Category Archives: Story of the Week

Research team releases app for tracking Yellowstone geysers

When people throughout the world want to watch the iconic Old Faithful eruption at Yellowstone National Park in real time, they now can turn to their smartphones, through a free app, courtesy of a UH Mānoa-led research team studying mobile media and communication.

Brett Oppegaard, an assistant professor in the School of Communications within the College of Social Sciences, has led the development and production of the NPS Geysers mobile app as part of his ongoing investigations of ubiquitous computing. Working with National Park Service staff on site in Wyoming this summer, Oppegaard and the team of designers and developers started with the idea that time in this park was predicated on when Old Faithful erupted.

“People in Yellowstone don’t want to know if it’s noon or 1 p.m. Mountain Standard Time; they want to know how long it will be until Old Faithful erupts again,” Oppegaard said. “That shifting of a community to Old Faithful time is fascinating, and represented in many analog forms at the park, such as on white boards, and on hand-spun clocks. We wanted to start building our research project on the idea that Old Faithful time reflects a new way of looking at the world. And then we wanted to open that perspective up to people both inside and outside of the park, through the affordances of mobile technologies.”

The mobile app features a live web cam of the Upper Geyser Basin, which includes views of several of the park’s predictable geysers, including Old Faithful. It also instantly shares ranger predictions of when the next eruptions will happen at those geysers, including Grand, Castle, Great Fountain, Daisy and Riverside. With a notification sound, the app can alert users to when Old Faithful is within its eruption cycle window, which, at minimum, allows more efficient viewing of it either in person or online.

“At its best, the app allows users to become aligned with Old Faithful time,” Oppegaard said. “Even the person just sitting at a desk in some cubicle maze somewhere can be alerted that Old Faithful is about to erupt, turn on the mobile cam, and then join the real-time party of people around the globe enjoying this majesty of nature. These eruptions are fun to watch, and they bring people together.”

Yellowstone’s social media feeds from Twitter, Flickr and YouTube are included in the app as well, allowing easy access to the park’s most up-to-date news and media, including photos and videos. Future phases of the project will add interactivity and learning games to the app.

That mobile app, available for both Android and Apple platforms through their respective markets, is the first official and sanctioned National Park Service app available for America’s first national park. Yellowstone hosts about half of the world’s known geysers and has the largest concentration of active ones. Funding for the project – a partnership among Dr. Oppegaard, the National Park Service, Yellowstone National Park and Harpers Ferry Center – was provided by Canon USA Inc. through the Yellowstone Park Foundation.

Oppegaard was the individual recipient of the regional and national 2012 George and Helen Hartzog Award for his research into mobile app development and media delivery systems within the National Park Service as well as the national 2013 John Wesley Powell Prize winner for outstanding achievement in the field of historical displays. He also teaches communication and digital media classes stemming from his many years of experience working for daily newspapers, during which he earned several national, regional and state awards. He was chosen for a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship as a journalist and also has earned National Endowment for the Humanities’ grants as a scholar for his innovative mobile media research projects.

To download the app:

For Android devices, visit

For Apple devices, visit:

The School of Communications  in the College of Social Sciences at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa offers academic programs in Communication and Journalism. Communication focuses on communication in intercultural and professional communities, information and communication technologies (ICTs) and policy, and the media arts. Journalism is professionally oriented and develops critical thinking skills and ability to gather, analyze, and organize information, and to communicate it clearly and responsibly through print, broadcast, and online media.

The College of Social Sciences (CSS) at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa is engaged in a broad range of research endeavors that address fundamental questions about human behavior and the workings of local, national and international political, social, economic and cultural institutions. Its vibrant student-centered academic climate supports outstanding scholarship through internships, and active and service learning approaches to teaching that prepare students for the life-long pursuit of knowledge. 

Three-planet system holds clues to atmospheres of Earth-size worlds

Extrasolar planets are being discovered by the hundreds, but are any of these newfound worlds really like Earth? A planetary system recently discovered by the Kepler spacecraft will help resolve this question.

The system of three planets, each just larger than Earth, orbits a nearby star called EPIC 201367065. The three planets are 1.5 to 2 times the size of Earth, and the outermost planet orbits on the edge of the so-called “habitable zone,” where the temperature may be just right for liquid water, believed necessary to support life, on the planet’s surface.

