Strategies to address coastal environmental challenges on Oahu’s North Shore

Blog post by Micah Fisher, Learning from Disasters

On Thursday we travelled to Mokuleia and heard presentations about a joint research project on coastal dynamics and potential hazards. We observed the the application of tools by the Coastal Hazard Adaptation Research and Training Program (CHART). The program includes various stakeholders as part of their research effort. Partners include  the National Disaster Training Center (NDPTC), University of Hawaii, Oceanit and the Coastal Hydraulics Resilience Lab (CHER).


CHART’s vision is to create and utilize a living laboratory at Camp Mokuleia, serving as a test case and hub for research. At the site, they are testing ways to employ new technologies and develop tools for coastal hazard monitoring and planning.

One objective is Hazard Data Collection and Vulnerability/Adaptation Analysis. Aside from the more technical aspects, CHART also aims to engage with the surrounding local community to build capacity to plan for and adapt to future hazards. They will approach this objective through existing educational programs at the camp, as well as development and delivery of new NDPTC courses.

On our visit we were able to observe some of the technologies and tools in action as they were collecting data to monitor coastal hazards.

One of the outcomes of this visit was the discussion of how to duplicate this laboratory in West Papua province. The similarities between the natural hazard threats in Hawaii and West Papua are very evident. We discussed the benefits that could emerge from a similar laboratory in West Papua specific to local conditions. The head of the disaster management organization (BPBD) and the Rector from University of Papua began discussing how they would initiate a similar research laboratory there.

We then traveled to another area to demonstrate the challenges that a different are of the North Shore face. The last few years have seen major damage to a number of houses along the  North Shore. We took the opportunity to visit exposed shoreline areas along part of Sunset Beach. We discussed some of the challenges that local residents and the government face with storms and some of the potential options in a future with the uncertainty of climate change.

Hawaii 5



We also took the opportunity to visit the sacred site at Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau, overlooking Waimea Bay. It is the largest heiau (place of worship) on the island, encompassing over two acres. Pu’u o Mahuka Heiau served a critical role in the religious, social, and political system of Waimea Valley, a major cultural center on the north shore of Oahu.



It was inspiring listening to the animated discussions of our West Papua guests and how excited they were about what they had learned during their visit and the plans they were making. It has been a very successful week and we have made great strides in moving toward the collaboration that was expressed in the Memorandum of Understanding signed by Chancellor Lassner, Dean Konan and Rector Manusawai and Professor Hendri on September 12:

“This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) encourages the exchange of faculty, scholars, students, academic information and materials in the belief that the research and educational processes at both universities will be enhanced and that mutual understanding between their respective faculty, scholars and students will be increased by the establishment of such exchanges.”

As we end this trip we all look forward to finding ways to collaborate, discussions which we look forward to reporting on in the future.


Learning about Hawaii-based Disaster Management Governing Institutions

Blog post by Micah Fisher, Learning from Disasters
On Wednesday we held several meetings with key Disaster Management institutions based in Hawaii. This included the NOAA Inouye Regional Center at Ford Island, the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC), and the Department of Emergency Management.
At NOAA’s Inouye Regional Center, Bill Thomas (Senior Advisor on Islands, Indigenous, and International Issues) described the unique setting and siting of their Center. Facility construction bridges two historic World War II hangars but the design also includes indigenous features of Hawaiian culture, and also boasts LEED certification. Bill escorted us to meetings with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, and introduced us to the numerous offices housed in the facility, which range from ocean, atmospheric, meteorological, and outreach efforts.
We first visited the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Here’s Laura Kong and Derek Ampnir simulating a tsunami learning tool. This cross-section simulation shows the difference between waves created by weather — which forces energy along the surface of the ocean — as opposed to tsunamis that generate energy across the entire column of the ocean. As a result tsunami waves can compound much more energy and can travel further inland.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


We also had the opportunity to try out other learning tools. This sand box is a topographical model which uses computer sensors to redraw contours. The model can also simulate rainfall when you hold your hand between the sand and the projector. This generates rainfall and can show how flood dynamics might work in a given watershed. The Head of the West Papua disaster management agency drew the outline of the northwestern part of the island of New Guinea. He simulated how rainfall occurred during the flash floods of Waisor, and the rector also redrew the unique geographical landscape of Wondama Bay.
Finally we also learned about the globe on a sphere, which is a complex simulation of numerous data source projections. We examined the recent triple threat of hurricanes in the United States, and watched the weather patterns as storms Harvey, Irma, and Jose flashed on the screen. We also looked at a diverse set of other simulations, including heat waves, shipping routes, and models from the Tohoku tsunami of 2011.
Leaving Ford Island, we drove past the USS Arizona Memorial and went downtown to the offices of NDPTC. The conversation shifted to training in its many different forms. Karl Kim shared with us about the various curriculum they have developed, the hundreds of counties that they have worked in, and the timeliness of such work in light of recent disasters in the United States. We also discussed the role of the University of Papua and departments of emergency management in developing training programs and outreach in West Papua province.
During the afternoon we made one final stop at the Office of Emergency Management. Their offices are located inside the Diamond Head Crater. Here we learned about the State’s plan in the event of disasters, especially the role of coordinating the command center. We also learned about the office’s plans to address the major hazards in Hawaii, including the lava flows on the island of Hawaii, earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes. One more recent preparation focus is planning for a potential nuclear attack from North Korea. This has been in the news lately and they are simulating potential actions plans in the event of heightened security concerns.
It was a full day. On Thursday we will travel to the North Shore to visit a collaborative research effort at Camp Mokuleia.

