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UH Hilo dominates annual MOP competition

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Date: Friday, April 24, 2009
Contact: Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642

For Immediate Release

Students in the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo Marine Option Program (MOP) captured four of the top six awards in the 26th Annual Marine Option Program Student Symposium, held on Saturday, April 11 at Windward Community College on O`ahu.

The symposium brought together students from MOP campuses across the UH System, who make formal presentations of their projects. This year’s competition featured students and faculty from UH Hilo, along with Leeward, Windward, Honolulu, Maui and Kaua`i Community Colleges.

The highly coveted award for Best Research Paper went to UH Hilo student Trisann Bambico, advised by Marine Science Assistant Professor Dr. Jason Turner and Professor Dr. Karla McDermid. Bambico presented the results of a senior thesis study entitled, “Foraging Ecology of the Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) at Punalu‘u, Hawai‘i.” Evidence from Trisann’s study found that although growth rates of green sea turtles at Punalu’u are declining, their diets at that site are composed of highly abundant algal species, meaning that food limitations may not be the cause of reduced growth rates.

Bambico also captured the Anna Toy Ng Memorial scholarship, which recognizes exemplary MOP students for their marine scholarship, ocean stewardship, and participation in the Marine Option Program. In doing so, she became only the fourth person to ever win the Best Research Paper Award and the Anna Toy Ng Memorial Scholarship at the same symposium.

The Award for Best Poster ended in a tie between UH Hilo students Jim Moriarty and Rheneka Bean. Moriarty, another Turner-advised student, presented a project entitled, “An Investigation on the Foraging Ecology of Herbivorous Fish on a Hawaiian Reef,” where he reported that abundant herbivorous fishes preferentially consume the most abundant algal species. His findings also suggested that several algal species are unconsumed possibly due to morphological or chemical deterrents.

Bean, advised by Marine Science Professor Dr. Jim Beets, presented a project entitled, “Investigation of Ecological Impact of the Introduced Lionfish (Pterois volitans) on the Fish Communities of Bermuda.” Bean’s study employed a two-tiered approach by examining stomach contents of lionfish caught in Bermuda and conducting laboratory trials on related Scorpaenids from Hawaiian waters to develop a model of lionfish foraging strategies.

The Pacific Congress on Marine Science and Technology (PACON) Award for best presentation bridging marine science and technology with a Pacific focus went to Halley Moseley for her study entitled, “GIS Mapping of Spatial Relationships and Factors Potentially Affecting Monk Seal Survival and Movement on Hawaiʻi Island.” Moseley was also advised by Turner.

In addition, UH Hilo students Jonathan Giddens, Erik Johnson and Gavin presented their work at the MOP conference and were very well received.

The UH Hilo MOP is a hands-on program coordinated by John Coney, with the assistance of Turner and fellow faculty advisor Lisa Parr, and open to students in any field of study with an interest in the ocean.

This marks the 17th year that a UH Hilo student has won the Best Research Paper Award in the 21 years that the Marine Option Program Student Symposium has been providing awards. The annual event rotates between UH campuses and will be hosted by UH Hilo in April 2010.

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