Apr 212017

In a collaborative project between UH Hilo and UH Mānoa, the NSF funds will create Kaniʻāina, a digital corpus of recordings and transcripts of Native Hawaiian language.

Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa

Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa

A University of Hawaiʻi project to build a digital online repository of spoken Hawaiian language, or ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi received grants from the National Science Foundation and National Endowment for the Humanities. The grants total $448,464 over a three-year period.

The project, “Building a Hawaiian Spoken Language Repository,” will create Kaniʻāina, a digital corpus of recordings and transcripts of Native Hawaiian language. Kaniʻāina will feature hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings, fully searchable transcripts in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi, catalog information in both English and ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi and a unique crowd-sourcing feature for soliciting enhanced transcription and content-tagging of the recordings from the public.

Larry Kimura

Larry Kimura

The grants will be managed by principal investigator Keiki Kawaiʻaeʻa, director of the UH Hilo Ka Haka ʻUla O Keʻelikōlani College of Hawaiian Language, along with co-principal investigators UH Hilo Associate Professor Larry Kimura and UH Mānoa Associate Professor Andrea Berez-Kroeker.

Hawaiian spoken language repository

The recordings and transcripts will be accessible online at Ulukau: The Hawaiian Electronic Library, beginning with phase 1 of the first two collections—Ka Leo Hawaiʻi and Kū i ka Mānaleo—later this year. The content will be archived for long-term preservation in Kaipuleohone, the University of Hawaiʻi Digital Language Archive, which is part of ScholarSpace, the UH institutional repository.

Berez Kroeker

Berez Kroeker

The awards also include funding for undergraduate research opportunities and a cross-campus graduate educational exchange in language documentation and revitalization.

“We are elated that we can now move toward building a larger public repository of audio and visual native speaker collections to support the growing population of Hawaiian speakers,” Kawaiʻaeʻa said. “Kaniʻāina comes at a crucial time when the number of Hawaiian speakers is increasing as the last of the native speaking elders is rapidly dwindling. We now estimate the number of elder native speakers outside of the Niʻihau community to total between 20 and 30.”

The broader impacts of Kaniʻāina will include its integration into immersion-based language education from pre-school to the university level, Hawaiian knowledge in the natural and social sciences, and beyond. The project will also engage underrepresented groups as citizen scientists through its creation of a publicly available corpus of an endangered U.S. language.

For more information, read the UH Hilo news release.


-via UH System News.

Apr 212017

UH Hilo students win top honors in four major categories at the 34th Annual Marine Option Program (MOP) Student Symposium.

Group on beach.

34th Annual Marine Option Program Student Symposium, hosted by UH Hilo, was held this year at Halau Maluhia, Keʻei, Hawaiʻi Island.

Several students at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo participated in this year’s 34th Annual Marine Option Program (MOP) Student Symposium, hosted by UH Hilo at Halau Maluhia, Keʻei, Hawaiʻi Island. The symposium featured the top Marine Options Program (MOP) students from campuses across the UH System presenting their applied learning “Skills Projects.”

“Congratulations again to everyone and thank you to all the UH campuses that joined us for the amazing weekend of presenting and camping at Keʻei beach!” MOP posted on their Instagram account.

UH Hilo MOP students brought home awards in four major categories:

Roseanna “Rosie” Lee won the Anna Toy Ng Memorial MOP Scholarship, awarded to a MOP student exhibiting excellence in marine scholarship, ocean stewardship, and contributions to MOP.

Tyler Phelps won for Best Research Project: “Scooters and Scaridae: Utilizing New Technology to Answer Ecological Questions.”

Keelee Martin won Best Poster category: “Writing the Waves: UH Hilo Seawords Contributions.

Joctan Dos Reis Lopes won the Sherwood Maynard Award for Ocean Impact: “Marine Debris Education and Coastal Cleanup Project, in Com and Dili, Timor-Leste.”

Other participating students also made a good showing and were strong contenders in the competition. They were Michael Caban II Akamai-Stephens, Amelia Dolgin, Brittany R. Fuemmeler, James Gomez DeMolina, Alexander Hernandez, Shelby Marhoefer.

