MOP Project Summaries
stamp of completion

Denotes completed project

Biodiversity and Community Composition of Limu (algae) in North Kohala, Hawaiʻi.
Project PI: Emma Behnam     Project Advisor: Dr. Karla McDermid

High biodiversity indicates ecosystem health, and provides resilience in the face of environmental change. A diverse limu (algae) population creates a large energy foundation to support marine food webs as primary producers, and offers shelter to organisms. ʻIole, an ahupuaʻa in North Kohala, Hawaiʻi, managed by the Hawaii Community Foundation, has the mission of creating a self-sustaining section of Hawaiian land focused on sustainable energy, food security, and place-based learning. My project assesses biodiversity and community composition of limu along the remote coastline of the ahupuaʻa, and provides a collection and catalog to inform resource management.

Photo: Wet algae placed on herbarium paper to be dried for identification.

The use of isogenic fusion to breed Pocillopora damicornis
Project PI: Megan Carney     Project Advisor: Matt Connelly

Corals can be fragmented, or broken into pieces, by hurricanes, strong tides, human disturbances, and boat anchors. Fragmentation can be used to outplant corals on the reef, but if there are many fragments from the same genet, this may lower the biodiversity on the reef. Fragmented corals shift their energy from reproduction to growth and will not reproduce until they regain their reproduction size. Fusion of the fragments helps them get back to this size so they can shift their energy to reproduction. This experiment will use isogenic fusion to fuse Pocillopora damicornis at different sizes to trigger reproduction.

Photo: Pocillopora damicornis at Richardson's Ocean Park .

Evaluation and characterization of non-target species in methanogenesis-inhibiting algae cultures
Project PI: Taryn Godfrey     Project Advisor: Hannah Resetarits

To help reduce the agricultural production of methane, Blue Ocean Barns in Kailua-Kona produces Asparagopsis taxiformis, a species of red algae, as a supplement to remove methane from ruminant livestock. A rising problem in seaweed cultures is the unwanted growth of Ulva. My project investigated methods for irradicating Ulva: exposure to varying concentrations and duration of bleach or salinity; periods of air exposure; mechanical break-up; and nutrient deprivation. Culture health was monitored by measuring weight and surface-area, nutrient levels, daily pH readings, and daily observations. Irradicating Ulva from cultures will increase the quality of product that Blue Ocean Barns produces.

Photo:The setup of a bleach experiment on Ulva.

Maintenance of an Invertebrate Display Tank
Project PI: Melissa Jones    Project Advisor: Matt Connelly and Lisa Parr

MOP at UH Hilo maintains a display tank in the Marine Science Building. Marine aquariums provide education about skills in water quality maintenance and display the complex relationships within a thriving ecosystem. One objective of this project is to maintain the tank and display invertebrates and seaweed from the local coastal ecosystem. Another is to provide training to educate students in aquarium maintenance skills involving water quality, biological filtration, water chemistry, salinity, water movement, and light intensity. The deliverable of this project will be a thriving and stable display tank for the community to enjoy.

Photo: Main Display Tank in the Marine Science Building.

Hawaii Island Fishing Line Recycling Program
Project PI: Joy Kocian     Project Advisor: Darrian Muraoka & Lisa Parr

This project is an extension of the Fishing Line Recycling Program (FLRP) initiated in 2018 by the Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute and extended to Hilo by a previous MOP student. It is a sea turtle conservation effort to mitigate the improper discard of fishing gear: the number one threat to Hawaiian honu (sea turtles). The program is run by placing fishing line receptacles at select ocean access locations to provide fishermen and beach goers with a way to discard unwanted monofilament. Hilo currently has nine receptacles, which have been very well received by the community. My goal is to add more receptacles, merge with a similar program being implemented in Kona, and educate the community on proper disposal of fishing line.

Photo: Fishing line receptacle installed at the Wailoa Small Boat Harbor.

Developing protocol for mapping reef damage in Kailua Bay, Hawaiʻi using the sub-surface mapping system
Project PI: Alexis Provencal     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr

Reef damage is an issue in areas with heavy boat traffic, but the damage is difficult to map efficiently. There are established methods to produce structure from motion (SFM) images of coral reefs by SCUBA. These methods are inefficient for mapping large areas. For my project, I will be working with Dr. Greg Asner of Arizona State University, John Arvesen, and Kelly van Woesik evaulating the performace of the Sub-surface Mapping System (SMS). The SMS aims to map reef damage from the ocean’s surface by combining methods used in aerial photography and SFMs. I will be conducting the initial tests of the SMS and writing a protocol for mapping reef damage in Kailua Bay, Hawaiʻi.

Photo: Alexis testing the SMS in Okoe Bay. Photo Credit: Dr. Greg Asner.

Seawords Hilo Campus Student Liaison
Project PI: Sarah Van Fleet     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr

Marine Option Program students at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa publish a monthly online newsletter known as Seawords. The newsletter covers a wide range of marine science topics and is distributed to MOP programs on all UH campuses. Among its contents are articles on MOP activities, ongoing projects, marine research, and global ocean issues, and information on marine life. As the liaison for the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo, I am responsible for crafting engaging articles, promoting the newsletter, and maintaining a shared calendar of upcoming events and opportunities.

Photo: Cover of the August 2023 issue of Seawords.

Kona Coast Water Quality Assessment
Project PI: Morgan Youngblood
Project Advisor: Dr. Tracy Wiegner & Dr. Steven Colbert

Rapid development in Hawaiʻi has led to inadequate wastewater systems, jeopardizing human and ecological health. As a result, residents of the state suffer disproportionately from waterborne illnesses. I'm involved in a collaborative project through UH Hilo, with the County of Hawaiʻi, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, and nonprofits Waiwai Ola Waterkeepers Hawaiian and the Kahaluʻu Bay Education Center to pinpoint critical areas in Kona that require immediate wastewater infrastructure upgrades. My role is to conduct independent research by culturing Enterococcus faecalis, a sewage indicator bacterium, and assessing water quality parameters like pH and turbidity.

Photo: Morgan collecting water samples in Kailua Bay.

