UH Hilo students featured at Pacific-wide conference

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo
Alyson Kakugawa-Leong, (808) 974-7642
Director, Media Relations, University Relations
Posted: Aug 19, 2010

University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo students took center stage at the Hawaiʻi Conservation Conference held recently in Honolulu. The students and faculty were invited to present their research from a flagship initiative of Western and Native Hawaiian science to the gathering of delegates from around the Pacific.

Eight UH Hilo students from marine science, environmental studies, geography, Hawaiian studies and sociology joined graduates in the tropical conservation biology and environmental studies program and UH Mānoa’s natural resources and environmental management programs in the Kūʻula course taught by Marine Science Associate Professor Misaki Takabayashi and Kīpuka Native Hawaiian Student Center.

“Western science is often accepted as the only method of inquiry, even in Hawaiʻi,” Takabayashi said. “This course integrates Native Hawaiian and Western knowledge systems to understand the environment of Hawaiʻi today, which reflects the direction that conservation science is now taking.”

Their research connected the students to Native Hawaiian scholars like Kalei Nuʻuhiwa and Roxanne Stewart of the Edith Kanakaʻole Foundation, ancestral knowledge found in heiau architecture, mele (poetry) and moʻolelo (stories), and in themselves as keiki o ka ʻāina (children of the land).

“Science has been one of my least liked subjects, because I found very little relevance to every day life,” one student explained. “But this class has opened my eyes to science and the importance of combining the two cultures to utilize all perspectives and attain a better judgment. Now my goal is to bridge Western and Maoli sciences to apply toward my future career and lifestyle.”

The course climax was an eight-day visit last April to Kūʻaihēlani (Midway Atoll). Major sponsors of the trip included Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and the National Science Foundation Center for Research Excellence in Science and Technology project at UH Hilo.