CKMS students study marine debris

NUKOLI‘I — Armed with clipboards and oranges, Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School eighth-graders scoured Nukoli‘i Beach, a popular depository for marine debris, on Friday with scientific research as their goal.

The tour was just half of their day-long outing studying the marine environment. The students had a later appointment for whale watching in Port Allen.

Deborah Finke, a CKMS teacher, said about 370 students were involved in the project. The outing came on the heels of the recent boat-based teaching seminar hosted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in Kukui‘ula, when teachers experienced real-world researchers’ roles.

“We’ve got some of the Global Positioning System cameras we used during that exercise,” said one of the teachers. “This is through the efforts of Jean Souza, the Kaua‘i programs coordinator for the humpback whale sanctuary.”

Finke said during the beach outing, the students collected information on the land-based and ocean-based marine debris.

“The data will be brought back to the classroom and studied,” Finke said. “It has a relation to the tsunami debris generated by the earthquake in Japan, and I even downloaded the recent video from the TV news discussing the tsunami debris.”

Scientists believe ocean waves carried away between three and four million tons of the 20 million tons of debris created by the tsunami. which slammed into Japan following a magnitude-9.0 earthquake in March 2011, The Associated Press reported.

One million to two million tons of it still remain in the water and are being carried across the Pacific by ocean currents, with 1 percent to 5 percent of that possibly reaching coastlines in Hawai‘i, Alaska, Oregon and Washington states.

“The students use oranges to study the currents,” Finke said. “They toss the oranges into the water, and following collecting data on debris, return to measure and see how the currents bring debris onto shore.”

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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