Thanks to Jim Beets for allowing CORAL to reprint this article
UH Hilo, a leader in liberal arts education in Hawai’i, is planning the development of a marine field station at Puakō, on the Kona coast of the Island of Hawai‘i. The impressive coral reefs at Puakō are among the best developed and most diverse in Hawai‘i, making the site an ideal location for coral reef studies. Numerous scientific studies have been conducted at Puakō, because of the unique characteristics, clear waters, and easy access. UH Hilo, UH Manoa, and top universities across the United States use the Puakō reef as a site to conduct research and train students on coral reef science and conservation.
The development of the Puakō Marine Center is timely for coral reef science. Coral reefs are in peril around the world, and Puakō has the potential of becoming the best hands-on living laboratory to promote understanding and conservation of one of Earth’s most precious resources. The site would provide the perfect field station for the study of water quality and coral reef conservation and management. With low impact on the area, the facility would serve to spotlight the traditional Hawaiian relationship with the sea and the growing focus on the connections between human communities and their coastal resources and environments. Located on Hawai’i Island and with the only undergraduate Marine Science degree program in the state, UH Hilo plans to develop the Puakō Marine Center to train undergraduate and graduate students, current and future teachers, and native Hawaiians in marine education and provide a base for coastal research. The center would be one of the few field stations in the world dedicated to ocean research activities in which local students are the primary participants. With the academic support of UH Hilo, whose primary mission is to provide excellent undergraduate liberal arts and professional programs, the marine center would provide a wide range of educational and research activities.
The Puakō Marine Center, supported by UH Hilo Marine Science Program, will serve statewide marine education and research training needs and provide support for national and international institutions that desire to conduct research activities in Hawaiian coastal and coral reef environments. The facility will build on successful programs and collaborations, such as the Marine Options Program, the QUEST scientific diving program – QUEST, and Marine Science Summer Course Program. Training future marine leaders and developing collaborations will be our measures of success.