backup plan and we will see how our interview goes when out there. Now the last thing left is to GO !

5/19/2016 – Meg Withers

Don’t Be Scared, Be Safe

We are officially two days away from lift-off to St. Croix!  Today, when we weren’t practicing our interviewing skills, we were learning about two diseases we will be dealing with when on the island: Zika and Ciguatera.



According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”), “Zika virus disease (Zika) is a disease caused by the Zika virus, which is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.”  Zika has received a great deal of attention recently, especially concerning its effect on the head size of children born to women with the virus.  However, not all of the disease’s symptoms are as drastic and long-lasting.  The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis.  Additionally, only 20% of those infected display symptoms.  However, this fact can be both a blessing and a curse.  If you aren’t aware you have the virus, you may be less likely to take the proper precautionary measures and accidently spread the virus to someone else.

The common modes of Zika transmission are mosquito bites, an infected woman to a fetus, sexual contact, and blood transfusion.  These and many other forms of transmission have become much easier with globalization.  Someone can be in the Caribbean one day and in almost any other part of the world the next.  Thus, the rate at which a disease like Zika propagates is faster than it would have in the past.  This does not mean that we should all go buy hazmat suits and never travel again, but Liam Neeson may have the right idea!


Today, we had the privilege of learning about the virus from Dr. Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec, one of the world’s leaders on the issue.  He told us, “Don’t be scared, be safe.”  Risk of infection can be greatly reduced when the proper protective measures are used.  Dr. Vazquez-Prokopec recommends covering as much skin as possible and using strong bug repellent on whatever skin is exposed.  The idea of wearing long pants and a long-sleeved shirt while surveying in the hot Caribbean sun is not something which one likes to contemplate, but the recommendation is probably worth following.  While we will not be in St. Croix during peak mosquito season, we are still well within range of the virus.



The second disease we discussed today was Ciguatera, also known as “fish poisoning.”  It is the “main cause of non-bacterial illness associated with seafood consumption.”  Research is currently underway to determine the level of risk associated with eating lionfish as a result of the disease.  The toxin accumulates in predators that eat toxic prey. Thus, those species that are high on the food chain are more likely to have the disease.  Because lionfish are top predators and consume such a wide range of other fish, this species may have a higher probability of carrying the toxin.


As of yet, there is no way to test for Ciguatera outside of a lab.  The toxin is odorless, tasteless, and colorless so the only definitive way to determine if Ciguatera is present in a fish is to put it through a complicated and expensive chemical test.  So this leaves us with two options: don’t examine the fish and possibly risk the health of consumers or perform costly and time intensive chemical tests.  Neither of these are great.  But wait!  There is a third option.  Ciguatera is a localized disease.  It doesn’t spread out equally throughout the ocean.  Experienced fishermen make sure to monitor where Ciguatera has been found and avoid those areas.  Thus, researchers are hoping to create a map of Ciguatera “hot-spots” and encourage the harvesting of lionfish in those areas alone.


However, it’s not quite that simple.  With global climate change, sea temperatures are going to rise and the area available to top predators like the lionfish is going to increase.  Research shows that Ciguatera levels increase with rising sea temperatures.  Also, lionfish eat so much so quickly that they may exhaust resources in a certain region and move to another.  In either case, the “hot-spot” map would become unhelpful.

Lionfish is not the only species that carries Ciguatera.  A whole host of other species like Grouper and Barracuda have it as well.  Researchers are trying to determine if lionfish have a higher probability of containing the toxin at concentrations above the 0.1 µg/kg limit set by the Food and Drug Administration. One study found that 12% of the lionfish tested had Ciguatera levels greater than the set limit, but this value is similar to Ciguatera percentages for other species.  So far, it doesn’t look like there is a heightened risk associated with eating lionfish. More good news is that as of January 2013, there have been no reports of fish poisoning from lionfish. The hope is that via proper management and smart fishing practices, this number can remain zero for a very long time.

A common theme ran through today’s class, “Don’t be scared, be safe.”  Yes, these diseases pose a threat.  And yes, people need to practice risk management.  But this does not mean that we should be terrified of eating seafood or taking a trip to the Caribbean.  Understanding the mechanisms at work behind these diseases can be extremely helpful in preventing or mitigating their affects.  A little information can go a long way.