Our Islands, Our Future

A coral reef monitoring project sounded like it could be fun for the Wailuku Roselani Na Hokulani 4-H Club. Member Kaitlyn Yamada says it was fun, but more importantly she and her fellow 4-Hers were able to master their skills in Google Earth applications as well the Global Positioning and Geographic Information Systems. They also learned the importance of a healthy coral reef. “This project allowed us to become aware of the balance between development and possible jobs and sustainable and green living in Maui County,” Yamada said. “When we began this project, we thought it was a fun idea, but later learned of the significance of gathering and understanding this data.”

A Ke Alahele Education Fund Grant administered by Maui Economic Development Board provided the 4-H Club camera and computer equipment they needed to create coral reef maps at Olowalu and Maalaea. Their task was to establish the baseline reef conditions by teaming up on paddle boards and video taping conditions with GoPro cameras. On shore, the eight club members in grades 8 to 10 tracked their findings on a computer funded by Ke Alahele. Coral reefs worldwide are declining due to various stressors including ocean acidification, sedimentation, over-fishing and near-shore development, according to the club’s grant application. “We were inspired to think of all of the factors that could affect the health of our coral reef. We learned the importance of coral reefs to the health of our island concerns,” Yamada said.

The club’s 4-H leader, Joyce Yamada, said she saw the girls apply skills in science, technology, engineering and math. “STEM skills are integrated in every job and industry. Our members need to be prepared for, and aware of, these opportunities as they become productive members of our community,” Joyce Yamada said. “The confidence that they build as they master these skills will allow our girls to believe in their abilities and become our next generation of inventors, scientists, engineers and members of a community that cares for their environment.”