Robert A. Kinzie

Professor Emeritus, Biology

Coral ecology and photobiology; Aquatic ecology






Research Interests

Islands are, almost by definition, ideal places to study aquatic systems. The Hawaiian Islands, the most isolated archipelago on Earth, provides opportunities to study aquatic systems, both marine and freshwater, from evolutionary, ecological and geomorphological perspectives. Our research takes advantage of these opportunities by focusing on streams, coral reefs and the nearshore environments where these two systems interact.

The symbiosis between reef building corals and their symbiotic algae is the energetic foundation for reef structure and function. We have been studying the photobiology of reef corals with particular emphasis of ultraviolet radiation. The levels of ultraviolet radiation currently received in tropical areas like Hawai'i surpasses that predicted for higher latitudes under most projections based on decreased atmospheric ozone protection. The possibility that there may be several different algae in symbiosis with reef corals is also of great interest. We have several of these algae in culture allowing a range of experimental approaches to questions relating to algal nutrition, photobiology and host-specificity. Coral reproductive biology is another focus in our laboratory.

Freshwater systems in volcanic terrains such as the Hawaiian Islands are dominated by steep streams with highly variable flow and little seasonal variation, markedly different from the temperate streams that have formed the basis for many widely held generalization about stream ecology. The fauna of Hawaiian streams is dominated by endemic species with strong evolutionary and ecological connections to the sea. The endemic fishes, crustaceans, and mollusks are typically diadromous, presenting a suite of organisms with unique life history patterns. We are currently studying Hawaiian streams both from the ecosystem perspective and at the population level with emphasis on reproductive biology and life history patterns.

Selected Publications

Kinzie III, R. A., C. Chong, J. Devrell, D. Lindstrom and R. Wolff. 2006. Effects of water removal on a Hawaiian stream ecosystem. Pac. Sci 60: 1-47.

Ribes, M., R. Coma, M. J. Atkinson and R. A. Kinzie III. 2005. Sponges and ascidians control removal of particulate organic nitrogen from coral reef waters. Limnol. Oceanogr. 50: 1480-1489.

Larned, S. T., R. A. Kinzie III, A. P Covich and C. T. Chong 2003. Detritus processing by endemic and non-native Hawaiian stream invertebrates: a microcosm study of species-specific interactions. Arch. Hydrobiol. 156: 241-254.