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  • 1. Ambassadors of the Environment The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua Hawaiian Islands
  • 2. The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua offers Jean-Michel Cousteau’s outdoor adventure and education program, Ambassadors of the Environment (AOTE), to hotel guests and the surrounding community on the island of Maui. This location is an ideal outdoor classroom for people of all ages to learn about and enjoy Hawaii’s dazzling coral reefs and lush tropical rainforests.
  • 3. This is the learning center, Ambassadors Hale. It features a life-size mural of a humpback whale and her calf as well as the largest map of the Hawaiian Islands in the Hawaiian Islands. This aerial view gives you an idea of the massive size of the humpback whale, one of the most majestic annual visitors to the Hawaiian Islands.
  • 4. Maui is one of the 8 inhabited islands in the Hawaiian Island chain. Located in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, these islands are very geographically isolated. Over time, Hawaii’s plants and animals –both above and below the sea– evolved to meet the demands of their particular environment with little influence from the outside world. Therefore, the Hawaiian Islands are home to many fascinating species found nowhere else in the world, making Maui’s ecosystems exciting and interesting to explore.
  • 5. A guest’s experience with the Ambassadors program often starts with a journey into the underwater world. Through snorkeling, guests soon learn that coral reefs are complex, efficient ecosystems where every creature plays a specific role in the community as a whole.
  • 6. Coral reefs are like “cities under the sea.” In the Ambassadors program, we use this metaphor to understand the ecological roles of many different creatures on the reef. Just like human cities where everyone has a specific job, coral reefs have power plants, farmers, recycling and waste managers, doctors, and demolition crews.
  • 7. Corals are the “architects” and “construction crews” of the reef. They grow into big building-like structures full of nooks and crannies in which other organisms live or find shelter. This hawkfish, for example, perches motionless on coral to watch for passing prey. Corals have another interesting feature: they contain tiny algae inside their bodies! These algae perform photosynthesis and provide the coral animal with a large fraction of their food.
  • 8. Coral with Algae algae partners Corals (with their algae partners) and free-living algae both serve as “solar power plants.” Like green plants on land, they use sunlight to make their own energy rich food in a process called photosynthesis and constitute part of the base of the food chain. Therefore, like our electric power plants, algae and coral provide energy for the entire coral city.
  • 9. There are also “farmers” on the reef. Some damselfish maintain patches of algae to ensure a steady food supply. They “weed” out unwanted organisms from their algal patches and defend them from intruders. This feisty damselfish is facing off with his own reflection!
  • 10. Sea cucumbers are the “waste managers”of the coral reef. They roam the seafloor, ingesting a mixture of sand and dead organic matter (detritus) and then excreting clean sand. This keeps the reef clean and healthy while ensuring that not even the “trash” of the reef is wasted.
  • 11. In the coral city, these blue and yellow cleaner wrasse are “doctors” that keep other fish healthy by picking off their parasites. Goatfish flush a rosy pink color or stand on their tails or heads to indicate that they are ready for their “doctor’s appointment.” This relationship is called mutualism because both parties benefit: the goatfish gets a healthy cleaning and the cleaner wrasse gets an easy meal.
  • 12. Cleaner mimic er w rasse eal c lean R Coral reefs, like human cities, are even home to “thieves” and “criminals.” This blenny pretends to be a cleaner wrasse, but instead of cleaning other fish, it takes nasty bites of its victims and swims swiftly away.
  • 13. There are also “demolition crews” on the reef. When parrotfish and sea urchins feed upon algae, they scrape away some of the dead coral skeleton underneath with their rasping teeth and parrot-like beaks. This action erodes the reef and turns old coral skeletons into sand!
  • 14. There is also “advertising” on the reef, just like we find throughout human cities. This nudibranch’s ad comes in the form of bright colors: they indicate the nudibranch contains nasty toxins and therefore warn predators to stay away.
  • 15. Like coral reefs, rainforests can also be compared to cities. In rainforests, trees are construction crews and power plants. Fungi and bacteria recycle waste, and many organisms such as birds and flowers are the advertisers. Like coral reefs, the forest ecosystem functions in a healthy, self-sustaining way.
  • 16. It is apparent coral reefs, rainforests, and cities have many similarities. However, unlike in human cities, the inhabitants of coral reefs and rainforests do not pollute, deplete their natural resources, or destroy other ecosystems. Therefore, coral reefs and rainforests offer lessons that can help us make our own communities more sustainable.
