Our Research


In the Hawaiian worldview, corals are ancestral beings with spiritual energies, which are integrated within the natural environment and wider consciousness. The Kumulipo, a Hawaiian genealogical and evolutional chant, denotes the history of all life forms came and evolved from corals. Thus, the genealogy of the Hawaiian Islands and people begins with the coral polyp.

Today, the coral reefs of Hawai╩╗i are valued at ~$33.6 billion via multiple goods and services. Hawaiian coral reefs provide jobs and income to a variety of local industries ranging from fishing (commercial and subsistence) to recreation and tourism. Local economies receive billions of dollars from visitors to reefs through diving tours, recreational fishing trips, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses located near coral reef ecosystems.

Efforts to monitor and protect corals have increased over the last decade as coral reefs have been declining around the globe. Coral diseases are a major threat to reef ecosystems, however most diseases remain poorly understood. Environmental stressors in coastal areas are predicted to intensify, thus it is critical to comprehensively characterize states of reduced health and disease in order to determine how diseases will affect the integrity and function of these ecosystems.

The research methods listed below are utilized in order to study coral disease. These techniques allows researchers to determine how stressors can impact the health of corals.

Research Methods

Our Team

John Burns with an underwater camera on a boat

John Burns, Ph.D.

UH Post-doctoral Researcher

John Burns is a post-doctoral research at the University of Hawai╩╗i. He conducts research on coral health and the impacts of disease on the structure and function of reefs throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago. He has coordinated the development of the Coral Health Atlas.

Nick Turner speaks at a presentation

Nicholas Turner B.A.

GIS/RS Analyst

Nicolas Turner is a Cyber GIS / Remote Sensing Analyst for the EPSCOR Hawai╩╗i Cyber Team. He has a B.A. in Geography and a certificate in Planning, from the University of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo. His area of experience and interest is in unmanned aerial vehicles, GIS, remote sensing and geospatial visualization.

Chris Nishioka holding a camera outside

Chris Nishioka M.B.A.

GIS Analyst / IT Technician

Chris Nishioka is a CompTIA A+ certified GIS Analyst / IT Technician for the EPSCOR Hawai╩╗i Cyber Team. He has an M.B.A. from Chaminade University, B.A. in Environmental Studies with a minor in Geography, and a certificate in planning from the University of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo. He is also a graduate of the CISCO networking academy.

Michael Best outside

Michael Best B.A.

Software Engineer

Michael Best is a software developer for the EPSCoR Hawai╩╗i Cyberinfrastructure team at the University of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo. He has a B.S. in Computer Science from North Carolina Central University in Durham, NC. Michael designed and built the Coral Health Atlas interactive data map.

Kohei Miyagi

Kohei Miyagi B.S.

Software Engineer

Kohei Miyagi is a cyberinfrastructure technician for the Hawai╩╗i Geospatial Data Repository of the EPSCoR Hawai╩╗i. He has a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo. He aided to develop web, database, and GIS servers that host the Coral Health Atlas of Hawai╩╗i.

Monika Frazier examines samples in a lab

Monika Frazier

UH Hilo M.S. Candidate

Monika Frazier is a MSc candidate in the University of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science program whose research focuses on using molecular tools to learn more about coral. Her current research entails assessing the expression level of genes that are involved in coral immune function.

Kanoelani Steward smiling behind ferns

Kanoelani Steward B.A.

Research Assistant

Kanoelani, originally from Lahaina, Maui, completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Hawai╩╗i at Hilo majoring in Marine Science and Hawaiian Studies. Kanoe collected coral health data, and historical site information, at sites in Hawai╩╗i and in the Papah─ünaumoku─ükea Marine National Monument.

Makani Gregg in a wetsuit, smiling

Mikani Gregg M.S.

Research Assistant

Makani Gregg received a MasterÔÇÖs degree in the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science Program. Her thesis focuses on the effects of water quality and community structure on coral health around Hawai╩╗i Island.

Donna Delparte kneeling next to an active lava flow

Donna Delparte Ph.D.

Assistant Professor

Dr. Donna Delparte is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the Idaho State University. Her area of research is GIS, remote sensing, terrain analysis and geo-visualization. Donna aided in the development of the web-based mapping application for the Coral Health Atlas.

Misaki Takabayashi

Misaki Takabayashi Ph.D.

Professor, Marine Science

Dr. Misaki Takabayashi is a professor in Marine Science Department at UH Hilo. Her research involves a dynamic team of graduate and undergraduate students as well as collaborators from other universities and government agencies.

Rugh Gates

Ruth Gates Ph.D.

HIMB Researcher

Dr. Ruth Gates is a Researcher at the Hawai╩╗i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB). Her research interests lie in the biological mechanisms and traits that dictate the environmental threshold of marine organisms.

John Coney underwater, Jeff Kuwabara with a dive mask on

John Coney & Jeff Kuwabara

UH Hilo Astronomy & UH M─ünoa MOP

John is a technician at the UH Hilo Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Jeff is the Marine Option Program Coordinator at UHM. When these guys aren't busy running UH programs, they are avid divers and incredible underwater photographers. They have graciously donated many images to the Coral Health Atlas.

Our Research

Microscope; Illustration: Noun Project

Information on various methods used to research coral health

Interactive Map

Map Marker; Illustration: Noun Project

Explore and compare data between sites, species, or by specific diseases

Coral Health

Waves; Illustration: Noun Project

Information about Coral Health and why it is important