Oceanography graduate students bring their science to Maui high schools, alma mater

Two graduate students from the University of Hawai‘i (UH) at Mānoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) Department of Oceanography visited two high schools on Maui recently to share their research and hands-on activities. Approximately 200 students at Lahainaluna High School and Seabury Hall learned about ocean-going research vessels, ocean measurements, and deep-sea biology.

Noah Howins, a recent graduate of the SOEST undergraduate Global Environmental Sciences program, focused his presentations on ocean acidification and also covered coastal erosion, plastic pollution, and the oceanic time-series at Station ALOHA.

“These topics,” he emphasized, “are locally relevant to the students, societally important to Hawaiʻi as a whole, and illustrate the breadth of topics and opportunities available to undergraduate students in SOEST.”

Howins, who is from Maui and attended Lahainaluna High School, aimed to inspire local students by sharing his journey.

“I hope I showed them that local kids from high schools in the outer islands are not limited in their future,” said Howins. “I want them to see that they are able to move beyond Maui and take part in a variety of exciting fields.”

Elizabeth Miller shared with Maui students her passion for deep-sea biology and the fascinating adaptations deep-sea animals use to cope with the challenges of low light, high pressure, cold temperature and scarce food. She brought preserved specimens of deep-sea fish so that students could see first-hand some of the specific adaptations to the deep sea and touch the unusual creatures. Additionally, Miller also discussed the importance of the deep-sea in the ocean ecosystem and the threat posed by future deep-sea mining efforts.

“Though the deep-sea is a subject most people know little about, it is such an engaging topic,” said Miller. “I hope by learning about this ocean environment and the threats to it, people will be inspired to continue learning and defend the ocean ecosystem.”

“Liz and Noah are excellent ambassadors of science and the UH Mānoa Department of Oceanography,” said Niklas Schneider, former chair of the SOEST Department of Oceanography. “Many students in Hawai‘i have a deep affinity for the ocean. We seek to inspire them to study and see themselves unlocking its mysteries.

Howins’ and Miller’s travels were funded by the National Weather Service Pacific Region Fellowship and the UH Mānoa Department of Oceanography.