  • 17. The Four Principles By understanding how nature works, we can imitate it and make our own way of life more sustainable on Earth. In the Ambassadors of the Environment program, we learned four simple lessons about how nature works and used them to brainstorm ways to live sustainably. We call them the Four Principals.
  • 18. The Four Principles 1. Everything Runs On Energy. 2. There Is No Waste In Nature. 3. Biodiversity Is Good. 4. Everything Is Connected.
  • 19. 1. Everything Runs On Energy The first Principle states that EVERYTHING RUNS ON ENERGY. Just like our bodies, cars, desktop lamps, computers, televisions, and appliances –every organism in nature needs energy. Some creatures, like most corals and plants, get their energy from the sun. They harness the sun’s energy to make their own food in a process called photosynthesis, and therefore we call them “primary producers.”
  • 20. Plants are well-known for performing photosynthesis. They contain tiny packets of a green pigment called chlorophyll that absorb the energy in photons of light, powering the manufacture of sugars from very simple building blocks. These sugars then feed the entire plant.
  • 21. Corals are actually animals, not plants. Each little bundle of tentacles shown here is an individual coral animal, or polyp. The entire colony of polyps are clones of a single original individual, and together they are called a coral head. However, we know that plants perform photosynthesis, not animals. So how do corals manage to do photosynthesis?
  • 22. Coral polyps actually contain little brown or green plants called algae inside their bodies. These algae give a portion of the sugars they create through photosynthesis to their coral host in exchange for their safe home inside the coral’s body. The coral then gives the digested remains of the sugar back to the algae, which the algae then uses to manufacture more sugar! This tight, efficient partnership is how corals get much of their energy and enables them to survive in the relatively nutrient-poor waters of the tropics. Corals are therefore one of the biggest primary producers on the coral reef!
  • 23. When primary producers such as plants or coral (with their algae partners) are eaten, energy is transferred up the food chain. Energy flows from primary producers to herbivores, and then to predators. This means that all organisms in these ecosystems are powered by energy that originally came from the sun!
  • 24. In the ocean and on land, nature covers the landscape with “solar collectors,” organisms such as plants and coral that perform photosynthesis. This ensures that the entire ecosystem has energy to grow and survive. We could learn from nature’s example and put solar panels and gardens on all of our roofs… just like we saw in nature.
  • 25. But how do humans presently get most of their power? From oil and coal- power plants. In these power plants, oil or coal is burned to heat water and create steam, which turns turbines that generate electricity. However, burning oil and coal releases harmful greenhouse gasses into our atmosphere, contributing to global climate change. This serious problem could be solved by switching to renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal energy.
  • 26. We explored some of these alternative energy sources in the Ambassadors of the Environment program. Here, we used a solar oven for cooking and solar panels to power electronics. It was easy and only required sunlight, a free and renewable source of energy.
  • 27. 2. There Is No Waste In Nature The second principle says “THERE IS NO WASTE IN NATURE.” Resources such as nutrients are continually reused and recycled, sooner or later being used by a living thing. For example, on coral reefs, creatures such as sea cucumbers and lobsters specialize on eating detritus, the organic “leftovers” or “dead stuff” on the seafloor. Along with worms and microbes, sea cucumbers and lobsters ensure that virtually all organic matter is used on the reef.
  • 28. Hermit crabs ensure that vacated snail shells are not wasted. They turn them into their mobile homes!
  • 29. Fungi and bacteria are important decomposers in the rainforest. Like sea cucumbers and lobsters, they recycle dead stuff into something useful – nutrient rich top soil!
  • 30. Native Hawaiians understood very well the concept of recycling. All of their garbage was fed to pigs, and then the pigs were eaten or their waste composted to create valuable topsoil on the lava fields.
  • 31. Ancient Hawaiians also avoided waste in agriculture. One of their principle crops was taro, a plant with an edible root similar to a potato. They usually harvested the root of the taro and replanted the rest of the plant, allowing it to regrow its root for future harvests. These sustainable farming practices are a great example for us to learn from!
  • 32. Today, humans tend to waste a lot of resources. One thing we can do to change this situation is compost. Composting is where worms, bugs and microbes convert organic waste into soil, just as we see in nature and ancient Hawaiian communities. By composting food leftovers, we prevent garbage from going to ever-growing landfills. Instead, waste is converted into useful, fertile soil that can be reused in a garden.
  • 33. This diagram summarizes what we learned about energy and waste on the reef. Notice that nutrients flow through this food chain in a cycle, being used over and over again with no waste. In contrast, the energy that is continuously harvested from the sun by primary producers flows through the ecosystem and ultimately departs back into space as heat.
