Institutionalizing Interdisciplinarity

The UHM Biocultural Initiative of the Pacific has joined  network of 13 universities that will explore how to make interdisciplinary research more common and more effective, and more impactful for students and communities, with a focus on sustainability science. Funded by a National Academies Keck Futures Initiative grant and led by University of Minnesota and Duke University, this new network will explore how institutions are addressing three key challenges to interdisciplinary research: measuring impact, supporting students, and fostering co-development.

The issues facing modern society such as climate change, poverty, and the global economy are extremely complex and have only become more so over time. To address the challenges confronting Hawai’i, the region, and our world, researchers need to work together, across disciplines and sectors. Throughout the two-year project faculty and students will have opportunities to participate in interdisciplinary trainings and help shape the future of interdisciplinary research on and off campus.

Kawika Winter

  • Hawai`i Institute of Marine Biology (UHM)
  • Natural Resources and Environmental Management (UHM)
  • National Tropical Botanical Garden

kawikaw [at] hawaii [dot] edu


Kawika Winter is a multidisciplinary ecologist who has focused his research and professional career on large scale biocultural restoration of social-ecological systems in Hawai`i.  His particular areas of interest include revival of traditional resource management, and he operates in the spheres of academia, conservation, and policy.  After serving more than a decade as the Director at Limahuli Garden and Preserve on the island of Kaua`i, he is now the Reserve Manager a the He`eia National Estuarine Research Reserve on O`ahu.  He holds a faculty position at the Hawai`i Institute of Marine Biology (University of Hawai`i at Mānoa), is an Affiliate Faculty in Natural Resources and Environmental Management (University of Hawai`i at Mānoa), and is a Research Associate with National Tropical Botanical Garden.

7th International Conference on Environmental Futures 🗓 🗺

The 7th International Conference on Environmental Future will be held on the campus of the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, April 16-20, 2018.

The conference will cover eighteen broad themes, each of which will be led by the author of a review on that theme:

  1. What is the importance of islands to environmental conservation? – Prof. Christoph Kueffer, ETH Zurich & University of Applied Sciences Eastern Switzerland
  2. How have humans changed island ecosystems through history? – Prof. Todd Braje, San Diego State University
  3. What are the future challenges for island ecology and evolution? – Prof. Rosemary Gillespie, University of California, Berkeley
  4. How can island conservation contribute to human wellbeing? – Dr Iris Monnereau, FAO
  5. How are islands dealing with the challenge of balancing development with sustainability? – Prof. John Connell, University of Sydney
  6. How can we incorporate the value of island environments into conservation? – Assoc. Prof. Kirsten Oleson, University of Hawaii Manoa
  7. How can indigenous and local knowledge (ILK) be used to improve island environmental futures? – Assoc. Prof. Matthew Lauer, San Diego State University
  8. How can we build island communities that are resilient to the impacts of climate change and environmental hazards? – Dr. Ilan Kelman, University College London & University of Agder, Kristianstand
  9. What role can the humanities play in island conservation? – Emeritus Prof. Garry Trompf, University of Sydney
  10. How does environmental governance on islands currently operate and what forms of governance produce the best outcomes? – Prof. Marion Glaser, ZMT, Bremen
  11. How can we improve island conservation through integrated marine and terrestrial management? – Dr. Stacy Jupiter, WCS Melanesia
  12. What is the current state of knowledge of island extinctions and how can this be used to set baselines for restoration? – Dr. Jamie Wood, Landcare Research, New Zealand
  13. How well are island conservation issues addressed in international conventions and agreements? – Dr. Arthur Dahl, President International Environment Forum & Retired UNEP Deputy Assistant Executive Director
  14. What have we learnt about invasive species on islands and what are the best strategies for dealing with them in the future? – Dr. James Russell, University of Auckland
  15. What is the role of environmental education on islands? – Drs. Fumiyo Kagawa & David Selby, Sustainability Frontiers
  16. How is climate affecting patterns of island migration? – Dr. Maxine Burkett, University of Hawaii Manoa
  17. What are the links between human health and environmental conservation on islands? – Prof. Kerry Arabena, University of Melbourne
  18. How do island sovereignty and conservation relate to each other? – Dr. Alex Mawyer, University of Hawaii Manoa

Review papers on each of these themes have been commissioned and will be published in Environmental Conservation prior to the conference. As papers are published they will be listed here.

Oral tradition and traditional ecological knowledge in Aotearoa New Zealand  🗺

May 15, 2017 — 11:00 AM

Moore Hall 575

Please join the Biocultural Initiative for a talk by visiting scholars Priscilla Wehi and Hemi Whaanga, followed by a conversation over lunch (feel free to bring your lunch). 


Pre European contact Māori culture had a strongly developed tradition of oral literature, and whakataukī (sayings passed down through the generations) enjoyed wide currency. Whakataukī provide an enduring record of tribal memory and represent an important method for transmitting critical information about aspects of life, society and the environment. However, their meanings may not be apparent without knowing the societal, historical, cultural and linguistic context out of which they emerged. Such codified knowledge depends on language use and structure as a key mechanism for cultural transmission.

In this research, together with our collaborators Tom Roa (University of Waikato) and Murray Cox (Massey University) we have identified linguistic markers and principles of textual reconstruction to derive time estimated patterns of knowledge embedded in this form of oral tradition. Our primary dataset of c.4,000 versions of whakataukī is drawn from collections published after European arrival ca. 200 years ago. We indicate the kinds of ecological information available. We will discuss how whakataukī shed light on the connections between humans and their environment that transcend prosaic uses, and illuminate deeper social and behavioural engagement with their surrounding environment.