“All of these students did an outstanding job, and represented UH Hilo exceptionally well,” says Assoc. Prof. of Marine Science Steven Colbert in an email announcing the winners.

More photos from the symposium, click to enlarge:

Tents set up on the beach.

Tents set up at Keʻei beach for the 2017 MOP Symposium. Courtesy photos from MOP/UH Hilo.

Apr 192017

The goals of the project in Keaukaha go beyond scientific and clinical objectives—the main goal is to help the community and culture surrounding the loko i‘a (fishponds).

By Anne Rivera.
This story is the fourth in a series on climate change research at UH Hilo.

Group photo in front of ocean mural, Cherie Kauahi, Steven Colbert, Kamala Anthony and Jason Adolf.

Research team (l-r) Cherie Kauahi, Steven Colbert, Kamala Anthony and Jason Adolf.

Research projects at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo are more than opportunities for students to do applied learning, they are also often geared toward helping communities and culture in Hawai‘i flourish. A perfect example of this is a project run by Kamala Anthony and Cherie Kauahi, two UH Hilo graduate students, who have taken on loko i‘a (fishpond) research in Keaukaha, Hilo, with the help of two marine science faculty advisors, Steven Colbert and Jason Adolf.

Aerial of fishpond

Aerial of fishpond in Keaukaha, now a subject of research conducted by UH Hilo. Click photos to enlarge.

The project is aimed at studying current conditions in several fishponds in Keaukaha in order to restore, sustain and manage them better in the face of climate change. The research team is collecting baseline data from the fishponds—never before collected—to study how future climate change will affect the groundwater flow into the ponds.

But the goals of the project go beyond the scientific and clinical objectives—ultimately the goal is to help the community and culture surrounding the loko i‘a. Members of the research team each have their own community connections to Keaukaha and a sense of obligation to help the loko i‘a and the local culture.

Anthony and Kauahi are both graduate students in the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science program at UH Hilo and have a deep, personal connection with this research project beyond the student level.

Aerial of Fishpond

Aerial of Honokea fishpond at Richardson Ocean Park, Keaukaha.

Anthony is originally from Waiuli in the Keaukaha area. She attended UH Hilo for her undergraduate degree in agriculture with a specialty in aquaculture and later moved on to the TCBES graduate program. She says she feels much like the fish who enter the fishpond where the research is being conducted—she says her motivation for doing this project is because she, too, “seeks nourishment, growth, support, function, skills and the potential to pass on these processes to the next generation for the protection of a resource that sustains the community.”

Kauahi was raised on Hawai‘i Island. She completed her undergraduate studies at UH Hilo and earned a bachelor of arts in marine science. She says her overall goal of this current project is to provide the people who mālama (care for) these places added information to continue to perpetuate loko iʻa pratices as well as to ultimately provide food for the people who depend on loko iʻa resources.

“I’m learning a lot about groundwater and how complex it is as well as learning different techniques on how to look at it and measure it,” she says. “Most importantly I’m learning about wai [water] not just in the context of science but in the context of a Hawaiian and recognizing that wai is life.”

Aerials of two fishponds

Aerials of road into Keaukaha with (left) Waiahole fishpond on mauka side of road and (right) Hale o Lono fishpond on makai side of road with wall of fishpond visible. Bing Maps.

Wai is life: Linking culture and science

Both graduate students are taking away more than just the technical skills with their work on this project—rather they are learning how to join their passion for community and culture in Hawai‘i with the techniques and applicability of science. Project advisor Adolf, an associate professor of marine science, says he likes seeing students make the linkage between the two.

“I’d like to see the scientific part be as meaningful as well as be interactive with the community and outreach steps,” he says.

Adolf is originally from New Jersey. He received his master of science in botany from UH Mānoa and his doctor of philosophy biological oceanography from the University of Maryland. He worked on water quality in the Chesapeake Bay after gaining his PhD and made his way back to the islands in 2008 when he joined the faculty at UH Hilo.

