Hands-On Research

Students work side-by-side with native Hawaiians and University of Hawai’i Hilo researchers and grad students to learn how the island thrives ecologically, economically, culturally and socially via hands-on work at multiple locations around the Big Island.

The focus of the week begins with discussing and defining issues relevant to island life and the Big Island of Hawai’i in particular. The students then participate in hands-on work to research and discover what the islanders face in dealing with some of the more prominent issues defined by the group. The program concludes with a solution-based outlook. Students present their findings in a scientific poster format.

The week starts with a day at Volcanoes National Park covering the history of Kilauea volcano, the geology, and the flora and fauna of this island volcano. Students are led across a lava caldera, tunnel into a dormant lava tube, and view the current activity of the volcano.

The group travels to Kawa to work with James Awai Akau to study coastal impact of storm intensity, gyre patterns, and water monitoring, Sustainability is taught through visits to multiple sites with native Hawai’ian Cheyenne Perry to plant seedlings, review Hawai’ian cultural traditions, and examine climate differences between the two sides of the island.

The group shifts mid-week to Waimea to stay at the Hawai’i Preparatory Academy and works at Ka’upulehu Dry Land Forest with the Hawai’ian Forest Industry studying the roles and impact of native and invasive species.

Students develop solutions to the issues studied and give back to the islanders before the week ends working with the Nature Conservancy at Kiholo Bay to help restore this tranquil turtle sanctuary to its pre-tsumani condition.

Through the scientific studies and the evening leadership activities, students come to appreciate and learn how to take the lead in sustaining our planet environmentally, be it as future scientists, environmental educators, or simply concerned, informed and action-oriented citizens.