Bio – Dr Priscilla Wehi

Landcare Research Manaaki Whenua, NZ

Priscilla Wehi is a conservation biologist at New Zealand’s government institute for terrestrial ecology, Landcare Research Manaaki Whenua. She is a 2014-2020 Rutherford Discovery Fellow with interests in biocultural diversity and stable isotope ecology. She completed degrees in Zoology and Animal Ecology, before finishing her PhD in 2006 at the University of Waikato on traditional resource management of harakeke by Māori. Cilla currently works on aspects of human-nature relationships, including past, present and future indigenous resource management, and socio-ecological relationships with introduced species that challenge native ecosystems. She is a mother to three young adults, and is related to Tainui, Tūhoe and Ngāpuhi through marriage.

Bio – Dr Hēmi Whaanga

School of Maori and Pacific Development, University of Waikato, NZ

Hēmi is a linguist and senior research fellow in Te Pua Wānanga ki te Ao (The Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Studies) at the University of Waikato, Aotearoa / New Zealand. Hēmi finished a BA in Māori language in 1996, before completing a Masters degree that analysed Māori language structure and the teaching of Māori language. His 2006 PhD investigated discourse relationships between different language elements in Māori. He has worked as a project leader and researcher on a range of projects centred on the revitalisation and protection of Māori language and knowledge. He affiliates to Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāi Tahu and has two daughters with his wife Katrina.

Andrea L. Berez-Kroeker

Department of Linguistics
andrea.berez [at] hawaii [dot] edu

I am an assistant professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. I’m primarily a documentary linguist specializing in Athabascan (Alaska) and Chimbu-Wahgi (Papua New Guinea) languages. My approach to language description examines field-collected data and archived materials in a discourse-functional theoretical framework. I consider language to be a human behavioral phenomenon to be studied in the context of discourse and society, and I see grammatical structure as a product of the cultural and linguistic practices of the members of a speech community.More…

Maxine Burkett

William S. Richardson School of Law
burkettm [at] hawaii [dot] edu

Maxine Burkett joined the William S. Richardson School of Law in 2009. She teaches Climate Change Law and Policy, Torts, Environmental Law, International Environmental Law, and International Development.

She has written extensively in diverse areas of climate law with a particular focus on climate justice, exploring the disparate impact of climate change on vulnerable communities in the United States and globally. Professor Burkett has presented her research on the law and policy of climate change throughout the United States and in West Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean.

Lyle Campbell

Department of Linguistics (emeritus)
lylecamp [at] hawaii [dot] edu

Bio: Lyle Campbell grew up in rural Oregon. He received a B.A. in Archaeology and Anthropology in 1966, M.A. in Linguistics (University of Washington) in 1967, and Ph.D. in Linguistics (UCLA) in 1971.

Campbell held appointments at the University of Missouri (1971–1974), the State University of New York at Albany (1974–1989), Louisiana State University (1989–1994), the University of Canterbury, in Christchurch, New Zealand (1994–2004), the University of Utah (2004–2010), and currently the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. He has been a visiting professor at Australian National University, Colegio de México, Memorial University, University of Hamburg, University of Helsinki, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Universidad del País Vasco, University of Turku, and at three universities in Brazil. He has held joint appointments in Linguistics, Anthropology, Behavioral Research, Latin American Studies, and Spanish.More…

Jonathan L. Deenik

Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences
jdeenik [at] hawaii [dot] edu

Bio: Jonathan Deenik received his BA in History and Art History (College of Wooster) and then joined the Peace Corps where is served as a teacher and teacher trainer in the forest of southern Cameroon (’85-’87) and remote central Nepal (’87-’91). He came to Hawaii in 1992 and completed his MS and PhD degrees at Manoa in Soil Science. He joined the Dept of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences in 2003 with a three-way split (extension, research and instruction). His work focuses on soil nutrient management and soil quality across the spectrum of tropical agroecosystems. He works with farmers throughout the Hawaiian Islands and Micronesia.

Projects: Jonathan works closely with graduate students and extension agents to help farmers match nutrient inputs to cropping systems and soil and climatic conditions to maintain target yields while enhancing the soil resource and minimizing negative impacts to air and water quality. His work also includes identifying and promoting the utilization of alternative soil amendments from waste (sewage sludge conversion to biochar, biofertilizers from anaerobic digestion, and composting) in farming systems across the Pacific. Most recently, Jonathan has worked in a large USDA funded obesity prevention project throughout the US Affiliated Pacific. His focus has been on studying the Pacific agroforest systems, their management and their role in the food system in a time of rapid social, economic and environmental change.

Alan Friedlander

Department of Biology

Over the past 35 years Dr. Alan Friedlander has spent > 10,000 hours underwater—from coral reefs to the poles and to depths of thousands of meters. Dr. Friedlander is director of the Fisheries Ecology Research Laboratory at the University of Hawai‘i and Chief Scientist and Director of Research for the National Geographic Society’s program, Last Wild Places. He leads research efforts to help understand and conserve iconic, special places in the ocean and is an expert in marine ecology, fisheries, and conservation.  His work on marine protected areas ranges from small locally community-managed areas to some of the largest protected areas on the planet. Alan received his Ph.D. from the University of Hawai‘i and was a National Research Council Postdoctoral Associate with NOAA in Monterey, California. Alan is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, Fellow of the Explorers Club, Duke University Distinguished Conservation Scholar, and along with the National Geographic Pristine Seas Team, was awarded the 2014 Environmental Hero Award by the Environmental Media Association and the 2016 Crystal Compass National Award from the Russian Geographical Society.