  • 34. 3. Biodiversity Is Good Biodiversity refers to the number of different species that live in a certain ecosystem. It is kind of like nature’s insurance policy, because when there are a lot of different organisms in an ecosystem, all of the important work needed to keep the community healthy gets done. If one species ails or disappears, many others are around to replace it. Therefore, biodiversity is what keeps complex ecosystems like coral reefs running smoothly. Also, biodiversity is what makes our world interesting and beautiful! This is the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a, Hawaii’s state fish.
  • 35. Here’s some of the amazing biodiversity of the coral reef. From top to bottom: surgeonfish, butterflyfish, yellow tangs, nudibranch, red pencil urchin, goatfish with cleaner wrassse, Hawaiian dascyllus, pufferfish, green sea turtle.
  • 36. From left to right, these are: boxfish, red pencil urchin, moray eel, another urchin, goatfish at rest, boxfish, snappers, sea star, and christmas tree worm.
  • 37. A very diverse group of sea urchins lives on Hawaii’s coral reefs. Most urchins act as “lawnmowers,” trimming the algae on the reef and ensuring that they do not overgrow the coral. Some urchins are like “termites” that excavate holes and chambers in the reef, creating great places for other creatures to hide. Each urchin species prefers slightly different conditions, so they choose to live in slightly different locations on the reef. This ensures that urchins are widely distributed and their work gets done throughout the reef. Therefore, biodiversity is necessary to keep the reef healthy!
  • 38. A diverse family of butterflyfish lives on Hawaii’s coral reefs. These fish often have a spot called a false eye on their bodies, an adaptation that distracts predators from their real eyes. As you can see, some species also have a dark line over their real eyes to further confuse a predator.
  • 39. Parrotfish use their sharp beaks to scrape algae from rocks and coral skeletons. Like sea urchins, they keep the growth of algae in check. As they graze, they often gouge into dead coral and take in some of the calcium carbonate, later excreting this material as sand. One parrotfish can produce 300 lbs of sand in one year!
  • 40. So next time you walk down a tropical, sandy beach, remember where some of that sand likely came from!
  • 41. Notice the sharp thing near the base of this surgeonfish’s tail. This is called a scalpel, and it is what gives the surgeonfish its name. Surgeonfish use these razor-sharp weapons to defend themselves from predators, but since they would rather avoid a fight altogether, they warn predators to stay away by calling attention to the scalpel with bright white coloration.
  • 42. Frogfish have camouflage that helps them blend in with sponges and rocks on the coral reef. They usually lie motionless, waiting for prey to swim by, then gulp them into their big mouths with one lightning-fast movement.
  • 43. Can you see its eye? The mouth is just below it to the right.
  • 44. Moray eels have long, skinny, flexible bodies ideal for squeezing into tight spaces in pursuit of prey. They also have sharp teeth ideal for grabbing and holding prey.
  • 45. Groupers are another predator of the coral reef. They have evolved very large mouths that create a vacuum when opened, and they literally suck their prey in.
  • 46. Goatfish are a schooling fish that have a unique method of finding prey. They have two “barbles” that extend from their “chin” like a walrus mustache. These organs act like giant nostrils and a tongue all in one, allowing the goatfish to both smell and taste food in the sand before actually taking a bite.
  • 47. Goatfish also display fascinating color changes. They are yellow and white when active, and they turn a mottled brownish color at rest. When they want to be cleaned by a reef doctor, they often turn rosy pink.
  • 48. In the Ambassadors of the Environment program, we got a chance to try underwater photography. This was a great way to commemorate our experiences in nature while having as little impact on it as possible. In this way, we did our part to protect the great biodiversity of Hawaii’s reefs and, as Ambassadors of the Environment, share it with others.
  • 49. Hawaii’s rainforests also contain immense biodiversity. From left to right, the things seen here are: fungi, grasshopper, lizard, seed pods, shearwater, fungus, flower, seed pod, seed pod, and cone.
  • 50. A great variety of flowers can be found in Hawaii’s rainforests. Their form and color are designed to attract whatever creature pollinates them.
  • 51. Buttress roots are an interesting adaptation trees use to increase stability in the shallow rainforest soil and provide more surface area through which to absorb nutrients and water.
  • 52. Vines are fast-growing plants that don’t waste their energy constructing a big thick trunk. Instead they put their energy into fast growth, shooting up toward the sunlight using existing trees for support – a clever and efficient survival tactic.