Because Adolf’s specialty is in water quality and phytoplankton, he is the faculty advisor on the current fishpond project. He has known Anthony for about five years and has watched her come up through her undergraduate program—he has seen her passion and focus on lokoi‘a restoration, which was part of his motivation to join the research team.

Adolf says his favorite part about the research projects on campus is working with the students to help them write their thesis.

“The real satisfaction is using the data to generate information,” he explains. “The process of analyzing data to tell a story and yield information is my favorite part because it gives the research context and the students’ hard work purpose.”

Colbert, an associate professor of marine science, also serves as advisor for Anthony and Kauahi and helped write the proposal for this project because he has his own connections to the community of Keaukaha.

“One of the biggest goals of this project is to provide information about the hydrology of these fishponds that is useful to the community,” says Colbert. “Keaukaha is the community in Hilo where we are and spend so much of our time, so we owe them.”

Colbert is from Indiana and received his master of science in geology and doctor of philosophy in geology from the University of Southern California. While in California he studied groundwater hydrology in the coastal ocean, which is what he continues to do in Hawai‘i. He joined the UH Hilo faculty in 2010 and has developed a deep connection to the ‘āina (land) and takes joy in giving back to a community that he feels has done so much for him and his students.

Leadership for the future

Funding for the fishpond research is from the Pacific Islands Climate Science Center at UH Hilo.  The center is a partnership between U.S. Geological Survey and a university consortium that includes UH Mānoa (the consortium lead) and University of Guam, in addition to UH Hilo.

In discussing the ultimate project goal, Anthony says, “It is to produce a piece of information or a resource that will contribute to the protection and well-being of the resources that we depend on in Hawai‘i, and in doing so will allow for a combination of scientific approaches and ancestral knowledge of the people who have an intimate relationship with these resources.”

She says she plans to continue the work she does with the loko i‘a restoration through a non-profit organization known as Hui Ho‘olei Maluo to support and guide loko i‘a restoration efforts.

Although she is a first-year graduate student, Kauahi is already starting to plan for after graduation. She says she is looking to take a year off before possibly continuing on to earn her doctorate or she may immediately go to work protecting water resources.

Applied learning for students is fundamental in research projects at UH Hilo—however, connecting classroom learning and field work to the communities outside UH Hilo is vital to the success of the students.

On the various skills Anthony and Kauahi have been gaining through the fishpond research, Colbert says, “Technical skills are the number one thing but leadership experience is second because that’s where our master’s students and graduates are going—TCBES graduates are going to take on these leadership roles and they often end up in leadership roles across Hawai‘i.”

This story was edited for clarification after further input from the students.


About the author of this story: Anne Rivera (junior, communication) is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor.

-UH Hilo Stories


Also in this series:

Climate change research at UH Hilo: Monitoring the coasts for signs of erosion and planning ahead

Climate change research at UH Hilo: Tree rings and bird song

Climate change research at UH Hilo: Collecting data on forests and trees

Apr 112017

Graduates of this program will be ready for heritage-related careers in the interpretation, preservation, and perpetuation of cultural heritage.

Logo of fish hook.

Graduate student Kalā Mossman designed this logo concept for the program and others chipped in with drafting it. He used Manaiakalani as the inspiration for the design as a means of bringing communities together. Makau represents connections between human, land, sea and sustenance, as well as material culture. Aha represents connection to ancestors and elemental forms as well as the living culture. Stars represent Manaiakalani and connection to the universe as well as the importance of moʻolelo. In essence elements of the three papa are represented papa hulilani, papa hulihonua and papa hānaumoku. Via Facebook.

The first cohort of candidates in the Master of Arts in Heritage Management program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo will be defending their theses this week. The general public and UH community are invited to attend.

Students in the Heritage Management program are training for heritage-related careers in government agencies, private-sector consulting firms, educational institutions, and various other organizations engaged in the interpretation, preservation, and perpetuation of cultural heritage. Two examples of  such places are heritage centers and museums. The UH Hilo program emphasizes heritage training in Hawai’i and the Pacific Islands but does so within the context of a global community.

