Sea Grant
UH Manoa Sea Grant Extension Agent Kelley Anderson-Tagarino (second right) is seen here during her previous position as Marine Science coordinator with ASCC. Anderson-Tagarino is still based on the ASCC campus, but now encourages community resiliency in the care of our marine environment through her capacity with Sea Grant. (Courtesy Photo)

ASCC Sea Grant Extension Agent Strives to Improve Community Resiliency

April 25, 2014

By James Kneubuhl, ASCC Press Officer

During the fall 2013 semester, American Samoa Community College (ASCC) former Marine Science coordinator Kelley Anderson-Tagarino made the switch to University of Hawaii Sea Grant Extension Agent. Although hosted by ASCC, the Sea Grant Extension agent position is funded by the University of Hawaii Sea Grant College Program, and functions within the Community and Natural Resources (CNR) organizational chart. While Anderson-Tagarino’s responsibilities include continuing to support the ASCC Marine Science program, her new position involves an increased focus on extension and outreach.

“I hope to improve the resiliency of communities in American Samoa,” explained Anderson-Tagarino. “I see Sea Grant contributing to this in several ways: by empowering people to become self-sufficient in producing food via aquaponics and aquaculture, by improving access to marine science knowledge by supporting and strengthening the ASCC Marine Science Program, and by ensuring critical information such as water quality data is available to local managers.”

Anderson-Tagarino now spends approximately 50% of her time on aquaculture extension service, which involves providing aquafarmers with technical support as well as maintaining four different aquaculture and aquaponics demonstration systems at the ASCC-CNR Center for Sustainable Integrated Agriculture and Aquaculture, where farmers can view these systems as examples. The Center also brings aquaculture awareness to the younger generation by hosting numerous K-12 school tours a year.

“The other 40% of my time is in support of the ASCC Marine Science Program,” she continued. “This involves teaching one course in both fall and spring semesters, which are Introduction to Aquaculture and Introduction to Fisheries Management, respectively. In the remaining 10% of my time I represent the Pacific Integrated Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS) as their liaison in AS, which involves maintaining a water quality sensor in Pago Harbor as well as networking with local stakeholders.” Anderson-Tagarino encourages anyone interested to visit the PacIOOS website for ( ) for an overview on the program.

Anderson-Tagarino earned her Bachelors of Science at the University of Florida in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation with a minor in Zoology, then went on to complete a Masters of Science degree at the College of Marine Science within the University of South Florida in Oceanography. “I originally came to American Samoa to conduct research on coral bleaching and was amazed to see healthy, vibrant coral thickets still standing here,” she said. “Coming from Florida, where I watched the continuing decline of coral reefs, it is very encouraging to live in a place with such comparatively healthy reefs. American Samoa has been the site of numerous studies on resilient corals, which is an area of increasing interest to coral reef managers as the impacts of climate change continue to be felt. As the only US Territory in the south Pacific I think American Samoa has a lot to teach stateside scientists on resiliency - both of its reefs and its people.

Looking back on her earlier experience teaching Marine Science full-time, Anderson-Tagarino expressed pride that a number of ASCC students she mentored early-on have since made the subject the primary focus of their education. “Over ten of my past-ASCC students are now attending UH Hilo studying Marine Science,” she enthused. “They’re doing great and I couldn't be more proud! Also, a past-ASCC Marine Science student just received his Masters of Science in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science. As far as I know, this was the first ASCC Marine Science student to earn his MSc in a marine field!”

Anderson-Tagarino’s place in the ASCC Science Department has been taken by Jameson Newtson, who holds both a Bachelors of Science degree in Environmental Science with an emphasis in Watershed Science as well as a Masters of Science degree in Geography with an Emphasis in Watershed Science from San Diego State University. Newtson expressed enthusiasm for “immersing myself in a new culture and developing my career path,” and described working in American Samoa as “a dream”.

Like Anderson-Tagarino, Newtson considers it crucial that students learn how the well-being of the oceans affects the rest of our environment. “The health of the ocean is vital to the health of the entire planet,” he stressed. “Being an island nation, American Samoa is directly impacted by the health of the ocean. Therefore, it is imperative for local students gain an understanding and respect for the islands most precious resource: the ocean.”