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by Jessica S. McDunn, University Relations

 

At HPU, engaging students through hands-on experience is a main focus in preparing students for the post-college world, which is why HPU researcher Dr. Eric Vetter regularly invites students along on his ongoing research explorations of how environmental conditions in underwater canyons differ from those on the “normal” sea floor.

Vetter is an associate professor of marine biology at HPU. Since 2003, he and his research partner Dr. Craig Smith of the University of Hawai‘i, have made 37 submarine dives in canyons off Nihoa Island and Maro Reef in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands and around O‘ahu and Moloka‘i in the main Hawaiian Islands. They both believe students should learn by doing.

“ Our data,” Vetter said, “will contribute to our understanding of how biodiversity is created and maintained and will advance our knowledge of the significance of canyons to near-shore fisheries and their role in marine conservation.”

Canyons are common along slopes of submerged seamounts, Vetter explained, but they have not been well explored. Vetter believes the canyons are habitats for a variety of unique marine life and may be important for transporting organic matter and sediments from near-shore regions into the deep sea.

“ Our dives ranged from 1,000 to about 5,000 feet,” Vetter said, and they “revealed what appeared to be more diverse animal communities and animals in the canyons than we observed at a similar depth outside of the canyons.”

On their most recent research trip, during August and September 2006, Vetter and Smith invited HPU marine biology senior Brandi Kivi, who joined the crew for two weeks for a submarine dive off Moloka‘i. They studied a total of five submarine canyon systems as well as nearby regions at the same depths outside the canyons.

On previous research trips, Dr. Vetter, who has participated in or overseen more than 100 submersible dives using submarines and remotely operated vehicles, brought along a number of other now former HPU students, including Carole Berini (B.S. in Marine Biology 2003), and Nina Roth and Amanda Hallberg (both of whom earned a B.S. in Marine Biology 2004).

 

 

 

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