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ASCC Marine Science interns at Community Fair

Coinciding with First Friday at Fagatogo Market last week, the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) hosted a community fair at their marina, where many local agencies set up booths to educate the public about their ongoing research and programs.


Three American Samoa Community College (ASCC) students, who have been interning with the DMWR for two years, attended the fair to promote the projects they have been working on and demonstrate to interested youth and adults the opportunities the ASCC Marine Science Program has given them. All three interns promoted the ASCC Marine Science Program to the large crowd at the fair by discussing their experiences, handing out literature, and awarding shirts to interested seniors. 


Anthony Sagapolutele discussed his work on whale and turtle research. Under the mentorship of Alden Tagarino, Anthony has responded to stranded turtles, collected data on turtles and installed flipper tags on turtles prior to releasing them.


With Tagarino’s guidance, Anthony has performed necropsies on dead turtles to try and determine the cause of death and collected tissue samples for genetic analysis. “Working on the Turtle and Cetacean projects at the DMWR has been a great experience for me these past two years”, reflected Anthony, “and I have gained more awareness and knowledge towards our I'a Sa and the dolphins and whales of our territory.”


Anthony and Valentine Vaeoso have both worked with Tagarino in his ongoing whale research, which has included responding to stranded whales such as the large adult Sperm whale that was stranded in Faganeanea as well as the still unknown species of Beaked whale stranded in Afono.


Very little is known about Beaked whales, and Anthony is one of the few people to have participated in a necropsy of one. Both Anthony and Valentine gained valuable experience when they also participated in a necropsy of a Rough Toothed Dolphin that was caught by a local long liner. For Valentine, gaining familiarity with the dangers faced by Samoa’s marine life has strengthened her resolve to pursue her studies in the field of ocean research. “Learning more about our island’s marine animals has inspired me to continue my education in Marine Science and return to help preserve our island”, she explained.


Natosha Ripley was the third marine science intern attending the fair. Under the mentorship of Alice Lawrence, Natosha has been working on the DMWR Marine Debris project to raise awareness about this serious issue, encourage villages to conduct clean ups, and sponsor contests to decide who has the cleanest shoreline in their village.


"Marine debris is everyone’s problem”, she emphasized, “and we as islanders need to step up and help prevent this problem for our beautiful island’s sake." Natosha has gained valuable experience in this ever-growing field, and has learned to conduct surveys, analyze debris data, and conduct community outreach.


For more information about the ASCC Marine Science program, please contact the ASCC Marine Science Coordinator at 699-9155 x 356.