“We’ve learned in the past year that planets the size and temperature of Earth are common in our Milky Way galaxy,” explains UH Mānoa astronomer Andrew Howard. “We also discovered some Earth-size planets that appear to be made of the same materials as our Earth, mostly rock and iron.”

The compositions of these newfound planets are unknown.  “There is a very real possibility that the outer planet is rocky like Earth,” noted Erik Petigura, a University of California, Berkeley graduate student who spent a year visiting the UH Institute for Astronomy. “If so, this planet could have the right temperature to support liquid water oceans.”

In addition to Howard and Petigura, UH Mānoa graduate students Benjamin Fulton and Kimberly Aller, and UH Mānoa astronomer Michael Liu are among the two dozen scientists who contributed to the study.  The planets were confirmed by the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) and Keck Observatory in Hawaiʻi, as well as telescopes in California and Chile.

The new discovery paves the way for studies of the atmosphere of a warm planet nearly the size of Earth. The three new planets are particularly favorable for atmospheric studies because they orbit a nearby, bright star. Next, the team of astronomers that made the discovery hopes to observe the planets with the Hubble Space Telescope and other observatories to determine what elements are in the planets’ atmospheres. If Hubble finds that these warm, nearly Earth-size planets have thick, hydrogen-rich atmospheres, they will learn that there is not much chance for life.

“A thin atmosphere made of nitrogen and oxygen has allowed life to thrive on Earth. But nature is full of surprises. Many extrasolar planets discovered by the Kepler Mission are enveloped by thick, hydrogen-rich atmospheres that are probably incompatible with life as we know it,” says Ian Crossfield, the University of Arizona astronomer who led this study.

The discovery is all the more remarkable because Kepler is now hobbled by the loss of two reaction wheels that kept it pointing at a fixed spot in space. Kepler, launched in 2009, was reborn in 2014 as “K2” with a clever strategy of pointing the telescope in the plane of the Earth’s orbit to stabilize the spacecraft. Kepler is back to mining the cosmos for planets by searching for eclipses, or transits, as planets orbit in front of their host stars and periodically block some of the starlight.

“I was devastated when Kepler was crippled by a hardware failure,” Petigura added.  “It’s a testament to the ingenuity of NASA engineers and scientists that Kepler can still do great science.”

Kepler sees only a small fraction of the planetary systems in its gaze, those with orbital planes aligned edge-on to our view from Earth. Planets with large orbital tilts are simply missed by Kepler.

“It’s remarkable that the Kepler telescope is now pointed in the ecliptic, the plane that Earth sweeps out as it orbits the Sun,” Fulton explains. “This means that some of the planets discovered by K2 will have orbits lined up with Earth’s, a celestial coincidence that allows Kepler to see the alien planets, and Kepler-like telescopes in those very planetary systems (if there are any) to discover Earth.”

“Here’s looking at you, looking at me,” muses Howard.

The paper presenting this work, “A Nearby M Star with Three Transiting Super-Earths Discovered by K2,” has been submitted to theAstrophysical Journal and is available for free at

Founded in 1967, the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa conducts research into galaxies, cosmology, stars, planets, and the sun. Its faculty and staff are also involved in astronomy education, deep space missions, and in the development and management of the observatories on Haleakala and Maunakea. The Institute operates facilities on the islands of Oʻahu, Maui and Hawaiʻi.

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UH astronomer, Keck Observatory confirm first Kepler K2 exoplanet discovery

Despite a malfunction that ended its primary mission in May 2013, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has discovered a new super-Earth using data collected during its “second life,” known as the K2 mission.

University of Hawaiʻi astronomer Christoph Baranec supplied confirming data with his Robo-AO instrument mounted on the Palomar 1.5-meter telescope, and former UH graduate student Brendan Bowler, now a Joint Center for Planetary Astronomy postdoctoral fellow at Caltech, provided additional confirming observations using the Keck II adaptive optics system on Maunakea.

The Kepler spacecraft detects planets by looking for planets that transit, or cross in front of, their star as seen from the vantage of Earth. During the transit, the star’s light dims slightly. The smaller the planet, the weaker the dimming, so brightness measurements must be exquisitely precise. To enable that precision, the spacecraft must maintain a steady pointing.

Kepler’s primary mission came to an end when the second of four reaction wheels used to stabilize the spacecraft failed. Without at least three functioning reaction wheels, Kepler couldn’t be pointed accurately.

Rather than giving up on the plucky spacecraft, a team of scientists and engineers developed an ingenious strategy to use pressure from sunlight as a virtual reaction wheel to help control the spacecraft. The resulting second mission promises to not only continue Kepler’s search for other worlds, but also introduce new opportunities to observe star clusters, active galaxies, and supernovae.

“Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Kepler has been reborn and is continuing to make discoveries. Even better, the planet it found is ripe for follow-up studies,” says lead author Andrew Vanderburg of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

Due to Kepler’s reduced pointing capabilities, extracting useful data requires sophisticated computer analysis. Vanderburg and his colleagues developed specialized software to correct for spacecraft movements, achieving about half the photometric precision of the original Kepler mission.

Kepler’s new life began with a nine-day test in February 2014. When Vanderburg and his colleagues analyzed that data, they found that Kepler had detected a single planetary transit.

The newfound planet, HIP 116454b, has a diameter of 20,000 miles, two and a half times the size of Earth, and weighs almost 12 times as much as Earth. This makes HIP 116454b a super-Earth, a class of planets that doesn’t exist in our solar system. The average density suggests that this planet is either a water world (composed of about three-fourths water and one-fourth rock) or a mini-Neptune with an extended, gaseous atmosphere.

This close-in planet circles its star once every 9.1 days at a distance of 8.4 million miles. Its host star is a type K orange dwarf slightly smaller and cooler than our sun. The system is 180 light-years from Earth in the constellation Pisces.

During the process of verifying the discovery, Harvard astronomer and co-author John Johnson, a former postdoctoral fellow at the UH Institute for Astronomy, contacted Baranec and the Robo-AO team to obtain high-resolution imaging of HIP 116454 to determine whether it has very nearby stellar companions that could be contaminating the Kepler data, causing a misestimation of the planet’s size and other characteristics.

“Because of the flexible nature of the Robo-AO system, it was possible to add the target to the Robo-AO intelligent queue, and several observations were carried out within days of the request,” says Baranec.

While Robo-AO didn’t find any stellar companions, some additional follow-up measurements hinted that there might be a companion that is too close for Robo-AO to see. To be absolutely sure there were no contaminating companions, Bowler was asked to observe HIP 116454 with the Keck II adaptive optics system. He confirmed that HIP 116454 has no close-in stellar companions.

Since the host star is relatively bright and nearby, follow-up studies will be easier to conduct than for many Kepler planets orbiting fainter, more distant stars. “HIP 116454b will be a top target for telescopes on the ground and in space,” says Johnson.

The research paper reporting this discovery has been accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal.

More information about Robo-AO.

Founded in 1967, the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa conducts research into galaxies, cosmology, stars, planets, and the sun. Its faculty and staff are also involved in astronomy education, deep space missions, and in the development and management of the observatories on Haleakala and Maunakea. The Institute operates facilities on the islands of Oʻahu, Maui, and Hawaiʻi.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe. This press release was written in partnership with the CfA.

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Law School ranked on Top 10 national list for pro bono service to community

The UH Law School has again been recognized nationally – this time for its rigorous and generous pro bono requirements for graduation. The William S. Richardson School of Law, situated on the UH Manoa campus, was named to the Top 10 List of Law Schools withpro bono requirements. It is in the same company as Columbia Law School and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

The list was compiled by the Super Lawyers website, a rating service that, among other things, evaluates the nation’s top attorneys. Super Lawyers Magazine also lists top attorneys, as rated by their peers.

While many of the other Top 10 law schools were recognized for their 40-hour pro bonorequirement, Richardson Law School actually requires 60 hours of free community legal service done by students in order to graduate.

Law Dean Avi Soifer pointed out that, more than 20 years ago, it was Richardson law students themselves who asked for the pro bono requirement as part of their requirements to graduate. “Our students are exceptional, and faculty and staff members often find them truly inspirational,” he said.  “This is a prime example of their ongoing commitment to law as a helping profession.”

Over the years Hawai‘i law students have provided thousands of free hours to assist some of our community’s most vulnerable people as they deal with legal problems. In fact Richardson law students are part of the reason Hawai‘i was recently ranked third in the nation on a list of highly successful Access to Justice Initiatives.

That ranking was done by the National Center for Access to Justice, which conducts “Justice Index” findings annually to measure how accessible state legal systems are for people with low incomes, disabilities, English language difficulties, and those who represent themselves.

The Hawai‘i Access to Justice Commission that oversees many of these efforts was formed in 2008 by the Hawai‘i Supreme Court.  The commission works in partnership with numerous community agencies and organizations, including the Richardson Law School, where its annual summit is held.

For more information, visit:

E-cigarette use by Hawaii teens is nearly triple the national average

Dr. Thomas Wills of the UH Cancer Center
Dr. Thomas Wills of the UH Cancer Center

E-cigarette use among teenagers is growing in the U.S., and Hawaiʻi teens take up e-cigarette use at higher rates than their mainland counterparts, a new study by University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center researchers has found.

The findings come as e-cigarettes grow in popularity and the Food and Drug Administration is considering how to regulate their sale. Some public health officials are concerned that e-cigarettes may be recruiting a new generation of young cigarette smokers who otherwise might not take up smoking at all, and the study’s results bolster this position.

Data from the study published in the journal Pediatrics showed that nearly 30 percent of the more than 1,900 teens surveyed in Hawaiʻi had tried e-cigarettes, and, of those, 17 percent were using e-cigarettes only.  The overall rate is about three times larger than previously reported in U.S. studies in 2011 and 2012, which showed rates of 4.7 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Additionally, very few adolescents in the national studies are e-cigarette only users.

The Hawaiʻi teens were 14 and 15 years old and surveyed in public and private schools in 2013. The survey questions assessed e-cigarette and cigarette use, alcohol and marijuana use, and psychosocial risk factors for substance use. Teenagers who used only e-cigarettes were intermediate in levels of risk and protective factors between nonusers and those who used both cigarettes and e-cigarettes. This raises a question about whether e-cigarettes are recruiting low-risk youth (who would otherwise not try smoking) to tobacco product use.

Researchers also found:

  • 12 percent used both e-cigarettes and cigarettes.
  • 3 percent used cigarettes only.
  • 68 percent did not use either e-cigarettes or cigarettes.
  • 96 percent of the participants were aware of e-cigarettes.
  • 67 percent considered e-cigarettes to be healthier than cigarettes.

Dr. Thomas Wills, PhD, interim director of the UH Cancer Center’s Prevention and Control Program, said researchers aren’t sure why the rate of e-cigarette use is so high among teens in Hawaiʻi.  The health benefits and risks of e-cigarettes remain under debate, but Wills cautioned parents and teens.

“You have to think carefully about the risks and benefits of using either tobacco or nicotine, which is known to be an addictive substance,” he said. “A lot of teens think it is easy to quit smoking but it isn’t true. It’s hard for anybody to quit.”

He also said e-cigarettes are widely available in the absence of restrictions on their sale, and that may help explain why the rate of use is so high in Hawaiʻi.

“The marketing is very aggressive here,” he said, adding that manufacturers place ads at venues such as movie theaters that are accessible to teenagers. They also make flavored liquids in varieties such as mango and pineapple. Other reasons could include the high tax rate on cigarettes in Hawaiʻi that makes alternatives such as e-cigarettes more attractive from a cost perspective.

The UH Cancer Center is one of 68 research institutions designated by the National Cancer Institute.  Affiliated with the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa, the center is dedicated to eliminating cancer through research, education, and improved patient care. Learn more at Like us on Facebook at Follow us on Twitter @UHCancerCenter.

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Header image is released under Creative Commons. If used, please attribute to

Research team discovers intact ‘ghost ship’ off the coast of Oahu

Researchers from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa and NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries today announced the discovery of an intact “ghost ship” in 2,000 feet of water nearly 20 miles off the coast of Oʻahu.  Sitting upright, its solitary mast still standing and the ship’s wheel still in place, the hulk of the former cable ship Dickenson, later the USS Kailua, was found on the seabed last year on a maritime heritage submersible mission.  On the mission were the Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory’s (HURL’s) Terry Kerby, and Drs. James Delgado and Hans Van Tilburg of the maritime heritage program in NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

This dislodged engine room telegraph lies off the starboard bow of the USS Kailua. Credit: UH HURL.
This dislodged engine room telegraph lies off the starboard bow of the USS Kailua. Credit: UH HURL.

“It is always a thrill when you are closing in on a large sonar target with thePisces submersible and you don’t know what big piece of history is going to come looming out of the dark,” said Kerby, HURL submersible pilot. “One of our first views of the USS Kailua was the classic helms wheel on the fantail.  The ship was surprisingly intact for a vessel that was sunk with a torpedo. The upper deck structures from the bow to the stern were well-preserved and showed no sign of torpedo damage.”

Launched in Chester, Pennsylvania, in early 1923 for the Commercial Pacific Cable Co., Dickenson was a vital part of a global network of submarine cable that carried telecommunications around the world.  When the cable reached Hawai‘i for the first time in 1901, it was a major step in establishing not only a key link in the network, but also in connecting the islands to the rest of the world with near-instant communication.  Dickenson arrived in Hawai‘i and started work in July of that year.  Repairing cable and carrying supplies,Dickenson served the remote stations at Midway and Fanning Island from 1923 until 1941.

The USS Kailua, including the ship’s wheel, is surprisingly intact. Credit: UH HURL.
The USS Kailua, including the ship’s wheel, is surprisingly intact. Credit: UH HURL.

“From her interisland service to her role in Pacific communications and then World War II, Dickenson today is like a museum exhibit resting in the darkness, reminding us of these specific elements of Pacific history,” said Van Tilburg.

Dickenson was also famously chartered by Cable and Wireless Ltd., the British telecommunications company also operating in the Pacific, to evacuate company employees from Fanning Island, a destination well known to Dickenson’s crew as they regularly steamed to provision and supply the C.&W. station there.  With Britain at war with Germany and its Axis partners, it was feared the station would be a target, as the company’s stations had also been targets for German raiders in World War I.  Dickenson arrived at Pearl Harbor with the Fanning evacuees on the morning of December 7, 1941, sailing into a port at war.  Some of the evacuees on Dickenson noticed a submarine following their ship, only to see it disappear as U.S. forces attacked the sub and drove it off.

The coming of war had implications for Midway, Dickenson’s regular port-of-call, and Dickenson.  The cable service from Midway out into the Pacific was soon inoperable, and remained so throughout the war.  Midway’s role as a hub in trans-Pacific communications was effectively over, and a new strategic role, which had been evident in U.S. desires from the beginning of American involvement with the atoll, now assumed prominence. The famous battle of Midway, off the atoll’s shores in 1942, underscored that new role.  Dickenson, now chartered by the U.S. Navy, entered service as USS Kailua (IX-71) to service cable and submarine nets in the South Pacific until it returned to Pearl Harbor at the end of the war.  No longer needed by the Navy or the Commercial Cable Co., the former USS Kailua was sunk as a target by submarine torpedo fire on February 7, 1946.   The exact location was not recorded, and the final resting place of the ship had remained a mystery.

“Seeing the ship come into view, we were all amazed at its level of preservation – and by the fact that everything was more or less in place.  The identification of the wreck was easy, not only because of its unique form, but also because the Navy’s identification number of IX-71 was still painted on the bow,” said Delgado, director of the Maritime Heritage Program.

Detailed analysis of sonar surveys of the sea floor off Oʻahu by Kerby and Steve Price of HURL has found a number of significant, previously uncharted wrecks that remained unidentified until encountered by HURL’s Pisces submersibles.  These have included the Japanese midget submarine sunk in the opening hour of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the massive aircraft carrier submarines I-400 and I-401.

