Ani Kainamu from Auckland was one of 16 recipients of Fulbright Science and Innovation Graduate Awards this year, to research indigenous and Western natural resource management practices for waterway habitats of wild food species, at Hawai‘i Pacific University, towards a PhD in Environmental Science from the University of Canterbury. Just two months into her year-long exchange to the US, Ani discusses her research goals and shares some of the highlights of her experience thus far.
My initial application towards a doctorate degree was based on my fascination with traditional fishponds that existed within large integrated systems in Hawai‘i. These fishponds are unique forms of aquaculture found only in Hawai‘i. The Hawaiian holistic philosophy of “mauka, ki makai” is similar to Ngāi Tahu’s “ki uta, ki tai”, meaning from mountain to sea. However, with the increase in population and community, the reality of these systems is limited according to regional sections of environment rather than large integrated catchments.
I am interested in natural resource knowledge and practices. I have been fortunate in the past to have been a student of the University of Otago’s collaborative research project Te Tiaki Mahinga Kai, studying within the local management committee at East Otago Taiāpure, as well as having various fisheries experience with Te Ohu Kaimoana – The Māori Fisheries Trust and Aotearoa Fisheries Limited, the largest Māori-owned fisheries company. My very limited experience across various fishery environments, including local fisheries to commercial fishery markets, has exemplified the large impact we have on the resources and whole ecological systems.
I am pursuing a doctorate degree to learn about methods of monitoring and assessment of waterway systems. Within this are skills such as assessment of anthropogenic pollutants, coastal fishery resource, land-use evaluation, and geographical information systems. My goals while in the United States are to learn about the similarities and differences we have in ecological and local-based knowledge of fishery ecosystems. So much has happened in my experience so far, and I would like to highlight certain moments that have stood out.
The first highlight of my Fulbright experience was the awards ceremony and 65th anniversary celebration of Fulbright New Zealand at parliament in Wellington. This night illustrated the honour and prestige that comes with being a part of this exchange programme. I felt both humbled and motivated upon hearing Dr Helen Hughes, Fulbright alumna and the first Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, present her experiences before and after her exchange. This night showed me that this is not an accomplishment, but a challenge towards making the best in exchanging with others, as Senator Fulbright envisioned.
My first experience in the United States of America was the Fulbright gateway orientation in Nashville, Tennessee, or “Music City”. In that week I met other graduate students from around the world who shared their experiences, ambitions and fears for the coming year. The most important thing I found was to be a true ambassador of my homeland, as well as being open to the vast differences and exchange opportunities of a one-year immersion in the US.
I enjoyed the visit to the First Amendment Center where we were fortunate to have John Seigenthalen, journalist and founder of the Freedom Forum First Amendment Center, speak to us. He shared with us his wealth of knowledge and experiences through times of protests and journalism that provoked readers’ conscience. A photographic timeline also illustrated the importance of free speech and protests with well-known leaders such as Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., and many others.
From Nashville, I was flown to O‘ahu, Hawai‘i to study at Hawai‘i Pacific University. This first period here has been filled with overwhelming moments of frustration, especially as an independent researcher. I have learnt that the “way here” is more focussed on individualism than collectivism. This is slightly foreign but also a challenge towards accountability and time management. On the other hand, there is great support from my advisor Dr Susan Carstenn as well as my home university supervisors Dr Islay Marsden and Dr John Pirker at the University of Canterbury, who I am very fortunate to have on board.
Through another Fulbright New Zealand graduate student here, Kelly Ratana, I have been able to get involved very quickly in community volunteer days. These have included the restoration of kalo gardens, also known as taro, at the He‘eia Lo‘i with Kako‘o ‘Ōiwi, as well as the Paepae o He‘eia (He‘eia fishpond). The fishpond has been my favourite spot to help at staff days and community days. It was built 600-800 years ago by the local residents, with a wall measuring 1.3 miles (2.1 km). There are a few trails that have taken my breath away, and remind me about the bigger picture of this journey.