UH Community College Students Experience Place-Based Oceanography

Two Mauka students in Makai with a fish specimen.

To foster a transfer pathway from the University of Hawaii Community Colleges to Geoscience Degree Programs at uh Mānoa, with a focus on Native Hawaiian students and other underrepresented students, the six-week “Mauka to Makai” course was proposed to engage students in a place-based, science-based oceanography curriculum. Native Hawaiian values.

group photo on the boat
2022 Mauka to Makai students and instructors.

Through the Department of Oceanography, 10 uh community college students shared `ike (knowledge) they acquired thanks to the course during the summer bridge Hōʻike (exposure).

The course is part of the National Science Foundation project “Halau Ola Honua, Our Living World” – a statewide collaboration between Windward Community College, uh Manoa, Honolulu CC and Kauaʻi CC.

Immersion in the natural environment

In addition to traditional lectures and labs, students engaged in mālama ʻāina (natural/cultural resource management) as well as independent research.

“Our students used observations from contemporary instruments to characterize the chemical, physical and biological properties of two ahupuaʻa and coastal areas,” said Rosie AlegadoCo-Principal Investigator of the Program and Associate Professor in uh Mānoa School of Ocean and Land Science and Technology (SOEST) oceanography and uh Sea Grant College Program. “They analyzed and developed independent projects around this data and shared their findings at Hōʻike. This created an opportunity for students to have an authentic research experience that connected cultural heritage, scientific research, and human impacts on a watershed.

smiling girl in nature
Student ready to sample stream water.

Funded through an award from the National Science Foundation’s Tribal Colleges and Universities Program, this approach provides hands-on learning, in which students are immersed in the natural environment. A unique aspect of the course is its connection to community groups involved in the preservation and restoration of traditional Hawaiian resource management practices in the watersheds and coastal waters of Oʻahu.

Create lifelong knowledge, connection

During the Hōʻike, Michel Guidryco-investigator of the program and president of the SOEST Global Environmental Sciences program, shared that the team of instructors – Alegado, uh Graduate student from Manoa Kuʻi Keliipuleole and leeward CC instructor Donn Viviani– put in a phenomenal effort to make it a success. Students completed the course with new knowledge, lasting relationships and a network of scientists, cultural practitioners and community groups, he added.

“Our summer oceanography program from Mauka to Makai was offered in 2018, 2019 and 2022,” said Margaret McManusco-investigator of the program, professor and president of the SOEST Department of Oceanography. “I am very pleased to see several students from our 2018 and 2019 programs continuing their studies in geoscience degree programs at uh Manoa. We hope that the students of our class of 2022 will also join us in the future!

“Historically, Native Hawaiians and other minority ethnic groups, including Pacific Islanders, Filipinos, Hispanics, African Americans, and Native Americans, have been underrepresented at the undergraduate and graduate levels in SOEST“said Alegado. “Our goal is for efforts like this to nurture Hawaii’s local talent so that kamaʻāina students will be empowered to become the leaders we need to meet the challenges ahead.

–By Marcie Grabowski

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