Dr Charley Waters, an inspiring scientist in Aitutaki, Cook Islands, has started a local initiative to foster community engagement in restoring and protecting their marine environment called Aitutaki Reef Keepers. The island community, including local schools, are closely involved.

School children and visitors actively help by fixing small branches of living coral to cement blocks and wedging the blocks into the reef in the lagoon: as seen on this video. The initiative thus actively fosters community engagement in protecting the island’s coral ecosystem.

Related work involves restoring giant clam populations on which Charley conducted his PhD (see video). He also has a wonderful collection of photographs showcasing the beauty of the clams.

The University of Auckland has undergraduate scholarships for Maori and Pacific Island students, and at postgraduate level for Maori and Pacific Islanders.

Katherine Kelly and Mark Costello joined Charley for a week, helped with placing coral in the lagoon, set out sites for future coral replanting, discussed methods and opportunities for reef health monitoring, and explored the lagoon environment.

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