By KYANNA TENORIO
Special to the Saipan Tribune
Hafa Adai CNMI! My name is Kyanna Tenorio. This past June, I graduated from Marianas High School and am currently enrolled at the Northern Marianas College. My interests include diving, outrigger paddling, and learning about the ocean around my home here on Saipan. These interests are what drove me to continue my education and major in Natural Resources Management at NMC.
I became interested in environmental work when my family and I went on a hiking trip down to Old Man by the Sea. To our dismay, the beautiful view presented there was marred by heaps of trash completely covering a majority of the shore. The next time we returned to the area, we came with trash bags and filled them with as much debris as we could carry back to our cars. Seeing the damage done to such a place really opened my eyes to the other places here on the island that are affected by the negligence and abuse of people. I realized that a major barrier in the fight against pollution is lack of knowledge in regards to the public. I decided that what I wanted to attain was an understanding of the wildlife around our island and more importantly, what can be done to protect it.
While turning in my application for NMC in June, I came across a flyer advertising the Coral Reef Initiative Internship. After learning more about the program from a family member I decided to apply. Now I am privileged to be under the direction of not one, but two mentors. Dr. Ryan Okano and John Iguel of the Marine Monitoring Team under the Nonpoint Source Pollution branch of the Department of Environmental Quality.
A crucial lesson I learned in this internship is the importance of coral reefs. Preservation of coral is key to keeping our reef in its coral-dominated system. The coral reef along our shores is what protects us from tsunamis and typhoons, provides us with fish and other wildlife, attracts visitors with its beautiful views, and is an important part of the culture and history of our islands.
My main project during this internship is the study of algae removal by herbivorous reef fish. We attach different types of algae to ropes and sink them with weights. Then we secure a camera underwater to record the algae and see what species of fish consume them. This study can determine what species of fish are herbivorous algae-eaters and what type of algae they prefer. The results can be applied to areas where algae mass is increasing and in danger of over running the coral. By knowing what fish are the main feeders of problematic algae, something can then be done to protect those certain fish in the area where they can help control the algae population. This data can also lead to better reef management overall.
Another project I have done while in the CRI program is regularly planned lagoon surveys by the Marine Monitoring Team. These surveys take place at different sites around the island and play a significant role in the monitoring of our marine environments. The team is also responsible for the bi-weekly clean-ups of the CREWS-ICON station in Lao Lao Bay. This device is the first of its kind in the Pacific. It measures weather conditions as well as ocean conditions. It also has a sensor that collects chlorophyll and turbidity data. The information gathered from this device is sent to the National Weather Service's operational stream to be used around the world.
The time I have spent in this program has helped me in accomplishing my goals of understanding our environment and gaining significant experience with conservation work. I am very grateful to have been in this internship and would recommend it to anyone who has the drive to make a difference in the world.