This fall, the Waikiki Aquarium Distinguished Lecture Series went global! Instead of being in-person at Tenney Theatre as in the past, attendees tuned in via Zoom on November 19 from as far away as the UK and Malaysia to hear two Smithsonian marine scientists discuss their work in Hawaiʻi. Dr. Emmet Duffy, a researcher with the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., talked about conducting a biodiversity census in Kaneohe Bay, and Dr. Mary Hagedorn, who is affiliated with the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology on Coconut Island, presented her research on breeding coral.
Both are undertaking their important work to mitigate the effects of climate change on ocean life, and their work resounded with many of the students in the audience. Asked by Priory senior Amelie Katz what got them interested in that field of research, both scientists answered that they’d been captivated by the ocean as children, Dr. Duffy on a visit to California and Dr. Hagedorn growing up on Long Island Sound.
The scientists’ work at Kaneohe Bay is part of large initiatives with the Smithsonian; Dr. Duffy’s MarineGeo project is monitoring ocean health all over the world and Dr. Hagedorn’s groundbreaking research focuses on applying human reproductive science techniques to coral, thereby ensuring future strong populations of that important ocean creature. She noted that corals only mate for about 12 hours a year, which makes them a species whose replacement rate is lagging behind its death rate in oceans that are warming and becoming more acidic. Hagedorn has been encouraging a coral baby boom, so to speak, by figuring out how to freeze coral eggs and sperm, experimenting with selective breeding for hardiness, creating viable embryos, and transplanting the new offspring into reefs that are threatened with coral loss.
Both scientists have been instrumental in supporting the formation of the World Coral Fragment Biorepository as well, which seeks to obtain all 1,000 species of coral on Earth for future preservation efforts all over the world. Their work exemplifies a quotation by Edward O. Wilson that Dr. Hagedorn closed with: “Biodiversity, the planet’s most valuable resource, is on loan to us from our children.”
The Waikiki Lecture Series at St. Andrew’s Schools, whether in-person or online, shares that sentiment, and continues to be an invaluable addition to our school community’s efforts in educating future stewards of our planet.