Exploring the impact of microfragmentation size on coral growth rates
Project PI: Manuela Cortes     Project Advisor: Matt Connelly

Coral microfragmentation is commonly used to propagate corals in nurseries. The process involves breaking small pieces off of a parent colony and encouraging them to grow into independent colonies. This method has been shown to increase the rate of coral growth, potentially due to the difference in fragment size which affects the surface area available for the generation of new daughter polyps. I will be analyzing the relationship between coral fragment size and growth rate at the MOP Coral Nursery at the Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resource Center. My goal is to determine if there is an optimal size of coral fragment associated with higher growth and survivorship rates.

Photo: Coral fragments in quarantine.

Coral head health database and surveys
Project PI: Aralyn Hacker     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr

Coral surveys are a critical tool used by researchers to assess the health of coral reef ecosystems. These surveys involve collecting data on various aspects of the coral reef, such as the abundance and diversity of coral species, the presence of disease and bleaching, and the overall structure and complexity of the reef. For my project, I will be creating a coral health database based in Hilo, Hawaiʻi, then training and leading students to survey coral heads through snorkeling and through the SeaSTARS dive program. Through this, students will gain experience in identifying and surveying coral health, and further knowledge of reef health in Hilo will be documented for future comparison.

Photo: Pocillopora meandrina at Leleʻiwi.

Analyzing the nitrogen-15 isotope present in seaweed to detect leaking cesspools in West Hawaiʻi
Project PI: Sierra Hall     Project Advisor: Dr. Tracy Wiegner

Cesspools leak raw sewage which can contaminate groundwater and coastal waters with pathogens and bacteria like Enterococcus and Clostridium and also cause harmful algae blooms. For this project I will be working with Dr. Tracy Wiegner and a Master’s student, Ihilani Kamau, to detect cesspool leakage by analyzing the amount of the nitrogen-15 isotope present in seaweeds collected from several different stations along the coast of West Hawaiʻi Since the nitrogen-15 isotope bioaccumulates in each trophic level, raw human sewage carries a relatively high amount of the nitrogen-15 isotope which the seaweeds take up as a nutrient. It can then be measured to detect cesspool leakage.

Photo: Seaweeds collected for nitrogen isotope testing.

Developing theodolite workshops for MOP and secondary students
Project PI: Madisen Coelho     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr

Theodolites are an advanced piece of equipment that use triangulation to track migration patterns of marine mammals. Other tracking methods such as satellite tags and boats are both invasive and expensive. Theodolites are cost-effective and accessible to students. The Marine Science department at UH Hilo recently purchased a theodolite and there is a need for training on how to use it. I plan to create a physical and video manual, and to conduct training workshops for MOP and secondary students. It will provide the opportunity to observe and collect data on marine mammals. The manual will be available in the MOP office and on the YouTube channel for students to access.

Photo: Madisen operating the Spectra Precision DET-2 Theodolite on campus.

Cultivating microalgae and plankton as live feed for the UHH Marine Science Department
Project PI: Francesca Conway     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr

Using live feed for captive marine organisms has many nutritional values. It is high in protein and the action of eating live food is beneficial to fish. My project is focused on learning how to cultivate microalgae and plankton including copepods, Nannochloropsis sp., rotifers, and Tetraselmis spp. I am volunteering at the Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resource Center (PACRC) to learn how to cultivate marine organisms. The long-term goal of my project is to use plankton and microalgae as a live feed for captive fish and corals in display tanks at UH Hilo and for students to use in labs.

Photo: Microalgae cultivation. Photo Credit: Florida Shellfish Aquaculture

Hawaiian Cetacean Identification
Project PI: Anderson Davies
Project Advisor: Lisa Parr and Dr. Adam Pack

In order to gather information about cetaceans, researchers use a non-invasive strategy called photo identification to obtain data while minimizing disturbances to the animals. This method is used to track individuals over long periods of time and is also used to quantify specific behaviors and relationships among individuals. The data obtained from the photos allow for effective conservation plans to be developed. For my project, I am going to assist with an ongoing photo identification research project through a collaboration with Dr. Adam Pack, as well as photograph additional humpback whale flukes, and contribute to ongoing research efforts for the Cascadia Research Collective.

Photo: A humpback whale in a fluke-up dive.

Examining the accuracy of using scales and otoliths to age king salmon
Project PI: Parker Lowney
Project Advisor: Ted Otis and Dr. Tim Grabowski

King salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) populations have been declining across Alaska since 2010. As salmon run up the rivers from the ocean to spawn, they don't eat, surviving on stored energy until they spawn and die. Size and age in salmon are directly related, and age can be determined by counting annuli on scales or otoliths. This tells how old a fish is and how long it spent in the ocean. Decreasing size with age could indicate changes in food availability. Reabsorption of scales as the fish travel upriver may decrease the reliability of using scales for determining age. My project will compare the reliability of using scales versus otoliths when aging salmon on the spawning grounds.

Photo: Parker Lowney holding two adult male king salmon.

Incorporating Citizen Science in High School Classrooms Using
Project PI: Sequoia Rueger     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr enlists volunteer snorkelers to report reef fish sightings, then collects the data and monitors the reefs. For my project I will be training UH college student volunteers to survey the reefs. In addition, I will educate high school students on reef importance and give them hands-on experience. I will be organizing reef survey field trips with both the college and high school students. My goal is to incorporate citizen science into high school classrooms to benefit the students, through opportunities to work in the field, and the community, by providing more reef monitoring to ensure healthy reefs.

Photo: (photo coming soon).

Analyzing Chlorophyll a distribution within Kalāhuipaʻa fishpond complex, Kohala Hema, Hawaiʻi.
Project PI: Sheldon Rosa
Project Advisors: Dr. Steven Colbert, Barbara Seidel, and Rebecca Most

Loko iʻa provide a natural and sustainable way to cultivate aquatic species within man-made or naturally formed enclosures, which creates an optimal environment for microorganisms to grow and to sustain a surplus of fish populations. Kalāhuipaʻa fishpond is a collection of seven loko iʻa located in Kohala Hema, Hawaiʻi. 161 chlorophyll a samples collected by The Nature Conservancy were analyzed in order to investigate the influence loko iʻa has on nearshore coral reef communities and the distribution pattern of chlorophyll a concentrations found throughout the loko iʻa and the offshore coastal waters.

