The Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
By Jesi Lujan Bennett, CPIS MA Student
On 2 March, UHM’s Marianas Club hosted the Humåtak Project as part of the Mes Chamoru (Chamorro Month) activities. Austin Shelton, a Chamorro marine biologist at the Kewalo Marine Laboratory and PhD candidate with the Department of Biology, reconnected the club members with the natural resources and geography of the Mariana Islands. Through lecture, group discussions, interactive activities, and film, Shelton emphasized the importance of natural resources as the foundation of Chamorro culture. He discussed his graduate work, the Humåtak Project, which engages communities in Guam, specifically the village of Humåtak, to help stop local environmental stressors and accelerated erosion. Shelton taught the club that erosion takes place with poor land-use practices and goes hand and hand in with the depletion of forests and the sedimentation of coral reefs, which kills the corals. His presentation discussed community efforts to maintain the island’s watersheds in order to preserve coral reefs, nearshore fisheries, and native forests. Shelton ended his workshop by challenging attendees to get involved in caring for the Mariana Islands through planning, acting, maintaining, and sustaining. Due to the large turnout and student enthusiasm, the Marianas Club and the Humåtak Project are creating a video, “Coral Reef Smack Down.” The video will to stress the importance of preserving coral reefs. http://humatakproject.org/.