UH grad student becomes first Pacific Islander, Micronesian to reach ocean’s deepest point

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — A UH Manoa graduate student made history by becoming the first Pacific Islander and Micronesian to voyage to the deepest part of the Earth.

Nicole Yamase, who is a PhD candidate with the Marine Biology Graduate Program, dove to the Mariana Trench in the Western Pacific Ocean, in a 224-foot research submersible called “The Challenger Deep.”

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It took her four hours to reach a depth of 35,837 feet. The University says Yamase spent two hours exploring the eastern part of the pool, an area where no human has been before.

“My research focuses on shallow water communities, specifically macroalgae which is the foundation of the food web. And now I could see, quite literally how these reefs in the Federated States of Micronesia are connected with the deepest place on Earth, said Yamase. “I hope this experience inspires other young Pacific Islanders to pursue STEM fields and higher education, so that they can serve as role models for the next generations.” 

Yamanse’s father Dennis is a UH Law School alumnus. Nicole brought down a model canoe of his as one of her few personal items.

“I’ve identified as a Micronesian. The canoe also represents my mother’s family from Pohnpei and Chuuk. She instilled in all her children the values of respect for others, our traditional culture and my natural surroundings, as well as an appreciation for our diverse background.”

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