Current MOP Projects

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.



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.



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 Departments'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.