Photo: Kalāhuipaʻa fishpond. Photo credit: The Kohala Center

Degree Heating Weeks (DHW) in relation to coral disease among Porites massive corals in South Kona
Project PI: Quintin Allen     Project Advisor: Bryant Grady

Outbreaks of coral disease are likely to be exacerbated by rising sea surface temperatures. This project will evaluate the impact of heat stress quantified by Degree Heating Weeks (DHW) on the severity and abundance of disease among Porites massive corals in south Kona. The species examined in this project will include Porites lobata, Porites lutea, and Porites brighimi. These corals have been surveyed for diseases such as Porites trematodiasis, pigmentation response, macroalgae overgrowth, and skeletal growth anomalies. DHW and coral health data will be evaluated to determine if there's a correlation between hyperthermal stress and coral disease on reefs in South Kona.

Photo: Porites lutea infected with Porites trematodiasis at Richardson's Beach.

A Baseline Assessment of Local Coral Health & Establishing an Entry Level Coral Monitoring Program for UHHMOP Students
Project PI: Brooke Bembenek     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr

Coral reefs are in global decline due to rapid bleaching, coral disease, & the takeover of marine algae. New conservation techniques are being tested globally as issues of coral health are becoming more public. This project aimed to create a citizen science program through the UHH Marine Option Program (MOP) to encourage students to monitor local corals & assess coral damage over time. Corals were monitored at Leleiwi Beach Park for 4 months & their overall health was assessed on a scale of severity modeled after the Eyes of the Reef Hawaii's coral severity chart. Students will use this baseline data for future coral assessments to compare past & current coral health at Leleiwi Beach Park.

Photo: P. meandrina, a species being observed at Leleiwi Beach Park.

Analyzing variables of coral reefs at the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
Project PI: Lily Gavagan     Project Advisor: Dr. John Burns

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration conducts yearly coral reef assessments with their Pacific Reef Assessment and Monitoring Program (RAMP) surveys. Multiple variables are recorded including morphology, condition, and species. The main objective of this project is to complete a holistic analysis of coral condition data from 2014 to 2021 at Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument with multivariate-analysis to detect any patterns including significant difference in prevalance of particular conditions in certain regions. Investigating multiple variables in routine survey studies could provide an additional dimension in the way reefs are monitored and assessed in the future.

Photo: An image of a diver on the RAMP survey collecting coral data.

Observing Patterns in UH Hilo MOP Turtle Tagging Data through Statistical Analyses
Project PI: Olivia Jarvis     Project Advisor: Dr. George Balazs

NOAA sea turtle biologist Dr. George Balazs has conducted over 40 years of Hawaiian green sea turtle surveys with UHHMOP. Green sea turtles have been captured, measured, tagged, and released for this long-term study at Punalu`u Beach on Hawai`i Island. While some of these data have been used in larger studies on green sea turtles, there hasn't been an extensive analysis of the data. This project will analyze over 1,200 records of Punalu`u turtle data from 1976-present. Statistical analyses will be conducted on carapace size, mass, presence of tumors, and differences between males and females, and comments made about the turtles when they were observed will be reviewed.

Photo: Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle at Punalu`u Beach Park, HI in February 2019.

Translating the marine impact of the non-compostability of plastics to improve community awareness
Project PI: Kara Murphy     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr

The non-compostability of plastic is a growing problem in Hawaii and globally, and the Big Island has no effective recycling program. From the ingestion and entanglement of wildlife, to the spread of coral disease, plastic pollution is having devastating effects on the marine environment. Working with a group of local high school students, I will oversee the creation of a media campaign and community outreach program to increase awareness and work towards reduction of plastic usage in the Hilo community, and to get local students involved in marine conservation. I will also be working on an interactive campus demonstration at UH Hilo to spread awareness among the student body.

Photo: Plastic pollution washed up on a caye in Honduras.

The impact of hydrologic regime shifts in the Wailuku River on the DIC and DOC transport to the shoreline ecosystem in Hilo
Project PI: Finn Reil     Project Advisor: Dr. Steven Colbert

The goal of this research project is to determine if shifts in hydrologic events will have adverse effects on the transportation of dissolved inorganic and dissolved organic carbon to nearshore marine ecosystems. Low and high flow events are becoming more dramatic as climate change progressively alters hydrologic events in the tropics. Hydrologic flow paths by which dissolved organic matter is delivered can affect concentrations. The implications of these shifts can be great as DOC from marine environments contributes to much of the world's bioactive and exchangeable carbon reserves. Changing concentrations of carbon could be potentially detrimental to these important biogeochemical cycles.

Photo: Sampling site at the Wailuku River.

Expanding Community Based Coral Reef Training in East Hawai`i Using Eyes of the Reef
Project PI: Cecelia Rudo     Project Advisor: Lindsey Kramer & Lisa Parr

Eyes of the Reef (EOR) is a citizen science based program that aims to educate, inform, and train community members on corals and their health. My project will use EOR as a platform to create an educated team at UH Hilo. The goal of the EOR UH team will be to have students trained in identifying coral species, diseases, coral bleaching, and invasive species affecting coral. I plan on expanding the EOR team outside of the college into the local community and holding training seminars at local schools. EOR allows community members to be engaged and educated about the reefs around them, and my project will bring this resource to the community.

Photo: Various coral species found in Hawai`i.

Collaborating with School Teachers to Bring Marine Science Experiences to Students
Project PI: Miranda Maassen     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr

Education in marine science is key to building a future with citizens that understand and appreciate the ocean. For my project, I will be collaborating with a middle school marine science teacher at Waikoloa School to broaden the marine science experiences that are offered to students. The main objectives of my collaboration will be to strengthen and help build the curriculum for the class, provide resources that I can offer as a UH Hilo Marine Science student, and organize guest speakers from the marine science community. This project will benefit the children by immersing them in the field of marine science and will prepare me for a future career in marine science education.

