UH Hilo internship program wins Outstanding Leadership Award at annual conservation conference
The Pacific Internship Programs for Exploring Science, known as PIPES, a program dedicated to growing the next generation of natural resources leaders, was awarded the Outstanding Leadership Award at the 26th Annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference held in Honolulu, July 10.
A University of Hawai‘i at Hilo internship program dedicated to growing the next generation of natural resources leaders was awarded the Hawai‘i Conservation Allianceʻs Outstanding Leadership Award at the 26th Annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference held in Honolulu July 10. The award is given to a person or group that has demonstrated exceptional leadership in advancing environmental conservation in Hawai‘i that leads to significantly better protection of Hawai‘i’s native ecosystems.
The Pacific Internship Programs for Exploring Science, known as PIPES, is a conservation internship program focused on recruiting and retaining local undergraduates in related fields of study and ultimately careers. The internship experiences for the students focus on personal, academic, and professional success through a foundation of aloha and mālama ‘āina, with the ultimate goal of returning to healthy ecosystems and thriving communities.
PIPES leaders past and present were honored at the award ceremony including Sharon Ziegler-Chong, PIPES director; Cherie Kauahi and Linnea Heu, both PIPES coordinators; Noelani Puniwai, co-principle investigator for PIPES; Jordan DeJesus, project assistant; and Ulu Ching and Rita Miller, both former PIPES coordinators.
“The PIPES staff and I are so humbled by this award,” says Ziegler-Chong. “When these efforts started, our focus was to help change the face of the conservation community so that it reflected the island communities themselves. We’ve played a key role in changing that face, but itʻs our PIPES alumni who are helping change the practice, the networks, and the voice of ʻāina-based efforts here in the islands.”
Through its efforts since 1994, PIPES has created a strong network of kama‘āina who are engaged in the stewardship of their islands and communities across Hawai‘i to the broader Pacific. Over the past 26 years of placing undergraduates in summer internships, PIPES has transformed conservation in Hawai‘i by expanding local participation in resource stewardship and fostering long-term success of local professionals.
Through the program, the conservation community of Hawai‘i has experienced a marked increase in local representation and influence within a single generation, which, in turn, has shifted how conservation is done in the state. The legacy of the program continues to grow as alumni are now found within almost every conservation agency and organization in the islands. Since its start, PIPES has mentored over 700 local interns with 60 percent currently employed in conservation careers. Over 50 host organizations and funding partners have helped develop this next generation of mālama ‘āina leaders and resource managers.
Natalie Kurashima, integrated resources manager for Kamehameha Schools and a former PIPES intern who now holds a doctoral degree, presented the award at the conference.
“PIPES has served as a beacon for many of us, a bright spot on the horizon showing us the path forward to a better ‘āina and a better self,” she says. “The program has thrived in spaces where many others haven’t, growing that space and cultivating it to become abundant. This cultivation has occurred both within each intern personally as well as the many organizations and landscapes their reach has touched. Mahalo palena ʻole iā ka ‘ohana PIPES for not only giving us an opportunity to come home for a summer, but an opportunity to find our life’s passion and come home for forever.”
WATCH: Live-streaming of interns presentations, Aug. 1 & 2
This year’s PIPES cohort of 39 interns will be sharing their final presentations on August 1 and 2 with live streaming available (see PIPES website for link to live streaming).
“The public is invited to watch these culminations of the interns exploring, working and learning about their engagement with pono science over their 10-week internship,” states the release about the event.
Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories.