Hawai‘i Sea Grant faculty honored for leadership, collaboration

Tara Owens, Coastal Processes and Hazards Specialist with the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program and liaison to Maui County, is the recipient of the 2023 Caraid Award, given by the Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) Association. She was selected for the award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to observing, understanding and protecting our oceans and coasts through vision, leadership, friendship, and collaboration.

The word “caraid” is a Scottish Gaelic word, meaning “care” or “love.” Ru Morrison, founder of the Northeastern Regional Association of Coastal Ocean Observing Systems, was the first recipient of the award and the inspiration for its creation that honors both his collaborative spirit and love for his Scottish homeland. The attributes of caraid–caring and the courage to do what matters–are critical to the success of a wide-spread and integrated program such as IOOS.

In partnership with Maui County, Owens’ role is to “bridge the gap”  between science and planning for improved conservation of coastal resources and community resilience by providing technical guidance, consultations, site visits, and community outreach. Owens also interfaces with State and Federal agencies and the community on collaborative projects pertaining to climate change and coastal hazards, including beach erosion and sea level rise impacts.

“We nominated Tara for the IOOS Association’s highest honor because of how she approaches her work,” said Melissa Iwamoto, director of the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS), based in the UH Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology. “Tara brings people together around an issue or need with respect, empathy, intellect, and aloha. Her enthusiasm for how ocean and coastal science and observations can support communities’ safety, protect property, and enable proactive decision-making in a changing climate is sincere and palpable. We are so grateful for our partnership with Tara and Hawai‘i Sea Grant.”

“Tara exudes caraid– she is kind, empathic, knowledgeable, interested, honest, humble, and always eager to learn,” read the IOOS Association announcement of the award. “Through her collaborative, transparent approach and unwavering dedication, she has become an essential neutral broker of information on Maui and in the State of Hawaiʻi. She spends a huge amount of her time reaching out to communities to provide technical knowledge and to learn their perspectives in order to ensure government leaders are considering community perspectives in decision-making. If an issue comes up (as they often do), Tara’s cell phone will be ringing because everybody knows she will answer their questions honestly and in an approachable and public-friendly manner, assist them in their concerns, and ensure they are heard. Tara strives for excellence in herself, and her gratitude for the contributions from others helps bring it out in others.”

“I am so honored to be selected, and it certainly is nice to feel appreciated,” said Owens. “Of course, we never work alone and participation is a privilege, so I want to emphatically reciprocate appreciation to PacIOOS, Sea Grant, and many agency and community partners for their trust and partnership in our collective endeavors over the years.”