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SEA Currents Blog

SEA Currents: Robert C. Seamans


June 15, 2014

Oahu, Maui, & Lanai

Dr. Jeffrey Schell, Chief Scientist for Sea Education Association

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Hello Family and Friends of Aloha ‘Aina – a collaborative study abroad program with Hawaii Pacific University (HPU) and Sea Education Association (SEA).

After a brief, yet influential and important week of classes at Hawaii Loa campus on the island of Oahu the students have now started to explore the islands of Maui and Lanai.  As we did on Oahu, the students are experiencing and learning about the history, culture, traditional practice and science of the Hawaiian Islands and wrestling with complex issues of conservation and resource management in an era of multiple stakeholders and competing, economic and cultural incentives.

Some of the highlights over the last couple days include:  sunrise at Mount Haleakala on the island of Maui and an impromptu time to talk story with Aunty Nan who led us in a traditional chant (or Oli) welcoming the rising sun.  A hike through National Park lands introduced us to a variety of endemic plant and bird species, as well as introduced species and their negative impacts.  However, later in the day we saw examples of introduced plant species ( in this case lavender varieties) that can be quite beneficial when grown in the appropriate climate and represent a shining example of sustainable agriculture reminiscent of the ancient Hawaiian ahupua`a land use system.

The next day we partnered with Pacific Whale Foundation and spent the day with their experienced crew and marine educators exploring three different reef habitats – two of them around the island of Molokini.  Check this place out on Google Earth when you get a chance!!!!  After decades of snorkeling around the world I have come across few places with such an abundance of healthy coral and a diversity of fish endemic to such and isolated location.  At our third location near Lahaina, Maui students had the luck to view several sea turtles and a lone white tip reef shark (from safe distance).  But once the students were back on board and we tallied our visual observations it was time to conduct more extensive scientific sampling.  We pulled out our plankton net, collected water samples for nutrient and chlorophyll-a analysis, and made observations of sea floor bathymetry and currents, just one more data point among many that we have collected from different port stops.  The captain (Brian Barnes) and crew (Mike and Anna) of Pacific Whale Foundation were fabulous and we pass along our many thanks for the opportunity to learn from them.   We were very fortunate to partner with such an experienced organization.

The next morning we made our way to Lanai and were only recently settled into our new home before our students partnered with Lana’i Field School (E ʻike Hou iā Lānaʻi).  We listened to their students (ages 12-16) as they taught us about the history and myriad ecosystems of Lanai.  In exchange our students taught about fish dissections, seafloor bathymetry and formation of the Hawaiian Islands, and the importance of scientific monitoring and use of water chemistry test kits.

While on Lanai we stayed at an old plantation house that is now owned by the community and used for social events.  The students have really come together as a community and are enjoying their turn at cooking meals for each other.  We had a lovely ‘dinner’ last night of breakfast pancakes and plenty of bacon!  Breakfast this AM was egg and cheese sandwiches with homemade buttermilk biscuits, a variety of local fruit, and more bacon. Thank goodness because we had a busy day exploring a traditional fish pond and ahupua’a that has experienced tremendous change over the centuries; plenty of hiking, scientific sampling, observing and learning in the warm, arid environment of Lana;i.

The attached picture is a flashback in time to when we were on Oahu visiting Waimea Valley (WV) – an intact ahupua’a that has been converted to an area of conservation, archeological research, education, botanical gardens and recreation.  Shown here are a few students marveling at a captured invasive species of toad as explained by our guide and WV naturalist – Kaila Alva.

More updates to follow so stay tuned!

Cheers,
Dr. Jeffrey Schell

Previous entry: Update: Class S-253, Aloha ‘Aina    Next entry: Moving Aboard

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