CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Marine biology students from La Pietra-Hawaii School for Girls sifted for marine animals and native algae species yesterday through bags of algae collected from Maunalua Bay. Francesca Field held up a worm, which she later returned to the bay.
Laboratory of life
Elbow-deep in brown, slimy seaweed isn't where one usually finds teenage girls.
How to help Maunalua Bay
Two of many nonprofit organizations that are working to improve the health of Maunalua Bay are Malama Maunalua and Maunalua Makai Watch. The groups train volunteers to collect data about biological resources and human uses of the bay, as well as to report violations to state conservation officers. For more information, contact Alyssa Miller, Malama Maunalua coordinator, at email@example.com or 228-0027; and Lance "Mahi" La Pierre of Maunalua Makai Watch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 282-4611.
How to help other coastal areas
Other areas with existing or forming Makai Watch programs include Milolii, Hookena, Honaunau and Puako on the Big Island; Ahihi-Kinau on Maui; Haena on Kauai; and Kaneohe and Pupukea on Oahu. For more information on these, contact Debbie Ward, state Department of Land and Natural Resources public information officer, at 587-0320 or Debbie.L.Ward@hawaii.gov, or the Community Conservation Network at 528-3700.
But 15 students from La Pietra-Hawaii School for Girls were happily going through piles of invasive foreign algae they had removed from Maunalua Bay yesterday to rescue tiny shrimps and crabs -- and even some native Hawaiian seaweed.
The exercise was part of an intense 24-hour marine science project that began Thursday afternoon when the girls stepped onto the sailing canoe Hokule'a.
Their boat ride from Sand Island to Hawaii Kai was under motorized tow because of unfavorable winds. But that did not dampen the young women's awe at being on the vessel that has revolutionized modern understanding of ancient Polynesians' sailing skills.
Master navigator and Polynesian Voyaging Society President Nainoa Thompson let the girls help steer the boat with its massive tiller.
"I really realized when I was steering the ship how many people have steered it before, and how it was built by hand," said senior Sarah Peoples said with reverence.
In addition to telling the students about way-finding by stars and how the Hokule'a crew works together, Thompson said he urged them to think about what they want to do after college. Do they want to come home to Hawaii?
Most of the girls told him yes and that they want to raise their families here, Thompson said. That desire to "come home" is a key part of why the Polynesian Voyaging Society has made education of Hawaii's young people part of its mission, he said.
As the Hokule'a bobbed in Maunalua Bay under a canopy of stars Thursday night, "we talked about why Hawaii is special and why it's good to live here," he said.
That conversation was fresh in the girls' minds yesterday as they finished their algae-sorting process and prepared to collect water samples from the bay, under the guidance of members of the community groups Malama Maunalua and Maunalua Makai Watch. The girls will study water quality test results back in their classroom with teacher Jessica Carew.
"We need to know nature ... and understand all of it to know how to save it," senior Stacey Martin said.
Their field day at Maunalua Bay helped their understanding of nature, several girls agreed during a lunchtime break yesterday.
Peoples said she was amazed that of the algae they pulled from shallow water, "it was 99 percent bad algae."
"Algae is smothering the reefs," she said.