PaCES cradles future environmental scientists

PaCES students after a snorkel survey of the coral reef at the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology on Coconut Island - Photo courtesy of Celeste Yee

PaCES students after a snorkel survey of the coral reef at the Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology on Coconut Island – Photo courtesy of Celeste Yee

Now in its 11th year, Pacific Center for Environmental Sciences (PaCES) in partnership with Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) has been opening the minds of young people to the environmental challenges facing our island.

Nineteen of Hawai‘i’s junior and senior high school students spent the summer at WCC conducting hands-on research and activities to learn about the Windward watershed system and come up with solutions to problems they found.

“PaCES was created in 2004 because we wanted to make science education more relevant by connecting it to the special environment in which we live and to traditions and practices of the host culture of these islands,” according to Dave Krupp, project director, instructor and one of the founders of PaCES.

Besides engaging in outdoor scientific exploration and restoration projects, students attended college-level lectures from science professors and researchers and compiled their findings in presentations given in a symposium on the last day of the program.

Their eight projects ranged from broad subjects like the effects of humans on the water quality at Lanikai beach to detailed studies like examining the effects of ultraviolet radiation and sunlight exposure on collector sea urchin egg DNA.

In one activity, students set out to assess the health of the reef in Kāne‘ohe Bay. They arranged transect lines and a square PVC-framed tool called a quadrat—used for the study of ecology and biodiversity—to isolate an area to identify and record species in the habitat.

“We determined that the reef area surveyed was composed of 60% living coral,” said Dave Krupp in a news release.

La Pietra Hawai‘i School for Girls student Aolani Zidek enthusiastically commented in the news release that she felt she was doing “something of value.”

“It felt like I could have been one of Hawai‘i’s marine biologists performing an underwater survey,” said Zidek.

Krupp said he hopes that the students’ experience in the program will motivate them to a career path or life choice of preserving a quality island life that is not at the expense of the environment.

PaCES has received much community support due to its success. Planning for next year’s program is underway.

To learn more, go to https://windward.hawaii.edu/paces/summer.php.

by Armi Habal, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter