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 or PCSU
was founded in 1973 as a research unit of the
Service. Over time and under changing national political winds,
PCSU evolved into a University of
Hawaii (UH) research unit focusing on basic and applied research
on natural resources and biodiversity in Hawaii and the Pacific,
working with an expanded range of state and federal agencies,
private foundations and private landowners.
While PCSU projects have ranged as far afield as China, Brazil and
Alaska, its main focus has been the Hawaiian islands where it has
projects on all the main islands. Its projects are mostly
cooperative, linking agencies that might otherwise have difficulty
working together and achieving economies of scale in addressing
problems at the landscape level.
PCSU projects such as
and island invasive species committees are community-based, with
informal steering committees of interested landowners, local and
state officials, and the public. PCSU supplies the onsite and
administrative expertise and logistical support. This arrangement
generates strong local buy-in and funding for the groups. In
addition, PCSU works with state, federal and NGOs on restoring
degraded natural ecosystems and conserving endangered species.
The Hawaii Ant Lab on
Big Island, a joint project with the Hawaii Department of
Agriculture, has developed new methods to combat invasions of the
Little Fire Ant, working with local groups on islands where the ants
have invaded, and offering assistance to homeowners on Big Island
where the ant has become established.
PCSU is a significant source of employment, and
its projects provide a pathway into natural resource management and
the environmental jobs sector. Almost half of our employees are past
or present University of Hawaii students and 21% are Native
PCSU has deliberately kept a low profile, deferring publicity and
credit to its partners. This model has been successful as the unit
has grown from 150 staff in 1998 to 420 in 2016. Similarly, the need
for PCSU has increased funding from just over $2 M in 1996 to almost
$20 M in 2016. Except for two half-time faculty positions and space
on campus, PCSU receives no general fund support from UH, so it
operates essentially as a small business, having to meet a payroll.
However, UH support in grant administration is essential, as is the
unit’s partnership with the Research Corporation of the University
of Hawaii for management of personnel and contracting.
Operating across the state, with close involvement with local
communities, PCSU addresses environmental challenges that threaten
the sustainability of our island ecosystems. As such it is an
effective model of UH’s commitment to the community, its students,
its research aims, and the future of Hawaii.
also produced a series of
on Hawaiian and Pacific natural and cultural resource research and
management issues that are widely used by managers and scientists