Last month we last visited Oxford, Mississippi, home to the University of Mississippi, better known as Ole Miss. The Small World format of linking places has changed, as the three of you who read this know, and so now we’re linking together schools by some random fact or shared trait. Well, Ole Miss was both a space grant and a sea grant institution, the former comprised of institutions that study outer-space related topics, and the latter being, well, you guessed it, folks that study the conservation of our most vital resource – water. For March, we decided to skip way across the country and leave the mainland on this trip through our Small World to the Aloha State, and the most recent to join our country (in 1959). Specifically, we are visiting the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the flagship campus of the UH system.
The Sea Grant College Program started in 1966, and was modeled after the land grant system that was initiated through the 1862 Morrill Land Grant Act. UH Manoa was actually founded as a land grant college in 1907, while the sea grant program came to fruition in 1968, just two years after the national program was signed into action by President Johnson. There are only 32 sea grant programs in the United States, and the simple fact that Hawaii is the only state completely surrounded by water makes it a logical pick for the study of our water systems. As there are eight “main islands” (not to mention hundreds of smaller ones), it follows that water is a vital part of the region’s daily life, and so the study and preservation of these resources is of utmost importance. Hawaii’s ocean coastline covers some 750 miles, putting it just behind Alaska, California and Florida.
The UH Sea Grant has five main focus areas for its research agenda: sustainable coastal development, hazard resilience in coastal communities, sustainable coastal tourism, indigenous cultural heritage and water resource sustainability. Its hazard resilience efforts focus on beach restoration, erosion mitigation, sea level rise studies and tsunami research. While much of the emphasis in this correlate area is due to natural conditions such as climate change, it also works to counteract human-made issues such as population growth (Hawaii is the 13th most densely populated state, but the 8th smallest), the fishing industry, and of course, tourism, the state’s bread and butter. This gives heed to why the coastal tourism emphasis is so important. One aspect of this research, the Hanauma Bay Education program, serves over 1 million visitors a year and educates them on the fragility of coastal resources and the value of marine life.
In addition to its five focal areas, the UH Sea Grant has three centers of excellence: smart building and community design, sustainable coastal tourism and marine science education. The difference between the focal area model and the center of excellence model resides in the former being an educational and outreach program; while the latter is geared towards partnerships and in-depth research, which in turn informs the focal areas and thus community extension efforts. For instance, the centers of excellence program on sustainable coastal tourism partners with local hotels and resorts to distribute information about threatened or endangered species, which can drive tourist interest and knowledge in the topic, and then lead to a more informed public about the needs of our non-renewable or scarce resources.
The University of Hawaii at Manoa is set in paradise. Manoa resides on the island of Oahu, home to the capital city, Honolulu. With historical gems like Pearl Harbor, and natural gems like Diamond Head, the state is one of the crown jewels of our country for its beauty and abundant varieties of sea, land and air life. Hawaii is truly a remarkable place that is home to one of the pioneering universities in water conservation and water resource management.