40 student conservationists do summer internships of great importance to Hawai‘i and Pacific region

One of this summer’s interns, environmental science major Darcy Yogi, worked on the Mauna Kea Invasive Species Management Plan, where the greatest concern is the little fire ant.

By Susan Enright.

2014 summer intership cohort poses for group photo at park at Hilo Bay, on grassy area, trees and ocean in background.
2014 summer cohort of UH Hilo’s Pacific Internship Programs for Exploring Science.
Darcy Yogi gives her presentation. PowerPoint slide up on large screen above her head, words: Invasive Species Management in Hawaii with a focus on Mauna Kea & Little Fire Ants.
Darcy Yogi presents the work she accomplished during her summer internship. The presentation took place at the 2014 PIPES Student Symposium in August.

Darcy Yogi’s Instagram page is full of all the fun and adventures of a university student who loves her friends and the outdoors. She is a 2011 graduate of Kamehameha Schools and is now majoring in environmental science at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo.

This summer, she was an intern immersed in a project that made her heart sing: she worked on invasive species management on Maunakea, where the foremost concern is on the little fire ant, one of the most invasive species on the planet and now established in many areas of Hawai‘i Island. Hosted by the Office of Mauna Kea Management (OMKM) and the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture’s Hawai‘i Ant Lab, Yogi contributed to multiple sections of the draft Mauna Kea Invasive Species Management Plan.

Her mentors on the project were Fritz Klasner, natural resources program manager at OMKM, and Casper Vanderwoude, foremost expert in the state on invasive ants and manager of the Hawai‘i Ant Lab in Hilo.

“I was able to expand my horizons in the conservation field” says Yogi. “I am so glad that I have opened up my knowledge and true understanding of the environment.”

Yogi’s summer internship was made possible through UH Hilo’s Pacific Internship Programs for Exploring Science or PIPES. She, along with 39 other students from around the state, the Pacific region and the U.S. mainland, took part in this year’s annual program. Participants came from as far away as Guam and Connecticut and many places in between, including students from the Marshall Islands, Illinois, Texas and nearly every island in the Hawaiian chain.

Nineteen host agencies and multiple mentors took these ambitious student conservationists under their wings to give them the experience of a lifetime working in the field on projects of great importance to Hawai‘i Island and the Pacific region.

2014 summer internships included students working on projects entitled:

  • Assessing Vulnerabilities to Sea Level Rise in Hawai‘i County
  • Diet of Aholehole in Waiahole Stream
  • Assessing Sewage Pollution through Groundwater Seeps Entering the Coastal Waters of Puako
  • Native and Invasive Plant Communities in Low, Medium and High Suitability Areas in Keamuku Maneuver Area

Students presented their findings at the annual PIPES Student Symposium held in August.

The PIPES summer internship program could not be achieved without the support of myriad local, state and federal organizations and agencies.

“Partnerships remain an integral component of the success of the PIPES program,” says Ulu Ching, program coordinator.

Kamehameha Schools, the Hau‘oli Mau Loa Foundation, USDA Forest Service Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, and USGS Pacific Island Ecosystems Research Center have partnered for years with UH Hilo to keep the program growing and producing the next generation of natural resources scientists, managers and educators.

PIPES is housed within the Office of Community and Research Partnerships at UH Hilo. The aim is to increase the recruitment and retention of local students, especially those of Native Hawaiian ancestry, into fields of study, and ultimately careers, related to the stewardship and care of the natural resources of Hawai’i and the Pacific region.

Rita Miller also serves as a program coordinator and Noelani Puniwai is an education technical specialist.

Sharon Ziegler-Chong, director and a key force behind the program’s 21-year history, says over the years PIPES has offered over 500 meaningful and rigorous undergraduate summer internship opportunities with research, resource management, education and outreach projects across the islands of Hawai‘i and the Pacific.

One of the lasting benefits of the program is that summer cohorts bond through the student learning communities they create, which has resulted in an alumni network committed to active participation in their respective communities. One of Darcy Yogi’s Instagram photos is of a newly planted sapling in Pu‘u Wa‘awa‘a Forest Reserve — the caption on the photo reads, “Cause roommates who outplant togetha stay togetha.”

For more information about internships at PIPES, contact Rita Miller.

Photos courtesy of PIPES.


About the writer of this story: Susan Enright is a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.