This is Our Classroom
by Heather Heenehan -- March 17th, 2015
Kenneth Norris, a pioneer marine mammal researcher who studied spinner dolphins in Hawaii, used to start his experiential field classes by saying “We’re off on the greatest adventure of our lives.” Today, we started the 2015 Marine Conservation Biology adventure.
To get the lay of the land and to “set the scene” for the rest of our time on Oahu we got in our mini-vans and drove out to the easternmost part of the island. We hiked up to Makapuu Point, home to the Makapuu lighthouse. As we made it to the top we made frequent pit-stops for the humpback show going on below us and took the time to talk about the island and some of the species, issues, and topics we would cover during the course.
We continued up to Kailua to grab lunch and came back towards where we are staying, the East-West Center at the University of Hawaii, to “Sandy Beach” for a class discussion about sea turtles led by Emma and Courtney. See the picture below for a view of today’s classroom, not too shabby right?
The experiential nature of this class is the true beauty of this class. We find our “classroom” on sandy beaches watching humpback whales and discussing sea turtles. As we continue we will learn by meeting with various stakeholders, visiting different parts of the island, and seeing first-hand the challenges associated with the conservation of marine biodiversity on Oahu. I know how powerful courses like this can be because before I started the Ph.D. program I came through the MEM program and went on this class in 2011. This course meant a lot to me and provided me quite a few “aha” moments. It helped me realize that I wanted to stay for the Ph.D. program to continue studying Hawaiian spinner dolphins and hopefully to teach experiential courses like this one some day.
Over the next two weeks you’ll be hearing from the nine students, Emma, Courtney, Katie R., Katie G., Laura, Dana, Meghan, Amy, and Alli as we move through the class, doing our best to post at least one blog each day on our different case studies and adventures. Tomorrow we will be in Hanauma Bay helping conduct sea turtle health assessments so come back then to hear about our St. Patrick’s Day with (hopefully) quite a few green sea turtles.
Please feel free to use the comments section to write to us and ask us questions. For a look at our topics and some of the people we will be meeting with, check out our itinerary here.
P.S. You know life is good when the hardest decision of the day is deciding what jelly we should get for our PB&J sandwiches!