“In collaboration with the organization Nā Kālai Waʻa, Iʻve spent the past two years creating a project exploring the past and contemporary uses and meanings of the navigational heiau, Koʻa Heiau Holomoana in pursuit of its proper portrayal and preservation,” says  Nicole Mello in a Facebook post. “I would like to invite you to join me as I defend my graduate thesis. I hope to see you there!”

Candidates and schedules

  • Kalā Mossman.
    Restoration of ʻĪmakakāloa Heiau, Kaʻalāiki, Kaʻū, Hawaiʻi: Redefining Ancient Structures of a Living Culture.
    Monday, April 10, 2017.
    12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
    University Classroom Building (UCB), room 118 (campus map).
  • Matthew Clark.
    Crossing the ‘Aʻā: Connecting Cultural Landscapes and Community Values along the Kula Kai Trails of Hīlea, Kaʻū, Hawaiʻi.
    Wednesday, April 12, 2017.
    11:00 a.m. to Noon.
    UCB 100.
  • Nicole Mello.
    Koʻa Heiau Holomoana: Voyaging Set in Stone.
    Thursday, April 13, 2017.
    4:00 to 5:00 p.m.
    UCB 112.
  • Kalena Blakemore.
    Nā Kiʻi Lāʻau: The Gods and Guardians of Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau, National Historical Park, South Kona, Hawaiʻi.
    Friday, April 14, 2017.
    9:30 to 10:30 a.m.
    UCB 111.
  • Lokelani Brandt.
    Through the Lens of an ʻIli Kūpono: an Ethnohistorical Study of Piʻopiʻo, Waiākea.
    Friday April 14, 2017.
    11:00 to Noon.
    UCB 100.
  • Tamara Halliwell.
    Iwi Kūpuna: Connecting the Past, Present, and Future of the ʻŌiwi Mamo
    Friday, April 14, 2017.
    2:00 to 3:00 p.m.
    UCB 100.
Peter Mills

Peter Mills


Peter Mills.


Heritage Management program on Facebook.

Apr 112017

The endowed scholarship is made in honor of Maurice Zimring, a writer and reporter who served at UH Hilo twice during his long career.

Maurice Zimring

Maurice Zimring

Franklin Zimring, a professor of law at the University of California at Berkeley, has established a $25,000 endowment at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo in honor of his late father, Maurice Zimring. The endowment will support undergraduate students in their senior year of earning a bachelor of arts in communication and who have submitted an outstanding research paper that can make an important contribution to the field of communication.

Recipients of the scholarship can be part- or full-time students and must have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or above.

Twice in his long career as a writer and reporter, Maurice Zimring joined the staff at UH Hilo. First, he served as an administrative aide to John Stalker (who directed the Peace Corps Training Center in Hilo and was a staff aide at the UH Mānoa East-West Center), and then he was an assistant and speechwriter for the UH Hilo chancellor.

Franklin Zimring

Franklin Zimring

“His affection for the people and ambitions of the UH Hilo campus were the inspiration for this award program,” says Frank Zimring in a statement about the endowment.

Maury and Molly Zimring moved to Hawai‘i Island in 1960. Married since 1933 and with their two children grown, Hilo appealed to their pioneer spirits.

Molly became the first woman to practice law on the island after opening her office in 1961. The Zimrings invested in real estate in Hilo and Puna and began development of the land that eventually became Puna Beach Pallisades.

Maurice Zimring grew up in Waterloo, Iowa, one of five children of an immigrant family. He was educated in public schools, including one term at the University of Iowa.

During the Depression, he worked as a reporter for the local newspaper before setting off for southern California in 1932. His career in media began in radio during its golden age where he specialized in writing original dramatic scripts for a series of network programs, most notably Hollywood Star Playhouse where his work was performed by Joan Crawford, Ida Lupino, Barbara Stanwyck, Mel Ferrer, Dana Andrews and the premiere performance of Marilyn Monroe. His pen name in Hollywood was Maurice Zimm.

