Tehani Malterre, who was born and reared in Maunalua on the island of Oahu, attended Kamehameha Schools where she reconnected with her Hawaiian heritage and with the ina (land, that which nourishes). She discovered during her senior year of high school that the University of Hawai’i at Mnoa School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) offers a programme that was a great fit for her interests—the Global Environmental Science (GES) bachelor’s degree. She has a passion for protecting the environment in Hawai’i.
Malterre is enrolled in the bachelor’s and master’s route programme, where she is completing her GES degree while pursuing a master’s of science in finance.
“I appreciate being able to learn the science behind the environmental concerns that affect us here in Hawai’i while also being able to keep connected with my home,” said Malterre, who is now enrolled in the GES programme in her final year.
Grasp the human aspects of future planning and adaptation requires both an understanding of the financial ramifications of climate change and a background in environmental science, according to Malterre. This degree can be applied to a variety of important issues, such as understanding the costs to coastal infrastructure as a result of climate change, assisting local businesses to protect and increase island food sustainability, or even working with community organisations to finance restoration and conservation projects, in addition to improving one’s own financial literacy and understanding of the systems in which one lives.
For her senior thesis in the GES program, Malterre is working with Henrietta Dulai, professor in the SOEST Department of Earth Sciences. They are looking at water quality at Sumida Farm, which is a popular watercress farm in ʻAiea. The farm is primarily fed through freshwater springs and it is unique because it is located in a highly urbanized setting. Previous studies there showed that despite the farm being surrounded by urban development, the springs provide very clean water, free of pollutants usually expected from urban runoff.
Malterre’s study is aiming to confirm that the surrounding urbanization has little effect on the farm by analyzing water samples collected over a time span of a year. She will also compare these findings to rainfall patterns to see if precipitation is contributing to any runoff that can affect the water quality. So far results show excellent conditions, confirming that the availability of clean, fresh water is the basis of the success of the farm that has been operating over many decades.
Environmental science, food security and local business
This research, according to Malterre, “particularly intrigues me because it offers the chance to better understand any dangers that are hurting our food sources and food sustainability, something that is extremely essential in Hawai’i and that we should be working to expand.” “I am enthusiastic about this idea because it may also benefit a nearby business.”
National internship opportunities
Malterre was chosen for the NOAA Hollings Preparations Program, an educational initiative that helps first-year college students with a research project, provides professional development, and gets them ready to compete for future NOAA internship opportunities. The NOAA Inouye Regional Center on Ford Island in Honolulu was turned into a virtual reality tour for Malterre’s project for the summer of 2020. Malterre stated, “I met so many people and learnt about the job that they do with NOAA. I also obtained new abilities in using virtual reality software, which was incredibly fascinating. My summer mentors were incredible, and we are still in touch.
Malterre was chosen to participate in the NOAA Educational Partnership Program with Minority Serving Institutions programme in 2021, which entails two summers of internships. Malterre worked with the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve in Charleston, Oregon, during her second summer in the course. She developed a map of areas in the uplands watershed forest of the reserve that might provide a suitable habitat for beaked hazel, a plant species that is culturally significant to the nearby Native peoples and tribes, by learning how to use ArcGIS, a collection of potent GIS programmes and software. Since the forest was harvested for lumber over the past century, which led to congestion and uniformity in the forest, the reserve is attempting to replant the reserve uplands forest with native and culturally valuable flora, according to Malterre. “The reserve is repopulating populations of plants that are culturally significant within the reserve in order for the reserve to host these major natural resources. Important plant species like beaked hazel are being planted to boost the biodiversity of the forest. This internship during the summer was fantastic.
At the end of spring 2023, Malterre will receive a bachelor’s degree from GES. She will then likely earn a Master’s in finance and be eligible to graduate in the spring of 2024. She plans to continue her education and potentially seek a doctorate in ecology of ecosystems or conservation biology. In the long run, Malterre said, “I want to be able to live and work in Hawaii and make a difference in the preservation and conservation of our native species, culture, and natural resources, especially in light of climate change.” I also want to be able to give something back to the environment and the communities where I was raised.
- Students who study science and finance are better prepared to protect Hawaii’s resources
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