Maui, Molokai students learn marine conservation in summer program
Jun 8, 2023
Students learn about tagging marine mammals during a 10-day overnight learning trip to Moku o Loe, also known as Coconut Island, in Oahu's Kaneohe Bay. The program from June 2-11 is teaching 12 high school students from Maui, Molokai, Oahu, Hawaii island and Kauai about marine science and conservation. Photo courtesy UH
The Maui News
Using a long pole with a water bottle affixed to the end, a student pretends to "tag" a stuffed monk seal toy several feet away as fellow students cheer.
It's one of many activities that 12 high school students from Maui, Molokai, Oahu, Hawaii island and Kauai are getting to participate in over the course of a 10-day, fully funded learning trip to Moku o Loe, also known as Coconut Island, in Oahu's Kaneohe Bay.
The Summer Marine Mammal Intensive Learning Experience, or SMMILE, aims to teach underrepresented high school students about marine mammal science, marine protected areas and conservation, according to a news release from UH-Manoa, whose Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology runs the program. Priority was given to Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander high school students to improve their representation rates in STEM and the field of marine mammalogy.
The participating high school students will be juniors or seniors in the fall and are coming from 10 different schools, including King Kekaulike High School and Molokai High School.
Kirby Parnell and Brijonnay Madrigal, both Ph.D. students in the UH-Manoa Marine Biology Graduate Program, are leading out the program, which teaches the students a basic knowledge of marine mammals and skills for studying them in the field and in human-care facilities. Through guest lectures, hands-on training, field trips and workshops, the students also learn about acoustics/hearing, unmanned aerial vehicles, tagging, population studies, photo identification, stranding/response and conservation/management.
"SMMILE is really important for high school students because it gets them that hands on opportunity to learn about different facets of marine science," Madrigal said in a news release. "And I think engaging them early on will allow them to see potential career paths they might want to pursue in the future."
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