Maury made the transition from radio to motion pictures in the early 1950s when one of his radio stories was produced by MGM as Jeopardy starring Barbara Stanwick and Barry Sullivan. His other film credits included The Prodigal and Good Day for Hanging.

But most famously, he invented and wrote the story for the misunderstood monster who became The Creature from the Black Lagoon in a series of films produced by Universal Pictures.

In the late 1950s, Maury’s most important work was in network television. He spent two years as a staff writer for the classic television series Perry Mason, where he was the author of eight one-hour scripts produced from 1959 to 1963.

Maury passed away on Nov. 17, 2005, in Westwood, CA, at 96 years old—but along with his wonderful writing, his legacy lives on at UH Hilo.


Jin Yin.

Learn more about giving

UH Foundation.

Apr 072017

Residencies are highly competitive opportunities for Pharm.D. graduates to build on their education in a clinical setting with an experienced mentor.

Student doing consult.

Pharmacy student counsels counsels a patron at a Health Fair. Courtesy photo from archives.

Student pharmacists from the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo were “matched” with residency programs in round one of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) Matching Program. More students from the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy (DKICP) have a chance to be placed when the second group of matches is announced after April 12.

Residencies are highly competitive opportunities for Pharm.D. graduates to build on their education in a clinical setting with an experienced mentor. The ASHP Resident Matching Program (the “Match”) places applicants into pharmacy residency training positions in the United States. The Match includes both postgraduate year one (PGY1) and postgraduate year two (PGY2) pharmacy residencies.

About two-thirds of the 5,752 applicants nationwide were successfully placed in round one. Twenty-eight student pharmacists from DKICP participated in round one of the Match, with 13 placed. The remaining 15 students will have to reapply to be eligible for round two.

The Match, which is administered by National Matching Services Inc., is sponsored and supervised by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP).

Successful applicants thus far include:

Class of 2017 – Year One Residencies (PGY1):

  • Trenton Aoki, Providence St. Peter Hospital, Olympia WA.
  • Mark Allen Bibera, University of California Davis Health System, Sacramento, CA.
  • Megan Calderwood, Indian Health Service, Gnome, Alaska.
  • Mari Louise Cid, University Maryland School of Pharmacy, Baltimore, MD.
  • Christopher Diaz, University of Washington Medicine, Seattle, WA.
  • Tiajana Gonzales, Samford University McWhorter School of Pharmacy, Birmingham, AL.
  • David Khan, Indian Health Service, Gallup, NM.
  • Kelsea Mizusawa, UH Hilo, Hilo HI.
  • Lauryn Mow, Providence Centralia Hospital, Centralia, WA.
  • Nadine So, UH Hilo, Hilo, HI.
  • Zi Zhang, The Queen’s Medical Center, Honolulu, HI.
  • Nick Nguyen, Genentech, Industry Intership, Palo Alto, CA.

Class of 2016 – Year Two Residencies (PGY2):

  • Walter Domingo, Stanford Health Care, Stanford, CA. Specialty: Oncology.
  • Alex Guimaraes, Fellowhip Tricore Reference Laboratory Clinical Translational Care Fellow, University of New Mexico College of Pharmacy, New Mexico.
  • Jairus Nathan Mahoe, Palomar Health Escondido, CA. Specialty: Health System Pharmacy Administration.
  • Bert Matsuo, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA. Specialty: Cardiology.

Class of 2011:

  • Matthew Kirkland, Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System, Biloxi, MS. PGY1 with Mental Health Focus

DKICP/QMC – Year Two (PGY2):

  • Christine Luong, The Queen’s Medical Center, Honolulu, HI. Specialty: Critical Care.


Media release

Apr 072017

Four history majors from UH Hilo presented research papers at the 33rd Annual Hawai’i Regional Phi Alpha Theta Conference on March 18 at Chaminade University in Honolulu.

Four history students.

History students (l-r) Sharnelle Renti Cruz, Artem Sergeyev, Marleah Renti Cruz, and Chase Benbow. Courtesy photo.

