Asner, Martin teach Hawaiian youth about coral reef conservation

A multiday immersion, part of Lawai’a ‘Ohana Camp in South Kona, offered children in the coastal fishing village of Miloli’i the opportunity to learn about Indigenous island culture, local traditions, and environmental research and stewardship. In addition to the students there in person, 30 more students living in other regions of Hawaii joined virtually via Zoom and Facebook Live, due to COVID-19 safety measures.

Sustainability scientist Greg Asner, director of ASU’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science (GDCS) and professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, and Robin Martin, associate professor in the same school, were volunteer teachers at the summer camp.

Asner and Martin’s participation in the camp is just one piece of an important partnership that places ASU in the center of important work to break down geographic barriers to education and expand opportunities to Native and non-Native Hawaiian communities.

In a collaborative approach to regional ecological research, GDCS partners with the local Hawaiian community organization Pa’a Pono Miloli’i to intersect traditional Hawaiian knowledge with contemporary science as it relates to coral reef and fisheries conservation and management. The work not only promotes scientists and local communities working together but ensures that Native culture, customs and traditions are considered in coral reef resilience planning.

The long-standing partnership has already generated a range of conservation activities, including local programs and training at every stage of a student’s educational journey from youth to PhD education. Asner says one hope of the partnership is that expanding local learning opportunities could spark interest in local science and conservation and help usher in a new generation of native Hawaiian environmental resource managers.