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Mapping My Way With NOAA: My Experience in the Hollings Preparation Program

August 12, 2020

A Hawai‘i undergraduate student explores career pathways at NOAA Fisheries and develops a StoryMap to share how one staff turned his passion into a career in the Pacific Islands region.


My name is Kainoa Kester, and I’m an intern at the NOAA Fisheries Pacific Islands Regional Office with the Hollings Preparation Program. I’ve been with the program for 5 weeks. I’ve had the chance to meet and work with many of the teams of people supporting NOAA Fisheries’ mission to conserve and manage marine resources. 

Getting the Gist of GIS and Careers in Marine Science

I was new to NOAA Fisheries and had an interest in geographic information systems (GIS). I set out to develop an ArcGIS StoryMap detailing one of the career pathways here: the Hawai‘i Fisheries Extension Agent.

Fishermen casting his fishing pole.

Hawaiʻi Fisheries Extension Agent Keith Kamikawa was the focus of my ArcGIS StoryMap. The StoryMap details the work he does in his career and is designed to be used as an outreach tool for students in Hawaiʻi high schools and universities. Photo: NOAA Fisheries.

The Hawai‘i Fisheries Extension Agent position is somewhat unique across NOAA Fisheries. I connected with Keith Kamikawa, who currently holds the position. He helped me understand why the role of a Fisheries Extension Agent is so critical in Hawaiʻi. Communication between the diverse groups involved in non-commercial fisheries is essential for the effective management, study, and sustainable use of marine resources. Learning about Keith’s position showed me that having a background in fishing, science, and Hawai‘i culture is invaluable to protecting our islands’ fisheries.

Learning about GIS was an integral aspect of my internship because it directly relates to my studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. I’ve spent a good portion of my internship familiarizing myself with the basics of ArcGIS software and its wide range of applications.

I’ve also been able to connect with staff who manage GIS projects in the Pacific Islands region. They create maps to geographically display and track coral reef habitat restoration, marine debris, and much more.

The field work aspect of being a GIS specialist at NOAA Fisheries was particularly interesting to me. Staff get to not only make maps, but also collect data in the field, something that I can see myself enjoying as part of a career someday.

Connecting With Staff and Interns Across the Pacific

ESRI web map with pinpoints of NOAA Hollings Preparation Program Offices.

The Hollings Preparation Program gave me the opportunity to connect with individuals throughout NOAA—from staff members at the Inouye Regional Center to other Hollings Prep interns across the country.

Another important part of my internship involved connecting with NOAA staff and other Hollings Prep interns across the Pacific. I was able to learn more about NOAA and what other interns were working on and develop useful skills I can take into the future.

Our Hollings Prep cohort is a diverse group. One other Hollings Prep intern is based in Hawai‘i; 11 other interns in the cohort span the West Coast from Seattle to San Diego. Their projects range from analyzing sea sponge species to studying the implications of federal policy on fisheries and hatcheries.

A primary educational component of the internship has been biweekly webinars with our cohort. In some sessions we learn useful skills to have as a student and intern, as well as in our future careers. These include understanding the dynamic of a mentor-mentee relationship, learning to be a confident public speaker, and how to pursue a path of graduate study.

Through other webinars we learned about different careers across NOAA. For example, I wasn’t aware of NOAA Corps, the agency’s commissioned officer service that supports its environmental science and stewardship mission.

This internship has been a great opportunity for me to learn about myself and my style of work. Communication, organization, and self-direction are all skills I have cultivated throughout the Hollings Preparation Program. The creative process of building a StoryMap was also exciting and interesting. Overall, this internship has reinforced my interests in geography and GIS. As I continue to pursue my goals, I hope you’ll enjoy learning about Keith’s pathway to becoming the Hawai’i Fisheries Extension Agent through my interactive StoryMap.

Check out my StoryMap: Turning a Passion For Fishing Into a Career With NOAA

Meet the Blogger

Kainoa Kester profile picture.
Kainoa is a Hollings Preparation Program intern at PIRO. He has a strong desire to pursue a career in digital cartography and would like to merge that with his passion for conservation and natural resource protection. He graduated from Kahuku High School on O‘ahu in 2019 and is currently a sophomore at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, where he is majoring in geography with a certificate in GIS.

Last updated by Pacific Islands Regional Office on August 14, 2020