September 22, 2015

Developing a report card for the coral reefs of American Samoa

Heath Kelsey, Caroline Donovan, and I traveled to Honolulu, Hawaii to conduct a workshop to kick off the development of a report card for the coral reefs of American Samoa. The workshop (19-21 August) brought together folks working with NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, both in American Samoa and NOAA headquarters, to discuss the health of the reefs from the persective of the benthic, fish, climate, and socioeconomic monitoring that is undertaken by the Coral Reef Monitoring Program. More about this project can be found here.

The workshop was held at the NOAA Inouye Regional Center (IRC) on historic Ford Island, which is part of Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam. The IRC is a world-class facility that repurposes two World War II-era aircraft hangars and is Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) Gold Certified.

The Inouye Regional Center on Ford Island. Photo by Naval Facilities Engineering Command/CC BY 2.0

PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii (Dec. 17, 2013) The Inouye Regional Center on Ford Island. Photo by Naval Facilities Engineering Command/CC BY 2.0

The first day of the workshop focused on introducing the goals of the report card topic, then we had the experts dive right into a conceptualization exercise where they identified key features and threats for the islands in the American Samoa archipelago.

Heath Kelsey explains the report card process.

Heath Kelsey explains the report card process.

Participants drawing key features and threats on the island of Tutuila, the largest and most populous island in American Samoa.

Participants drawing key features and threats on the island of Tutuila, the largest and most populous island in American Samoa.

The second day of the workshop saw the monitoring folks presenting the data that they have been collecting. While the report card focuses on three aspects of NOAA monitoring data, we also heard about Coral Reef Watch climate data, American Samoa’s Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources data, and the National Park Service’s monitoring data. There is a wealth of information being collected on the health of coral reefs in American Samoa and future work will be to integrate these different monitoring data into one report card.

Mark Eakin presented remotely sensed data, including sea surface temperature anomalies.

Mark Eakin presented remotely sensed data, including sea surface temperature anomalies.

Alice Lawrence reviewed the different monitoring programs at the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resource that could add to the American Samoa report card in the future.

Alice Lawrence reviewed the different monitoring programs at the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resource that could add to the American Samoa report card in the future.

The afternoon of the second day focused on indicator details and storyboarding the overall report card. The participants sketched out the basic draft of the report card so that IAN staff could mock it up for the third day.

The mockup of the report card during the workshop (top) and the resulting draft (bottom) that we showed participants on the third day.

The mockup of the report card during the workshop (top) and the resulting draft (bottom) that we showed participants on the third day.

On the third day of the workshop, we reviewed all the aspects of the report card – the overall objectives and goals, the potential indicators, thresholds, and point of contacts for each section, and the draft of the report card. Participants were able to respond and discuss the different aspects of the report card among themselves and to visualize how the 8-page document would look to the public before heading out to their respective home locations.

Overall, the American Samoa report card workshop was a success! The hard part comes over the next few months as different groups hammer out the details of their indicators. Each indicator will be reviewed, thresholds will be determined, and scoring will occur. Building consensus on these scores and populating the draft report card will be a difficult task over the next few months, but a necessary next step to communicating the health of American Samoa to policymakers, fellow scientists, and the public. Stay tuned for the published report card in 2016!
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About the author
Jane Thomas is a Science Communicator at the Integration and Application Network. Jane has a Bachelor of Science with 1st Class Honors in Ecology/Marine Biology/Botany.
Website: http://ian.umces.edu/people/Jane_Thomas/
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