Kids in American Samoa: Fighting stormwater runoff, one rain garden at a time!

By guest AIC blogger, Sabrina Woofter, Coral Reef Management Fellow, American Samoa Coral Reef Advisory Group

Le Tausagi Rain Garden, American Samoa

The Le Tausagi summer camp admires their completed rain garden!  Photo credit: Coral Reef Advisory Group

Le Tausagi Rain Garden

A camper prepares to plant ti. Photo credit: Coral Reef Advisory Group

Le Tausagi, an outreach group comprised of staff from American Samoa environmental and youth agencies, held their annual Enviro Discoveries Summer Camp on July 14th and 15th, 2016. Throughout the 2-day event, about 30 children and 15 staff and volunteers discussed local natural resources and the impacts that humans have on them. As the  Coral Reef Management Fellow, I used a watershed model to explain how we can help protect the coral reef ecosystem by preserving and planting vegetation in our watersheds and reducing land-based sources of pollution.

Le Tausagi Rain Garden

Campers and staff are working hard to plant, water, and mulch. Photo credit: Coral Reef Advisory Group

The camp culminated with an installation of a 600 ft2 rain garden that now captures stormwater runoff from an adjacent basketball court and rooftop. The garden was installed at a public park located in the impaired Nu’uuli Pala Lagoon watershed. Rain gardens like this one are stormwater best management practices (BMPs) that use plants, mulch, and soil in a depression to slow down and clean stormwater runoff, letting it infiltrate the ground. Stormwater contributes to poor surface water quality and often contains pollutants, such as sediment and nutrients, that can damage coral reef ecosystems. Rain gardens are one type of practice that can be used along with others to help improve water quality and the health of coral reefs.

YOU Can Help Prevent Coral Bleaching

by Carey Morishige Martinez, Executive director, AIC Secretariat

Molokini Coral Bleaching Media Clips. Credit: Hawaii DLNR

Bleached coral at Molokini Crater, Hawaii (10/9/15, Hawaii DLNR).

You’ve probably seen the many articles about coral bleaching the last few months (Google News search: ~103,000 results!). Just last week, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) declared the third global coral bleaching event on record…THIRD…EVER.

If you’re thinking “this can’t be good,” you’re right. But don’t lose hope!

Quick Side-bar:
Coral bleaching is…”When corals are stressed by changes in [ocean] conditions such as temperature, light, or nutrients, they expel the symbiotic algae living in their tissues, causing them to turn completely white.” (NOAA website)

Can corals recover from bleaching? YES. But, if bleaching lasts a long time, the coral usually dies. Interested in learning more? Check out our post and get the 4-1-1 on coral bleaching!

If you’re like me, you’ve asked yourself, “so what can I do?” There’s A LOT that we can do!

I really like this easy and straightforward list from The Nature Conservancy.

  1. Conserve water –> less runoff and wastewater
  2. Help reduce pollution –> less greenhouse gases= less ocean warming
  3. Use only organic fertilizers –> less pollution going into the ocean
  4. Dispose of your trash properly = no marine debris!
  5. Support reef-friendly businesses
  6. Plant a tree –> less greenhouse gases= less ocean warming
  7. Practice safe and responsible diving and snorkeling –> not touching or anchoring on corals = happier corals!
  8. Volunteer for a coral reef cleanup
  9. Contact your government representatives
  10. Spread the word!

We need our coral reefs.

Why? Check out these facts (International Coral Reef Initiative):

“…healthy coral reefs provide:

  • Habitat: Home to over 1 million diverse aquatic species, including thousands of fish species
  • Income: Billions of dollars and millions of jobs in over 100 countries around the world
  • Food: For people living near coral reefs, especially on small islands
  • Protection: A natural barrier protecting coastal cities, communities and beaches
  • Medicine: The potential for treatments for many of the world’s most prevalent and dangerous illnesses and diseases.”

Coral reefs are amazing. We need them and need to work together to make sure they’re around for future generations.

SUNIA-2013: A team from the very start

By AIC guest bloggers, Mariana C. Leon-Perez and Maria C. Lopez-Peña, 2013 Sunia interns in Puerto Rico

Maria and Mariana at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta on August 5, 2013.

Maria and Mariana at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta on August 5, 2013.

Maria and Mariana, this year’s 8th annual Governor Tauese P.F. Sunia Memorial Coral Reef Conservation Summer Interns, excelled as a team throughout their internship in Puerto Rico. Not only do these two young ladies share similar names and initials, they’re similar in background and even appearance. It could have not worked out better!

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge hosted Maria and Mariana for the summer, providing mentors and facilities for a successful internship. Support was also provided by the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Mariana worked on restoration projects in the Guánica Bay/Rio Loco Watershed and Maria assisted with wildlife-habitat restoration initiatives under USDA-USFWS agreements. Maria and Mariana participated in outdoor fieldtrips, inter-agency networking, camping, agricultural experiences, and traveling, all of which provided them with good experience and information. Both interns took advantage of each others’ skills, which resulted in overall achievement of internship goals and challenges.

Recently, both had the opportunity to visit the USFWS Southeast Regional Office in Atlanta, GA to present their projects and shadow USFWS staff. Maria and Mariana gained information about the agency and received career advice for wildlife conservation opportunities. They returned to Puerto Rico with a lot of inspiring feedback, experience, knowledge, and enthusiasm for promising professional careers in wildlife and natural resources management.

Spend your lunch break exploring a coral reef

By Carey Morishige, AIC Secretariat

Photo of a coral reef from NOAA Photo Library.

Photo of a coral reef from NOAA Photo Library.

I will be the first to admit that I am fairly new to the vast arena of coral reef science, policy, and management. Growing up in Hawai‘i I’ve certainly enjoyed coral reefs, snorkeled and paddled over them, fished from them, and know about their importance to both our ecosystems and economy. But, I’ve never truly explored them or taken the time to get a really good look.

Luckily, I have a few choices:

1) Make the time to go snorkeling more often to enjoy coral reef up-close and personal.
2) Visit an aquarium to explore and interact with their coral reef exhibits.
3) Explore a coral reef from my desk during my lunch break.

Confused by #3? Let me clarify.

In my quest for the latest information on coral reefs (and thanks in large-part to the wonders of the Internet), I’ve discovered that it is absolutely possible to explore a coral reef from my desk (or living room couch, hotel room in DC, or sitting in my car in the parking lot).

Screenshot while exploring Molokini's coral reefs on Google Street View.

Screenshot while exploring Molokini’s coral reefs on Google Street View.

First, check out Google’s Street View—in the ocean! Ever wanted to snorkel the Great Barrier Reef or Molokini here in Hawai‘i? To me, this is about the next best thing to actually being there! You can “swim” around and explore different areas, like Heron Island, and even take a breather on the beach.

Second, run a search for images on coral reefs or coral reef ecosystems. There are many places where you can check out great photos of coral and coral reefs (aka reefscapes). Here are a few that I’ve stumbled across: GuamReefLife, National Geographic, and NOAA Photo Library. Better yet, many of them provide information about what you’re looking at.

It’s pretty amazing what I’ve noticed and learned, and how much my appreciation and awe for coral reefs have grown. And, all from spending a few lunch breaks exploring a coral reef!

CNMI Coral Bleaching Watch

CNMI – Coral Bleaching Watch
The community is urged to report any coral bleaching events to the natural resource management agencies of the CNMI:

  • CNMI Division of Environmental Quality – Marine Monitoring Program: 664-8524
  • CNMI Division of Fish and Wildlife: 664-6000
  • NMI Coastal Resources Management Office: 664-8300
  • NOAA Field Office: 234-0004

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