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Sea Notes

Aloha and Welcome to the Kula Nai’a Foundation Blog

I am starting this blog as I am starting a new chapter in my life. I have spent most of the last 9 years teaching at a high school with a marine focus in the Stockholm area of Sweden. The students study marine biology both in the classroom and in nature, including the Baltic (one of the largest bodies of brackish water in the world), the north Atlantic around Scandinavia and northern Europe, as well as the warmer waters around the Canary Islands. Needless to say, the students study many different environments and learn by doing, in a series of authentic studies spread out over their three high school years. The students not only learned a lot about the marine environment and many of the organisms that live there, but they also got a better appreciation of some of the challenges that those animals must endure.

I want to take my experiences at this school and apply them to what we do at the Kula Nai’a Foundation. In the early 2000’s I led a Citizens Science study in Hawaii, where the participants studied the impacts of human activities on spinner dolphins in their resting bays. The study not only uncovered some of the impacts on the dolphin’s ability to rest, but also caused some of the human participants to change their behavior as they could see firsthand how others, behaving as they used to do, prevented the dolphins from resting.

It brought back memories of the first study on spinner dolphins that the Kula Nai’a Foundation did in Hulopo’e bay on Lana’i. Here spinner dolphins frequently came to rest during the middle of the day. We were studying the social organization and social behavior, so we needed to get photo-IDs to be able to identify individual dolphins. However, the bay was closed to all vessels except Hawaiian canoes, as visitors from O’ahu used to come over and anchor in the bay, destroying a coral reef with their anchors. As a result, I spent many hours snorkeling and photographing dolphins underwater, while Ania sat up on land and took notes from that perspective.

One day I came back to the beach after having spent over an hour following this single adult male around the bay. I was excited as I had gotten some good photographs, but when I talked with Ania, she wondered why I had “chased those dolphins all over the bay”. I was very surprised, first of all, because I had only seen one animal (he must have followed the rest of the school from a distance), but also because, from my perspective, I had not perceived that I had chased anyone.

It is interesting how one’s perspective can change how one perceives what is going on. I feel that it is important that more people, especially children and young adults have the chance to learn more about nature, preferably in the field. Which is why I am excited to help create more opportunities like that through the Kula Nai’a Foundation.


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