Photo: Various marine science topics that will be taught to the students.

Kōlea Count
Project PI: Emma Files     Project Advisor: Susan Scott and Lisa Parr

The Pacific Golden Plover, or "Kōlea" in Hawaiian, are migratory shorebirds that travel between Alaska and Hawaii. They spend their summers in Alaska to breed and then fly to the warmth of Hawaii for the summers to forage. The number of Kōlea today is uncertain. The Kōlea Count Project uses citizen science to allow people to report Kōlea that are seen within Hawaii. By simply visiting and recording the location and number of Kōlea observed, anyone can help us estimate the population size within the Hawaiian Islands. I plan to create a map displaying the number of birds reported in each zip code on the main Hawaiian Islands and aid in the banding of Kōlea in Oahu and Alaska.

Photo: Adult Kōlea in winter plumage.

Analyzing interactions between Hawaiian spinner dolphins and humans
Project PI: Lindsey Rohlf     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr

Spinner dolphins, nai`a, or Stenella longirostris, are an integral species in Hawaiian ecosystems, and on Hawai`i Island are primarily found on the western side. They rely on several of the bays on the leeward side of the island to rest, and these same bays are frequented by humans snorkeling and otherwise interacting with the natural habitat. I will be observing the surface interactions between humans and spinner dolphins in Kealakekua and Honaunau bays. This study aims to document whether humans are changing their own behavior to interact with dolphins in the water, and in turn, whether the spinner dolphins are changing their surface social behaviors.

Photo: Hawaiian spinner dolphins interacting with a vessel.

High Elevation Surveys for Ua`u Burrows on Mauna Kea
Project PI: Caden Christensen
Project Advisors: Dr. Patrick Hart & Lisa Parr

The Ua`u, or Hawaiian Petrel, is an endangered seabird that is endemic to Hawaii. Ua`u spend the majority of their time at sea, but come to land to breed in burrows. A pair only produces one egg per year however, and while on land, the birds (and egg or chick) are at high risk of predation from cats, dogs, & mongooses. The only confirmed breeding colony of Ua`u on the Big Island is on Mauna Loa (and is protected) with only 60 pairs. There is hope to have colonies in other places. For the first time in 50 years, there are possible signs that an Ua`u colony could be breeding on Mauna Kea and my project is to aid in confirming/studying any Ua`u on Mauna Kea and helping them get protected.

Photo: Ua`u or Hawaiian petrel (Pterodroma sandwichensis). Photo by Joshua Little.

ʻIke Hawaiʻi, ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi, and Science in Hawaiʻi's Schools Through Video Media
Project PI: Darienne Kealoha     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr

Hawaiian language and culture has a complicated history and kānaka maoli (Native Hawaiians) are working to indigenize everyday life in Hawaiʻi. I am working with community members to produce educational indigenous science videos that incorporate ʻike Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian knowledge) and ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language). These videos are focused on intertidal iʻa (organisms) that keiki are most likely to see when at the beach. Published to YouTube, the videos will be made publically available and distributed to schools on Hawaiʻi island. I hope to continue this project and make this into a career to help indigenize our school systems in Hawaiʻi for the future of our keiki and lāhui.

Photo: Honokea Loko where kiaʻi teach keiki about marine life.

Hawaii Island fishing line recycling & public education program with Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute (MOCMI)
Project PI: Sydney Lewis
Project Advisor: Aleysa Martin (MOCMI) & Lisa Parr (UHH)

My project is an extension of the Fishing Line Recycling Program (FLRP) initiated in 2018 by MOCMI. FLRP is a sea turtle conservation effort, with the goal to mitigate the improper discard of fishing gear: the number one threat to Hawaiian honu (sea turtles). The program is run by conveniently placing receptacles at select ocean access locations to provide fishermen with a way to discard unwanted monofilament. Hilo has three receptacles, and they have been very well received by the community; my goal is to add more receptacles, and to promote their usage through education and outreach at local schools.

Photo: Fishing line receptacle set up by Maui Ocean Center Marine Institute on Maui.

UH Hilo in Seawords
Project PI: Chloe Molou     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr

The UH Manoa MOP program students publish a monthly newsletter, Seawords, for the entire ten-campus MOP system. They publish articles looking at MOP activities, student and faculty achievements, current projects, recent marine research, and a creature of the month. I will be working as the UH Hilo campus liaison for Seawords, promoting the newsletter, recruiting writers and artists, writing articles and creating a joint calendar that includes all the upcoming events for the different MOP campuses within the UH system. In addition, I will be working on a writing series for the newsletter focusing on marine conservation projects within Oceania.

Photo: Chloe working on articles and promoting Seawords.

Statistics Workflows for Environmental DNA Observational Data
Project PI: Grant Sanderson     Project Advisor: Dr. Steven Colbert

Environmental DNA (eDNA) analysis is becoming an increasingly useful tool in marine ecology due to its uses in detecting rare species, and surveying communities without invasive techniques. However, the tools and workflows used to analyze eDNA are still in their infancy, and statistical analysis of eDNA diversity data is often difficult to grasp for those without an extensive background in computing. Therefore, through an internship with NOAA, I will write code that can easily import eDNA diversity data, perform basic statistics, and provide a framework for more specialized analyses. In the future, this code will be used to help predict harmful cyanobacteria blooms in the Great Lakes.

Photo: A cyanobacteria bloom in Lake Erie. Photo Credit: NASA/USGS. Fish Survey Project
Project PI: Alexandria Cain     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr is an organization that focuses on the conservation of the reefs through a community program to help monitor them. For my project, I'll be organizing workshops, trainings, and field trips open to the students in MOP at UH Hilo based on the volunteer surveying program. This will be useful for students because it will allow them to become familiar with the local fish species and gain hands-on surveying techniques. This project will provide the community with species abundance data on the local reefs. Involvement in this citizen science program allows for communal data that can be used for conservation of the reefs, and for the growth of citizen science at the University of Hawaii.

Photo: Alexandria snorkeling and identifying reef fish at Richardson's Beach Park.

