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Column by the Chancellor in Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce Newsletter: August 2014

Message from UH Hilo Chancellor Donald O. Straney
August 2014
Chamber Connection Newsletter
Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce

Hawaii Island on the map as a world leader in environmental conservation

HICCOne of the top priorities at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo is stewardship of the natural and cultural environment. Our campus emphasizes our respect for the ‘āina, or land, and we work in partnership with the community to study, protect, preserve and sustain the unique natural and cultural environment of Hawai‘i Island.

With that in mind, I’d like to share with you some news in the field of conservation.

We’ve reached a “100 in 10” milestone for our Tropical Conservation Biology and Environment Science graduate program. As the program enters its 10th year, we celebrate 100 graduate students receiving master of science degrees during the first decade of the program. Graduates have gone on to PhD programs or to work for government and non-profits on local wildlife management, watershed projects, fisheries, integrated pest management and more, contributing greatly to conservation measures throughout our island and state.

The program was started in large part to educate local students to become the next generation of leaders in conservation. Hawai‘i and the Pacific islands are at the leading edge of conservation challenges because of the highly unique endemic species, with the many threats to the species and environments from invasive species, diseases and habitat change, and now with the increasing climate changes. Hawai‘i is the “endangered species capital” of the United States, and having local people engaged in solving the problems of our precious local environment is vital.

The work our students and faculty are doing on Hawai‘i Island is having an impact on conservation statewide.

The annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference was held in Honolulu last month with over 800 attendees from agencies, organizations and communities interested in caring for Hawai‘i’s precious natural resources. The conference is convened by the Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance, a cooperative collaboration of 25 conservation organizations, including UH Hilo, engaged in stewarding Hawai‘i’s lands and waters.

At the conference, representatives of UH Hilo were organizing sessions and giving presentations that blended scientific, cultural and technological approaches to today’s environmental challenges. Over 50 UH Hilo students attended as part of the Pacific Internship Program for Exploring Science, a summer undergraduate program for local students, and the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science graduate program.

I’m pleased to say that next year’s conference will be hosted by UH Hilo here on Hawai‘i Island in collaboration with other conservation organizations. This is made possible through the close partnerships we have with county, state, federal and non-profit agencies all working together to further conservation on Hawai‘i Island. The conference will give us all a great opportunity to showcase our island’s responsible stewardship and conservation efforts.

Finally, the International Union for Conservation of Nature Council has selected the state of Hawai‘i to host the 2016 World Conservation Congress, the world’s largest conservation event. Every four years, this conference brings together scientists and experts, policy makers, educators, politicians, non-governmental organizations, business interests, and community organizations from around the globe to discuss solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental challenges.

This is the first time this prestigious congress will be held in the USA, and the University of Hawai‘i is part of the statewide planning committee for the 10-day event to be held at the Hawai‘i Convention Center in Sept. 2016. Over the next two years, the committee will engage organizations across all islands to showcase our resources, people and communities at the conference, and UH Hilo will play an important role highlighting our island as a model in environmental and cultural conservation.

For more information about the upcoming conferences, please contact Sharon Ziegler-Chong.

Aloha,

Don Straney

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