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The PCSU Mission, "protecting and restoring Hawaii's native species, ecosystems, and cultural resources," fits within the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa's mission, "as a land, sea, and space grant university, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa is dedicated not only to academic and research excellence but also to serving with aloha the local, national, and international communities that surround us. Taking as its historic trust the Native Hawaiian values embedded in the concepts of kuleana, ‘ohana, and ahupua‘a that serve to remind us of our responsibilities to family, community, and the environment, Mānoa’s hallmark is a culture of community engagement that extends far beyond the classroom to bridge theory and practice, fostering creative and critical thinking, and promoting students’ intellectual growth and success as contributing members of society."

The Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit has a forty year history of working to protect cultural and natural biodiversity in the Pacific while encouraging a sustainable economy. Originally founded to support research in U.S. National Parks, the unit has also expanded its efforts to work cooperatively with private and state and federal land organizations, including the Pacific Institute for High Technology Research, The Board of Water Supply, and the State of Hawaii Division of Forestry and Wildlife.

Projects range from finding ways to eradicate Miconia and other alien invasive weeds, to restoring the great fishpond seawall at Koloko-Honokohau National Historic Park, to managing watersheds on Maui and Oahu, to restoring Hawaii's endangered plant species, to studying endangered bird species on Maui and Kauai. Studies on cultural resources are also conducted, particularly where they interact with natural resource management. Often the Unit works as a middleman, allowing agencies to pool and coordinate their efforts so that they can attack problems across the landscape at an appropriate scale.


PCSU has also produced a series of technical reports on Hawaiian and Pacific natural and cultural resource research and management issues that are widely used by managers and scientists alike.