Kapi'olani CC STEM student's research garners national recognition

Kapiʻolani Community College
Louise Yamamoto, (808) 734-9513
Director, College Relations, Office of College and Community Relations
Posted: Mar 16, 2015

Kapi'olani CC STEM student Melanie Keliipuleole (right) and her advisor MacKenzie Manning.
Kapi'olani CC STEM student Melanie Keliipuleole (right) and her advisor MacKenzie Manning.

CORRECTION IN THE PHOTO CAPTION: Kapi'olani CC STEM student Melanie Keliipuleole is on the right and her advisor MacKenzie Manning is on the left.

HONOLULU – Melanie Keliipuleole of Kapi'olani Community College’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Program has been invited by the Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR) to participate in the 19th Annual Posters on the Hill event on April 22, 2015 in Washington, D.C.  Melanie’s undergraduate research project was only one of 60 projects selected from approximately 500 applications. And, she is the first student from the University of Hawai'i System to participate in this prestigious event!

Melanie’s project focused on population genetics, the study of allele and genotype frequencies in a given population. Her research examines the population structure of the marine invertebrate species of Colobocentrotus atratus, also known as the shingle or helmet sea urchin or Ha'uke'uke in Hawaiian. The Ha'uke'uke is found throughout the Hawaiian Archipelago where it is harvested for the consumption of its gonadal tissues, also known as uni. As part of her research, Melanie collected tissues from multiple individuals along four different shorelines (north, east, west, south) from four different main Hawaiian Islands to determine the level of genetic connectivity within and between populations using a fragment of the Cytochrome Oxidase I (COI) mitochondrial gene.

Melanie stated, “Previous research on taxonomically and ecologically diverse species shows genetic barriers between islands. Therefore, due to a relatively short larval duration (typically one month), we hypothesized that C. atratus would show low or absent gene flow between the different island populations.”  Melanie’s research is culturally significant:  by investigating the population structure of the Ha'uke'uke throughout the Hawaiian Islands, she hopes to formulate better management practices for this important cultural resource.

The purpose of Posters on the Hill is to help raise awareness of the significant value that undergraduate research has on our future on our nation. Melanie will be traveling with her advisor and mentor, MacKenzie Manning. While in Washington, D.C., they will have an opportunity to meet Hawai'i’s Congressional delegation and share the level of scholarship being done in undergraduate research here in Hawaii.