Exploring future Educational and Training Collaborations between UH, UNIPA, and EWC

Blog post by Micah Fisher, Learning from Disasters
On Tuesday we had several meetings between the Papua delegation (the University of Papua, UNIPA) and several prominent Hawaii-based institutions, including the East-West Center, the University of Hawaii.
In the morning we met with Dean of College of Social Science Denise Konan and discussed our longstanding relationship. Derek Ampnir, head of Disaster Management for West Papua province reminisced about the initiation of this partnership. Such efforts began in 2013 during a Symposium in Yogyakarta which convened numerous leaders and institutions across the Asia-Pacific interested in disaster risk reduction and resilience. We discussed how far we’d come, including the recent training delivery in Manokwari, West Papua. We also discussed the potential for expanding our relationship going forward.
We also met with East-West Center President Richard Vuylsteke. We explored some of the barriers and opportunities for increasing capacity among students in disaster management. We also brainstormed potential ways for institutionalizing professional training programs in disaster management.
We ended the day with a reception on College Hill, hosted by UH President David Lassner. There we formally signed a memorandum of understanding for continued collaboration. The collaboration will include three pillars, i) teaching/mentoring, ii) research, and iii) community engagement. To fulfill the first pillar we discussed possible ways to bring students from West Papua at all levels: undergraduate, master level, and PhD. We also discussed potential areas of joint research, which were raised during the public seminar presented by University of Papua faculty member Dr. Hendri . Finally, we discussed following up on the rapid vulnerability assessments that were initiated as part of the training in West Papua in August.

From the Bird’s Head to the Windward Side: West Papua, Hawaii, and Building Partnerships

Blog post by Micah Fisher, Learning from Disasters
Today we welcomed a delegation from West Papua province, also known as the Bird’s Head region of the island of New Guinea. Our visitors included the head of the provincial Disaster Management Agency, the Rector (President) and faculty of the University of Papua, and an international disaster response NGO Hope Worldwide. The visit marks a follow up from UH Mānoa partnerships with West Papua province. As you can read in previous blogposts, a month ago we delivered a joint training in Manokwari for university faculty members, disaster managers, local government agencies, local NGOs, religious leaders, traditional leaders, groups with disabilities, and partners from neighboring provinces.
During that visit we also had the opportunity to visit Raja Ampat, the center of the coral triangle and site of the highest marine biodiversity in the world. Earlier this year a cruise ship crashed into these coral reefs and made international news due to the significant damage sustained there. On our visit, we were also interested in examining the vulnerabilities among coastal communities throughout these majestic and remote islands.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Now in Hawaii we are also determined to continue our partnerships with our guests toward the joint goal of learning to build resilience for island communities. The pictures below show us visiting the windward side of Oahu, examining management approaches at the world famous marine protected and tourism destination at Hanauma bay, visiting sites of coastal erosion, and learning about planning interventions related to coastal zone management in this area. We had a rich discussion about the challenges of tourism, conservation, development, and vulnerable populations.
We also learned about the Wasior disaster of 2010 from our visitors. A lot of flash floods assume that significant land use change had taken place in upstream areas, and the blame is also often assigned to local communities. During this “tsunami from above,” a description of the awesome scale of the flash flooding that flattened the city of Wasior, natural dams had built up in the upper watershed. A tremendous amount of debris had collected in the hills. Combined with significant rainfall events coinciding with an intense La Niña created the hazards that in turn transformed into a disaster.
The post-recovery and re-development planning negotiations ongoing today are complex. For example, the inaccurate perception of wrongdoing by local communities proved frustrating in implementing intervention strategies. Local ecological and indigenous knowledge fell on deaf ears as a result, frustrating upland communities, and proving difficult for building trust between different formal and informal leaders necessary to come together to reduce hazard exposure going forward.
We also face the same challenges in development planning in Hawaii, and the contentious rail project became a subject of interest. Rail in Hawaii has intended to reduce congestion and provide alternative transportation options and connectivity. However, the approach to implementation has been one of the most divisive issues in Hawaii in recent years. More broadly, as disasters punish the US at the moment — fires in the west, inundation across the middle, and strong winds in the east — discussions about how to reduce vulnerability and work towards different approaches to build resilience are certainly timely discussions.
In the coming days we will visit the East-West Center, UH College of Social Sciences, the NOAA Inouye center,  Hawaii State Civil Defense, and the National Disaster Preparedness Training Center. We will be sharing more of these insights in the coming days!