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STAR REPORT

 

By John Collen

The following is a brief report on the last STAR meeting and a notification of the forthcoming one to be held in September 2002.

The 2001 STAR meeting was held on Majuro, Marshall Islands, 17-18 October, immediately prior to the 30th Annual session of SOPAC. Despite disruptions to the travel of many intending delegates by the events of September 11, 2001, 35 papers were presented orally at the meeting, covering the usual wide range of topics. The report on this meeting from the STAR Chair to the SOPAC Governing Council is attached. Abstracts of the presentations are available from SOPAC as Miscellaneous Report 445, and other details of the 30th Annual Session can be found on SOPAC’s web pages at http://www.sopac.org.fj/Secretariat/AnnualSessions/index.html

Those who attended the meeting were again very well rewarded for their presence, both scientifically and culturally. As delegates who attended the previous meeting on Tarawa found, the perspective introduced by holding the meeting on an atoll gave participants a firsthand appreciation of the physical setting and a real understanding of the hazards and difficulties of development inherent in such settings. And again the warmth and hospitality provided by the hosts were memorable. The relatively small number of participants and their close proximity throughout the duration of the meeting also promoted discussion and the exchange of ideas.

In Majuro, STAR convened two general meetings to discuss scientific issues that are regional in nature. The first dealt with global climate change and sea level rise, and the second with the issue of World War Two wrecks, including that of the USS Mississinewa in Ulithi Atoll, FSM. It is intended that a workshop dealing with the perspective of Pacific researchers on the former issue will be convened during 2003.

However, I was concerned that representatives of other regional organizations at the Annual Session questioned the credentials of STAR to organise such a workshop on its own and attempted to place constraints on any such meeting. As I stressed to Council, I view STAR, despite its close association with SOPAC, as an independent entity - a network of international scientists whose common bond is their commitment to Pacific science and their wish to see it serve the peoples of the region through the agency of SOPAC. One of the most valuable aspects of STAR to the region is in fact this independence. I would welcome any comments on this.

The next STAR meeting will be held in Nauru, September 25-26th, 2002 followed by the 31st Annual Session of SOPAC. The theme of STAR is "Geoscience and Sustainable Development in Pacific Island States; 2002-2012," but presentations on any aspect of Pacific science are welcomed. Further details are posted on the SOPAC website at the above address and I strongly recommend attendance at this meeting to all STAR members.

John Collen Chair, Science Technology and Resources Network School of Earth Sciences, Victoria University of Wellington PO Box 600, Wellington, New Zealand Tel.: +64 4 4635071 Fax: +64 4 4635186 Email: John.Collen@vuw.ac.nz http://www.geo.vuw.ac.nz/

STAR CHAIR REPORT TO COUNCIL – October 2001

Madam Chair, Distinguished National representatives and Delegation members, representatives of Institutions and Organisations, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Introduction

STAR is SOPAC’s Science, Technology and Resources Network and it interfaces between the SOPAC Secretariat and PIC members of SOPAC and the international scientific community. It does this in several ways. Every few years, an international scientific workshop or meeting is either convened by STAR, or held under its auspices, on a broad theme relevant to the SOPAC region. The last such workshop, on ENSO effects, was held in Nadi in 1999. STAR members also correspond and tender advice during the intervening year.

Each year, a meeting at which scientific papers are presented and discussed, and thematic Working Groups meet, is held in conjunction with the Annual Session of the SOPAC Governing Council. This year, as has been the arrangement for several years now, STAR met from October 17th to 18th, prior to the opening of this Council Meeting. We were pleased to have delegates from the Regional Wastewater Meeting join us during the first day, and students from the College of the Marshall Islands attended throughout. STAR presenters are compiling the material from their talks for the students.

This year, two special general meetings have been held under the auspices of STAR. They will be reported separately.

STAR Presentations

During this STAR meeting, 35 scientific papers were presented orally and a considerable number of others by the posters you see on the walls around you. Abstracts of these are published in SOPAC Miscellaneous Report 445. The eight sessions of oral presentations were chaired by John Collen, Faatoia Malele, Loren Kroenke, Keith Crook, John Bonato, Yves LaFoy, Ben Ponia and Gary Greene. Papers were grouped into the themes of Energy, Water and Sanitation, Minerals, Hazards, Tectonics and Geology, Habitats and Coastal, and Technology. As is the norm for these meetings, the information presented covered a very wide range and participants included several representatives from disciplines other than earth science. For example, papers were presented by members of the biological, engineering and legal professions in addition to the geoscientists.

