July 2015

Pacific Biosciences Research Center, new research unit of SOEST

The Pacific Biosciences Research Center (PBRC) has recently been as approved by the UH Board of Regents as research unit of SOEST. Under the direction of newly appointed Director Margaret McFall-Ngai, PBRC will continue its excellent interdisciplinary biological research and use as its guiding principle the concept of the Hawaiian ahupuaʻa - highlighting the interrelationship between land and sea, and a communal responsibility for the land.  PBRC follows the ethic of sustainability with respect for the culture, values, and limited natural resources of Hawaiʻi.

Comet Wild 2 - window into the birth of the solar system

When a team of scientists from SOEST and the University of California-Berkeley investigated the oxygen isotope and mineral composition of the dust and rock from comet Wild 2 they found an unexpected combination of material - deepening the mystery of Wild 2's past.


Lead author, HIGP assistant researcher Ryan Ogliore, reported, "The comet's nucleus today is made up of small rocks and ice, separated by fractions of an inch, that originally formed billions of miles apart. Some rocks have seen temperatures above 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, but adjacent ice has been kept close to absolute zero for billions of years. Every tiny grain we look at has its own fascinating story to tell."


"So, now we ask the question: Does the fine-grained dust from comet Wild 2 represent a diverse sampling of many inner-solar-system objects that were transported to the outer solar system, or in fact, the raw starting materials of the solar system?" said Ogliore.

-- UH News story 

Deep-sea sharks are buoyant 
Click image above for [VIDEO]

 Carl Meyer, assistant researcher at the Hawai'i Institute of Marine Biology (HIMB) and co-authors revealed in a recently published study that two species of deep-sea sharks, sixgill and prickly sharks, are positively buoyant-they have to work harder to swim downward than up and they can glide uphill for minutes at a time without using their tails. Conventional wisdom suggests that sharks are negatively, or occasionally neutrally, buoyant. 


"This finding was a total surprise," said Meyer.


"We want to better understand why these sharks are positively buoyant," said Meyer. "Does this trait perhaps give them a 'stealth' advantage during hunting, allowing them to glide motionless upward to capture prey above them in the water? Or does it help them with nightly migrations to shallower areas?"


In future studies, Meyer and colleagues hope to answer these questions by measuring the sharks' muscle temperatures during their vertical migrations and by fitting them with cameras in hopes of capturing active feeding on film.

-- UH News story

New community partnership on Hawai'i Island aims to improve water quality
A clean stream through Waimea and less pollution entering the ocean are the goals of the Wai 2 Kai Project.

Sierra Tobiason, University of Hawaiʻi Sea Grant College Program extension agent and South Kohala Coastal Partnership coordinator, is leading an effort to help improve water quality at five specific sites that were identified as hotspots of pollution, erosion and storm water runoff.


The two-year Wai 2 Kai project will take place at five sites along the Waikoloa stream and within the Waiʻulaʻula Watershed. At these sites volunteers will be recruited to install and maintain rain gardens, participate in stream and beach clean-ups, remove invasive plant species and help the project reach its goal of planting 20,000 native plants.


These native plant restoration and Wai 2 Kai volunteer activities were designed to not only restore and improve water quality, but to encourage long-lasting stewardship and understanding of the importance of healthy watersheds.

-- UH News story 

New study models path for achieving Hawaiʻi's renewable energy targets

Many wonder whether the state can reach the lofty goals set out by new laws requiring the University of Hawaiʻi to become net-zero by 2035 and for Hawaiʻi to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity by 2045.


A new study from the Hawaiʻi Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) identifies various scenarios that would allow the islands of Oʻahu and Maui to surpass the 2020 goal of 30 percent renewable energy while lowering electricity costs.


"This study provides a valuable tool to assess potential pathways to meet the aggressive 100 percent goal while also maintaining a reliable system," said John Cole, HNEI project leader.

-- UH News story

Advances in animal tracking redefine how we discover and manage ocean life
A new review paper, co-authored by Kim Holland, researcher at the Hawaiʻi Institute of Marine Biology ( HIMB), describes a profound revolution in global ocean observation science achieved through advancements in acoustic and satellite telemetry-tracking via electronic tags placed on organisms ranging from tiny neonate fish to large whales. The tags transmit data to stationary or mobile receiver stations or orbiting satellites about the movements, migrations, interactions and survival of both common and elusive aquatic species.


Acoustic and satellite telemetry studies are combined with other biological measurements like genetic analysis or physiological status. These data help determine drivers behind animal behavior to forecast how anthropogenic and climate changes will affect species and populations.


Tracking studies generate critical knowledge towards conservation recommendations and pinpoint successes and limitations of current management plans. Aquatic animal movements and migrations transcend geopolitical, economic, and management boundaries. Discovering this provides the groundwork for "next-generation aquatic governance frameworks."


-- UH News story 

Sea Grant Knauss Fellows

Two UH Mānoa graduate students, Alexis Rudd and Patrick Drupp, are spending this year in Washington D.C. participating in Sea Grant's prestigious John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship. A small group of fellows are selected for this unique educational experience that matches highly qualified graduate students with "hosts" in the legislative and executive branch of government for one year. The fellowship provides an excellent opportunity for students to facilitate greater communication between scientists and policymakers.


Alexis (UHM Zoology PhD candidate) is spending her year working in the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which deals with proposed legislation related to coastal zone management, marine fisheries, oceans, weather, atmosphere, science, engineering, and technology.


Patrick (UHM Oceanography PhD candidate) is in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Education where he has the opportunity to work with scientists and educators to advance NOAA's education mission. He is supporting NOAA's Education Council, assisting with education funding opportunities, and producing ocean acidification content for NOAA's Science on a Sphere.

Hōkuleʻa crew and UH researchers explore Great Barrier Reef 

Click image above for [VIDEO]
Haunani Kane , Geology and Geophysics doctoral student, and Ruth Gates, researcher at HIMB and coral expert, contributed to the Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hōkuleʻa's exploration and research at Australia's Great Barrier Reef in June. Kane i s serving as Hōkuleʻa's assistant navigator and Gates joined the dive of the Great Barrier Reef.


Gates calls Hōkuleʻa's worldwide voyage the single greatest study ever undertaken of the interaction between human beings and the ocean.  


"In Hawaiʻi we have fantastic reefs, but there are fewer species of corals and few species of fish," said Gates. "When we were out on the Great Barrier Reef, the coral has so many different forms and shapes. The colors are incredible."


While in Australia, the crew also visited the world's largest living reef aquarium at the Reef HQ Aquarium in Townsville which inspired discussions about potential collaborations for the future.


"The fact that they could raise something like 70 different species of coral in a single fish tank and have it be thriving with fish and limu, it was just remarkable," said Kane.


The University of Hawaiʻi is an education partner in Hōkuleʻa's Mālama Hōnua Worldwide Voyage, which will cover 27 nations through June 2017. The Great Barrier Reef meetings and dives were designed to further the Mālama Hōnua mission: taking care of our island Earth.

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