Four history majors from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo presented research papers at the 33rd Annual Hawai‘i Regional Phi Alpha Theta Conference on March 18 at Chaminade University in Honolulu.

Chase Benbow, Marleah Renti Cruz, Sharnelle “Moki” Renti Cruz, and Artem Sergeyev represented UH Hilo and the Department of History, met students and faculty from other Hawai‘i universities, and gained valuable experience in the process.

Two of the students came away from the conference with paper awards.

Benbow was awarded The Herbert F. Margulies Prize for the Best Paper in American History for his paper, “The Space Race: How American Nationalism Took Off.”

Sergeyev was awarded The Sara Sohmer Prize for the Best Undergraduate or Graduate Research in Hawaiian or Pacific History for his paper, “Medical Missionary Dwight Baldwin and Ka Wā Hepela (the smallpox time).”

Apr 072017

UTOPIA/DYSTOPIA was a studio project of students enrolled in Art 301 Digital Video Installation, spring 2017.

Group of students watch a television screen.

Students observe an installation at the art exhibit entitled “UTOPIA/DYSTOPIA: Perfect and Highly Desirable/Frightening and Undesirable,” which was on display at Mookini Library in March.

An exhibition of videos and sculptures created by University of Hawai‘i at Hilo art students was on display at the Mookini Library last month. The exhibit, entitled “UTOPIA/DYSTOPIA: Perfect and Highly Desirable/Frightening and Undesirable,” showcased new sculptural works that utilize digital video media technology to visualize a society in contrasting states of welcome perfection versus frightening and the horrifically undesirable. UTOPIA/DYSTOPIA was a studio project of students enrolled in Art 301 Digital Video Installation, spring 2017.

Photos by Bob Douglas, click photos to enlarge.

Artist stands next to her work

Kalaiakea Blakemore stands next to her art installation, “Alt Truth.” Photo of description below.


About the photographer: Bob Douglas is a local artist, photographer, and student who volunteers his photography skills to the Office of the Chancellor and UH Hilo Stories. 

-UH Hilo Stories 

Apr 062017

Friends and family of the late state representative have established two endowed scholarships—one at UH Hilo and one at Hawai‘i Community College—to support full-time undergraduate students pursuing degrees in agriculture.

Group shot of friends, family and members of the UH community.

Friends, family and members of the UH community gather at ceremonies announcing two endowed scholarships established in honor of late State Rep. Clift Tsuji. Courtesy photo.

Building on the late Rep. Clifton Tsuji’s legacy of giving back to the Hawai‘i Island community, 159 friends, supporters and family members raised $81,000 to fund endowed scholarships for University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College students pursuing degrees in agriculture.

“My dad loved his job and viewed it as an honor to service the people of the Big Island as a state representative,” says Ryan Kalei Tsuji about his father. “There were many things he was passionate about but there is no doubt that agriculture in Hawai‘i and supporting this industry was something that really resonated with him. We are so thankful to the many donors and supporters who contributed to this endowment scholarship. Our hope is that through this scholarship we can continue his passion and commitment to making a difference in the community even after his passing.”

The two endowed scholarships are The Representative Clift Tsuji Memorial Endowed Scholarship for the Hawai‘i Community College Agricultural Program to support full-time undergraduate students pursuing a degree in agriculture, and The Representative Clift Tsuji Memorial Endowed Scholarship for the UH Hilo College of Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resource Management to support full-time undergraduate students pursuing a degree in agriculture.

“Hawai‘i Community College is honored to be a recipient of generous contributions from the supporters of the late Rep. Clift Tsuji,” says Hawai’i Community College Chancellor Rachel Solemsaas. “This scholarship fund is a testament to his legacy of service and commitment to the community. For a community to give back to the next generation of learners is an amazing statement on why this island is so special.”

