Ocean Aware Hawai‘i works to enhance awareness and promote responsible use and increased stewardship of Hawai‘i’s marine and coastal resources.
Our signature program is an Ocean Awareness Training (OAT) which combines classroom learning with hands-on stewardship experiences. OAT participants also learn about current ocean conservation efforts and opportunities to get personally involved. While the program initially targeted those employed or volunteering in the fields of marine education and recreation, registration is open to anyone who wants to learn more about Hawaii’s ocean environment.
What are the origins of OAT? How did it get started?
Ocean Awareness Training originates from an effort first organized on the island of Maui in 2006. The program’s immediate popularity and warm reception by marine recreation operators and conservation practitioners alike spurred NOAA’s Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program to work together to pilot the program on the island of O‘ahu in November 2008.
A proven track record
Since its inception on O‘ahu in 2008, the OAT programs led by the Ocean Aware Hawai‘i team have served 698 participants across three islands, and garnered support from more than 40 nonprofits, businesses, and government agencies that provided expert speakers, field experiences, and financial + in-kind support.
Throughout its history, the program consistently reached its registration limit well in advance of each training session and received glowing praise from program participants.
Here are just a few representative comments from participant evaluations:
- “Thank you for offering this program. It was first class! I am so pleased that I had an opportunity to participate – I learned so much!”
- “I see the land, ocean & Hawaiian culture in a different light since the training.”
- “I feel that everyone living in Hawai‘i needs to attend this training.”
- “The workshops all exceeded my expectations. I learned so much and gained great insight in ocean awareness. The speakers were all first rank.”
- “Very professional, informative & inspiring.”
- “This class was way better than I expected. I learned quite a bit. Speakers, length of classes and each speaker’s talk were good. Whoever was responsible for the coordination and organization of this class is to be commended. I really enjoyed being a part of this class. Thank you.”
- “THANK YOU for this amazing learning, networking, life changing opportunity!”
From November of 2008 to November 2012, we hosted ten Ocean Awareness Training events on O‘ahu. Then, with a modest grant from Hawai’i Tourism Authority’s Natural Resources Program to Island Connect Consulting LLC in 2013, we coordinated two additional trainings on O‘ahu and lent support to the first OAT offerings on Kaua‘i and Hawai’i Island in 2014.
That’s where the story ends… until now!
Re-booting OAT in 2022
Despite the long pause—eight years!—since the last program was offered in 2014, people continue to sign-up on the OAT waiting list and we regularly hear from program alumni and partners wondering when it will be restarted.
One of the main hurdles has been that the people-power that once managed the overall program coordination and partner commitments was largely provided by agency and university-affiliated personnel who were able to incorporate those responsibilities into their mission-aligned jobs. Ever since the original program co-leads left their agency positions, the program has been stewarded by Island Connect Consulting LLC and Hawai‘i Nature Hui, organizations led by Jennifer Barrett.
To ensure a sustained presence beyond this re-boot and into the future, we’re re-launching the program as an online learning experience.
This approach helps to mitigate the risk COVID still poses to in-person gatherings. Creating a virtual learning experience will also benefit the in-person experience if (and when) we are able to bring it back. Even with very good attendance for the in-person sessions there are inevitably times when participants miss a session due to illness or personal or professional commitments. Having the core content recorded will allow folks to access any content they miss, AND it makes OAT accessible to folks across the state, the continent, and beyond!