Antarctic Humpbacks Bask in Samoan Waters
Not much is known about the marine mammals that ply the waters of the Samoan archipelago. In an effort to expand our knowledge of these elusive animals, scientists from the sanctuary program and the Center for Coastal Studies conducted a survey of cetaceans in the near waters of Tutuila, the main island in American Samoa, for the past three years. This year, 57 whales were identified. Scientists compare fluke photos and DNA taken from these whales with the Southern Ocean database on cetaceans.
Humpbacks visiting the islands below the equator spend the summer months feeding in the Antarctic Ocean, and visit the islands in the South Pacific to mate and calve during the austral winter. In addition to humpbacks, scientists encountered spinner and rough-toothed dolphins during the eight days they were on the water. Surveys will continue to capitalize on the growing database and we hope to expand the efforts to neighboring islands in the future.
Submarine Gets Up Close and Personal with Sanctuary
A group of local and visiting scientists got a fish-eye’s view of the sanctuary aboard the University of Hawai‘i`s Pisces submarine to survey the deep waters in and around Fagatele Bay. Diving to depths of 1,500 feet, the first-ever submersible dives in American Samoa, the group observed a number of new species for the territory, and some possible new species of fish and invertebrates that they were unable to identify.
Students Learn Ocean Conservation Ethics
The National Marine Sanctuary's Marine Science Summer Camp began in 1989. Serving approximately 50 ninth grade students each summer, the camp is held on the islands of Tutuila and Manu`a. Each three-week session features a strong marine science curriculum, field and laboratory studies, and swimming and snorkling lessons. Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary, along with its partners in the Department of Education, hope to continue offering this special course to some of Samoa's future marine biologists.
The EnviroDiscoveries program began in 1991 (originally called Marine Discoveries) in cooperation with both public and private schools on Tutuila and Manu`a. Utilizing Department of Education elementary teachers and the local environmental agencies' Education Coordinator, students are encouraged to learn about their marine environment in an atmosphere of fun and enjoyment. Students camp out on the coast for three days exploring, sharing and learning through activities and field trips. Now produced by Le Tausagi, the campers study many of the environmental issues that impact our island life.
For the past two years, all the government environmental educators have been working together in a group they call Le Tausagi, which translates as "the morning song of the bird". This group collaborates on much of the environmental outreach now performed in the Territory, maximizing their talents and resources to provide excellent community service. They utilize Americorps interns who are assigned to different environmental agencies, greatly enlarging their human resource potential. Le Tausagi now coordinates many programs: EnviroDiscoveries and Village Outreach are two that are spearheaded by sanctuary staff and produced by Le Tausagi. In addition, our education staff cooperates with its Le Tausagi partners in programs such as Earth Day, Arbor Week, and Coastweeks. Le Tausagi has proven to be very fruitful partnership that has benefited our island community.
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Teachers Learn About Marine Science
Twenty-five elementary school teachers (grades 4-7) participated in an innovative workshop designed to make participants better science teachers through learning more about marine sciences. This is the second year for this pilot program, and in 2005 the goal was to improve science understanding. To achieve this, teachers learned the scientific method through lab and field application by exploring marine science questions, developing hypotheses, and creating and conducting experiments.
Plans for 2006
A series of events will commemorate 20 years of achievement in science, education and resource protection for the Fagatele Bay National Marine Sanctuary. NOAA and their co-management partner, the American Samoa Government will host events throughout the year including a forum exploring conservation and development issues in local waters, a community and film festival called “Ocean Fest,” the dedication of a geodetic marker and a gala anniversary dinner.