UH Hilo alumna named executive director of the Hawai‘i Environmental Education Alliance

As executive director, Melora Purell is implementing programs to foster citizen scientists and provide more opportunities for sustainability career paths.

Melora Purell hiking in the forest.
Melora Purell. Photo by Anna Pacheco via North Hawai‘i News.

University of Hawai‘i at Hilo alumna Melora Purell is the new executive director of the Hawai‘i Environmental Education Alliance. Purell was a member of the first cohort to graduate from UH Hilo’s Tropical Conservation and Biology Environmental Science graduate program.

Purell with students looking in a pond.
Melora Purell teaching children about ecosystem processes through observation of unique habitats such as vernal pools that are home to endemic insects at high elevation sites on Mauna Loa. Click to enlarge.

North Hawai‘i News reports:

With the mysterious synchronicity that often happens when someone manages to be in the right place at the right time, when Purell finished her (UH Hilo graduate) degree in 2006, the Kohala Watershed Partnership (KWP) was just being launched.

“The first job I applied for was with the Kohala Watershed Partnership, and it was completely meant to be. I was there for nine years. I was their first employee and built all those on the ground programs,” says Purell.

During that time she focused on getting students out into the forests and onto the reef.

“Building the education programs and the community outreach was my background and my strength,” says Purell. “Over the years, I’ve taken 1,000 children into the forest of the Kohala Mountain, at least one time. If I look back on my greatest achievement in nine years (at the KWP), that would probably be it. Miles and miles of fence built, lots of weeds pulled and tens of thousands of plants. But 1,000 children into the forest, that’s a big one.”

While at KWP, Purell worked with Three Mountain Alliance, Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance and BISC (Big Island Invasive Species Committee) — the largest non-government conservation groups on the island, “to get conservation a little more embedded in this local government and in our local communities on the Big Island,” she says. “The first (Palina) Forum we held up here at the Kahilu, and there were over 200 people who came. It was very much meant to be grassroots, and it was. We managed to convince all the managers and field leaders to allow their field crews to come.”

Now the executive director of HEEA, Purell is spreading her wings wide as she endeavors to implement programs that will foster citizen scientists, and provide more opportunities for sustainability career paths. Outlined in HEEA’s recently published “Hawaii Environmental Literacy Plan (HELP),” the six goals identified include integrating environmental education into the schools, and supporting educators with professional development, as well as raising awareness statewide and seeking funding sources. (Links added.)

Melora Purell with children on a hike, looking at leaves on koa tree.
On field trips to sites all over the island, Purell teaches children about ecosystem restoration, and introduces them to native plants like this young koa tree.


Read full story at the North Hawai‘i News website.