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Science never looked so dateable

By Staff | Jul 9, 2015

Dr. John Stock of the U.S. Geological Survey takes measurements of sediment depositing in stream banks. PHOTO BY TOVA CALLENDER.

WEST MAUI – The word “scientist” might bring to mind a gangly, goggled, socially awkward smarty pants in a lab coat spewing five-syllable words and lengthy acronyms. But here on Maui, that stereotype could not be further from the truth. The people we call scientists are the unsung superheroes, stealthy detectives and curious adventurers poking at some of the most interesting and important issues we could discuss – affecting us as Maui residents and resource users.

They are out there, befriending and defending corals, pulling down the sheets on fish sex lives and refereeing the tug-of-war between what resources we use and what resources we save.

You could be standing next to them in the freezer aisle at the grocery store, or sitting by them in the lineup at Honolua, without ever knowing your proximity to a gold mine of useful information.

And so it is with great pleasure that the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative and Maui Brewing Co. bring these scientists to you, with a beer in their hand, to ponder your every question at the “Speed-Date-A-Scientist pau hana.”

From 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday, July 24, at the Maui Brewing Co. Kahana Brewpub, trick yourself into learning something by grabbing a beverage and simply relaxing in an easy-going environment with researchers engaged in local ongoing projects.

Maui Brewing Co. owner Garrett Marrero presents a donation from the “Save Water Drink Beer” World Water Day Festival in support of the West Maui Kumuwai Campaign to (from left) Sarah McLane (Pono Project Hawaii), Liz Foote (West Maui Kumuwai, Project S.E.A.-Link) and Tova Callender (West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative). PHOTO BY CARRIE ADELMANN, MAUI BREWING COMPANY.

Attendees will have an opportunity to casually chat with scientists by joining small groups to hear about a topic of interest and ask questions until a bell is rung 15 minutes later to signal participants to move to the next topic.

Some good questions to keep in your back pocket could be: “What’s the deal with ‘Big Old Fat Fertile Female Fishes’ (BOFFFFs) anyway?!” Or, “Are the brown plumes in the ocean after it rains something surfers and spear fishermen should be cautious of?” Or, “Is my daily dollop of sunscreen actually harmful to the reef?”

Experts in sediment and nutrient export, ocean tipping points, fish reproduction, sunscreen impacts, watershed management, land-based pollution and herbivorous fish await your curiosity.

The abundance of superhero scientists in West Maui can be explained by the importance of this region to many federal and state agencies. West Maui is a focus area for researchers by virtue of its designation as a priority U.S. Coral Reef Task Force site, state priority coral area, and most recently a “resilient land and waters site.”

In other words, West Maui is really special. Great science is needed to inform better management actions in this area. Hopefully, the lessons learned here reverberate across the state to inform better management of resources elsewhere.

There’s more good news: some of the scientists from Friday’s “pau hana” will be at the Ridge to Reef Rendezvous event on Saturday, July 25, if people have more questions or can’t make it to the previous evening’s revelry.

During Saturday’s event at Kahekili Beach Park, raise the learning stakes with a good-natured “stump a scientist” challenge, where visiting researchers must sufficiently answer participants’ questions to avoid getting soaked.

Clearly, science is about much more than writing papers, giving power point presentations and scratching one’s head. It’s also about connecting with community and having fun!

Please join us for the festivities starting on Friday evening, an event co-sponsored by the Hawaii Environmental Education Alliance, which is providing the first round of pupus free for participants.

Maui Brewing Co. is a natural fit as a venue for this event, as the company has demonstrated a commitment to sustainability and frequently supports many local organizations on Maui. In March of this year, Maui Brewing Co. hosted the first-ever “Save Water, Drink Beer” World Water Day Festival, a benefit that raised $1,500 for the West Maui Kumuwai Campaign, a program that is part of the West Maui Ridge to Reef Initiative.

Like any good conversation, you’ll probably walk away from speed dating a scientist with more questions than you started with. Who knows? You might even find yourself dreaming of a second date.

For more information, visit the Kaanapali Makai Watch Facebook page, e-mail KaanapaliMakaiWatch@gmail .com or call (808) 283-1631.