Born and raised in Papaikou, State Rep. Tsuji was a graduate of Hilo High School and went on to earn a bachelor degree from UH Mānoa. He also attended the University of Washington, Pacific Coast Banking School. Tsuji served in the U.S. Army Reserve, 442nd Infantry, Company B, Hilo, from 1959–1965. Representing House District 2 including Keaukaha, parts of Hilo, Pana‘ewa and Waiākea, Tsuji was chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and was named the Hawai‘i Farm Bureau’s Legislator of the Year in 2015.

Tsuji was a passionate proponent of agriculture and biotechnology. He was also active with the Hilo Medical Center Foundation, Hawai‘i Island Japanese Community Association, Pacific Tsunami Museum, Hiroshima Kenjin Kai, Hawai‘i Island Chamber of Commerce, and the Kumamoto Kenjin Kai.

“I learned so much from Clift Tsuji about Hilo, Hawai‘i Island and agriculture, ” says UH Hilo Chancellor Don Straney. “This scholarship will ensure that, for years to come, many students will continue to learn from his legacy.”


-Media release from the UH Foundation.

Apr 062017

Researchers are using small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to capture images of coastal areas across hundreds of acres—the aim is to try to make accurate predictions on how the rise in sea level will affect the coast and what that entails for communities and the county in regard to planning.

By Anne Rivera.
This story is the third in a series on climate change research at UH Hilo.

Rose holding UAV.

Graduate student and researcher Rose Hart holds an unmanned aerial vehicle used to survey coastal areas.

Climate change is affecting more than just plants and animals—it is changing coasts and sea levels. Researchers at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo are monitoring these changes and the impact on local communities by gathering data that will help officials make sound predictions about, and decisions for, the future.

Ryan Perroy

Ryan Perroy

Rose Hart, a first-year graduate student in the Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science (TCBES) program at UH Hilo, has teamed up with faculty member Ryan Perroy, an assistant professor of geography and environmental science at UH Hilo, to begin monitoring shorelines using an exciting and innovative technique.

The researchers are using small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to capture images of coastal areas across hundreds of acres. The images are used to create 3D data sets to observe past and present changes. A variety of coastal environments are being used for the study including sea cliffs (Honoli‘i), low-lying and subsiding coastal lava fields (Kapoho) and calcareous beaches (Hapuna).

Rose Hart guides an unmanned aerial vehicle in an open field.

Rose Hart guides an unmanned aerial vehicle. Photo credit Rose Hart.

The project has a number of aspects and goals—one is to determine from a historical point of view how these coasts and regions have changed over time to present day. Another aspect is more short term, meaning that data collection occurs every couple of months to every few weeks to see how the coasts are currently changing.

The overall goal is to try to make accurate predictions on how the rise in sea level will affect the coast and what that entails for communities and the county in regard to planning. For example, setback regulations from the coastline may need to be adjusted. How the community will respond to the rising sea level is an important factor to consider especially in the long-term sense—things will be dramatically different in the next 50 to 100 years.

The researchers

Hart is from Los Angeles, CA, and began attending UH Hilo after high school for her undergraduate degree in 2012. She graduated last year with a bachelor of science in environmental science with a minor in marine science and a certificate in planning.

“I didn’t think I would be doing this while I was getting my undergrad (degree),” she says. “It all just fell into place when I realized my senior year in Dr. Perroy’s field methods class that I could use this application of UAVs that could support policies that regulate how we use the shoreline and it took off from there.”

Hart is now part of the TCBES graduate program, where students tend to have a concentration in a specific area. Hart’s current concentration is the study of shoreline changes and how the coast previously and presently adapts to factors such as sea level rise and coastal erosion—the hope is that monitoring theses current changes along with analyzing past conditions will help to predict future outcomes.

Above left, Rose Hart gives a presentation at the 2017 Association of America Geographers annual meeting in Boston. At right, Rose Hart and Ryan Perroy at meeting. Courtesy photos, click to enlarge.

Hart hopes that information on how these different geomorphic types of beaches are changing in response to things like sea level rise and coastal erosion could be used to support shoreline policy at the County of Hawai‘i Planning Office. Her goal is to provide useful information and scientific support for local policies which could be considered as a tool to help protect coastal communities.

