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ASCC students attending summer science conferences

Three students at the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) departed the Territory this past weekend to attend conferences in Hawaii.


Eirenei Helen Tesimale, 21, will participate in the IOA-LSAMP Student Conference from July 14 – 19.  IOA stands for Islands of Opportunity Alliance, a project of the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation which supports learning opportunities in the sciences for minority students across the United States. Each year the IOA brings students together from across the Alliance to participate in a symposium that focuses on their research and experiential activities of the past year. 


While Eirenei takes part in the IOA-LSAMP event, fellow ASCC students Rocco Tinitali and Leilua Willis Watson will give presentations at the 21st annual Hawaii Conservation Conference, which will take place simultaneously.


Eirenei completed her AS degree in Natural Resources at ASCC in this spring, and is additionally completing a General Agriculture major. At the IOA-LSAMP conference, Eirenei will give a presentation on “Hand Pollination vs. Natural Pollination of Taro Flowers”. “Studying both hand pollination and natural pollination has improved my understanding of how each process results in fertilization on formation of seeds,” she said. “My goal is to encourage farmers to use hand pollination, since this gives a better chance to plants that have resistance to taro leaf blight, provide a better crop yield, and taste better. I look forward to the conference not only to share my research, but also to become familiar with the work others have done in this area.”


Rocco Tinitali, 23, of Vaitogi has worked for the past three years as an intern studying the watershed at Faga’alu, and at the Hawaii Conservation Conference he will discuss monitoring shifts in benthic change in Faga’alu’s fragile ecosystem. Through internships with the American Samoa Coastal Zone Management group, the ASCC Marine Science program, and currently the Coral Reef Advisory Group, Rocco has gained insight into the flow dynamics of the Faga’alu watershed, and has also monitored coral reefs adjacent to it. “I look forward to learning what other processes go on in the Pacific in terms of conservation and restoration efforts,” he said. “Hearing the various presentations on multiple aspects of the environment such as cleaner energy, sustainable foods and building local capacities for environmental work will help broaden my own views on impacting our environment positively.”


Leilua Willis Watson, 19, of Leone will also give a presentation at the Hawaii Conservation Conference on the resiliency of coral reefs in American Samoa. Last year, Leilua participated in a project researching how ocean currents in back reef pools at Faga’alu, the Airport, Alofau, Gataivai and Coconut Point affect mass coral reef bleaching. “Coral bleaching is a disease caused by high temperatures in our oceans and the loss of zooxanthellae, which has a symbiotic relationship with the coral. We learned that coral bleaching in American Samoa is inversely proportional to current velocity only within our back reef pools, which work differently compared to the rest of our beaches. This project needs to be continued, and I hope to receive feedback and advice from others at the conference working in a similar field.”


ASCC Marine Science instructor Kelley Anderson-Tagarino, who will accompany the students to the conferences, expressed pride in their enthusiasm for their respective areas of research. “Both Rocco and Leilua will have internships this summer, while Eirenei is now working with the staff at CNR (ASCC Community and Natural Resources), so these students have each immersed themselves in their work. I’m certain they’ll each do an exemplary job of representing American Samoa at both conferences.”