Let me briefly outline the scope of the presentations for you. During the Energy sessions, papers on wave generation of electricity, geothermal power and gas hydrates in the SOPAC region, and the regional energy information database attracted considerable interest.

Papers in the Water and Sanitation section included information on various strategies in this area and on the application of GIS techniques. The minerals resources of Papua New Guinea formed another presentation.

During the Hazards sessions, several papers summarised recent work on tsunamis, including data supporting the origin of the Sissano Tsunamis as the result of a submarine slump and the potential hazards around Lae and Port Vila. This session ended with a paper on risk management in the region in general.

The Tectonics and Geology papers covered regional perspectives on plate tectonics, and a summary of the geology of Guam.

The Habitats and Coastal papers were wide-ranging and included general papers on issues and problems, discussion of areas with specific challenges such as Majuro and Tarawa, and more specific discussions of sedimentary processes and environmental settings.

Within this theme, a paper by Professors Neil Levy and Gary Greene on the impacts of causeway development contained a resolution that STAR recommended that I pass on to Council. This reads as follows:

"STAR recommends that SOPAC endorse the project of TAP (The Atoll Project) to study causeway impacts on atolls and encourages the implementation and fund raising to undertake such a project.

Further, STAR endorses the concept and encourages the pursuit of an inventory of causeways, current and planned, as the first year phase of the project.

The project will be undertaken by TAP, a consortium of the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (California State University) and Golden Gate University, School of Law, with the assistance of the SOPAC Secretariat."

The application of Information Technology permeated much of the meeting but the session specifically devoted to this covered both the increasing capacity in the region and the increasing availability of high resolution satellite imagery with the potential this brings to Pacific research. The Oceans section examined the ARGO Project, sea level change and Pacific GOOS.

Working Groups

In addition to the scientific presentations, five working groups also met. These were the Energy, Hazards, Habitats and Ocean Observing Systems, Water and Wastewater, and the Coastal and Nearshore Processes Working Groups. I will report briefly on their recommendations here and the full reports will be tabled during the following TAG/Council sessions. Other Working Groups that have met in the past were not convened because of the lack of persons with appropriate expertise at this meeting.

Energy Working Group: The Energy Working Group recommended that STAR specifically note and endorse the following points:

That SOPAC increase its activity in identifying and evaluating appropriate prototype technologies in renewable energy that can be introduced into the region, i.e. work with innovative companies / organization / institutions to achieve the above objective.

That SOPAC increases its activities in energy education, including students in intermediate grades. (U.S. Geothermal Industries Corporation offered to provide educational information on geothermal energy to SOPAC).

That consideration be given to the hosting of a Regional Energy Ministers Meeting. As appropriate, this could be combined with the proposed Joint Energy Meeting scheduled for February 2002.

That the Energy Unit’s staffing levels are marginally adequate and that Management immediately address additional staffing requirements. The objective should be to seek appointments in early 2002 so as to facilitate delivery of the energy program and improvement in the level of service to member countries.

That SOPAC prepare technical publications on geothermal, wave and wind energy technologies.

Further:

1) The Energy Working Group acknowledged the participation of U.S. Geothermal Industries Corporation and Rhode Island University, noting the need to encourage member countries to seriously consider submitting papers to STAR 2002.

The Energy Working Group noted the preparation of the Regional Energy Policy Paper.

The Energy Working Group noted:

a) the proposed Joint Regional Energy Meeting scheduled for February 2002;

b) that SPC were taking the lead role in the coordination of the meeting as agreed; and

c) that the venue was still to be confirmed, although the Cook Islands had reconfirmed their offer to host the meeting made at the REM2000 in Kiribati.

