A Diverse Cohort of Undergraduate Students to Address Hawaii's Water Challenges

Friday 3:00pm-4:00pm Beren Auditorium
Poster Session Part of Friday Poster Session


Jennifer Engels, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Barbara Bruno, University of Hawaii at Manoa
How much water is there in Hawai'i? How long will this limited resource last given current pumping scenarios? How can traditional Hawaiian water use practices inform modern water management decisions? These are all questions posed by 'Ike Wai ("water knowledge"), a National Science Foundation funded EPSCoR project that incorporates a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the state's water needs for today and in the future. As part of the Education Plan, an REU-style academic year program recruits diverse community college students along a pathway to the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa by way of paid, closely-mentored research opportunities. After completing a summer bridge program based at Kapi'olani Community College, students work directly with geophysicists, geochemists, microbiologists, groundwater modelers, engineers, data scientists, social scientists and Hawaiian language specialists among the faculty, and use real data to answer questions about our integrated water systems. A 3-tiered program begins with Trainees in year 1, Interns in year 2, and Fellows in year 3, with increasing levels of responsibility, project ownership, and mentoring opportunities. Students have the opportunity to participate in field trips, field work, and community meetings where they engage directly with project stakeholders. Students at all levels benefit from monthly Professional Development workshops delivered through a Culture/Science lens, and present their research finding to an authentic audience at an annual symposium. Of the 38 students who have participated in the program to date, 52% are Native Hawaiian, 22% are other underrepresented minorities, 47% are women, and all but 1 are in-state students, highlighting the importance of water topics to local undergraduates. This presentation will discuss successes and lessons learned by the EPSCoR Education Group, as well as plans for the future.