You can read a detailed history of the island here.
Students observed many different tanks in HIMB's labs, but I think they enjoyed the touch tank most of all because they got to get up close and personal with many of Kāneʻohe Bay's invertebrate animals such as feather-duster worms, conspicuous sea cumbers, tiger cowries, hermit crabs, and more. Later that day, students would get a chance to see many of these creatures in their natural habitat while snorkeling in the bay.
You can read an overview of the research conducted at HIMB's labs here.
Raphael had collected lace coral (P. damicornis) from the bay and put them in the seawater system. Because of our trip's timing (two days before the full moon), Raphael explained that these brooding corals will likely be releasing their larvae. We helped him set up the collectors that will trap any larvae released overnight. We hope to find some babies in the morning!
Students worked in teams of five to conduct their reef transects, and they traded off roles of snorkeling along the transect line, dropping the quadrat, observing what was under the point intercepts of the quadrat, and recording the data. One group noticed a Cassiopea ("upside-down") Jellyfish and narrowly avoided a sting. Students observed coral reefs and some of the diverse life they support. And I think we were all happy to get wet!
In the classroom, students engineered simple plankton traps using 2-liter soda bottles and duct tape. Traps were also outfitted with an LED light. Students made predictions about whether the red or blue LED lights would attract the most plankton. Next, it was time to deploy our traps. Under a nearly-full moon, we took a silent walk and listened to the sounds of the island. When we got to the floating dock, every partner group laid down in a line and each held their traps under the water for ten minutes to collect plankton. A startling moment was when a sea turtle cruised right underneath the traps!
Once we got back in the classroom, students used microscopes to look for the animal plankton (zooplankton) collected in their traps. Both holoplankton (organisms that are plankton their whole lives), and meroplankton (larval forms of organisms) were found and identified using a field guide. Then, students completed sketches of the intricate forms. A favorite was the fast-moving "spike head" crab zoea, but we also saw fish larvae, copepods, mysid shrimp, euphasids, sea jellies, and more. Everyone was amazed at the diversity of the plankton.
Mangroves are not native to Hawai'i, but they were introduced here over one hundred years ago and have become invasive. The thick masses of established mangroves here on Coconut Island continue to change the shoreline habitat and water chemistry. Before we left, we wanted to mālama the island and give back. Service learning is a big part of Le Jardin Academy's program and my students loved pitching in to remove invasive mangroves and their propagules. Working together, we cleared a large area adjacent to our campsite.
- Mark Heckman, HIMB Community Education Program Director, for accommodating our unique program and providing logistical assistance.
- Leon Weaver, HIMB Community Education Program Staff Member, for guiding us through the entire trip and taking such good care of us.
- Raphael Ritson-Williams, Graduate Student in HIMB's Gates Lab, for sharing your expertise and volunteering your time to facilitate two authentic scientific investigations.
- Luke Thompson and Amanda Lei Perron, Le Jardin Academy faculty, for joining the trip as chaperones and volunteering your time to benefit our students.
- Julie Do, Le Jardin Academy Middle School Principal, for supporting this trip and helping to make it possible.