ARLINGTON, Texas - -Dr. Laura Mydlarz knows a thing or two about conducting research in the Caribbean.
Earlier this summer, the University of Texas Arlington researcher and professor spent two weeks on St. Thomas studying the immune system of the island's famous coral reefs.
"Coral, much like us, have an immune system and we try to characterize it and look at details on how it's affected by environmental factors," says Mydlarz.
But she and others are worried about the catastrophic damage done by Hurricane Irma over the past few days.
The main lab her staff uses, the University of the Virgin Island's MacLean Center, was heavily damaged in the storm.
Photos show part of the roof missing and extensive structural damage. Some of her colleagues on the island had to evacuate ahead of the storm's massive blow.
"It's very upsetting. It has been a very emotional week for us, and me and my lab, my students," said Mydlarz.
Although everyone is safe, the staff is fearful about the impact Irma had on not only the facilities but also the reef itself.
"We think with something this strong, we think the hurricane scoured the reef, toppled the coral, damaged them and caused injury," she said.
The professor says she hopes to make it back down to St. Thomas soon to help.