TEOK (The Edge of Kauai) Investigations is an independent Earth Science research and educational organization based on the Island of Kauai. Investigations emphasize Hawaiian geology, oceanography and ecology as well as the integrated cultural aspects of human interaction with the volcanic island’s isolated natural environmental settings. Educational programs conducted on the islands of Kauai, Hawaii and Molokai include 1) week-long, field-oriented, post-graduate level seminars designed for science educators, 2) customized one- to two-week long field courses for middle school, high school and college level student groups, and 3) field-oriented short courses for professional geoscience, ecoscience and environmental science groups.
Although not established formally until early 1996, TEOK’s conceptual roots extend back to 1986 when principal investigator, Chuck Blay, spent a month walking and investigating the 111 miles of Kauai’s edge. Blay’s principal objective was to learn as much as possible about the geo-oceanographic character and origins of the island’s coastal zone, where the volcanic island and surrounding ocean interact in a dynamic, often dramatic, fashion.
Currently Blay and co-investigators are involved full-time not only with continuing research on the island’s coastal zone complex but also in more expansive studies of all aspects of Hawaii’s natural environment integrated with consideration of its human occupants, their cultural history and their place at present within the island’s ecological systems. Such research forms the foundation of TEOK’s educational programs, continually being updated by on-going studies.
The “Walk” around the island of Kauai
The 111-mile “walk” Blay took in 1986 turned into an investigation. A full month was required to closely examine the shore zone on foot, but that was just the beginning. Blay learned that only about half (47%) of Kauai’s coastal zone displays sandy beaches, mostly composed of the beautiful near-white sand derived from wave erosion of nearshore marine fringing coral/algal reef platforms. The other half includes features such as spectacular sea cliffs, wave-cut terraces, rocky narrow intertidal zones and river mouth estuaries that have been “drowned” by rising sea levels.
More importantly he came to realize that everything he observed at the shoreline was the result of the long geologic history of the island encompassing its initial volcanic construction and subsequent interaction with the atmosphere, hydrosphere (both ocean and land surface fresh water), and biosphere (including mainly the plants and an expansive human element). Such revelation prompted him to investigate many of these elements in greater detail and to generate educational programs to in order to inform others of his discoveries. These ongoing investigations and educational activities now comprise the core of TEOK’s Investigations. Similar investigations now encompass the Big Island of Hawaii as well as the Hawaiian Archipelago in general.