Marine science faculty from Palau Community College and research staff from the Palau International Coral Reef Center hosted faculty from American Samoa Community College, the College of the Marshall Islands, the College of Micronesia-FSM, and Northern Marianas College to discuss climate change science, develop new curriculum, and learn how to use new technological tools with guidance from coral reef experts Robert Richmond of the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa’s Kewalo Marine Laboratory and Robert Dunbar of Stanford University.
The workshop, which was held in June in in Palau, focused on tools to monitor the impacts of climate change on the islands’ coral reefs. Recent scientific research warns that ocean acidification, in combination with sea surface warming, will cause mortality in 60 percent of the world’s coral reefs and increase the vulnerability of island nations to the impacts of sea level rise. The effects already being experienced include seawater intrusion into limited freshwater aquifers, damage to low-lying taro fields and coastal flooding.
“Coral reefs are an integral part of the culture, economy and life for island nations. They have a lot to lose,” Richmond said. “Culturally connected, indigenous individuals working with local governments and communities are the best positioned to help manage coral reef stressors and to inspire local stakeholders to adapt and become more resilient in the face of our changing climate.”
In addition to the geographically relevant climate change curriculum shared at the workshops, participants also received new tools to help train students in coral reef health assessments. Participants received five Hobo temperature and light sensors and six calcium carbonate rate units (provided by NOAA’s Coral Reef Ecosystem Division).
This workshop was part of an eight-year effort to build Pacific Islanders’ capacity in science, technology, engineering and mathematics—or STEM fields. The workshop was funded by the National Science Foundation under the Advanced Technological Education Program.
Read the UH Mānoa news release for more information.