ASCC student to give talks on coral reef threats

ASCC Marine Science student Valentine Vaeoso (left), seen with instructor Kelley Anderson Tagarino, will be giving public talks to community and school groups on the importance of keeping American Samoa's reefs healthy. [Photo: J. Kneubuhl]

 “Reefs are under attack by multiple stressors,” said Marine Science student Valentine Vaeoso, “and what should we do about this? We step in and we take action, even in the smallest way.”
This semester, Vaeoso, a student from the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) in the Marine Option Program (MOP) will give several talks to school and community groups on some of the major threats in reefs worldwide, including those in American Samoa.
“My main focus of is to give back to the community what I’ve learned through the Marine Option Program,” she explained.
The talks will emphasize how threats to the reefs of American Samoa, which are expected or now being seen, increase coral death. Some of these threats include coral disease; coral bleaching due to the increase in water temperature which turns coral white; and crown-of-thorn starfish (alamea) invasions which feed on coral, thereby decreasing coral cover.
In 1970, American Samoa experienced an invasion of crown-of-thorns starfish which damaged 80 percent of the reefs. Slowly our reefs have come back from that event, but there are still threats which have slowed coral growth, and we are currently experiencing a rapid increase in crown-of-thorns starfish population.
Vaeoso’s talks will include training on how to identify some common coral diseases that occur in American Samoa. She hopes to encourage students and community members to report these events or signs if they come across them while in the ocean. “This is important because we can better prepare for potential problems if these warning signs are reported,” she said.
“This could prevent an outbreak that could wipe out an entire population of coral. We need to maintain a healthy and well managed environment for coral. If we lose too much coral, we will eventually lose our reef fish and will be forced to change our fishing grounds.”
A former student at Uifatali Peter Coleman Elementary School and Samoana High School, Vaeoso says her involvement with marine science has kindled a passion for study of the ocean and science in general.
“I was interested in science before coming to ASCC”, she explained “but I wasn't very active in this subject because it was difficult to comprehend and hard to retain. However, science has now become very interesting to me and worth the challenge.”
After graduating from ASCC, she plans to pursue a bachelor degree in Marine Science/Marine Biology, and hopefully continue on to study for a Masters degree, with the goal of one day becoming a marine biologist or coral biologist.
“Being an outdoor kind of person with much curiosity about nature, I have always enjoyed learning about animals interaction with their environment”, Vaeoso reflected. “My love for the ocean came late in life, mainly because I lived away from the coast. But since my high school marine science teacher took our class snorkeling at Fagaalu, I’ve enjoyed going in the water and gaining knowledge of our marine ecosystems. The first time I went snorkeling, it was breath-taking to view such amazing scenery and various marine organisms underwater. Marine Science is a great field of study with many opportunities that anyone can benefit from.”
If you have questions or would like to request a talk on this topic for students or community members please contact Kelley Anderson Tagarino (ASCC Marine Science Coordinator) at 699-9155 x 356 or 252-2310 for more information.
Source: ASCC media release