NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries Pacific Islands Region (PIR) provided funding to Honua Consulting for community-based research projects that benefit natural resource preservation in Hawai‘i's island communities. Honua used the funding for grants, and one of the awardees, Mālama Kauai, used their grant to support an internship project that addresses coastal health on the Kaua'i north shore. Kaua'i Community College student Leah Suesen, is completing her internship on the project.
Founded in 2006, Mālama Kaua'i is a community-based nonprofit organization that focuses on advocating, educating and driving action towards a sustainable Kaua‘i. Mālama Kaua‘i used their grant to create an enhanced understanding of steam systems and watershed relations. The project aimed to restore the community's ability to assess stream health, and gain knowledge as to whether it is safe to enter the water without sampling. The data collected by Ms. Suesen will be used to help implement proper policies to improve watershed health and decrease pollutants in the bays where people love to swim, fish and surf.
Allen Tom, Regional Director for the PIR commented, "The Mālama Kaua'I project exemplifies community-based capacity building initiatives. They are ground-up, and engage with residents of the area to gain much needed baseline data and information. More importantly, local students with the drive and initiative learn about their marine environment," Tom continued.
Dr. Trisha Kehaulani Watson, owner of Honua Consulting and Program Manager had this to say: "We believe that government funds are often best used when given to communities so that they can manage their own initiatives. These small, local organizations comprise community members who know their communities and needs. The best thing we did was turn the project over to the community and then got out of their way."
Dr. Watson also noted that, with the success of this project, her company is looking for additional funds to continue and expand the program. The goal is to take the program statewide in the upcoming years.