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Meet Alphina Liusamoa, Sea Turtle Biologist in American Samoa

June 21, 2024

Learn about Alphina and her journey through the sea turtle conservation.

phinah on the beach doing research Alphina Liusamoa at Rose Atoll attempting to encourage the frigate bird to land on the rake. Credit: Brain Peck

Where did you grow up? 

I grew up on a small island called Manu’atele, one of the islands making up the American Samoa archipelago. We are very isolated from our motherland, Tutuila, the largest island in the archipelago. With the forest being my backyard and the ocean being my front yard, I’ve spent 100 percent of my time exploring nature, which is where I feel most at home. Manu’atele is a very small island with not that many people, so everyone knows each other and we are all family. Our main food sources, myths, folklores, and our culture aspects and practices are derived from the land, air, and ocean.

sea turtle biologist standing in a conference
Alphina Liusamoa at the 2024 Oceania Regional meeting during the International Sea Turtle Symposium held in Pattaya, Thailand. Credit: Josefa Munoz

What is your science and education journey? 

I graduated from Manu’a High School in 2017 with an interest in marine science. I attended the American Samoa Community College where I graduated with an Associates of Science in marine science in 2019. Then I attended University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, where I earned my Bachelor of Science in marine science in 2021.

How did you come to work at the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources? 

During my high school graduation, I expressed my love and interest for marine science and the former Director of the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, Mr. Henry Sesepasara, reached out to me. He offered me a 2-year off-island scholarship after my 2 years in American Samoa Community College. After I graduated from ASCC, Mr. Sesepasara contacted me again, and he introduced me to the 2019–2020 U.S. Pacific Territories Fishery Capacity-Building Scholarship, awarded by the Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council. One of the requirements of this scholarship is that I return home and give back to the community—and in my case, to work for one of the local departments here in American Samoa. After graduating from University of Hawaii Hilo in 2021, I was offered a position at the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources in 2022. I am now working in the Wildlife Division as one of the Wildlife Biologists, where my main focus is sea turtles. 

sea turtle biologist holding a turtle
Alphina Liusamoa rescues one of the seven entangled hawksbills in the Pala Lagoon at Lyons Park in Nu’uuli, American Samoa. Credit: Michael Daskam, taken under USFWS Permit #TE72088A-3

What advice do you have for future students starting their career in marine conservation?

My parents always tell me and my siblings that if your profession requires you to do something that you are very passionate and interested in, then you are in the right place. If it is the other way around, then you are not where you are supposed to be. Do something because you want to, not because you need to. Marine conservation is not all pretty seashells and cute marine organisms. There is a lot more that has yet to be discovered and that is where we come in. Only 5 percent of the ocean is explored while the other 95 percent remains a mystery. That 5 percent is where our current conservation efforts are most recognized, even though that seems small, but in reality, it's a lot. You being a part of and contributing to these conservation efforts is really important because what you’re doing today makes a big impact for tomorrow. Marine conservation is going to come with a lot of challenges, but remember you are not only helping them but also yourself grow. 

Be like the corals: no matter how many of them are dying (bleaching), how many problems they are facing because of natural phenomena and human-causes, they still try to adapt and thrive because if they don’t, then who will? To become a good marine conservationist, you have to learn how to adapt and thrive. But to be a better marine conservationist, you have to use what you learn and know, apply it to different research studies, spread the word to the public, and use your knowledge to make a change. 

Last updated by Office of Protected Resources on June 25, 2024