Veteran Hawaiʻi conservationist leads new UH land, ocean conservation officeUniversity of Hawaiʻi
Vice President for Research and Innovation, OVPRI
Eric R. Matsunaga, (808) 956-5588
Director, Research and Administrative Operations, OVPRI
The University of Hawaiʻi has appointed Suzanne Case as inaugural director of the Office of Land and Ocean Conservation Futures, which is housed under the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation. Case began her official duties on September 11.
In her new role, Case will be responsible for identifying, developing and coordinating initiatives in research, education, funding, policies and other opportunities, by leveraging all facets of the UH research enterprise to improve nature conservation efforts internally and across the state. Conservation and sustainability efforts are a critical component to UH’s strategic plan as well as the future of our islands and the world.
In addition to collaborating internally with existing UH conservation programs such as the UH Mānoa Pacific Cooperative Studies Unit, partnerships such as the Hawaiʻi Conservation Alliance, and UH-supported programs such as the Army Natural Resources Program Oʻahu and the Plant Extinction Prevention Program, Case will also be working closely with federal, state and county stakeholders. Those include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, U.S. Forest Service, as well the Hawaiʻi congressional delegation, Hawaiʻi State Legislature, state agencies, county councils, local businesses and non-profit organizations, and community and cultural groups.
“I’m really excited to join the University of Hawaiʻi team for conservation,” Case said. “The university’s education, research and capacity-building conservation work is very broad and deep. The faculty, students and workers are true leaders in so many conservation fields, and I’m proud to be a part of it and to do what I can to support and expand it. We have so much to do for Hawaiʻi, the Pacific and our planet.”
Case comes to UH after serving two terms as chair of the Board of Land and Natural Resources and director of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) for the State of Hawaiʻi from 2015 to 2022. During this time, she led a number of significant accomplishments toward the protection and preservation of natural and cultural resources, including: forestry and wildlife, aquatic resources, coastal regulation, freshwater resources, historic preservation, boating and ocean recreation, state parks, state land management and conservation enforcement.
Prior to joining DLNR, Case served in leadership and legal counsel positions throughout a 28-year career with The Nature Conservancy, including executive director of the Hawaiʻi program from 2001 to 2015, where she was responsible for overseeing eight Nature Conservancy preserves, land protection projects statewide, the growth of watershed partnerships and community networks to restore near-shore marine resources, and the implementation of large-scale projects to remove invasive algae from Hawaiʻi’s reefs and coastal areas.
Case has also served as chair for the State Commission on Water Resource Management, as well as co-chair of the Sustainable Hawaiʻi Initiative, the Hawaiʻi Climate Adaptation and Mitigation Commission, Hawaiʻi Invasive Species Committee, and as a member of both the Hawaiʻi Board of Agriculture and the Kahoʻolawe Island Reserve Commission.
“We are at a critical juncture with our natural resources, biodiversity and way of life threatened by the effects of climate change, invasive species and unsustainable practices that supplanted Indigenous understanding of how to live in harmony with the environment,” said UH President David Lassner. “Suzanne has had an incredible positive impact in her roles with DLNR and The Nature Conservancy, and we look forward to her leadership in helping us fulfill our kuleana to protect the natural environment with our faculty and students across the islands.”
“We are very pleased and fortunate to have a person with the impressive credentials, knowledge, experience and passion of Suzanne to lead the University of Hawaiʻi’s conservation efforts into the future,” said UH Vice President for Research and Innovation Vassilis L. Syrmos. “In our push to lead land and ocean conservation research, education, and field implementation in the Asia-Pacific region, her stewardship of our new Office of Land and Ocean Conservation Futures will be absolutely vital to that effort.”
Born in Hilo, Case is a graduate of Punahou School in Honolulu. She earned her bachelor’s degree with honors in history from Stanford University in 1979 and was awarded her juris doctorate from the University of California Hastings College of Law in 1983.
About UH Research
Research conducted by the University of Hawaiʻi impacts the quality of life in the islands and around the world. As the state’s major research university, and because of Hawai`i’s tremendous geographic diversity, UH plays a prominent role in the state’s economic growth and development through its diverse and world-renowned research and innovation programs in astronomy, earth and ocean sciences, medicine and tropical agriculture. research.hawaii.edu