ASCC Marine Science Program conducts outreach and research in Manu’a
Ofu, MANUA — While the near-shore reef pools of Toaga beach in Ofu are world famous amongst coral reef researchers, many American Samoa residents have not visited them.
Faculty and students from the American Samoa Community College (ASCC) Marine Science Program, with support from the science department faculty, had the opportunity to experience Toaga Beach firsthand when they conducted reef surveys and an outreach to school children in Ofu in early June.
Five ASCC Marine Science students and recent graduates were selected to travel to Ofu, where they led a day-long outreach event for the 4-7th grade students at Olosega Elementary School.
The ASCC group presented a PowerPoint talk with images from American Samoa’s reefs and short video clips to help illustrate the importance of coral reefs for the Ofu students.
The students also learned about the importance of Ofu and Olosega’s beaches as nesting sites of the endangered hawksbill and green sea turtles. After the talk, the ASCC students demonstrated how to properly put on a life vest, snorkel and mask, then fins. Many of the Olosega Elementary School students were clearly excited to be using snorkel gear for the first time. The ASCC visitors then organized the Olosega Elementary school students into small groups to get in the water at Toaga and see its exceptional coral reef.
The group from the College, assisted by ASCC faculty and National Park staff in Ofu, kept close to the elementary school students to ensure their safety while they learned how to snorkel. While in the water, the guides pointed out different corals, fish, and invertebrates, and after snorkeling the ASCC visitors and Ofu students shared snacks on the beach and discussed what they had seen and learned.
One Olosega Elementary student said, “This was my first time using fins. At first I was scared, but the ASCC students were right there with me and kept me comfortable. I had fun snorkeling and learned a lot!”
Acting Olosega Elementary School principal Falili thanked the ASCC group for the informative outreach, saying, “The kids were so excited to snorkel — they all turned in their consent forms right away!”
Aveipepa Fua, an ASCC marine science student said, “I learned how challenging it is to teach kids to snorkel — they kept trying to swim off in all different directions on me! I definitely have a new respect for the diligence of my marine science instructors.”
The ASCC group also learned about the sea turtles, marine mammals, and coconut crabs of American Samoa from Alden Tagarino of the ASCC science faculty, who presented two talks for the ASCC visitors as well as the Ofu students.
The group from ASCC put this knowledge to immediate use by learning how to find coconut crabs and handle them properly. In addition, they collected important near-shore current data using “drifters”, which they had been trained on at a recent workshop. The visiting group honed their reef surveying skills at four different sites comparing fish and coral communities on the reef flats.
Finally, students practiced flying the marine science program drone to collect near-shore reef imagery, and during the evening learned about star constellations from ASCC marine science faculty member Meagan Curtis.
For more information on ASCC marine science program learning opportunities, please contact Kelley Anderson Tagarino at 699-3353/258-2967 or <KelleyAT@hawaii.edu>; or Meagan Curtis at 699-9155/256-6423 or <firstname.lastname@example.org>