UH Mānoa students lead forum on coral reef biology in the Pacific

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Posted: Oct 7, 2011

Three graduate students from UH Mānoa were recently invited to participate on an eight-member Science Panel at a Asia-Pacific Youth Science Exchange Forum (APYSEF) in Okinawa.  The forum was hosted by the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST).  OIST is a new graduate university in Okinawa, Japan, established “to transform the way science and education is done in the global academic world.”


Representing UH Mānoa and Hawai‘i on the eight-member team were:


Sean MacDuff, originally from Saipan, is a graduate student working toward a PhD in Zoology.   His research is being supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) training grant (Integrative Graduate Education, Research & Training – IGERT).  “This experience was meaningful for me on several levels.  As a Pacific Islander, I feel a little more optimistic about the future of the Pacific Ocean in the Asia-Pacific Region.  OIST was impressive,” said MacDuff. “State-of-the-art facilities, top-notch faculty, and beautiful Okinawa make OIST an ideal partner with UH Mānoa. It only makes sense.”


Dr. Jack Kittinger recently completed his PhD in Geography and is currently an Early Career Social Science Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Ocean Solutions.  During his tenure at UH Mānoa, his graduate research was also supported by the NSF IGERT grant, which has resulted in a critically important paper on how degraded ecosystems may still retain the capacity and resilience to recover from human impacts.  According to Kittinger, the Okinawa experience was fantastic. “Such great, motivated undergraduate students that came from islands and coastal communities across the region.  I was honored to have been a participant,” he said.


Dr. Daniel Barshis is also a recent graduate from UH Mānoa, and is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow in Dr. Stephen Palumbi’s (former research faculty at the Kewalo Marine Lab at PBRC) Lab at the Hopkins Marine Station of Stanford University.  During his graduate program at UH Mānoa, Barshis was a member of the Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology (EECB) Graduate Specialization in the College of Natural Sciences.  He received support from another NSF sponsored program, the GK-12 program, which supported graduate students to outreach into the K-12 community as resource mentors to teachers and students.  Added Barshis, “What struck me was the caliber of students that were involved. These students were engaging, dedicated, very sharp, and enthusiastic about working together to find solutions to the many problems facing their nations and villages.”


Barshis, Kittinger and MacDuff were selected by OIST to serve on the eight-member science panel as experts in coral reef ecology/biology to lead the discussion on the problems facing the Pacific in the next 50 years and to suggest ways to face these issues. 


Thirty-four undergraduate students from Asia-Pacific countries including Hawai‘i, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Palau, Philippines, Indonesia, Solomon Islands, Taiwan, Australia, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea and Japan were invited to participate in the forum.  The conference resulted in a resolution that outlines the “Challenges and Solutions for Ecosystems and Communities of the Asia-Pacific Region.”


The resolution can be accessed at: http://www.oist.jp/images/stories/pdf/apysef_resolution.pdf.


Photo caption: Kneeling in front from left to right are: Yoko Nozawa (Academia Sinica, Taiwan) and Dr. Harry Wilson (Manager of Acadmic Affairs, OIST); standing, from left to right are: Sean MacDuff, Daniel Barshis, Exsley Taloiburi (United Nations Development Program, Solomon Islands), Huiyu Wang (National Taiwan University), and Jack Kittinger.