August 18, 2016

Story: Ocean Tipping Points Project researchers bring their science to stakeholders of Hawaii’s coral reefs

By Kristen Weiss

On a warm, breezy afternoon in Honolulu, Hawaii, approximately sixty people gathered together at the Hawaii Convention Center for a Town Hall to learn how the Ocean Tipping Points project’s scientific findings could help improve protection of Hawaii’s coral reefs.

Held on June 19 in conjunction with the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS), the Ocean Tipping Points Town Hall welcomed scientists, environmental managers, students, community members, and others to a 2-hour session focused on tipping points science and its application to ecosystem-based management in Hawaii. Participants in the Town Hall had the opportunity to engage directly with several researchers from the Ocean Tipping Points Hawaii case study team, to ask questions about how the science was conducted and how it can be used and communicated to inform reef management.

Participants at the town hall engaged in discussion.

Center for Ocean Solutions staff members Ashley Erickson and Lisa Wedding helped develop and coordinate the town hall, which was facilitated by Tipping Points project collaborators Carrie Kappel and Kim Selkoe (both from the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis). The meeting began with a group discussion about the challenges and opportunities surrounding coral reef management in Hawaii and how ocean tipping points science could be used to help inform management decisions and reef monitoring activities from the community to state level.

Attendees then rotated between three science stations where they were able to interact one on one with Ocean Tipping Points researchers and learn in more detail the latest science coming out of the project. At the first station, Lisa Wedding and her colleagues unveiled their interactive story map that synthesizes the massive amounts of data on the human and natural influences affecting reef states across the Hawaiian Islands and allows users to explore the data at various scales. These maps are innovating the way that marine managers can access large amounts of data and harness it to improve management decision-making.

Lisa Wedding explains her Hawaii mapping data with interactiive story maps.

At the second station, Mary Donovan of the University of Hawai‘i presented her collaborative research on five distinct reef ‘regimes’ found throughout Hawaii, which vary in regards to how much coral, algae and fish are present as well as how ‘degraded’ the reef is considered to be. The third station, led by Crow White of Cal Poly and Kirsten Oleson of the University of Hawaii, demonstrated how a decision-making tool called Tradeoff Analysis can help environmental managers find optimal solutions to both protect coral reef habitats and minimize costs and user conflicts.

Hearing directly from key stakeholders—such as marine managers and community leaders—was a valuable learning opportunity for the Ocean Tipping Points project team. The Town Hall allowed participants to ask critical questions, voice concerns, express excitement and make suggestions about how the project can move forward and have lasting, positive impacts on coral reef management in Hawaii.

During the International Coral Reef Symposium, Ocean Tipping Points researchers also gave eight oral presentations about their work with the project in various symposium sessions, presented three posters and participated in various panel discussions and workshops where they discussed the role of tipping points science in informing marine management. The team looks forward to engaging colleagues and stakeholders in similar forums as the research findings continue to be synthesized and honed in the coming months.