Perroy is the faculty advisor on this project. In addition to teaching and research, he serves as the current director of the UH Hilo Spatial Data Analysis and Visualization Labs. He received his bachelor of arts in physics from the College of William and Mary and went on to earn his master of science and doctor of philosophy in physical geography from the University of California at Santa Barbara.

Perroy is a physical geographer with a background in geomorphology, hill slope erosion, and soil science along with remote sensing. His current focus on landscapes using 3D data sets and spatial data is why he was matched with the coastal erosion research project.

Research benefits local communities 

Bethany Morrison, a planner at the Hawaiʻi County Planning Department says the project is the fruition of years’ worth of collaborative effort between the planning department and UH Hilo.

“Those efforts included partnering in grant proposals and supporting internships with the Pacific Internship Programs for Exploring Science to better understand our unique shoreline conditions and vulnerable resources,” she says. “In addition, Rose interned with our office in the summer of 2015 to research the existing shoreline setback policy and make recommendations for improvements.”

Bethany Morrison walks the rocky coast.

Bethany Morrison from the Hawaiʻi County Planning Department explores the coasts of Kaʻū. Morrison helps guide Rose Hart’s coastal erosion project, which will directly aid Morrison’s long range planning capacities in the coastal zone. Photo by Ryan McClymont, USGS.

Morrison explains that as sea-level increases and shorelines move further inland, the buffer between development and unique shoreline habitats will be reduced, and management options will be foreclosed.

“However, we do not have adequate knowledge of Hawai‘i Island’s shoreline to be able to assess and adapt to the vulnerabilities from sea level rise and related hazards,” she explains. “The goals of this project will help us to address these challenges. More specifically, Hawai‘i County will have a first phase of shoreline change rates and sea-level rise projections for three different types of shorelines.”

She believes the project will produce data that can be integrated into the decision making framework and tools, such as the county’s shoreline setback policy.

“It is both exciting and notable that Rose is using newer technology to look at historical changes that have not been previously calculated for Hawaii Island,” she says. “In addition, I am very optimistic that this project can be replicated in other vulnerable coastal communities.”

Perroy says his favorite part about the current joint student-faculty project is seeing the students become empowered.

“Seeing them start with an idea and carrying it out and then actually use problem-solving skills is how they become scientists,” he explains. He says that being able to help them along and watching the evolution and growth in the student is awesome. He hopes Hart is gaining more than just the technical and analytical skills.

“Her being able to take what she’s finding out through her work and then being able to translate that into useful and effective change in the community is what my true goal is for her,” he says.

Hart says since starting at TCBES, she is learning a lot of new things like image processing and the use of various software like Pix4d and CloudCompare—these types of software allow the research project team to generate 3D models from the UAV acquired imagery.

“I’m developing skills that I never could foresee as being a part of my future,” says Hart.

In addition to the technical skills, Hart says she is gaining a lot of leadership qualities along with learning how to take responsibility for the project. She says the most important thing she is learning is “setting realistic goals and thinking in terms of tangible outcomes.”

Although a lot of the results are in their primitive stages and the project is not expected to conclude until March 2018, Hart has her eyes set on the horizon. After completing her graduate program, she is hoping to work for the state Coastal Zone Management program. The program focuses on how people used the shoreline, where the coastline is designated, and where people are permitted or prevented from developing along the coastline. Her ultimate goal is to be a shoreline analyst.

Research projects like these are all around UH Hilo campus and encourage students and faculty to work together to find solutions to local and global problems. The Pacific Island Climate Science Center funds this project and both Hart and Perroy hope to see more tangible results from their project that will help provide support for local conservation policies and methods.

This story has been updated to add remarks from Bethany Morrison.


About the author of this story: Anne Rivera (junior, communication) is a public information intern in the Office of the Chancellor.

-UH Hilo Stories


Also in this series:

Climate change research at UH Hilo: Fishpond management and restoration

Climate change research at UH Hilo: Tree rings and bird song

Climate change research at UH Hilo: Collecting data on forests and trees