The Water Working Group: The group reviewed the recommendations that were put to Council by the Water Working Group in 2000. Clive Carpenter of SOPAC WRU introduced the participants to the Water Resources Unit Strategy for Water and Sanitation, the Pacific Wastewater Policy Statement and the Pacific Wastewater Framework for Action. The group, mainly comprised of Pacific islanders, provide a positive feedback towards the development of such activities on a national level.

Recommendations:

The group took note of SOPAC’s Water Resources Unit Strategy for Water and Sanitation and recommends strongly that Council endorse it as an important document for the further development of the Water Resources Activities.

The group took note of the Pacific Wastewater Policy Statement and the Pacific Wastewater Framework for Action, and recommends strongly that Council endorse both documents.

The group, in addition, recommends that Council note the recommendations made during the Regional Wastewater Meeting held 10-15 October 2001, including:

o The recommendation that a Pacific Wastewater Focal Group be established to continue the dialogue on wastewater in the region; and

o The recommendation that Pacific Island Countries develop National Frameworks for Action and establish National Wastewater Focal Groups.

The group recommends to Council that SOPAC take a lead in collaboration with SPREP and the Pacific Wastewater Focal Group in mobilising funds that will be made available through the Global Programme for Action (GPA) to implement demonstration projects on wastewater in the region.

The Group took note of the recommendations of the UNEP-funded workshop on Environmentally Sound Technologies for the Integrated Management of Solid, Liquid and Hazardous Waste for Small Island Developing States in the Pacific held in Majuro from 16-19 October 2001. The Group recommends to Council that SOPAC initiate further activities in this field, including research and dissemination of information in the Pacific region on Environmentally Sound Technologies.

The Hazards Working Group reviewed the second version of the report "Site specific earthquake hazard determination in the capital cities of the South Pacific" which was tabled by Graham Shorten. This fulfils the recommendation of last years working group.

 

As in the two previous years, the Working Group recommends that an array of Pacific seismograph stations is urgently needed along with the establishment of a Regional Centre for Applied Seismology to better determine the seismic hazard facing the Pacific Islands. The Working Group heard that the Director of Seismology at the Geophysical Institute of Israel has offered to utilise a year of sabbatical leave in 2002 to help in the establishment of the Centre. The Working Group recommends that the most effective approach for funding might be to seek participation of JICA to complement its existing activities in setting up telemetered seismic arrays in PIC’s. The Working Group recommends that member nations form a consortium of interested parties to seek and combine bilateral funds from JICA for this regional project.

 

With respect to locally generated tsunami, the Working Group recommends that SOPAC carry out a shallow-water swath bathymetry survey along the northern PNG coast (as in year’s Working Group recommendations) to complement the deep water cruises already carried out by Japan. The survey would greatly aid in the investigation of the transmission mechanism of the Sissano tsunami. Similarly the Working Group recommends surveys in other areas prone to tsunami (e.g. Mele Bay, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands) as part of a coordinated regional program of investigation.

 

The Working Group recommends that the Pacific Cities urban hazard and risk assessment project be extended to include Lae and Madang, PNG.

 

The Working Group recommends that an onshore seismic reflection survey be conducted in the Lae region, in order to test the hypothesis of Keith Crook that Lae is located astride a plate boundary.

 

The Working Group recommends that continuous global positioning systems (C-GPS) stations be established on selected Micronesian atolls to investigate their vertical motion due to tectonic uplift/subsidence.

The Coastal and Nearshore Processes Working Group reviewed the recommendations of the 2000 Working Group and discussed the papers presented during the STAR session to assess progress made during the past year and to suggest new activities.

 

Chunting Xue and Russell Howorth’s presentation on the coastal geology of Majuro and the publicized controversy over aggregate dredging and mining in Majuro underscored the importance of exploration for, evaluation and utilisation of sand and aggregate resources. The Working Group agreed that in addition to the recommendations of the previous year, an important step concerning the supply and use of aggregate was the inclusion of specific requirements in the formulation and pre-implementation stages of construction projects. Robert Smith’s investigations of the offshore shelf deposits in atolls were discussed. While the group recognised that the expansion of such work to other offshore locations was obviously needed, the group also discussed the technology that was already available to exploit such resources and that it was well utilized in the islands of the Indian Ocean. Economic or business decisions were identified as a primary constraint to the adoption of such technologies in the pacific island nations. Similarly the group noted that Pacific island nations should include aggregate export and import within the context of trade and technical cooperation.