  • 53. 4. Everything Is Connected The fourth Ambassadors of the Environment principle is that EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED– person to person, creature to creature, land to sea, and present to future. The story of the crown of thorns sea star demonstrates how, for example, our actions on land are connected to the health of coral reefs.
  • 54. When humans let agricultural runoff, topsoil from deforested areas, or sewage reach the ocean, the nutrients in the runoff stimulate the growth of plankton that feed juvenile crown of thorns sea stars, allowing more juveniles to survive than usual. When these young sea stars grow up, the population of adult crown of thorns sea stars seems to suddenly explode. Since adult crown of thorns eat coral, these sea stars can ravage entire coral reefs. In sum, more nutrients from land means more plankton in the sea, which means more sea stars, which means less coral!
  • 55. However, some corals often have a trick – a secret ally. A small crab often lives among their branches, defending the coral from the crown of thorns by pinching off its tube feet or spines. In this mutualistic relationship the crab benefits by getting a safe place to live and feeding on the coral’s mucous, and the coral benefits by having a defender. Therefore we can conclude that these critters are connected to each other, and both are connected to human activities on land.
  • 56. The unlikeliest of organisms can be connected. The humpback whale, one of the largest creatures in the sea, feeds upon some of the smallest: plankton and little fish. Also, humpbacks connect the Arctic to the tropics. They migrate between these two regions every year to feed and breed, respectively.
  • 57. Humans enter the underwater world as guests. We respect the life around us by not touching the reef and keeping an appropriate distance from its inhabitants. However, sometimes we have effects on these organisms that we are not aware of.
  • 58. Green sea turtles around Hawaii often have conspicuous tumors, and scientists believe pollution may be the culprit. This situation is another example of how human actions are connected to the fates of sea creatures.
  • 59. Sea turtles come to shore to lay their eggs, so it is important to keep beaches clean and to leave these nesting mothers alone. This is an example of how land is connected to the sea.
  • 60. Shearwaters, like sea turtles, also bridge the gap between land and sea. They spend much of their lives out to sea, in the open ocean or pelagic region, only coming to shore to breed. Several shearwater species breed on Maui.
  • 61. TRADITIONAL HAWAIIAN The native Hawaiians were VILLAGE very much aware of the connection between land and sea. They had a name for a watershed (an area of land that drains water into the same portion of the ocean). It is called an ahupua’a. They recognized that anything that happened upstream in the ahupua’a would affect everything downstream as well as the sea below. (Everything is connected!) For example, they avoided contaminating their highlands because they realized the water from this region would inevitably flow down to their homes in the lowlands.
  • 62. TRADITIONAL HAWAIIAN AGRICULTURE Hawaiians watered their taro patches by diverting the river as it ran down the mountain toward the ocean. They knew what water temperature was best for their crops, and by diverting only ideal water, they kept their crops healthy and productive.
  • 63. TRADITIONAL HAWAIIAN AGRICULTURE Also, knowing that rivers carrying nutrients to the sea, Hawaiians built fish farms around river estuaries. They would fence off a portion of the estuary and leave a grated opening through which small fish could enter but big fish could not exit. Small fish would enter the enclosure, grow up on a diet of algae fertilized by the river’s nutrients, and then be harvested. In this way, the ancient Hawaiians took advantage of the connection between land and sea, and lived in a sustainable way for thousands of years.
  • 64. The Ambassadors Of the Environment program includes a game called The Web of Life, and it’s all about connections. Each person chooses a creature and thinks of how it is connected to the one across the circle. Eventually we see that every creature is connected to the others, as is represented by the rope. With all the species healthy and connections strong, the web of life can support people.
  • 65. However, when one creature goes extinct or declines in health, the effects ripple through the entire web of life, weakening the integrity of the web and compromising its ability to support the human race. It is for this reason we need to preserve our environment and keep it healthy!
  • 66. Here is a summary of the Four Principles. As we saw, these four simple rules have many applications. They can show humans how to better imitate nature and live in harmony with it, moving from a lifestyle of destruction and waste to one of sustainability. 1. Everything Runs On Energy. 2. There Is No Waste In Nature. 3. Biodiversity Is Good. 4. Everything Is Connected.
  • 67. In addition to learning these facts about nature, the Ambassadors program is all about appreciating nature. This is easy in such a beautiful place.
  • 68. With the knowledge, tools, and new motivation to protect the environment, guests leave the Ambassadors program as Ambassadors of the Environment, ready to spread the lessons they learned from nature in their local communities in pursuit of a more sustainable lifestyle and brighter future for humans and the environment!

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