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NMSU students travel to Hawaii to study climate change

From snorkeling in a swimming pool to learning about coral bleaching, 12 New Mexico State University students have been preparing for a trip to Hawaii where they will study various aspects of climate change during spring break.


Hawaiian Island
New Mexico State University Regents Professor Michele Nishiguchi and students in her Sundt Honors Seminar course will travel to Hawaii over spring break to study climate change. (Photo by Steffen Binke)
Coral reef
Students in the New Mexico State University Sundt Honors Seminar course will travel to Hawaii over spring break to study coral reefs as a focus of climate change. (Courtesy photo)

The trip is part of the Sundt Honors Seminar course with NMSU Biology Regents Professor Michele Nishiguchi.

?I asked the students to break down what they thought were important topics in terms of climate change, because that?s such a big focus,? Nishiguchi said. ?I gave them a couple of lectures on the basics of what was going on globally, then in particular, in Hawaii.?

Four groups comprised of three students will focus on a certain aspect of climate change while in Hawaii.

One group is focusing on natural resources with an emphasis on how climate change is increasing the amount of invasive species in Hawaii.

Another group will study how climate change is affecting corals, specifically, how temperature increases and ocean acidification are killing off corals.

Sustainable businesses will be a focus area for another group. The students in this group will study businesses that are trying to comply with greener rules and are trying not to dump too much waste into the ocean. The issue of tourism overall will be addressed, as it is a big part of the economy in Hawaii.

Lastly, a group of students will research socioeconomics. The students will look at how climate change affects not only the financial stability of a place like Hawaii, but how it impacts native Hawaiians.

?I had the students divide up so that not all of them have the same majors,? Nishiguchi said. ?For example, not all the biologists are in the coral health group. I want them to spread their expertise around.?

The Hawaii excursion will include lectures by University of Hawaii professors with expertise in various areas, and the students will visit the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, where coral restoration is being conducted. They will also visit The Nature Conservancy, The Inouye Center and The Hawaiian Seafood Company?s fish auction.

Aside from the educational side of the trip, the NMSU group will partake in a community outreach activity, in which they will restore lava rock walls in a native fishpond.

?These fishponds are part of Hawaiians? cultural heritage,? Nishiguchi said. ?The ponds are relying upon coral reef health in order to be sustainable. The ponds were used to not only culture fish for the native Hawaiians to eat but also to provide shelter for nurseries for juvenile fish.?

The NMSU group will stay at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology at Coconut Island.

Nishiguchi was named to the William Conroy Honors College?s M. Eugene Sundt Professorship last summer. The Sundt Professorship was established to support the development of exceptional and innovative teaching ideas and to foster unique, experience-based classes in the Honors College. Funded by the Sundt estate, the endowment permits the Honors College to appoint a Sundt professor for a two-year term.

While in Hawaii, the class may be followed on its blog at: https://sundthonorsblog.wordpress.com/