Discussions of the aggregate and sand supply assessments led to the recognition of progress made by John Collen and colleagues towards characterizing the origin, composition and distribution of sediment deposits in lagoonal systems through their work in Kiribati. Because an understanding of production and loss mechanisms, particularly the rates of such mechanisms, was critical to the sustainable harvesting of sand resources and the estimation of impacts, the group agreed that research should progress towards tackling this issue.

The Working Group noted that the acquisition of the multi-beam and side-scan systems had made survey work much more efficient. The purchase of advanced software would be necessary as more and complex data were collected over a shorter time. Robert Smith and Simon Young’s recent work in Manihiki, Cook Islands, showed that, the multi-beam systems were very effective when supplemented with remote sensing data.

It was pointed out that just as different technologies used collectively yielded desirable results so also a multi-disciplinary approach would likely produce a more informative output. The group recognized that the island management system demanded such an approach towards research. It was noted that the multi-beam work and the sediment characterization work were elements of such an approach and may have been more useful if they had been performed at one location.

The progress made regarding the involvement of students in research was also discussed briefly to answer questions raised by last year’s Working Group. Two students were helping at SOPAC and about three students had been involved in research with John Collen. More students were likely to be involved in the next year.

The group recognised that the "approval" of projects usually preceded the information developed through the environmental impact assessment. It was pointed out that this led to a negative perception about the usefulness of the EIA as a tool that was beneficial to government, society and the developer. The group also considered the role of culture and of the uniform application of the EIA system. It was suggested that the difficulties usually arose primarily because of inappropriate sequence of actions rather than the EIA process itself. The expense of EIA was viewed as a cost of the project to be borne by the proponent as a normal practice.

Reclamation was discussed in view of its successful application in Maldives and Singapore, its intrinsic value and as an alternative to "band-aid" solutions. It was considered applicable in some locations and would take some time to be adopted on a large scale. The group linked habitat identification and delineation and its implications towards zoning of areas of the lagoon. Such a zoning system may include off-limit areas for dredging and delineate areas open for dredging similar to the concept applied for marine parks and reserves.

The Working Group recommended:

exploration and identification of sand and aggregate resources to be continued.

identified alternative aggregate and sand resources be used.

technologies for utilisation of offshore deposits to be considered for adoption.

project documents and tender documents should consider the source and quantities of aggregate and sand.

software and hardware related to multi-beam, side=scan and remote sensing continue to be acquired to maintain a cutting edge and to make data processing efficient.

research related to sediment supply, movement and loss in nearshore regimes in islands be prioritised.

environmental assessment be emphasised as an essential and beneficial tool for developers and society, particularly in small island nations.

beach profiling training be expanded to include the use and interpretation of data.

reclamation of suitable large areas be explored to enhance engineered living areas.

response actions be developed, disseminated and practised for vessels grounded in nearshore environments.

research programs be developed to support integrative multi-disciplinary approaches towards aggregate supply, habitat characterisation and use of lagoonal systems.

 

Habitats and in Ocean Observing Systems: Members with interests in Habitats and in Global Ocean Observing Systems met together.

The Working Group discussed accessing EU funding for a regional conference related to GOOS and marine habitat science objectives, and recommended that SOPAC investigate obtaining funds for holding such a conference.

Recognising the need for understanding fisheries and other biological habitats and noting that SOPAC has the ability to compile existing geological, geophysical and remote sensing data sets that can be used to characterise marine benthic habitats, the Working Group recommended that SOPAC initiate a Marine Benthic Habitat Program.

Further, the Working Group noted that much of the recently collected multibeam bathymetric and backscatter data could be easily converted to habitat maps.

To conform with other Pacific habitat mapping projects, and to standardise habitat classification within a GIS, the Working Group recommended that SOPAC undertake a review of existing schemes from the US and Australia. A pilot study could be carried out using existing data sets (e.g. Port Villa).

The Working Group was informed of an international marine habitat mapping workshop to be held at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories in California from 1-4 May 2002. The Working Group encouraged all interested in benthic habitat mapping techniques to attend.

