All Hands on Deck: Backyard Buoys Meeting Advances Ocean Safety

July 9, 2024

Welcome to the vibrant world of the Backyard Buoys project, where cultures meet, science thrives, and the ocean unites us all. From the Arctic landscape, the wind-swept beaches of Washington, and the sun-drenched shores of Hawaiʻi, this adventure spans the Pacific, involving partners from Alaska to American Samoa.

In 2022, faces behind emails met in person for the first time in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, where a shared commitment to safety and cultural preservation took root. The success of initial buoy deployments in 2023 fueled further gatherings, including a pivotal meeting hosted by PacIOOS in Honolulu in February 2024.

Amidst swaying palms and the scent of plumeria, partners shared stories and strategies at a workshop held at the Kaimana Beach Hotel in Honolulu. John Hopson Jr. from the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission emphasized everyone’s common ground: a deep-rooted concern for safety.

The meeting kicked off with a ceremony led by Kalei Nuʻuhiwa, setting a tone of respect and excitement that lingered through two packed days. Discussions ranged from practical insights on deploying wave buoys to cultural exchanges on integrating novel, codesigned technologies with Indigenous Wisdom.

Conversations flowed freely. Jennifer Hagen and Joe Schumacker from the Quileute and Quinault Tribes, respectively, shared their experiences using wave data to enhance safety for their communities, while Stacey Korsmo navigated the maze of permits necessary for such projects, paving the way for future endeavors.

There were lessons too, shared with laughter and humility: tales of buoy deployments gone awry, countered by innovations like high-visibility markers and adaptable moorings. Partners discussed engagement strategies that ranged from educating Elders about the role of ocean instrumentation alongside Indigenous Knowledge in the Marshall Islands, to demonstrations near Quileute fishing docks to view real-time wave data.

The meeting was truly a celebration of learning. The second day began with an ‘ava ceremony that honored Pacific Island traditions stretching back generations. Talks delved into education strategies, from elementary schools to university curricula, each tailored to nurture the next generation of ocean stewards. Kalei Nuʻuhiwa led a closing ceremony, and plans were laid, not just for buoys, but for lasting partnerships.

And so, the Backyard Buoys project continues to grow, weaving together diverse perspectives and paving the way for a future where technology complements Indigenous wisdom to keep people safe on the water.

Photos by Lloyd