Showcasing water at the Cook Islands Science Expo

UNSW's A/Prof Fiona Johnson and A/Prof Kristen Splinter (middle) met with Cook Islands National Program Manager - Climate and Ocean Services, Matt Blacka (L) and and Australia’s Acting High Commissioner to the Cook Islands, Ruth Baird (R)A/Prof Fiona Johnson and A/Prof Kristen Splinter represented UNSW at the 2022 Cook Islands Science Expo, held at the National Auditorium on the island of Rarotonga from 17-21 October, 2022. They were joined by Anna Blacka who works for the UINSW Water Research Laboratory and is currently based in the Cook Islands.

Under the theme ‘The Synergy between Traditional Knowledge and Science’, the bi-annual expo helped Cook Islands students and youth to gain awareness and about the connectedness of Traditional Knowledge and practices with science.

UNSW was privileged to be one of several international partners invited to attend the Expo, which was hosted by the Cook Islands Prime Minister, Mark Brown. The UNSW stall featured water filters, floating mangrove rafts, capillary action with rainbow water colours and a Coastsnap station, showcasing many aspects of water science and their links to Traditional Knowledge.

Approximately 1500 people attended the UNSW stall, including the Prime Minister with his family.

A/Prof Johnson runs a demonstration for children at the Cook Islands Science Expo

Fiona said that many students enjoyed the UNSW stall and departed with a new appreciation for water science and engineering.

“The students were very excited to participate in our hands-on science activities and were very enthusiastic and creative,” said Fiona.

Kristen said that as a coastal engineer, it was an amazing opportunity to talk to students.

“So many students quickly recognised the coastal projects around the Cook Islands that the UNSW Water Research Laboratory has helped to implement,” said Kristen.

“It was also a wonderful opportunity to talk to them about the option of pursuing coastal engineering careers.”

The Expo was well attended and resourced, with UNSW joining other international invitees including Otago Museum, NIWA, University of Auckland, University of Waikato and Manaaki Whenua (Landcare Research) from New Zealand; and Brigham Young University from Hawaii.

Local partners also shared their love of science and knowledge with highlights by Korero O’te Orau (who had a display of Crown of Thorns Starfish!, Gallery Tavioni, the Cook Islands Voyaging Society, Te Ipukarea Society, Cook Islands Meteorological Service, Emergency Management Cook Islands and Muri Environment Care.

While in the Cook Islands, the UNSW team also had the opportunity to meet with Australia’s Acting High Commissioner to the Cook Islands, Ruth Baird, and to visit a number of sites in Rarotonga.

They visited Muri Lagoon (which has been the subject of some previous work by WRL), some unique coastal protection structures and several sites that provided insight into island-wide coastal processes. They also visited the Takuva’ine Valley Water catchment to observe traditional water terracing for taro cultivation and plantations of ‘utu (king banana) as well as medicinal plants and native foods.

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