The Working Group encourages the application of interdisciplinary participation in marine science surveys and studies which multi-task objectives (e.g. geohazards assessment, habitat characterisation, physical oceanography). The Working Group recommended that SOPAC include biological and seabed geological sampling and photography as an integrated part of future swath bathymetry surveys to increase their value for benthic habitat studies.

The Working Group recommends that SOPAC seek to actively co-operate with those CROP organisations that have a living marine resources mandate (such as SPC, FFA, USP and SPREP) and relevant NGOs (such as TNC and WWF) to develop interdisciplinary (biological-geological-oceanographic) teams that can work together for the benefit of sustaining regional fisheries.

In addition, the Working Group notes that physical oceanographic programs such as GOOS may contribute significant data useful to habitat assessment and the Working Group encourages SOPAC to facilitate multidisciplinary approaches to habitat mapping.

General Meetings

This year, and I believe that this is an important development, STAR also convened two general meetings to discuss scientific issues that are regional in nature. The first meeting dealt with global climate change and sea level rise, and the second with the issue of World War Two wrecks, including that of the USS Mississinewa in Ulithi Atoll, FSM. Reports of both meetings will be communicated to Council separately.

 

STAR Business Meeting

The STAR Business Meeting elected myself to continue as Chair of STAR for the coming years and Mr. Faatoia Malele, Deputy Director of the Meteorology Division of Samoa, to continue as Vice-Chair of STAR.

 

General Comments from Chair of STAR

The organisation of STAR was disrupted this year by travel and other difficulties that caused a number of delegates to withdraw at a fairly late stage. However, this simply exacerbated a trend that has been apparent for several years, which is the reduction in the number of papers presented by scientists based outside the region. The reasons for this are varied – many revolve around funding difficulties.

I must compliment SOPAC staff and other scientists from within the region on rising to the occasion and making many extremely valuable presentations. This is not a platitude – much of the information presented is extremely exciting. I hope that this will continue; however, I am also committed to getting as many scientists from outside the region to these meetings as possible in order to expand the scientific base available and will begin planning for next year’s meeting immediately I finish here. To that end, I must thank Nauru for their early notification of the dates and venue for next year’s meeting. Perhaps I should note that international conferences are now planned up to 18 months or more ahead, and many scientists need this amount of lead-time to plan their schedules and arrange funding.

At this point, I would appreciate this opportunity to convey some personal impressions of this STAR meeting. The first is the clearly applied direction to much of the research. I raised this observation last year as, although this has always been a particular feature of STAR, it is becoming more clearly articulated and was apparent in most presentations. It is also obvious from even a cursory glance at the posters around the walls. This aspect was certainly enhanced by the increased contribution from SOPAC staff.

STAR discussions, and indeed the entire contents of the two specials sessions, were often regional in nature and are becoming more directed towards the provision of quality technical advice to member governments. This seems to me to be in the spirit of the opening remarks made by President Note and also by yourself, Madam Chair. It is also explicit in the resolution regarding causeways that I submitted to you earlier in this address.

My last observation is also one I raised last year. As I said then, it is clear that the work of SOPAC, important though it is to the region, would also be of inestimable value to the wider scientific community. This year’s presentations by SOPAC staff have strongly reinforced my view on this. Those of us who are aware of this work can access it through SOPAC’s publications but much of the scientific world is less informed. I would again urge SOPAC staff to consider publishing the results of their work in international scientific journals or as books so that it reaches a wider audience and perhaps corrects some of the imbalances that we know exist in the scientific literature. During the past year I have discussed this issue with a number of STAR colleagues and all of us would be happy to assist, by advising on appropriate formats and journals, by helping edit material, and so on.

As usual, STAR is indebted to staff of the SOPAC Secretariat for their cheerful efforts that make the meeting possible. And finally, Madam Chair, may I take this opportunity on behalf of STAR to thank our hosts, the Government and people of the Marshall Islands, for the hospitality shown to all of us during our stay here so far. It is very much appreciated.

That concludes my address. Thank you.

John Collen Chair, Science Technology and Resources Network (STAR) Majuro, 20 October 2001

Email: john.collen@vuw.ac.nz 

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