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Talk Story: Jean Souza

On Jan. 11, the public is invited to the grand opening of the Kauai Ocean Discovery center that will open its doors at the Kukui Grove Center, close to GameStop and the Famous Footwear shops.

“The Kauai Ocean Discovery center is a new educational facility that shares the traditions and knowledge of our ocean connections and inspires stewardship,” said Sarah Marquis of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “The center is being presented by the NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation in partnership with the Kukui Grove Center.”

Jean Souza, the Kauai program specialist for the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and the National Weather Service will take the lead in coordinating the new facility at the shopping center.

“Kauai Ocean Discovery will be run by myself and a cadre of volunteers who will welcome the public, help with demonstrations, conduct activities that help improve the learning experiences,” Souza said. “We welcome more to join our ranks. Training is provided. Service organizations are also welcome to volunteer as a group.”

What is Kauai Ocean Discovery?

Kauai Ocean Discovery is a new, year-round learning facility that shares the traditions and knowledge of our ocean connections and inspires stewardship. The center is located within the Kukui Grove Center and admission is free.

Some of the attractions within the center will include displays and exhibits where people are able to learn about humpback whales (we’re entering the first of three months of humpback whale season where people can view the mammals from Kauai’s shorelines), or kohola, the Hawaiian monk seals, sea turtles, albatrosses, and more.

Visitors to the center are able to take a tour of the extensive Hawaiian archipelago, including the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument;

Visit an underwater world through video, interactive displays, and hands-on activities; hear the Hawaiian Creation chant, Kumulipo, and see a reproduction of a mural that was inspired by the chant;

Keiki Corner provides ocean-themed fun while learning through rotational exhibits that will feature community and student projects, and traveling exhibits featuring new topics;

Monthly and weekly special programs such as “Thursday Talk and Tour of Kauai Ocean Discovery” scheduled for 10 a.m., monthly lecture series scheduled for the first Friday, and monthly special activities scheduled for the second Saturday of the month.

We will also be able to offer our partners with a place to tell their stories. Already, the contribution of Kauai and other experts are reflected in the panel displays and interactive exhibits.

Within the family of visitor centers of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, ours on Kauai is unique as the first to be located in a shopping center. It is a different model that has already resulted in expanded media and event promotions, assistance with facility improvements, improved exhibit planning, and mutual support in achieving common goals.

We have the advantage of being able to use the many assets of Kukui Grove Center, such as the Food Court and the mall itself, partnering with other tenants. Most other ONMS visitor centers are stand-alone locations, and many are managed by ONMS alone.

The Kauai Ocean Discovery center at the Kukui Grove Center will be open Tuesdays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday hours are from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday hours will be from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The center is closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Phone number is 246-2861.

How is Kauai Ocean Discovery different from “The Kauai Oceanfest ” that was presented at the Kukui Grove Center, previously?

For the past two years, the Kukui Grove Center invited us, and five great partners, to present the month-long Kauai Oceanfest during the month of February. These were scheduled primarily on weekends, and “The Ocean that Surrounds Us,” and “The Ocean that Connects Us” are themes we used.

The partners and myself learned so much from doing Kauai Oceanfest — this gave us valuable experience and insight into what it would take to operate a program here. The experience gave us the confidence to actively pursue the idea of having a year-round interpretive facility at the shopping center, and the Kauai Oceanfest proved to Kukui Grove that we were a good fit in helping its ongoing transformation into becoming a vibrant community center as well as a retail center.

Kauai Oceanfest will continue with events in February.

This year, we have the added advantage of Kauai Ocean Discovery to use as a foundation.

The partners are still working on the details for this year’s Kauai Oceanfest. We do know that one of the topical features will be the Kumulipo, or the Hawaiian Creation chant. We will be hosting a special weekend program on it. More details on that program will be forthcoming.

What types of special features will be welcoming people to the grand opening?

We welcome everyone to come to our grand opening on Jan. 11!

There will be a ceremony starting at 10:30 a.m. in front of the Kauai Ocean Discovery, and doors to the center opens from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

This kicks off an all-day, center-wide celebration featuring two performances of Honu by the Sea, a Honolulu-based performing arts company that has appeared internationally, and nearly two dozen activity stations featuring free, hands-on, or interactive learning for all ages. The Honu group will appear at the shopping center’s Center Stage for performances starting at 11:30 a.m., and at 1:30 p.m.

Some of these include tours inside Kamakai, the inflatable anatomically-correct inflatable whale set up inside a space adjacent to the Bread and Deli Connection presented by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Kamakai will also be open for free public tours on Jan. 12 from noon to 2 p.m.

We are grateful to our partners and volunteers for joining us with reef activities (Department of Land and Natural Resources, Aquatic Resources division); seabird activity (DLNR, Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project); Pacific migration map (US Fish and Wildlife Service), mural project (Kapaa High School), bookmarks (RSVP, and Foster Grandparents), ocean puppets and reading (the Princeville Public Library), interactive kiosk (Hamline University Center for Global Environmental Education), rapid ohia death (Kauai Invasive Species Committee), and much, much more.

How did you become involved in ocean science, humpback whales, etc.?

Growing up on Hawaii Island, it seems that I have always been interested in volcanoes, tide pools, ohia forests, scenic areas, the night sky, whales, and nature.

In college, I had so many interests that I majored in Geography because I could not choose only one topic. In later years, it has been about planning, community building, problem solving, resiliency, facilitation, and collaboration.

I’ve had several different careers and major projects that have opened up opportunities to grow, to become immersed in new topics and situations, and to be around such wonderful and inspiring people.

It seems that all of these experiences, interests, and skills, and the agency support have allowed me — no, it’s not about ‘me’ — to help make this idea for an ocean discovery facility on Kauai become reality. I really like working on “kakou” things, using a “we,” not “I” approach.

The beauty of Kauai Ocean Discovery is that it is a collaboration — it’s about whales, for sure, and so much more; it’s about the main Hawaiian Islands and the northwestern Hawaiian Islands; it’s about makai and mauka; it’s about nature and culture; it’s about awareness and stewardship; it’s about Kauai, and the planet.

Kauai Ocean Discovery represents a major transformation of the Sanctuary’s long-time education and outreach program here on Kauai. The Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary has been around for more than 20 years. During that time, we have taken our programs around the island to various venues.

As examples, the annual Family Ocean Fair was held at the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge for 14 years before moving to the Hanapepe Public Library for several years. Our signature Science at the Beach student workshops have been held at Hanalei, Nukoli‘i, Poipu, and now at Puolo Point (off Salt Pond Beach Park). We helped the Pacific Missile Range Facility at Mana expand its Earth Day celebration with students, and we have had lecture series at the Princeville and Hanapepe public libraries, and movie night at all of the public libraries.

A special mahalo to the seven Kauai members of the facility’s advisory group — Maka‘ala Ka‘aumoana, Sabra Kauka, Nina Monasevitch, Kim Rogers, Capt. Geoff Wall, Capt. Tara Leota, and Hoku Cody.

We would not be where we are today if not for the engagement and encouragement of so, so many folks over many years. It is my hope that they find Kauai Ocean Discovery a worthy modest step toward our big dreams.

For those who are interested in the Sanctuary Ocean Count, the sanctuary’s signature volunteer and community science event, there will be training on Jan. 12 from 10 a.m. to noon at the space where Kamakai will be housed next to the Bread and Deli Connection.

We welcome all to experience Kauai Ocean Discovery.

We will see you at the grand opening. Visit us, often — we are here as a resource for the entire community.


Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or
Source: The Garden Island

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