Students set sail for science

In late September, twenty American Samoa Community College (ASCC) Marine Science Students embarked aboard the Sailing School Vessel (SSV) Robert C. Seamans to conduct oceanographic research around Tutuila.  This is the fourth season where the SSV Robert C. Seamans, owned and operated by the Sea Education Association (SEA), has been in-port in Pago Pago as part of a new Pacific Ocean route that SEA began offering in 2014. 

The new route involves ending one semester program in Pago Pago, from which students fly home in June, followed by another Pago Pago-based departure to the Phoenix Islands in July from which the ship returned in August. Another program begins in late September, when the new students fly in and sail out aboard the SSV Robert C. Seamans.  Between June and September the SSV Robert C. Seamans crew has graciously hosted many visitors for tours or day sails, and is committed to doing the same in 2018.

During the day sail, ASCC students gained hands-on experience using oceanographic instruments for testing water quality, currents, and plankton, both in Pago Pago Harbor and around the south shore of Tutuila. They also observed humpback whales and seabirds, then participated in discussions on these creatures’ importance to marine food webs and as signs for navigating.  Students assisted in collecting oceanographic samples that they later analyzed in the lab at ASCC.  In addition to learning the science, students also learned the basics of sailing, navigating, and living onboard a ship.  Many of the students expressed enjoyment with the day sail, with student Faith Latu saying, “I feel very lucky to have been able to join this day sail. I learned a lot and it made me excited to learn more about the ocean around our islands.”

Experiences such as this would not be possible without the support of the SEA program, ASCC and ACNR, and the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant.  The SSV Robert C. Seamans’ in-porting in Pago Pago is now an annual event, which benefits our Territory through increased ocean awareness and as an attraction for visitors.  In addition, last year SEA generously provided a full scholarship to ASCC Marine Science student Johann Vollrath, who attended their inaugural Pacific Reefs Expedition program which included sailing from Papeete, Tahiti, to Rangiroa, Karorina Atoll, Keritimati Atoll, and Honolulu, Hawai‘i.  The ASCC Marine Science Program expressed its gratitude to SEA for providing such wonderful opportunities to its students and said it looks forward to continuing this partnership. 

Anyone wishing to learn more about the ASCC Marine Science Program can contact Kelley Anderson Tagarino by calling 699-3353 (office) or 258-2967 (cell), by emailing KelleyAT@Hawaii.edu, or via regular mail at P.O. Box 2609 for more information. The Marine Science Program provides outreach talks about Marine Science topics, so if your class or group would like to request a talk, please contact Mrs. Tagarino. Those interested can also contact Meagan Curtis of the ASCC Science Department by emailing m.curtis@amsamoa.edu.

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