Climate change has become a prominent topic of conversation over the past few years. You would be hard pressed to find someone who has not heard that our planet’s slowly rising temperatures are leading to (extreme) changes in the health of ecosystems all over the globe, but especially in areas that are near sea level. As an archipelago, the Hawaiian Islands are at risk for sea level rise, which poses a serious threat to our coastal communities. Consequences include increased intensity of storm surges, flooding, erosion, coral reef damage, contamination of soil and groundwater, as well as the displacement of people and animals. In an effort to start educating our keiki, Learning Endeavors launched Champions of Coastal Resilience (CCR) this week, a new virtual place-based STEM after-school program on Moloka’i. Over the course of the next seven weeks, CCR aims to teach students in 4th-6th grade about the importance of coastal ecology through the use of interactive digital maps and curriculum resources. Students will virtually explore a variety of different coastal sites, including coastal wetlands, dunes, Hawaiian fishponds and coastal watersheds, in order to discover how our changing climate will lead to such alterations as sea level rise, among others. Throughout the duration of this course, students will be encouraged to develop their understanding of what it means to be an environmental steward. If you are not enrolled in the course, but want to be a “Champion of Coastal Resilience” and help keep our ecosystems strong and healthy there are still ways for you to aid in the CCR mission through Citizen Science and individual coastal stewardship.
The great thing about citizen science is that you do not have to be enrolled in any course or have a degree in order to be able to assist in the effort to protect our coastlines! As residents of Hawai’i, we are in a unique position to not only see the impacts of climate change firsthand, but also become directly involved in strategies to prevent and lessen the consequences. So, grab your phone, tablet or computer and let’s dive into it!
Here are some app suggestions to get you started on your journey to being a Champion of Coastal Resilience:
1.Marine Debris Tracker - A National Geographic app that enables you to track litter from anywhere on the planet for scientific research. Have you seen the images of disposal face masks floating around in the water or littered on the side of the road? Rubbish that ends up in the ocean, on our beaches or in any ecosystem for that matter, can harm or kill wildlife and damage their habitats. By collecting data on marine debris you can help researchers create solutions to pollution threats.
2. Inaturalist - An app jointly developed by National Geographic and California Academy of Sciences that allows you to record, share and discuss your biodiversity observations and findings with fellow naturalists. Next time you’re at the beach, hiking or visiting wetlands, take pictures of the different species you see - birds, butterflies, etc.
3. Scistarter Project Finder - Looking for projects to join in your area? Scistarter is a great place to go! Simply go to the “Project Finder” tab and enter in any location, phrase or topic to find citizen science projects to volunteer with.
If technology is not your thing, don't fret, you can still play a role in the conservation of our coastlines. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Next time you are on a beach walk or biking on the street, bring a trash bag with you and pick up any litter you see.
2. Invest in reusable bags, cutlery, straws, etc. so that they don't end up causing harm to natural habitats.
3.Research sustainable practices and traditions. Learn about the harm of invasive species and focus on planting native species in order to restore and preserve biodiversity.
4. Attend community meetings and get involved in community planning so that over development does not harm nature.
The challenges facing our coastlines may be daunting, but if we come together as a community and do our part to look after our ‘aina, we can lessen the threats climate change poses. Get outside and start today!