The History of the Turtle Tagging at Punaluu Beach Park with the University of Hawaii at Hilo's Marine Option Program
Project PI: Rylee Clark, Ryan Sack    Project Advisor: Jen Sims, Lisa Parr

For close to fifty years, MOP students at the University of Hawaii at Hilo have assisted NOAA researchers with one of the longest running studies of Hawaiian green sea turtles. The Hawaiian population is a subpopulation of Chelonia mydas, meaning it is genetically distinct from other green sea turtle populations. This biometric study has been crucial in determining the population's growth rate, habitat preference, and population trends. This MOP project aims to write a comprehensive history of UHH MOP's involvement with this research, compile historical documents associated with turtle tagging at Punaluu Beach Park, and conduct interviews with the key research participants.

Photo: UH Hilo students and faculty at Punaluu Beach for turtle tagging February 2020.

Determining seasonality trends of whale sharks through Hawaii Uncharted Research Collective
Project PI: Jazmin Helzer     Project Advisor: Dr. John Burns

In collaboration with Hawaii Uncharted Research Collective, this project aims to determine potential seasonality trends of whale shark, Rhincodon typus, sightings at three high frequency sites on the west coast of Hawaii Island, and will investigate environmental factors that may influence sightings. Seasonality trends are known for populations in other parts of the world, yet are undetermined for Hawaii Island. Whale shark sightings were once considered rare in Hawaii but are becoming more frequent as boat tourism in Kona increases. Data were collected across the main Hawaiian Islands in near-coastal and off-shore waters through citizen science.

Photo: HI-Rt-131 spotted in 2018 off Hawaii Island.

Coastal surveys and public education with Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
Project PI: Shane Murphy     Project Advisor: Nicole Tachibana

The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii is a world-renowned hotel with a recent initiative to inform guests about the ecological, economic and cultural importance of Hawaiian marine organisms and habitats. Programs such as this are important because many visitors to Hawaii enjoy swimming in its pristine waters, but are unfamiliar with the potential impacts that their presence can have on the surrounding environment. My goal is to perform fish, coral, and benthic SCUBA surveys in the nearshore reef habitat adjacent to the resort, and to present these findings to guests at the resort in an effort to educate them on the current health of the reef and how they can avoid causing damage.

Photo: Conducting a benthic SCUBA survey in Kona, Hawaii.

Educational Outreach in Marine Science
Project PI: Reve Tomlin     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr

The goal of this project is to provide hands-on educational opportunities for K-12 students, as an educational outreach liaison for the Marine Science Department. I will be working with several local teachers in the classroom and the field, assisting with workshops, field trips, and classroom lessons. Students will learn about species in the field, use data collection equipment, do small scale projects and, overall, get a deeper understanding of the ocean and its inhabitants. Deliverables for this project will include lesson plans and teacher evaluations, and broader impacts will be connecting local students and teachers with UH Hilo, providing them with high quality marine science education opportunities. This project will prepare me for my future career in marine education.

Photo: Leading the marine science workshop at Onizuka Science Day 2020.

Evaluating and quantifing the associations between structural complexity and ecological functions of coral reefs at Laehala, Hilo
Project PI: Sofia Ferreira     Project Advisor: Dr. John Burns

My project involves the 3D reconstruction of the coral reef habitat at Laehala, Hilo. I am surveying the reef and using structure-from-motion photogrammetry techniques to create 3D models from 2D images taken in the field. Resulting models will be imported into the geospatial software ArcGIS in order to accurately quantify structural complexity metrics. Both the resulting quantified metrics and ecological data collected in the field will be analyzed to determine essential connections between the reef's structural complexity and ecological processes.

Photo: An example of a 3D model from the reef at Laehala, Hilo.

The Impacts of Habitat Complexity on Reef Fish Assemblages
Project PI: Bryant Grady     Project Advisor: Dr. John Burns

This study looks at different characteristics of the morphological and physical parameters of reef structure to assess its influence on fish abundance, biomass, and species richness. Structure-From-Motion and fish transect surveys were conducted at ten sites on Hawaii Island. The 3D characteristics used in this study are 3D/2D surface area, slope, benthic terrain roughness, planiform curvature, profile curvature, and viewshed distance. Fish data were collected through the Division of Aquatic Resources West Hawaii Aquarium Project using standard belt transect surveys recording fish abundance, size, and species. The results of this study show that fish in West Hawaii target specific 3D morphological and physical characteristics of reef structure in high complexity reef habitats.

Photo: Bryant with equipment after conducting surveys.

Timing and Abundance of Metopograpsus thukuhar Spawning in Relation to the Hawaiian Lunar Calendar and Tidal Changes at Honokea Loko i`a
Project PI: Kainalu Steward     Project Advisor: Kamala Anthony

Loko i`a, traditional Hawaiian aquaculture systems, were essentially sustainable refrigerators for the people of Hawai`i. Loko i`a heavily rely on salt water and freshwater inputs to create a brackish water environment that attracts various marine life to feed within. The `alamihi, or Metopograpsus thukuhar, is an understudied crab that plays a key role in the foodweb of rocky and muddy brackish environments. My study takes place at Honokea loko i`a, at Wai`uli (Richardson's Beach Park), with the objective of observing the timing and abundance of Metopograpsus thukuhar spawning in comparison with the native Hawaiian lunar calendar and tidal changes.

Photo: Kainalu measuring and recording `alamihi crabs at Honokea loko i`a.

Expanding the Coral Fragment Housing Capabilities of the Coral Propagation Project
Project PI: Brittany Wells     Project Advisor: Matt Connelly

The UH Hilo Coral Propagation Project, stationed at Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center (PACRC), currently has a 125 gallon tank that houses a thriving reef ecosystem, including 10 growing coral fragments. The goal of my project is to expand the number of fragments that the PACRC facility can house by adding a nine-hundred gallon tank capable of holding hundreds of fragments at any given time. There are many fragments on the Big Island from coral damage such as anchor accidents, and the Propagation Project seeks to expand on the abilities of the existing coral nurseries on island by housing as many fragments as possible.

