ASCC and UH Sea Grant Build Local Capacity in Coral Reef Surveying

As part of the Marine Science Special Projects (MSC 280) course, six American Samoa Community College (ASCC) students gave up their spring break to participate in the Quantitative Underwater Ecological Surveying Techniques (QUEST) field course held from March 10- 15, at Faga’alu. These students were joined by five local agency staff who were participating as students in QUEST to gain new skills in monitoring the health of our coral reefs and reef fish. By the end of the week, each participant reported having gained both new skills and knowledge, as well as improved existing skills.

 

The course, known as QUEST, is modeled after the highly successful course of the same name offered by the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. The American Samoa QUEST has students using snorkels and masks rather than SCUBA gear as is done at UH. Though the gear is different, the methods and science learned are the same.

 

Students spent the week studying methods for counting fish, algae, corals, and other invertebrates. After studying each method, they worked in groups to practice the use of these methods in the water while collecting data to answer the research question each group came up with. These data was then analyzed and presented by each group at the end of the week.

 

The intense workload of this course led students to push themselves to learn many new techniques in a short period of time. Instead of staying up late partying over spring break, students stayed up late analyzing data — and enjoyed it!

 

Liahona Sega, a student at QUEST, said, “I really enjoyed QUEST. Because of the ASCC QUEST, I am looking forward to becoming a scientific SCUBA diver and participating in the University of Hawai‘i QUEST course.” One of their instructors, Jameson Newtson, stated, “I think QUEST has made a big difference in the skill set of my students, I have seen each of them make huge improvements in their in-water skills as well as understanding the theory behind these surveys.”

 

Partners from the National Park of American Samoa, Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, Department of Commerce, Coral Reef Advisory Group, National Marine Sanctuary of AS, and the University of Hawai‘i Marine Option Program assisted in teaching the methods, and in conducting in-water practice sessions.

 

Several local businesses and agencies donated time, materials, and services to make QUEST possible. These include the Office of the Governor, Department of Commerce, Ace American Industries, Island Breeze, Friendly Car Rental, ASPA, Public Works and the Federal Aviation Administration.

 

“On behalf of the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program and ASCC, we sincerely thank these sponsors for making QUEST possible,” said local Sea Grant Extension Faculty Kelly Anderson Tagarino. “The impact it is having on students is incalculable but is already evident in the student response.”

 

The QUEST course will continue to be offered every year over Spring Break.

 

Those interested in participating as students or sponsors can contact Kelley Anderson Tagarino at 699-3353 (office) or 258-2967 (cell) or at  HYPERLINK "mailto:KelleyAT@Hawaii.edu" KelleyAT@Hawaii.edu on email, or via post mail at P.O. Box 2609 for more information.

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