The USS Kailua wreck is considered an historic site.  “We plan to nominate the wreck to the National Register of Historic Places,” noted Delgado.  “This unique American ship, vital in its role in keeping global telecommunications open in the first part of the 20th century, is also linked to historically significant Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, now part of Papahanaumokukea Marine National Monument in the National Marine Sanctuary System.  Wrecks such as this remind us of special places in the ocean, like the monument, that connect all of us to them as refuges, sanctuaries and museums beneath the sea.”

There are no plans for a return to the site or any recovery; the wreck is owned by the U.S. Government and is protected as federal property.

Video from HURL submarine operations:

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About HURL:
The Hawai‘i Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) specializes in providing scientists with the tools and expertise they need to investigate the undersea environment, including submersibles, remotely operated vehicles, and other cutting edge technologies. This Center, within the School of Ocean and Earth Sciences and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawai‘i, is partly funded through a cooperative agreement from NOAA that began in 1980.

About NOAA:
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on FacebookTwitter and our other social media channels.

NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research operates, manages and maintains the cutting-edge ocean exploration systems on the vessel and ashore.

NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries serves as trustee for a system of 14 marine protected areas, encompassing more than 170,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes waters. Through active research, management, and public engagement, national marine sanctuaries sustain healthy environments that are the foundation for thriving communities and stable economies. Follow Sanctuaries on Facebook and on Twitter @sanctuaries.

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Disney conservation grant continues support for coral reef research

The Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) in UH Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology has been awarded a $24,650 grant from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund (DWCF) to support theConnecting Coral Reefs Worldwide project. This new award will build on the positive outcomes of DWCF’s 2013 award.

The DWCF 2014-2015 award will allow researchers and students from the Palau International Coral Reef Center to travel to HIMB.  They will learn new population genetics techniques that will improve the design of resilient Marine Protected Area (MPA) networks to make them more effective in protecting coral reefs in Palau and throughout Micronesia.

“Once trained in the new population genetics techniques, researchers will be able to return to Palau to apply these innovative approaches to coral reef conservation.  Additionally local communities will have real ownership of the design of their MPA networks from the beginning,” said Dr. Stephen Karl, HIMB associate researcher.

Impact of 2013-2014 Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund

The award helped support a HIMB team in obtaining the genetic data needed to observe the connectivity patterns of the coral Acropora hyacinthus, which is particularly resilient to environmental impacts, around the reefs of Palau. In this ongoing research, each individual coral is molecularly barcoded and fingerprinted at eighteen genes. The DNA sequence of each of these genes is determined, and then a map of genetic relatedness can be created showing the genetic architecture of the corals on the reef. To date, the team has processed 1,200 individuals.

The grant helped to fund an outreach project, which included trainings for three UH undergraduates in the genetic data research methods during internships in the laboratory.

The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund focuses on protecting wildlife and connecting kids and families with nature. Since its founding in 1995, DWCF has provided more than $25 million to support conservation programs in 114 countries. Projects were selected to receive awards based upon their efforts to study wildlife, protect habitats and develop community conservation and education programs in critical ecosystems.

For information on Disney’s commitment to conserve nature and a complete list of 2014 grant recipients,

To find out how you can support the students and programs in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology, please contactTim Szymanowski, Executive Director of Development – Mānoa, at (808) 956-0843 or

You may also make a gift online at


The University of Hawai‘i Foundation, a nonprofit organization, raises private funds to support the University of Hawai‘i System. The mission of the University of Hawai‘i Foundation is to unite donors’ passions with the University of Hawai‘i’s aspirations by raising philanthropic support and managing private investments to benefit UH, the people of Hawai‘i and our future

Proclamation recognizes November 20 as Doctor of Education Day

Governor Neil Abercombie and Lieutenant Governor Shan S. Tsutsui of the State of Hawaiʻi have proclaimed November 20, 2014, as Doctor of Education (EdD) Day in recognition of the Doctor of Education (EdD) Program at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

In summer 2014, the EdD Program graduated its first professional practice cohort of 28 doctoral students representing a diverse mix of administrators and teachers from the public school system, the private school sector and the UH system.

The EdD Program was developed by UH Mānoa’s College of Education along with the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education and the Hawaiʻi Association of Independent Schools.

The entities collaborated in creating a rigorous and relevant Education Doctorate that focuses on the educational practitioner and the principles of leadership, collaborative problem solving, applied research skills and critical reflection.