Photo: Coral fragments in the propagation tank.

Internship with Kampachi Farms: Hawaiian macroalgae (limu) culturing techniques for future offshore demonstration project
Project PI: Clara Whetstone     Project Advisor: Keelee Martin

I will be completing an internship with Kampachi farms in Kona to learn the techniques involved in maintaining culture tanks of native Hawaiian algae. These smaller cultures will eventually be grown in a larger offshore demonstration project. Currently, I am assisting in the land-based tank cultures of Caulerpa lentillifera, Gracilaria parvispora, Halymenia hawaiiana, and Sargassum aquifolium as well as experimenting with deep seawater nutrient enriched growth trials. The eventual biomass produced offshore has potential applications for food, feed, and fuel.

Photo: Clara on site holding Halymenia hawaiiana.

Establishment of Educational Displays for the Coral Propagation Project
Project PI: Jon Ehrenberg     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr

This project consists of the establishment of an educational display aquarium at the Pacific Aquaculture and Coastal Resources Center (PACRC) for the coral propagation project. The purpose of the coral propagation project is to grow coral fragments for future research, restoration, and education. The display piece will contain corals at different stages in their growth and serve to educate visitors to the site on the importance and purpose of the coral propagation project. Signage posted at PACRC will aid in educating visitors when project members are off-site. Additionally, a coral fragment rack and informational plaque will be placed in the 300 gallon aquarium of the UH Hilo Marine Science Building to inform and attract visitors, current students, and prospective students, to the project.

Photo: Volunteers moving stand for educational display into place.

Water Quality Buoy Assistant Technician
Project PI: Spencer Frawley     Project Advisor: Dr. Steve Colbert

The Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) and Pacific Island Ocean Observing System (PacIOOS) monitor coastal regions and contribute data to their open source web pages. PacIOOS equips users with accurate information and observations of different coastal Pacific islands. One of the on-going projects is monitoring the quality of water using real-time recording buoys. The University of Hawai`i at Hilo oversees two water quality buoys located in Hilo and Pelekane Bays. I will be working as the Assistant Technician whose duties include servicing and repairing the buoys, as well as trailering and driving boats. Additionally, I will use the Hilo Buoy Data, collected over several years by PacIOOS, to graph average water quality trends through the year.

Photo: PacIOOS Water Quality Buoy.

Phenotypic variation of Cephalopholis argus In Hawaii
Project PI: Jastine Honea     Project Advisor: Dr. Tim Grabowski

Since the release of Cephalopholis argus into Hawaiian waters in 1956, the species has become the top predator in near shore reef ecosystems. I am examining the species for phenotypic differences among populations from different parts of the Big Island. I will use geometric morphometrics, which is the analysis of shape using Cartesian geometric coordinates rather than linear, areal, or volumetric variables. By placing coordinates points on photos of C. argus, analysis of fishes' shapes can then be compared to those of other fish in my sample. With these comparisons, I hope to determine if there are variations in the species in different habitats. Phenotypic variation in the fish among habitats could play a role in the species being preyed upon by C. argus.

Photo: Roi being processed during an invasive species fishing tournament in Kona.

Informational Videos for the UH Hilo Marine Science Program and QUEST Field School
Project PI: Mia Lamirand     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr

The goal of this project is to create two short informative videos that highlight and promote the University of Hawai`i at Hilo's Marine Science Program (MARE) and the Marine Option Program's (MOP) diving field school Quantitative Underwater Ecological Surveying Techniques (QUEST). These videos are being made with the intention of recruiting prospective students and informing viewers of the unique opportunities that our program provides its students. The video project will take place from February 2018 to March 2019 and once completed, the videos will be posted to various social media and the UHH MARE and MOP websites.

Photo: Mia learning survey techniques at QUEST field school.

3D Characterization of Coral Reefs in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument
Project PI: Alexa Runyan     Project Advisor: Dr. John Burns

I have been working as an intern with Dr. John Burns on reconstructing 3D models of coral reefs from several areas throughout the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands. This internship involves utilizing structure-from-motion photogrammetry tools and annotating models with geospatial software to recreate the reefs. The data will then be analyzed to determine the relationship between habitat complexity and ecological processes. The data can also be used to teach the computer what to recognize when new photos are uploaded into the software.

Photo: An example of a model created using SfM software.

Investigating metal contamination of mangrove forests in Jobos Bay
Project PI: Clara Smith     Project Advisor: Dr. Danielle Ogurcak

I analyzed the levels of various major and trace metals in mangrove leaves collected from Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve in Puerto Rico. My goal was to determine if the mangroves are taking up metal contaminants from their environment before they can reach the ocean. Anthropomorphic sources of metal contaminants include agriculture and industry. The function of mangrove forests as filters between freshwater and marine ecosystems is not yet well understood. A better understanding of these ecosystems is critical, as they face increased stress from sea level rise and more frequent hurricanes. My project is part of a pilot study that will lead to a deeper investigation of mangroves as filters and their vulnerability to increased environmental stress.

Photo: Collecting leaf samples from Jobos Bay, Puerto Rico.

Assessment of Underwater Video Annotations
Project PI: Nikola Rodriguez     Project Advisor: Mashkoor Malik

NOAA's Okeanos Explorer is the first federal ship dedicated to deep-sea exploration. The Office of Ocean Exploration and Research (OER) uses ROV's to conduct deep-sea explorations from the Okeanos combined with telepresence technology that allows scientists on board and around the world to participate in logging annotations of findings during each dive. With the data collected, OER hopes to spur future research and provide the public with knowledge of our poorly known oceans. Telepresence technology has created a backlog of metadata and a need to ensure the data can be accessed and utilized by scientists in future research, and one hour of video review takes 5-7 hours to complete. My project was to analyze OER's annotation creation techniques to improve annotation completeness and accuracy and develop methods to expedite the video review process.

