Jul 26, 2019

CTSA Project Update: Aquaculture Workshop for Waianae High School

This past March, twenty-two students, 3 teachers, and 2 chaperons from Waianae High School attended a 3-day aquaculture workshop at the Oceanic Institute of Hawai‘i Pacific University. The CTSA-funded hands-on workshop featured activities involving finfish, live larval feeds organisms, marine shrimp, microalgae, environmental DNA (eDNA), an aquaculture business game, a college mini-fair, and a career lunch mingle with industry professionals.

The students and teachers are from Waianae High School’s Marine Science Learning Center (WHS MSLC). The classes and activities at the MSLC gives the students a strong familiarity with aquaculture through the projects they conduct at school in their own aquaculture facilities. Since the early 1990s, the school has been culturing ogo and shrimp and seeks to inspire the students to pursue higher education and careers in marine science including aquaculture and related fields. OI-HPU’s relationship with the school goes back to the beginning with their then lead teacher, Susan Lum, attending a 10-day aquaculture workshop at OI-HPU’s Kona facilities. This led to the school sending students to Kona for an annual workshop for 15 consecutive years.

This year’s CTSA- funded workshop allowed OI-HPU and WHS MSLC to restart the relationship providing hands-on experiential education in aquaculture and marine science for the students. During the workshop the students work with OI-HPU scientists and technicians as well as faculty from the College of Natural and Computational Sciences. They are exposed to cutting edge developments in aquaculture and learn techniques they can take back to their school and use including methods to produce live larval feeds to support larval fish culture and how to improve their shrimp growout projects. Students learned how to use hemocytometers to count algal cell density in cultures and background algae in rearing systems. In addition to getting information on better raising the shrimp post-larvae they get from OI-HPU, they learned about the selective breeding process OI-HPU employs to improve their families. This activity included learning how OI-HPU is uses DNA to determine shrimp paternity thereby speeding up and increasing the veracity of the breeding program.

The WHS MSLC students also learned about other molecular techniques employed in marine science including environmental DNA to get information about presence or absence of aquatic and terrestrial organisms in coastal waters and other bodies. During this part of the workshop the students extracted DNA from strawberries using readily available materials like Dawn detergent and isopropyl alcohol. This hands-on activity allowed them to actually see DNA from the strawberries making the microscopic material visible to the naked eye.

During lunch on two of the days, the students were given a chance to learn about opportunities in education and careers after they graduate from high school. On one day a mini-college fair was held that brought representatives from local higher education institutions to the workshop to talk one on one with the students about their programs. On the other day, aquaculture industry professionals were invited to share information on their jobs, how they got there, and advice on pursuing a career in this field. The “casual” format of these sessions allowed the students to ask things they normally would not have in a more formal setting.

Over the final two days of the workshop, the students played an aquaculture business game. This activity required the students to form a company, name it, take out a loan and secure a grant, decide on the products the company would produce, get the permits needed, build the needed facilities, purchase the needed supplies, begin selling their products, pay staff, pay taxes, and keep records of their income and expenses. In addition, each company which consisted of 3-4 team members would roll a dice to determine what occurrence card they would get each month. These cards are in six categories that had “good” or “bad” incidents or situations that would affect their business and sometimes the other companies too. At the end of the playing period, each company’s net worth was determined giving the students a glimpse of the challenges aquaculture businesses face and what strategies turned out better.

The 3-day aquaculture workshop provided the participants with useable information and skills; knowledge and methods they can put to work at their own facility at Waianae High School. It also gave the students a chance learn about educational opportunities and careers in aquaculture and professions that support the industry. And an appreciation of the different aspects of aquaculture including research, farming, regulations, and related services.

Prior to the start of the workshop and at the end, students were asked to complete Pre- and Post- surveys. These surveys indicated an increase of knowledge and skills by the participants of the workshop. A majority of the participants found the workshop beneficial and rewarding; stating they would welcome participating again in the future. The surveys also provided insight into ways to improve the activities and overall effectiveness of the workshop. These assessments provided feedback on the activities that they found most valuable and most challenging. With this information and with the activities fresh in everyone’s mind, the teachers and PI met after the workshop to discuss how to improve future workshops. Through an examination of what worked, what needs changing, and implementing these improvements, the next workshop should be even more successful!