“The State of Hawai’i recognizes the commitment of the College of Education at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, the Hawaiʻi State Department of Education and the Hawaiʻi Association of Independent Schools to the critical and ethical transformation of education and for meeting the needs of Hawaiʻi’s children,” according to a proclamation issued by the Governor’s Office.

The UH Mānoa EdD program is a member of the Carnegie Project on the Education Doctorate.  The group of 53 colleges and universities is committed to the redesign of the education doctorate to make it stronger and more relevant to the advanced preparation of school practitioners and clinical faculty, academic leaders and professional staff for the nation’s schools and colleges, and the learning organizations that support them.

View the EdD informational brochure:

High resolution photos avaiable: Graduates and Graduates & UHM Staff

For more information, visit:

UH astronomer shares $3 million Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics

John Tonry. IfA photo by K. Teramura
John Tonry. IfA photo by K. Teramura

UH astronomer John Tonry has been named a recipient of the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics for the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, rather than slowing as had been long assumed. He shares the award with the other members of the High-Redshift Supernova Search Team and with members of the Supernova Cosmology Project.

In all, 50 astronomers played a role in the research, and each will get a piece of the $3 million prize, which will be split between two research teams. This work had previously won the 2006 Shaw Prize in astronomy and the 2011 Nobel Prize in physics, but those prizes went only to the leaders of the two research teams, Saul Perlmutter, Adam Riess and Brian Schmidt.

Said Tonry after learning of the prize, “While it was a thrill to be part of a team whose work won a Nobel Prize and to travel to Sweden for the ceremony, being recognized directly by the Breakthrough Prize is particularly gratifying.”

The goal of the annual Breakthrough Prizes, given in fundamental physics, life sciences and mathematics, is to celebrate scientists and generate excitement about the pursuit of science as a career. The prizes are sponsored by Google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife, Anne Wojcicki, a founder of the genetics company 23andMe; Alibaba Group founder Jack Ma and his wife, Cathy Zhang; Russian entrepreneur and venture capitalist Yuri Milner and his wife, Julia; and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan.

The second annual Breakthrough Prize ceremony was held in Silicon Valley and will be broadcast by the Discovery Channel at 4 p.m. (Hawaii time) on Saturday, November 15.

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Researchers: Key building block of life may have come from deep space

Researchers at UH Mānoa’s Department of Chemistry have provided compelling evidence that glycerol, a key molecule in the origin of Earth’s living organisms, may have occurred in space more than 4 billion years ago. Glycerol represents the central building block in cells – the smallest structural and biological unit of all known living organisms on Earth.

The newly published research paper Synthesis of Prebiotic Glycerol in Interstellar Ices was authored by Professor Ralf Kaiser, and Drs. Surajit Maity and Brant M. Jones of the W.M. Keck Research Laboratory in Astrochemistry at UH Mānoa. The research details the methods used to re-create in a laboratory how glycerol could have been formed in astrophysically relevant ices by ionizing radiation in interstellar space and carried by meteorites and comets to Earth prior to the existence of life.

In an ultra-high vacuum chamber cooled down to 5 degrees above absolute zero (5 Kelvin), the Hawaiʻi team simulated icy “sand grains” coated with an alcohol – methanol. When zapped with high-energy electrons to simulate the cosmic rays in space, methanol reacted to form complex, organic compounds – specifically glycerol.

“Our hope and expectation is to propel astrobiologically related research involving the search for the molecular origin of life in our universe to the next level, ultimately leading to the production of an inventory of biorelevant molecules, which could have seeded the evolution of life as we know it,” the authors wrote. This work challenges an alternative theory that glycerol and other prebiotic cell components were synthesized on Earth under hydrothermal conditions. “This requires cutting edge tunable lasers and vacuum ultraviolet light to probe the newly formed molecules,” Kaiser and Jones added.

The researchers expect to define a benchmark for future sampling of distinct classes of astrobiologically relevant molecules like sugars, sugar alcohols and sugar acids. They hope to re-create nucleotides in the laboratory in next generation scattering experiments simulating conditions in the harsh environment of space. Nucleotides are a key components of ribonucleic acid implicated in the replication of living organisms.