Sisters use science, technology to study Molokai reef

Sarah and Lily Jenkins have more in common than being sisters, fellow students at Molokai High School and winners at the 2015 Maui Schools Science & Engineering Fair 5 for their project, “March of the Mangroves.” The sisters also share a love of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) and a strong ambition to succeed. They’ve taken a big step toward that by winning the Maui District Science Fair, which qualified them for competition in the INTEL International Science and Engineering Fair, a contest that annually draws the nation’s best and brightest students.

The students used Geographic Information System software, known as GIS, to interpret satellite data, aerial imagery, historic maps and coastal surveys to determine the extent to which red mangroves have migrated seaward on Molokai’s south shore. The girls were also able to analyze the mangroves’ effects and predict their future impact on nearby reefs. “GIS mapping was able to prove that red mangrove will establish itself upon the fringing reef in approximately 72 years, consuming a total area of 46 square kilometers (about 18 square miles),” Lily Jenkins said. “If no management plan for red mangrove is adopted, this invasive species will overtake 35.67 percent of Molokai’s fringing reef in the next 100 years.” In the next year or two, Lily said she plans to create a nonprofit to start raising money to contribute and aid in the effort to remove and manage the invasive mangrove.

The GIS software used by the Jenkins came from the Hawaii K12 GIS Hub website, which has been made possible through a partnership of Maui Economic Development Board’s Women in Technology and ESRI, the world’s leading GIS software developer. “Without that software, we wouldn’t even have a project,” Sarah Jenkins said.

WIT recently announced the kickoff of its new Hawaii K12 GIS Community Hub: www.gishawaii.com. The new hub promises to engage educators, students and industry partners with school projects, pictures, collected data, lesson plans, news events, tips and tricks, etc. For more information, contact Isla Young at 875-2307, or e-mail: isla@medb.org

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