My 2016 global Earth Expedition field experience was to discover and evaluate the elements of conservation, environmental stewardship and ecology that inspire community inquiry. I arrived 5 days prior to my Global Field Earth Expeditions Hawai’i: Saving Species course on 7/15/2016 to acclimate and embrace the beauty of this tropical island independently(Project Dragonfly at Miami University, 2018). I planned to rest, read and rejuvenate along the volcanic rock coast. During my first sunrise excursion I was greeted by a sea turtle departing the lagoon heading back to the Pacific. I was watching the sun coming up over this stunning scene. Mauna Kea to my left, the palm covered volcanic coast to my right of this beautiful lagoon when what appeared to be a large rock started moving in the deep clear pool. No it was sea turtles, it took my breath away, having never seen this amazing creature in the wild. This would be my morning ritual while in Hilo, greeting the day with sea turtles heading out to sea.
As our immersion in the environment and culture progressed we would meet many passionate groups working to preserve the natives of Hawa’ii . The ‘Ohi’a was one of the first native species introduced this pioneer tree grows on lava rock. This species is currently threatened by a deadly fungal disease.
Hawaii has a plethora of invaders from plants to vertebrates such as deer, rabbits, pigs and mongoose.These species once established have no predation or competition causing trophic cascades in the environment. Invading species such as the Albizia, a an Indonesian tree which can be full grown in 8 years, threatens native species forever changing the habitat. This tree not only threatens the wildlife ecosystems, the rapid growth with a lack of root structure in this windswept location has anthropocentric impact as well collapsing electrical lines at an astounding rate. The Big Island Invasive Species Committee (BIISC.com), a project of the University of Hawa’ii, provides environmental education, workshops, target species and many other community conservation outreach programs (Niemiec, Ardoin, Wharton, & Brewer, 2017).
Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge was formed to protect endangered
species and restore the native forest (Camp, R.J., Pratt, T.K., Gorresen, P.M., Jeffrey, J.J., & Woodworth, B.L., 2010). Our group was privileged to stay onsite in the University of Hawaii educational facility. At this high elevation rainfall is decreased as the majority of cloud cover is below 4,500 feet. This creates habitat for many diverse and endangered plants, birds, insects, and mammals are found such as the Hawaiian Hawk, Hawaiian Creeper, and Hoary bat. The night skies are amazing as the Milky Way is within grasp and what about a sunrise over the clouds, amazing.
Our journey included a trip to Keauhou Bird Conservation Center whose goals are to restore the forest to its original grandor including the Ohi’a and Acacia Koa species. They are also working to re-establish several endangered bird species and the native crow, the ‘Alala, who is extinct in the wild. This effort was tried yea
This immersion in the Hawaiian culture was very spiritually restorative for me. The Oli (Hawaiian Chant) to ask permission and/or blessings of our activities was a reverence centered moment that solidified our connection to the land or Inha was palatable. When entering the ground to replant the forest with the Pono Youth Conservation Corp we chanted our Oli were greeted with the response and during the traditional pause the NeNe called out and a large breeze washed over us as if the island approved of our activity. This deep connection to the land is more of an acceptance that we are all a part of nature not separated from it. If our communities would embrace just a portion of the native Hawa’iian land ethic our environments would be conserved and protected as they require. Community Based Conservation in Hawa’ii is a given not a concept to be taught and embraced (Dudley, 1993)
The ability to ignite curiosity and caring I believe is a cosmopolitan condition inspired by skilled educators. The goal of my continued education is to discover the key factors that inspire communities to develop environmental stewardship via conservation or ecological knowledge, or simply the joy of discovery. To instill the knowledge that science is as Myers et al states “Science is not a spectator sport.” in a world where denial of scientific facts is pandemic (Yager, 2009). It is the crucial job of educators to instill this curiosity and caring in future generations.
Culliney, S., Pejchar, L., Switzer, R., & Ruiz-Gutierrez, V. (2012). Seed dispersal by a captive corvid: the role of the ’Alalā (Corvus hawaiiensis) in shaping Hawai“i”s plant communities. Ecological Applications: A Publication of the Ecological Society of America, 22(6), 1718–1732.
Niemiec, R. M., Ardoin, N. M., Wharton, C. B., & Brewer, F. K. (2017). Civic and natural place attachment as correlates of resident invasive species control behavior in Hawaii. Biological Conservation, 209, 415–422.