Internship with The Marine Mammal Center, Ke Kai Ola
Project PI: Gina Selig     Project Advisor: Sara Smith

I have been working as an intern with the Marine Mammal Center since the spring of 2017. I have recruited student volunteers to the Monk Seal Response Team and assisted with field trips to the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center. I also work with the School and Extended Learning Programs team to develop and enrich Nā Kōkua o ke Kai, or "those who help the sea." This new program is a year-long curriculum that is targeted to grades 6-8 on Hawai`i and is offered at no cost to schools. Marine science education is important to the future of our environment. It is an honor to be a part of the development of the Nā Kōkua o ke Kai curriculum as it will impact middle school students and the island for years to come!

Photo: Nā Kōkua o ke Kai curriculum being taught at the Mokupāpapa Discovery Center.

Enrichment of the Overall Learning Experience at Mokupapapa Discovery Center
Project PI: Kristy Ann Acia     Project Advisor: Virginia Branco

Mokupapapa Discovery Center (MDC) in Hilo is the place where the public is welcome to learn about the science and wonders of Papahānaumokuākea National Marine Monument. The ultimate goal of my project is to enrich the youth of today, through the development of curriculum and teaching skills at MDC, for ultimately a better tomorrow. While focusing on developing new curriculum that utilizes the resources MDC has to offer, filling the niches within the set curriculum, each lesson plan encompasses the mission of MDC, which is to bring the place to the people and spur greater public awareness on conservation issues. The final goal is prepare a science night at MDC open to the public in order to bring the families of the community together for more learning opportunities.

Restoring Hawaii's past, for the future: Hale O Lono Loko I`a
Project PI: Michael Caban II Akamai-Stephens
Project Advisor: Luka Mossman

For my project, I am working at Hale o Lono fish pond, in Keaukaha on the Big Island. I have been learning about traditional fish pond maintenance and management in a modern society. This project involved brush clearing, rock wall repair and construction, removal of predators, and a view of the pond as a whole. In the future, I plan to conduct fish surveys and look for distribution patterns based on varying factors such as the changing tides, varying water parameters, and benthic substrate.

Photo: Michael and others working on the fishpond wall.

Bleaching severity amongst different coral species inside and outside the Wai`ōpae Marine Life Conservation District
Project PI: Katia Chikasuye     Project Advisor: Dr. Misaki Takabayashi

My goal is to determine the severity of coral bleaching amongst different coral species at Wai`ōpae, HI. I photograph specific coral colonies, and use those photos along with photos from a long-term monitoring project, to do visual analysis with a computer program that allows me to determine the percent of bleached area on each colony. Then, I compare the amount of bleaching occurring amongst different coral species and across pools to determine which species at Wai`ōpae are the most and least susceptible to bleaching.

Photo: Montipora flabellata colony in Pool 5 in July 2016. Notice the bright purple color, which generally develops right before bleaching occurs.

UH Hilo Marine Science Video Productions
Project PI: Brandie Colwell     Project Advisor: Dr. Steven Colbert

The University of Hawaii at Hilo offers a variety of programs that incoming and current students may immerse themselves in as an undergraduate. My MOP project consists of creating three to five minute videos that portray the unique opportunities available to students, such as the UH Hilo Marine Option Program Sea Turtle Stranding Response Team and the Quantitative Underwater Ecological Surveying Techniques field school.

Photo: Brandie retrieving underwater videos using a GoPro.

Equipment preparation for a UH Hilo-hosted Motorboat Operator Certification Course (MOCC)
Project PI: James Gomez DeMolina   Project Advisor: Capt. Steve Kennedy

The MOCC is a course that teaches students applicable small boats skills. The course is nationally recognized and prepares students who complete it for internships and job opportunities. My project is to acquire and prepare all of the necessary equipment for the University of Hawai'i at Hilo to host MOCC so that students from our campus can access the course. I am going to order, organize, construct, and store all equipment required for the course within University facilities. After this project is finished, the UH Hilo campus can provide nationally recognized small boat operation training to students.

Photo: James teaching a student how to operate one of the Marine Science Department's small boats.

Systematics of the Trentepohliales (Ulvophyceae, Chlorophyta) on the Windward Coast of O`ahu
Project PI: Pauleen Fredrick     Project Advisor: Dr. Alison Sherwood

The order Trentepohliales is considered subaerial (terrestrial) algae growing on surfaces of any substrate in different environmental conditions including coastal sea spray. Due to the presence of these communities in conditions outside its range, I intend to study their biological and ecological characteristics to be able to determine why these species are occurring in areas where conditions are changing and whether salinity is an important factor for coastal algal communities.

Photo: Trentepohlia species are very diverse and abundant in coastal Hawaii. It is recognizable by its orange pigmentation on any substrate in coastal areas.

Thermo-Chemical Elemental Analyzer and Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer for Dummies
Project PI: Brittany "Maya" Fuemmeler   Project Advisor: Dr. Tracy Wiegner

I will be writing an easy to understand, standard operating procedure for the new Thermo-Chemical Elemental Analyzer (TC/EA) and Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometer (IRMS) in the UH Hilo Analytical Laboratory. The TC/EA will be available for use by researchers to be able to detect and analyze the elemental concentrations within a sample, and the IRMS will be used to detect and analyze the stable Carbon, Nitrogen, and Oxygen isotopes. These machines are useful in research pertaining to environmental pollution as well as atmospheric and marine sciences. In addition, I will be creating a timeline of the process from applying for grant money, to the equipment installation and use.

Photo: Maya with the new ThermoFisher IRMS.

Internship with Dolphin Quest Hawaii
Project PI: Rachel Greer-Smith     Project Advisor: Cameron Dabney

The internship is a twelve-week education mentorship at Dolphin Quest Hawaii, located at the Hilton Waikoloa, Big Island, Hawaii. I hope to gain knowledge about marine mammals while attainment valuable hands-on experience working with animals. Through this internship I hope to learn more about bottlenose dolphin behavior and cognition and better understand their cognitive processing and ability to learn different skills. This knowledge about the marine mammal industry and hands-on experiences will ideally pave the way for a future career in this field of research and conservation.

Photo: Rachel swimming with one of the young dolphins at the Hilton Waikoloa Dolphin Quest.

