News: News Archives
Focus on Island Science as AAAS Pacific Division Convenes in Hawaii 15-20 June
[Photograph © Pierre Pouliquin,
Licenced CC Attribution-Non Commerical 2.0]
The health of ecosystems in Hawaii and other Pacific Islands will be a top focus when hundreds of researchers gather for the annual meeting of the AAAS Pacific Division from 15-20 June.
Hawaii and other Pacific islands host an incredible diversity of geology, plant and animal life, and human culture, but increasingly island ecosystems are experiencing stress related to development, pollution and climate change. The symposia and other events at the meeting will explore critical facets of island science, from the mass extinction of Hawaiian land snails and threats to other flora and fauna to the prospects for increased U.S.-Asia/Pacific research collaboration.
"Certainly what's exciting to me is that the meeting will focus on Hawaii and other Pacific Islands and what's happening as a result of introduced species and global climate change," said Pacific Division President Terrence L. Gosliner of the California Academy of Sciences. "It's important to bring attention to a place like Hawaii, where such a high degree of the indigenous flora and fauna is critically endangered. And that will only be exacerbated by global climate change."
"This meeting is especially relevant as it considers many different topics, including aspects of island biology that are of increasing concern in today's environment," added the division's executive director, Roger Christianson, a biologist at Southern Oregon University. "Also, it is a wonderful opportunity for students, teachers and scientists to participate in a major scientific meeting on the Big Island. We look forward to welcoming registrants from throughout the United States and many foreign countries as they come to share their research, participate in discussions, and network with others in a relaxed atmosphere."
The meeting will be held on Hawaii's Big Island, just south of Waimea at the Hawaii Preparatory Academy. The first events will be held Sunday evening, 15 June; Gosliner will deliver his presidential address on the evening of Wednesday 18 June. In addition, the meeting will feature an array of symposia, workshops and field trips of interest not only to working scientists, but to science teachers and students as well. And AAAS will have special offers for membership at the meeting.
The symposia begin Monday 16 June, and will include a rich selection of research and discussion related to the Pacific Ocean and the Pacific Islands. Among the highlights are sessions on:
The Palmyra Atoll, a 700-acre spread of islets in the Central Pacific, just north of the equator. The marine wilderness is a remarkable outpost for diversity, home to rare sea turtles, coral reefs and tropical wet forests, and it has had only limited human occupancy.
The past and future of Pacific Basin fauna. The extraordinary diversity and abundance of the basin's animal life is being affected by climate change and by rising sea levels.
The conservation of Hawaiian native land snails. Though the islands once hosted nearly 800 endemic species, the snails have suffered mass extinction blamed mostly on loss of habitat, shell collectors and introduced predators.
Neuroscience research programs in the Pacific region. Indigenous people from the Arctic and Hawaii share some common health problems—stroke, depression, sleep disorders, cancer and developmental deficits related to environmental contaminants. But there's a dearth of data documenting neuroscience-related problems in their communities.
Opportunities and challenges for expanded collaboration between U.S. and Asia-Pacific scientists in the 21st century. Pacific Rim scientists share concerns with climate change, biodiversity loss, and the impacts of globalization; the session will focus especially on successful collaborations that have advanced scientific understanding and helped built capacity.
The Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope in the morning
[Photograph © Marcel VanDalfsen,
Licensed GNU FDL]
The Annual Meeting also will feature a selection of day-long field trips: stargazing at the Mauna Kea Observatories; up-close exploration of the Kilauea Volcano; snorkeling in exquisite Big Island reefs; and visiting the Pu`uhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park, which preserves key sites of traditional Hawaiian life.
Priced to attract participants unlikely to attend a larger scientific conference, the Pacific Division meeting usually draws a large contingent of young scientists and science students. This year's event has a number of programs aimed at students, including poster sessions and an awards ceremony recognizing outstanding research by student scientists.
The meeting also includes two in-depth workshops for educators on enhancing instruction in science classrooms.
The Pacific Division includes more than 30,000 AAAS members from California, Hawaii, Idaho, Western Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, and all other countries bordering or lying within the Pacific Basin, with the exception of mainland Mexico south to Panama (they're included in the Southwestern and Rocky Mountain Division).
The four regional divisions of AAAS—Pacific, Southwestern and Rocky Mountain, Arctic, and Caribbean—serve as regional networks for scientists, organizing meetings on regional issues and promoting publications from scientists active within the division. The Pacific is the oldest AAAS regional division, with a charter dating to 1915, followed by the Southwestern and Rocky Mountain Division (1920), the Arctic Division (1951), and the Caribbean Division (1985).
All AAAS members in good standing, and who reside within the specified boundaries of a regional division, are automatically included as members of that regional division.
Edward W. Lempinen
2 May 2008