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collecting water samples
Brandon Dela Cruz sampling water.

“Almost all of Hawaiʻi’s drinking water is sourced from groundwater, so it’s extremely important to me to maintain its quality for future generations,” said University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa undergraduate student Brandon Dela Cruz when asked what his plans are for the future.

man smiling with water sample
Brandon Dela Cruz collecting water samples for analysis.

Dela Cruz’s focus on preserving this precious natural resource has been a touchstone in his academic journey through the Global Environmental Sciences (GES) degree program in UH Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST).

Born and raised on Oʻahu, Dela Cruz attended Leeward Community College while working part-time to pay for college. There, he met Leeward CC oceanography Professor Donn Viviani, who became a wonderful mentor.

“Dr. Viviani is a great person to talk to, always wants to see students succeed, and consistently shares opportunities for scholarships and internships,” said Dela Cruz.

Inspirational mentorship

Dela Cruz was further motivated to pursue a degree in SOEST after meeting several alumni and hearing about the opportunities available to them as students and the careers they chose after graduation.

For his GES senior thesis research project, Dela Cruz has been analyzing distribution patterns of bacterial pathogens in a wetland environment under the mentorship of SOEST Earth Sciences Professor Henrietta Dulai. With additional guidance from two other mentors, Kapiʻolani Community College Professor Mackenzie Manning and SOEST doctoral student Kuʻi Keliipuleole, Dela Cruz’s research focused on Sumida Farms, a freshwater spring farm that grows the bulk of Hawaiʻi’s watercress.

“Although the springs are the main source of nourishment for the farm, during heavy rain the runoff travels into the farm carrying pollutants from the nearby urban infrastructure,” said Dela Cruz. “This work has made me more aware of the potential implications of any water entering the city’s municipal storm sewer system and strengthened my overall goal to protect Hawaiʻi’s clean water.”

Preparing for the future while thinking about home

This past summer, Dela Cruz was offered an internship with the City and County of Honolulu’s Storm Water Quality Division, which is tasked with protecting Hawaiʻi’s clean water and subsequently the vitality of diverse ecosystems. Efforts to sustain Hawaiʻi’s clean water and minimize pollutants include educating the public, ensuring compliance with state and federal laws, and investigating possible infractions that jeopardize this resource.

After his anticipated graduation in May 2023, Dela Cruz hopes to secure a job as an environmental scientist and pursue a graduate degree in hydrogeology.

“It would be an amazing chance for me to grow and give back to my home,” he said.

For more on the story, see SOEST’s website.

–By Marcie Grabowski

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