Ocean immersion

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    From left, Nai’a Burkart, Lani Alo and Kynan Ledee of Kapaa High School pause during a presentation on oceanography by University of Hawaii at Manoa students on the Kapaa campus Thursday.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Kapaa High School students Jake Lambden and Jayden Macugay experiment with a water bottle to understand density during a demonstration from University of Hawaii at Manoa doctorate students Thursday at the Kapaa campus.

  • Jessica Else / The Garden Island

    Kelly Pearson, doctorate student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, talks about SeaGliders, foreground, and other tools used in oceanography to students Thursday at Kapaa High School.

KAPAA — Kapaa High School junior Nai‘a Burkart already had a knack for science before she heard about being an oceanographer firsthand from Kelly Pearson, a doctoral student in oceanography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

But when she heard about the potentials for combining ocean science and travel, a light bulb ignited.

“After this, now I’m thinking a bit (about a career in oceanography),” Burkart said.

Her classmate Lani Alo said she was thinking the same thing during Pearson’s presentation, which focused on equipment like the torpedo-shaped data-collector called the SeaGlider.

“I want to be a science major,” Alo said. “Probably something to do with the ocean.”

Pearson was one of two UH students who dropped by Kapaa High Thursday morning to give hands-on presentations throughout the day on oceanography and biology.

It was a chance for students to teach younger students about their field and ways the layperson can get involved in ocean research. It was also designed to spark ideas — potentially converting a few more science-minded people to oceanography.

The SeaGlider took up most of the time.

The $165,000 machine collects many kinds of data from about 1,000 meters deep. Some similar tools will dive deeper, and they’re more expensive.

Students were surprised at the price of the SeaGlider, but everything was put into perspective when Pearson pointed out running a medium-sized research ship could cost about $100,000 a day.

“This can be underwater for nine months and takes continuous measurements,” Pearson said.

Burkart, Alo and classmate Kynan Ledee said they thought that made it worth the investment.

“It’s expensive, but it can stay under for a long time,” Ledee said.

After the presentation, the three had a few ideas of how a SeaGlider or technology like it could be helpful.

“We could monitor how climate change is affecting ocean temperatures and that will make us more aware of our impact,” Burkart said.

Alo highlighted another aspect of changing weather that could be monitored. “We’d be able to see how hurricanes are forming and where they’re going to make us more prepared on land,” Alo said.

Pearson also brought the class up to speed on the ocean-monitoring program Argo Floats — which has 3,967 pieces currently floating in the world’s oceans, also collecting data.

Anyone can use Google Earth to view maps of the floats, and the open-data system allows anyone to track a variety of ocean data — from temperature and condition of the water to vocalizations and habits of marine animals. Check in at www.argo.ucsd.edu.

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Jessica Else, environment reporter, can be reached at 245-0452 or jelse@thegardenisland.com.

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