PHOTOS: UH Hilo hosts statewide conservation conference this week, with themes of collaboration and partnership

The theme of the 23rd Annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference focused on bringing people together to strengthen collaborative stewardship of island resources into the future.

By Susan Enright.

Group of people reaching hands in to center of group.
Collaboration and partnership in stewarding the island’s resources were the focus of this year’s Hawai‘i Conservation Conference held at UH Hilo. There were over 1,100 participants including resource managers, members of the community, students and scientists sharing information, discoveries, and challenges. Photos by Franz Schmutzer.

The University of Hawai‘i at Hilo hosted over 1,100 participants this week for the Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance’s 23rd Annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference (HCC), entitled “Hanohano Hawai‘i Kuauli: Celebrating Collaboration Ecosystems” and held on campus Aug. 3-6.

“The conference is always an inspiring event,” says Sharon Ziegler-Chong, co-chair of the HCC 2015 local organizing committee. “The coming together of resource managers, members of the community, and scientists to share information, discovery, challenges and ideas provides a rich fabric for this four-day conference.”

Group of people in folding chairs listen to woman at front with chart and easel.
One of the many break out sessions held during the conference.

This year’s theme focused on bringing people together to strengthen collaborative stewardship of island resources into the future. Conservationists and others dedicated to the protection of Hawai‘i’s ecosystems from across the state attended presentations and field sessions, and listened to a host of plenary speakers. The purpose was to bring together different perspectives and knowledge to better understand how to steward communities and resources.

“It is a fantastic conference,” says Don Price, an evolutionary biologist at UH Hilo. “I especially like to see the collaborations continuing to expand between scientists from federal, state and non-government organizations, together with faculty and students from the universities and most importantly here at UH Hilo.”

Kipaepae dancer in traditional kihei attire., chants
Kipaepae protocol was woven throughout conference themes and activities.

The conference is usually held in Honolulu but this year came to Hilo, giving local conservationists and others in the community the opportunity to showcase the many conservation projects underway on Hawai‘i Island.

Guests were welcomed to Hilo on Monday during an opening ceremony with strong cultural kipaepae protocol with oli (chant), hula and a gift of lei to each participant. Kipaepae protocol was woven throughout conference themes and activities.

Keynote speakers of the conference were Hawaiian culture expert Pualani Kanakaʻole Kanahele, ecologist Thomas Lovejoy, CEO of the Kohala Center Kamanamaikalani Beamer, U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (via video), and chairperson of the Department of Land and Natural Resources Suzanne Case.

Pualani Kanakaʻole Kanahele
Pualani Kanakaʻole Kanahele

In addition to the many break out sessions, a day of learning about the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument was held on Wednesday. On Friday, after the official close of the conference, there is a bonus Pu’u Wa‘awa‘a Ahupua’a Service Learning Field Excursion.

Misaki Takabayashi, a marine scientist at UH Hilo and a ha‘akūmālae Hawaiian protocol committee member for the conference, says that over the years, HCC has led the way to proactively discuss conservation from a multitude of perspectives that exist in Hawai‘i today. “This year’s conference has seen more seamless integration between western and Native Hawaiian sciences and approaches,” she explains. “This is great to see because we only have one Hawai‘i that will feed and sustain us now and in the future, and we need all the tools.”

The conference was planned through a collaborative effort of many local representatives of the Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance, including the Three Mountain Alliance, Kamehameha Schools, the Department of Land and Natural Resources, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, and UH Hilo,  in addition to partners statewide, including the HCA staff.

“In Hawai‘i we all work together to get things done in our communities, and this conference was no exception,” says Ziegler-Chong . “Everyone pulled together to put together an event that welcomed all and showed how we do things here.”

Day 1, Opening Ceremonies


Day 2, Break Out Sessions & Group Activities


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.

Photos by Franz Schmutzer.


Related: See U.S. Forest Service blog, Sept, 10, 2015: Forest Service attends 23rd Annual Hawaii Conservation Alliance Conference.