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ESF Student Studies Sustainability in Polynesian Island Cultures and Ecosystems

Adrianna Calamita participates in SEA Semester
9/30/2019

College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) student Adrianna Calamita is currently sailing with SEA Semester on a scientific research voyage to the Pacific Islands.

Calamita, an environmental education and interpretation major, is enrolled in the Sustainability in Polynesian Island Cultures and Ecosystems, a study abroad program operated by Sea Education Association (SEA).

The program provides the opportunity to conduct fieldwork on the recently formed volcanic island, Hunga Tonga Hunga-Ha'apai, as part of an ongoing joint research project between NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and SEA. Alongside NASA research scientist Dr. Dan Slayback, Calamita will collect data that will offer scientists insight into the geology of Mars.

This SEA Semester program seeks to explore the complex environmental challenges faced by remote Pacific islanders and explore sustainable solutions for island cultures and ocean ecosystems. Students focus on how human societies must adapt and evolve, given limited resources, growing populations, exponential increases in waste generation, and climatic disruption.

After a highly selective application process, Calamita joined a select group of undergraduates from top U.S. colleges and universities for four weeks of preparatory coursework on shore at SEA Semester's campus in the oceanographic research community of Woods Hole, Massachusetts. The students then flew to Pago Pago, American Samoa to board the SSV Robert C. Seamans, SEA's 134-foot brigantine, on Sept 24. The ship will serve as their home, classroom, and laboratory for the next six weeks as they voyage to New Zealand, where they will spend an additional week onshore.

In addition to Hunga Tonga Hunga-Ha'apai and Tonga, the students will sail to Fiji and New Zealand to develop a comparative perspective on communities and agencies in the region working for environmental and cultural sustainability. They will examine the complex connections between human communities, political structures, and the environment, and explore issues of sustainability with local officials and visit historical, cultural, and environmental management sites. Using the shipboard lab and research facilities, they will investigate the complex factors that threaten fragile island ecosystems and the surrounding marine environment.

The program will conclude in early November in Auckland, New Zealand, where the students will compile their research and present their findings during a capstone experience at the University of Auckland's Leigh Marine Laboratory.