Mokupapapa Discovery Center Internship
Project PI: Alex Lau     Project Advisor: Virginia Branco

For my MOP project, I was an intern with Mokupapapa Discovery Center, located in downtown Hilo. During my internship I learned the operations, culture, and purpose of the learning center. I engaged visitors and interpreted the exhibits, all tied to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Photo: Alex engaging a young visitor with one of the exhibits.

Sea Surveying, Training, and Response Squad (SeaSTARS) Co-Coordinator
Project PI: Rosie Lee     Project Advisor: Matt Connelly

UH Hilo MOP SeaSTARS was designed for QUEST Field School graduates to continue science diver training through monthly surveys around the Island of Hawai`i. As a SeaSTARS coordinator, I will be developing the program by advancing current divers' training, recruiting future SeaSTARS divers, collaborating with outside agencies, actively engaging with the community, and sharing data with citizen science programs (e.g. REEF and Eyes of the Reef).

Photo: Rosie rolling out a transect at Honaunau Bay, HI.

Gaining Experience in Ocean Resource Management and Education Through the Moon Phase Project
Project PI: Kamaki Maluo-Huber     Project Advisor: Kanani Frazier

Working with the Moon Phase Project, my objective was to create an observation calendar for the fishpond Haleolono. These observations can be used for planning future events such as workdays and workshops all the way to the best time for harvesting and cleaning, and everything in between. While at Haleolono fishpond, I worked on restoration of the fishpond and conservation education for children involved with summer camps.

Photo: End result of ho`okua workshop with rock wall practicioners and Haleolono kia`i.

Writing the Waves: UH Hilo Seawords Contributions
Project PI: Keelee Martin     Project Advisor: Dr. Kirsten Mollegaard

Seawords is MOP's student run monthly newsletter, published by UH Mānoa, that highlights student achievement, research opportunities, marine related issues, and current MOP events. It is a great way for current and prospective MOP students to stay informed and aware of issues and opportunities. I will contribute monthly articles that will highlight MOP events, student projects, research opportunities, and current issues specific to the Hilo campus. I will promote Seawords on the UH Hilo campus, giving students another resource to be informed and an opportunity to submit their own photos, writing, and artwork. Seawords is a great platform for students to share their experiences.

Photo: Keelee posing with her first published article.

Diversity of Phytoplankton Behind the Glass Curtain: What Grows in Hilo Bay if Diatoms are Inhibited
Project PI: Anna Baker Mikkelsen     Project Advisor: Dr. Jason Adolf

For my project I looked at phytoplankton diversity in Hilo Bay, Hawaii. Hilo Bay has high nutrient levels and is dominated by diatoms. For this project, Germanium dioxide (GeO2) was added to water samples from Hilo to inhibit the growth of diatoms allowing for other phytoplankton species to grow. Chl. a and biovolume was measured for samples with and without GeO2. We used the Scanning Electron Microscope to visually identify phytoplankton species. We observed a shift in community structure from the diatom-dominated culture to a community of smaller sized phytoplankton, mainly flagellates and dinoflagellates. This study will help identify a true diversity of phytoplankton in the diatom-dominated Hilo Bay.

Photo: Anna looking at plankton under the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM).

Preparation of a Grant Proposal for Marine Option Program
Project PI: Jazmine Panelo     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr

I am writing a proposal to fund internships and community service projects for MOP students to participate. Through this experience, I will also increase formal and scientific writing, learn about the grant writing process, and apply what I have learned to fund my graduate research.

Photo: Jazmine working with local students on one of her community service projects.

No Fish Too Deep: Utilizing Advanced Diving Technology to Investigate Deep Dwelling Parrotfish
Project PI: Tyler Phelps     Project Advisor: Cori Kane

For my project I will be diving into the mesophotic at depths of over 200 feet to survey the size and distribution of parrotfish as their grazing plays a significant role contributing to the overall health of coral reefs. To allow for the greatest efficiency to do fish surveys at depth, we will use mixed gas closed circuit rebreathers and underwater scooters, also known as diver propulsion vehicles (DPVs). Our proprietary surveying technique using DPVs will allow us to investigate the most area in the least amount of time, providing more evidence to understand deep reef ecology.

Photo: Tyler surveying while using a closed-circuit rebreather.

Construction of a biological filtration system for the Marine Science Building aquarium display
Project PI: Ashley Pugh     Project Advisor: Lisa Parr

My project goal being to create a more self-sustaining aquarium system in the Marine Science Building lead to the implementation of a biological filtration component and composition of a manual specific to the requirements of the 300-gallon system. The recently completed construction entailed the addition of a 55-gallon Jaubert Plenum modeled biological filtration refugium, a second stand and sump, and the necessary plumbing to incorporate these additions to the system. Several motivated MOP students continue to maintain the system on a weekly basis to keep its inhabitants happy. This project provided me with planning and leadership experience as well as skills for aquarium system construction and maintenance.

The Future of Fishing: Aquaculture
Project PI: Isabella Sanseverino     Project Advisor: James Moore

My internship is at the Pacific Aquaculture & Coastal Resources Center (PACRC), where I am an oyster hatchery technician. My responsibilities are the basic care and maintenance of the oyster hatchery. This includes cleaning tanks, algae calculations, transferring algae, and setting water and algae flows for the tanks. I love working at the hatchery because I really like to work with my hands.

Photo: Isabella counting algae under the microscope.

Mapping Characteristics of Three Fish Ponds in Keaukaha, Hilo, HI (Vegetation Extent, Ground Water Springs, and Bathymetry)
Project PI: Andy Zheng     Project Advisor: Dr. Steven Colbert

Fishpond management requires attention to everything that happens in their areas. Certain characteristics are vital to fish production, and it is our goal to look at these characteristics. We wish to use data collection techniques deployed in the field combined with satellite imagery methods to recognize specific characteristics of three fishponds in Keaukaha, Hilo, HI. These efforts are split into three parts: vegetation extent surrounding ponds, presence of ground water springs/seeps, and water depth of ponds (bathymetry). The findings will be presented in the form of a paper and maps so that our work may be usable by pond management for production efforts, educational purposes, and research.