JUSFC40 Meet Our Grantees Series: Kapi’olani Community College

April 5, 2016 

Students from Kansai and Hawai'i working together to protect native species.

Students from Kansai and Hawai’i working together to protect native species.

In celebration of its 40th anniversary, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission is having conversations with a number of grantees.

“I have the opportunity to consider environmental problems, so together we can discuss why we have to protect native species,” remarks Reina Takadan a second year student from Kansai University’s Takatsuki campus in Osaka. Reina is currently in Hawai’i where she is working on and learning about the impact of invasive species under the Kai Yama project.

Kai Yama is a year -long program under which undergraduate students from Japan and Hawai’i are working together to address local and global environmental issues.  The project, which includes week-long exchange trips to Japan and Hawai’i, is intended to foster new approaches to environmental problem-solving by encouraging students to explore the shared experiences of two local communities.

JUSFC is delighted to support Kai Yama, which began in December 1, 2015 and will run through November 30, 2016. The program, supported for the first time by the Commission, involves faculty and students, including native Hawai’ian students from the University of Hawaii, Kapi‘olani Community College (KCC) and Kansai University (KU), Takatsuki Campus in Osaka. There are six students from KCC and 12 students from Japan.

Reina and her fellow KU students are currently in Hawai’i for a five-day introduction to ecology and environmental science skills particular to Hawai’i along with their peers from Kapi‘olani Community College, who are sharing their basic ecological sampling skills and their participation in a local community initiative to restore Maunalua Bay, O‘ahu. Together, the students from Japan and Hawai’i are working with the local community group, Malama Maunalua, to collect and analyze data on algae abundance.  Kapi‘olani Community College students are also sharing the Native Hawaiian cultural understanding of the environment, including the traditional Hawaiian land concept of the Ahupua‘a, which manages resources from the mountains to the ocean.

“The Kai Yama exchange is an opportunity for Kapi‘olani Community College students from our STEMKansai and Hawai'i students working together to protect native species. program to engage and collaborate with students from Japan,” points out Wendy Kuntz, Assistant Professor of Biology and Ecology at KCC.  “Our students have gained so much from their interactions with the Kansai University students, including improving their ability to communicate scientific concepts. Working side-by-side with colleagues from Japan has given them new perspectives on the importance of understanding both the local and global impacts to the environment. The students have an opportunity to compare and share solutions.

“I have learned that no matter where you are from, people face environmental problems. By working together, the Kansai students have helped us solve our problems here in Hawaii and we are teaching them what we know about removing invasive species,” observes Kim Kahaleua, second-year student from Kapi‘olani Community College.

The students from Hawai’i are excited to visit Japan in August. For the second site exchange, Kapi‘olani Community College students and faculty will visit Kansai University-Takatsuki Campus and the surrounding community. KCC students and KU will visit two sites for fieldwork, including a mountain village (Kuta in Kyoto) which is facing human-wildlife conflicts as a result of the depopulation of the countryside, as well as Lake Biwa, where there is concern with the growth of non-native species and sedimentation. Students will then work on a community-based ecological project.

Kapi‘olani Community College (KCC) is one of ten campuses of the University of Hawai’i system. The college has over 8,000 students and the state’s largest university transfer program, including a nationally recognized STEM program.

Kansai University is a private nonsectarian and coeducational university with four campuses in the Kansai Region. The Takatsuki Campus is located halfway between Osaka and Kyoto. The campus has state-of-the-art research and technology facilities, and faculty participants from Kansai are experts in international education, environmental education, international informatics, and online collaborative technologies.